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 14, inclusive, answered orally.

Drugs in Prisons.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

15 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to a report, Prison Needle Exchange: Lessons from a Comprehensive Review of International Evidence and Experience, published by a panel of international experts on prison health care, which found that a needle exchange programme in prisons would improve safety conditions for both staff and prisoners; if he intends to study the report’s findings with a view to reviewing existing policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32513/04]

A copy of the report in question has recently been received by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and by the Prison Service. Both the Department and the Irish Prison Service are committed to keeping up to date with all emerging research in this area and are currently examining the report.

I have previously made my position very clear on this matter in that I not support the introduction of needle exchange in prisons. Any person seeking syringes, needles and fluids under such a scheme would be indicating to the prison authorities that he or she is in possession of, or expects to shortly be in possession of, controlled drugs and proposes consuming them. To supply a prisoner with the requested items in these circumstances would, in effect, be to tell him or her that prison management will facilitate the commission of serious criminal offences in the prison.

Introducing a needle exchange scheme would act as a clear message that the use of intravenous drugs in prisons is tolerated. This is not a message that anyone wishes to send. What hope could any prisoner ever have of breaking their addiction if they were to be facilitated in continuing it? For many prisoners, imprisonment offers them an opportunity to examine their problems and, with the support of prison services, to try and address them. By facilitating rather than challenging drug abuse, the Prison Service would be consciously releasing prisoners back into society as full blown addicts with a habit only capable of being fed by the commission of further serious crime or even degrading acts of prostitution. Further, the logic of supplying clean, safe syringes would, by extension, apply to supplying safe, quality assured heroin as well, so as to avoid overdoses and poisoning. That is not a proposition anyone in this House would support.

Needle exchange schemes would subvert and run contrary to increasing staff vigilance in searching for drugs and preventing them being smuggled into prisons. As far as I am concerned, drug control in prisons would be reduced to a game in which a blind eye approach to successful breaches of the controls would, in time, become the order of the day. The Prison Service is committed to the twin strategies of supply and demand reduction to deal with the issues of drugs in prison, closing off routes of supply and providing support to prisoners to tackle their addictions. The introduction of needle exchange would run contrary to these approaches.

As a criminal justice agency, the Prison Service is actively working to prevent breaches of the criminal law relating to illicit drugs. I, my senior officials and the prison governors are convinced that, over time, the operation of needle exchange programmes in prisons would be a negative influence on the behaviour of prison staff by eroding their commitment to law enforcement. It is simply not possible to have staff fully committed to preventing the possession and distribution of controlled drugs within prisons while simultaneously distributing syringes to prisoners to be used to inject controlled drugs. I am also conscious of the fact that prison staff themselves are totally opposed to needle exchange and, interestingly, independent research has shown that many prisoners are similarly opposed.

It must be pointed out that prison based needle exchange programmes are still the exception rather than the norm worldwide. In the small number of prison systems where they do exist, they are generally based in low security, open centres. Conditions there are far different from those in higher security, closed prisons similar to those Irish prisons where needle sharing is an acknowledged practice among opiate addicted prisoners. Unlike the majority of prisons where needle exchange has been most closely studied, candidate prisons in Ireland are closed, higher security prisons where out of cell time is much more limited. In these circumstances, there would be continuing long periods of time when access to the supply of needles would be limited and needle sharing is likely to persist during these times.

The transmission of blood borne illnesses is something which is of concern to the Prison Service and I. That is why Trinity College's department of community health and general practice was commissioned in 1999 to carry out the first research ever undertaken in Irish prisons to establish the prevalence of HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C in the prisoner population. These research findings were immediately made public. Since that study the Prison Service has made significant strides in harm minimisation measures by way of increasing education and awareness of potential harms and development of the methadone maintenance and other programmes.

I remain committed to pursuing Government policy to end the use of heroin in Irish prisons. It would be a contradiction of this stated Government aim for the Irish Prison Service to tolerate continuing intravenous drug use involving a needle exchange programme. Ending of all heroin use must mean just that.

The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in conjunction with the 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.

The Prison Service remains fully committed — as resources permit — to further developing and expanding appropriate treatment programmes, in conjunction with community and health agencies, to meet the treatment needs of this prisoner group.

Drug Seizures.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

16 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which targets have been set or achieved in respect of the fight against drugs; if the numbers involved in drug dealing are on the increase rather than decreasing; if organised crime is expanding its operations in this regard; if full co-operation with police forces in other jurisdictions in regard to extradition for criminal offences has been achieved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32536/04]

The Government's overall policy to tackle the drug problem is set out in the national drugs strategy 2001-2008, Building on Experience. Responsibility for co-ordinating implementation of the strategy lies with the Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is primarily responsible for policy with regard to supply reduction, including legislation.

One of the key performance indicators in the strategy is to increase drug seizures by 25% by 2004 and by 50% by 2008, using the 2000 seizures figures as a baseline. The Garda Síochána and the Customs and Excise service have already achieved considerable success in combating the problem of drugs supply. Data on street value of drug seizures is as follows: Garda seizures for 2000 —€20 million, 2001 —€45 million, 2002 —€49 million and 2003 —€100 million; and Customs and Excise seizures for 2000 —€11 million, 2001 —€60 million, 2002 —€34 million and 2003 —€21 million. The increase in drug seizures in recent years is indicative of an increase in demand for illicit drugs but it also indicates that the Garda Síochána and the Customs and Excise service are achieving considerable success in the area of supply reduction.

The establishment of specialist Garda units such as the national bureau of criminal investigation, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda bureau of fraud investigation and the Garda national drug unit, operating under the assistant commissioner in charge of national support services, has enabled the Garda Síochána to tackle organised crime, including drug trafficking, effectively.

Our legislative package for tackling organised crime is one of the toughest in Europe. The Garda Síochána has available to it a broad range of legislation to facilitate the fight against serious or organised crime. The Criminal Assets Bureau Act 1996 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 have been successfully used to deprive those engaged in criminal activity of their assets and continue to be some of the most significant legislative tools available in the fight against organised crime.

At an international level the Garda Síochána continues to work in close co-operation with both Europol and Interpol. In addition, Garda Síochána liaison officers are posted in the UK, the Netherlands, Spain and France. In June 2004, the Criminal Justice (Joint Investigation Teams) Act 2004 was signed into law. This provides for the competent authorities of two or more member states, by mutual agreement, to carry out criminal investigations with a cross border dimension.

The European Arrest Warrants Act 2003, which came into effect on 1 January 2004, implemented the Council framework decision of 13 June 2002 on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between member states of the EU. This Act simplifies extradition and surrender procedures between member states of the EU for offences such as illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Moreover, as a signatory to various conventions providing for mutual legal assistance, Ireland is in a position to provide assistance, on request, in drug related cases.

The efforts of the Garda Síochána and other State agencies continue to be brought to bear against those who would seek to profit from drug dealing. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has been assured by the Garda authorities that the level of resources employed in this area will remain under review with a view to making changes, as necessary, in the ongoing fight against drugs.

Prisoner Releases.

Jack Wall

Question:

17 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received a report from the parole board on an application for early release for two prisoners (details supplied); if he has made a decision on the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32523/04]

I have not, to date, received recommendations from the parole board in the two cases referred to by the Deputy.

Crime Victimisation Survey.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

18 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the promised new national crime victimisation survey will commence; the person by whom it will be carried out; the frequency with which it will be undertaken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32503/04]

In July 2003, the Government approved my proposal that a regular national crime victimisation survey, carried out biennially, would be a valuable and useful complement to the information on crime already available, which includes the Garda Commissioner's annual report and the headline crime figures which I release quarterly, and would provide a more comprehensive perspective on crime victimisation than is currently available. When undertaken on a regular basis, such a survey would provide useful information on emerging trends in crime and so provide input into developing strategies to combat crime.

The expert group on crime statistics, which I established and the report of which I published in July 2004, recommended the establishment of a central crime statistics unit which would,inter alia, 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 key stakeholders within the criminal justice system and the wider research community and 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 that such a unit be established and work is underway on establishing it within the Central Statistics Office.

The report of the expert group strongly endorsed the Government decision to conduct biennial national crime victimisation surveys and recommended that the central crime statistics unit would be responsible for overseeing the national crime victimisation survey and involved in its design and planning. I have also accepted this recommendation and work on the survey will be undertaken by the unit as part of its duties.

I understand from the Central Statistics Office that a crime and victimisation survey is to be carried out either via a dedicated survey or a module on the quarterly national household survey, QNHS, in 2006. This approach has previously been used in both 1998 and 2003. The Central Statistics Office expects that dedicated crime and victimisation surveys will be carried out in 2008 and biennially thereafter as recommended.

I also understand that the Central Statistics Office intends to develop these surveys in a way that will maximise their utility and their coherence with other administrative data available in the criminal justice system. It is important to stress that the figures that will result from these surveys will not be directly comparable to the crime statistics published by me for the Garda Síochána as there are rudimentary differences in sources, definitions and classification methodology. However, that will in no way undermine the crime and victimisation surveys which will provide fuller information about the level of crime.

Garda Drivers.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

19 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of serving members of the gardaí employed as full-time drivers for Ministers, former Ministers and judicial figures; the annual cost in terms of salaries of such drivers; if he intends to undertake an assessment of whether this is the best use of Garda resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32507/04]

Ministerial State cars are placed at the disposal of Ministers and others pursuant to a long standing arrangement and are supplied to the following: Taoiseach, Tánaiste, 13 Ministers, President, Chief Whip, Ceann Comhairle, Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions, Chief Justice and former Taoisigh and Presidents.

There are no set rules as to when ministerial cars are replaced but, in general, those which are two years old and-or have a mileage in excess of 100,000 miles are considered for replacement. I am informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that there are currently 75 gardaí attached to the ministerial pool, of whom 56 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 costs of such drivers is approximately €5.2 million and includes salaries, allowances and subsistence. As these drivers are currently tasked with providing personal protection to the Ministers, there are currently no plans to replace them in the ministerial pool with civilian drivers.

Probation and Welfare Service.

Simon Coveney

Question:

20 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will ensure that the linkage programme, which is under the umbrella of the probation service, receives a much needed increase in funding for 2005. [32563/04]

The linkage programme which was set up in February 2000 is funded by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform through the probation and welfare service, under the national development plan. It is managed by Business in the Community Ireland, a non-profit organisation. The linkage programme has been funded in the amount of €700,000 in the current year. In deciding the 2005 allocation, I will have regard to the overall budget allocation for probation and welfare service funded projects, 75 in total. Due to the increase in the 2005 budget allocation for the probation and welfare service, it is likely that the linkage programme will receive an increase in funding in the coming year.

Free Movement Rights.

Bernard Allen

Question:

21 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the regulations in place that apply to citizens of each of the member states of the European Union who may wish to reside, study or seek employment here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30037/04]

Given the extent to which European Union law impinges on all aspects of public governance, not only those for which my Department has responsibility, it is assumed that the focus of the Deputy's question is the free movement rights enjoyed by EU citizens who wish to reside, study or seek employment in Ireland.

Since British citizens are exempt from immigration control in this jurisdiction, by virtue of an order made by Government, what follows is not relevant to their situation. The panoply of EU free movement rights are set out in a number of articles of the treaty itself together with two regulations and a series of nine directives. These rights have over the years delineated free movement rights by reference to purpose of visit — beginning originally with workers and extended subsequently to the self employed, persons who provide or receive services, self sufficient persons, students and retired persons. The general effect of these legislative instruments in the areas comprehended by the Deputy's question are as follows.

Article 18 of the EC Treaty lays down the right of every citizen of the Union to move freely within the territory of the member states, subject to the limitations and conditions laid down in the EC Treaty and by measures adopted to give it effect. Community legislation stipulates that member states must generally admit nationals of other member states and the members of their family into their territory against presentation of a valid identity card or passport.

The free movement of workers enshrined in article 39 of the EC Treaty entails the right for nationals of member states to take up residence within the territory of other member states and to reside there for the purposes of seeking employment. The period of residence for a person seeking employment may be limited. However, in the Antonissen case — C 292/89 — the European Court of Justice determined that it was unlawful for a member state to require an unemployed EU national to leave after six months where the person concerned provides evidence that he or she is continuing to seek employment and that he or she has genuine chances of being engaged.

The situation in regard to students is set out in Council Directive 93/96/EEC. In essence that confers the right of residence on students who are enrolled in a recognised educational establishment for the principal purpose of following a vocational training course where such students are covered by sickness insurance and have sufficient resources to avoid becoming a burden on the social security system. However, in another European Court of Justice case — C 184/89 — the court determined that a student did not automatically lose his or her rights of residence as a result of having recourse to the host member state's social security system.

The circumstances in which a person who is exercising EU Treaty rights of free movement may be removed from a member state are set out in Directive 64/221/EEC. The grounds may be summarised as grounds relating to public policy, public security and public health. That directive is intended to limit the discretionary power which national laws generally confer on the authority responsible for the expulsion of foreign nationals. In the Van Duyn case — C 41/74 — the European Court of Justice held that the directive confers rights on EU nationals which are directly enforceable by them in the national court and which the courts must protect. The directive also contains extensive procedural safeguards, regarding reasons for decisions, appeals and so forth. The public policy ground may not be used to serve economic ends.

Similarly, in the case of Bouchereau — C 30/77 — the European Court of Justice found that the public policy ground cannot be invoked solely on the basis of a previous criminal conviction. The objective is to ensure that since free movement is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed by Community law, its effects can only be abrogated in accordance with the principle of proportionality. Proportionality requires justified grounds for a measure, justified balance between the measure and the objective and justified balance of interests between the individual and the state concerned.

An EU national who is resident in another member state for more than three months is entitled to a residence permit. However, since the permit constitutes mere evidence of an entitlement to be here, failure to possess one cannot of itself constitute a ground for expulsion. These provisions are given effect in Irish law by the provisions of the European Communities (Aliens) Regulations 1977, SI No. 393/1977, and the European Communities (Right of Residence for Non Economically Active Persons) Regulations 1997, SI No. 57/1997.

On 29 April 2004, Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the member states was adopted. This directive codifies in a single instrument the complex legislative corpus and the case law on free movement and residence. Member states are required to bring into force by 30 April 2006 such laws, regulations and administrative provisions as are necessary to comply with the directive.

Deportation Orders.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

22 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the provisions which have been made by the State for Irish citizen children of deported non-national parents, who remain in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32581/04]

I refer the Deputy to the replies I gave to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 232 and 233 on 10 November 2004. I reiterate that the failure of duty by parents towards their children in any particular circumstances and the action to be taken in such cases to protect the welfare of the children involved are matters for the relevant health board under the Child Care Act 1991.

Public Order Offences.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

23 Mr. O’Shea 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. [32502/04]

The proposals for the introduction of a fixed charge procedure for certain public order offences are contained in the Criminal Justice Bill 2004, which was published in July this year and which 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 for 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 section 4 or section 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 matters, 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 pays 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 Deployment.

Phil Hogan

Question:

24 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether a town the size of Navan, that has doubled in size over the past five years, has the same number of gardaí in 2004 as it had in the 1980s; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32569/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of Navan Garda station as of 6 December 2004 was 47, all ranks.

The Deputy states that Navan Garda station had the same number of gardaí in the 1980s as it has in 2004. While it is true that the strength of Navan Garda station in 1988 and 1989 was 47, the same as in 2004, this was as a result of a gradual increase through that decade, starting from a figure of 39 in 1980. Furthermore, local Garda management advise that during the 1980s a protection post at Tara mines was in existence, in which two gardaí were deployed during each eight hour tour of duty. This represented a demand on resources at that time. This post is no longer in operation.

Garda personnel deployment throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources and that the best possible service is provided to the public. The needs of Navan Garda station will be fully considered within the context of the needs of Garda stations throughout the country during future allocations of probationer gardaí, where possible by way of permanent transfer of members to the division.

As regards Garda resources generally, the Deputy will be aware 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. The Garda Commissioner will now draw up plans on how best to distribute and manage these resources.

Clearly, of course, they will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as 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 as part of the new Garda traffic corps. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high visibility policing and, as such, will have a real impact.

Prisons Building Programme.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

25 Mr. Quinn 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 Jail; when a final decision will be made on the recently constructed Dóchas women’s prison in the Mountjoy complex; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32511/04]

The group established to examine potential sites for a prison complex to replace that at Mountjoy has reported to me and has identified a number of sites as being suitable for consideration as a site for a new complex. I hope to be in a position to make an announcement on the matter before the end of this year. As regards the Dóchas centre, a final decision on its future cannot be taken until after a site for the new prison complex has been acquired and Government approval for the construction of a new complex has been obtained.

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 the intention is to provide an improved facility on the new site. In such a case, it would be more cost effective to transfer all 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. Any female prison constructed on the new site would be equal, if not superior, to the Dóchas centre.

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 2007/2008 at the earliest.

Garda Stations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

26 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his view on the report of the implementation steering group on review of Garda Síochána structures; if it is intended to implement proposals for the full closure of some stations and the closure of others during night hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32488/04]

I have no plans to reduce opening hours or close any Garda station. The use of Garda stations was considered as part of the major review of the Garda organisation structures under the strategic management initiative, SMI, 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 Garda station but rather makes recommendations to assist policy making with regard to the management and use of all available resources, including Garda stations.

However, the position has changed significantly since the consideration of these issues under the SMI, 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 Prevention.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

27 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of the evidence to which he referred on a television programme (details supplied) regarding the effectiveness of mandatory minimum sentencing in reducing crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32587/04]

Part II of the Criminal Justice Act 1999, as amended, provides in section 4 for an offence related to the possession of drugs with a value of €13,000 or more for the purpose of sale or supply. Section 5 provides for a maximum penalty of life imprisonment as well as for a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years imprisonment.

According to section 5, a court should not apply the mandatory minimum sentence where it is satisfied there are exceptional and specific circumstances which would make it unjust in all the circumstances to impose the minimum sentence of ten years. Factors to which the court may have regard include whether the person pleaded guilty, taking account of the stage at which such an intention was indicated and the circumstances surrounding the indication, and whether the person materially assisted the investigation of the offence.

I am, of course, concerned that serious drug trafficking should be severely punished. In this respect, on the television programme to which the Deputy refers, I said that in recent times I had noticed a pattern of heavier sentencing for drug trafficking offences. Figures supplied by Garda authorities with regard to prosecutions under these provisions indicate an increase in the current year in the number of persons receiving a sentence of ten years or more. Figures relating to prosecutions since the provisions came into force on 26 May 1999 show that by 18 May this year, a total of 180 persons had been prosecuted, of whom 12 received a sentence of ten years or more. By 29 November of this year, the number of persons prosecuted had risen to 229, with 22 persons receiving a sentence of ten years or more.

Information from a study commissioned by my Department into the criteria applied by the courts in sentencing under these provisions suggests that the provisions have resulted in a significant number of drug traffickers pleading guilty to serious drug trafficking offences. There are also indications that the provisions are of benefit in combating drug trafficking in that offenders are encouraged in accordance with the terms of the provisions to materially assist the Garda authorities in the hope of receiving a sentence of less than the ten year mandatory minimum.

Nevertheless, I am examining whether improvements could be made to the provision in question to strengthen its effect. In this respect, I am considering bringing forward proposals by way of Committee Stage amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill 2004, which is before the Dáil at present.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

28 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on actions taken by him to raise awareness during the 16 days of action against violence against women from 25 November to 10 December 2004; and if he will further report on his plans to combat violence against women during the lifetime of the Government, including targets, time frames and details of the funding he will make available for this work between now and 2007. [32408/04]

My Department provided funding to a number of organisations in regard to initiatives to highlight the 16 days of action against violence against women in various parts of the country. The initiatives funded included a conference on perpetrators of domestic violence and an exhibition of 365 international posters to raise awareness of the issue of violence against women.

My Department is one of five with responsibilities with regard to violence against women. The Department of Health and Children, through the health boards, has responsibility for the provision of care services to victims of violence, including domestic violence, rape and sexual assault. It also provides funding for non-governmental organisations such as Women's Aid, rape crisis centres, women's refuges and so on. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government assists in the provision of crisis accommodation, including refuge accommodation, for people who are forced to leave their homes as a result of domestic violence. The Department of Education and Science is responsible for educating pupils about this issue. The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs funds community development programmes and grant aids local groups dealing with the issue.

My Department's responsibilities with regard to violence against women include legislative initiatives, the provision of any necessary responses from the civil and criminal systems, preventative measures that can be put in place, including intervention programmes for perpetrators of domestic violence, and awareness raising measures aimed at changing society's attitude to domestic violence. In addition, my Department co-ordinates the work of the national steering committee on violence against women, which is chaired by my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey.

The Deputy is aware of the significant body of legislation that has been enacted by the Oireachtas with regard to all forms of violence against women and the importance which has been placed on the enactment of such legislation. The Deputy is also aware of the importance given to crimes against women by the Garda Síochána and the courts. Cases involving domestic violence receive priority treatment by the Legal Aid Board.

Over the last number of years, my Department has supported the establishment and development of a number of intervention programmes for perpetrators of domestic violence. These include MOVE Ireland, which operates 11 programmes nationally, the south east domestic violence intervention project, which operates four programmes in the south east, and the National Domestic Violence Intervention Agency, which is operating on a pilot basis in the Dún Laoghaire and Bray District Court areas.

In addition, my Department, on behalf of the national steering committee on violence against women, has conducted a number of awareness raising campaigns around the various aspects of violence against women in recent years. In conjunction with the committee, the Department is developing a national television and radio advertising campaign with regard to domestic violence, which will be conducted jointly with the relevant authorities in Northern Ireland in the new year.

Garda Ombudsman Commission.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

29 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason no money, other than a token €1, was allocated in his Department’s Estimates for 2005 for the establishment of the Garda ombudsman commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32501/04]

I assure the Deputy that provision has been made in the departmental Vote for 2005 for the establishment of the Garda ombudsman commission. As explained in a footnote in the abridged Estimates volume, the provision has been included under subhead G1 of the Vote. Following approval by the Oireachtas of the legislation establishing the Garda ombudsman commission, the allocations in subheads G1 and the Garda ombudsman commission subhead, G13, will be adjusted accordingly. I am fully committed to establishing the commission as soon as possible.

Crime Levels.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

30 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps being taken to deal with the significant increase in gun crime and rape recorded in the annual report of the Garda Commissioner for 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32494/04]

The annual report of the Garda Commissioner for 2003 showed a decrease in the overall offence rate of 3% for headline crime when compared with the figures for 2002. In particular, the offence of a rape of a female reduced by 24% and sexual offences overall showed a decrease of 22% when compared with the figures for 2002. The headline crime offences of possession of firearms and discharge of firearms also showed a decrease of 4% and 10% respectively over the previous year. In addition, the number of robberies and aggravated burglaries also decreased by 14% over the previous year.

I am conscious of the overriding necessity to ensure that public safety and security are given priority in any review of policy and legislation relating to firearms. With this in mind I have decided to bring forward, at an early stage, certain proposals for inclusion in the Criminal Justice Bill 2004. In this context, I am looking at a number of proposals, including more severe penalties for firearms offences, set minimum sentences for the most serious offences, the introduction of a new offence of modification of a firearm, for example, the sawing off of a shotgun and a statutory basis for a period during which firearms may be surrendered to the Garda Síochána. If approved by Government, I hope to see such proposals being brought forward as amendments to the Bill on Committee Stage.

In recent years, the Department has funded a number of awareness raising campaigns relating to rape and sexual assault which were conducted by the national steering committee on violence against women. In addition, as a preventative measure, the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform has provided funding to a number of rape crisis centres to deliver a training programme in schools in their locality.

The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has recently provided joint funding for comprehensive research into attrition rates in rape cases. The research, which is entitled "The Understanding of Attrition, Early Withdrawal, the Trial Process and Identifying Possible Changes to Support Complainants in Rape Cases", is being carried out by the department of law at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and the Rape Crisis Network Ireland. This research should give us greater understanding as to why some victims choose not to report cases to the gardaí, what we can do about under reporting and why, of the cases that are reported, only a relatively small percentage result in a court hearing.

Court Procedures.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

31 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties regarding the issue of search warrants arising from the decision in a case (details supplied); if he proposes to introduce legislation to deal with the consequences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32560/04]

The case to which the Deputy refers, Dylan Creaven Silicon Technologies (Europe) Limited & Anorv CAB & Anor, concerned the validity of a number of search warrants issued by the District Court. In that case the Supreme Court found, in particular, that warrants issued by a District Court judge were not valid because they were issued by the judge sitting outside the District Court districts to which he had been temporarily assigned.

I have referred the matter to the Attorney General for urgent advice. As soon as I have received and examined that advice I will take whatever action I consider necessary, including, if appropriate, the introduction of a legislative proposal to address the issues raised by the judgment.

Crime Levels.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

32 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of recorded murders involving the use of firearms in respect of each year since 1998; the number of such cases in which prosecutions were initiated; the number of cases in which convictions were secured; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32495/04]

In the time available it has not been possible to compile the information requested by the Deputy. The information sought is being compiled at present and I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Child Care Services.

David Stanton

Question:

33 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to assist in making child care more available and affordable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32556/04]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

47 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the recent comments (details supplied); the steps the Government intends to take to ensure accessible and affordable child care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32535/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 33 and 47 together.

The programme for Government and the progress of my Department's equal opportunities child care programme are confirmation of the Government's commitment to developing and reviewing child care services and to keeping child care at the forefront of its social agenda.

The Deputies will be aware that there have been significant improvements in the provision of supports for the development of child care over the last number of years. Child care was identified as an investment priority under the National Development Plan 2000 — 2006. This was a direct response to the recommendations of the expert working group on child care established under Partnership 2000 to develop a strategy for the development and delivery of child care to support parents in employment, education and training.

My Department has been designated as the lead Department with respect to the development of child care to meet the needs of parents in employment, education and training. The equal opportunities child care programme, EOCP, has an equal opportunities and social inclusion perspective and facilitates the further development and expansion of child care facilities to address the needs of parents in reconciling their child care needs with their participation in employment, education and training.

The EOCP 2000 — 2006 aims to increase by 50% the supply of centre based child care places by programme end. The programme also has a focus on many of the quality issues which were identified in the child care strategy and aims to ensure that there is a co-ordinated approach to the delivery of child care services throughout the country. In recognition of the many achievements of the EOCP 2000 — 2006 up to December 2003, the funding for the programme was increased to €449.3 million in spring 2004, from an earlier allocation of €436.7 million. Indeed, Deputies will recall that the original funding set aside in 2000 for the EOCP under the national development plan was €317 million. The Government has been so committed to the need to develop child care that the funding for the EOCP over the period 2000 to 2006 has now increased by 57% to €499.3 million following the recent budget.

Our commitment to the development of the child care sector in Ireland has been reaffirmed by my colleague, the Minister for Finance, in budget 2005. The multi-annual capital envelopes announced that day include the injection of a further €90 million in capital funding into the EOCP over the five years from 2005 to 2009. This will mean an increase of €50 million in the availability of capital under the 2000 — 2006 phase of the EOCP bringing the total funding for the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000 — 2006 to €499.3 million while the remaining tranche of additional capital funding will be spent under the next phase of the EOCP.

The programme provides capital grant assistance to create and enhance new and existing child care facilities, staffing grant assistance to community based not for profit organisations whose child care services have a strong focus on the support of the child care needs of disadvantaged families, and offers supports to the city/ county child care committees, to the national voluntary child care organisations, such as Barnardos, Childminding Ireland, the IPPA and the National Childrens Nursery Association and to others who are working to improve the quality of child care in Ireland.

Total funding committed under the EOCP in the period to end November 2004 amounts to €266.8 million, of which €223 million has been allocated to child care facilities and €43 million to quality improvement measures. This will create 31,973 new child care places and will support 28,442 existing places. Of these, 20,500 new child care places were already in place by June 2004, an increase of 36% in the supply of child care places in four short years. These new places offer parents greater access to child care throughout Ireland as they meet their work and family needs. A significant part of the remaining funding will be required for continuing support to existing projects and for the provision of capital grant assistance for the development of child care facilities in areas where there are gaps in service provision.

Following the provision of additional capital funding in budget 2005, I expect to be in a position to make a significant announcement of capital grant assistance within the next week or so. This will further expand the availability of quality child care places across Ireland.

The above measures relate to the supply of quality child care. I also draw the Deputies' attention to the recommendations of the expert working group regarding the demand side of child care. Government policy in the area of child support aims to provide assistance which will offer real choice to parents and which will benefit all children, whatever care options their parents choose for them. In that context, child benefit is the main fiscal instrument through which support is provided to parents with dependent children, and it provides support to all parents irrespective of income and employment status.

In his Budget Statement, the Minister for Finance announced further increases of €10 per month to €141.60 per month for the first two children and €12 per month to €177.30 per month for third and subsequent child from April 2005. This means that over the period since 1997, monthly child benefit supports have been increased by more than 380%. This level of increase is unprecedented and delivers on the Government's objective of providing support for children generally while offering real choice to all parents in the care of their children.

Further measures on child care are being provided by the Government in a range of different ways and I have outlined a number of examples for the Deputies' information. In 2001, the Department of Finance allocated €12.7 million capital expenditure for the provision of up to 15 Civil Service crèches for the children of Government employees. Five crèches are in operation and a further crèche is due to open in January 2005. Proposals for additional crèches are being considered.

In March 2001, the IDA launched a scheme to provide for the creation of high quality, workplace child care facilities in IDA Ireland business parks around the country. Four of these have opened, with another under construction and a sixth at contract stage. Since the start of 2002, the city and county enterprise boards have approved funding of over €1.5 million to 150 child care centres across the country. This funding comprises mainly staffing grants, with a small number of capital grants available.

Capital allowances are available for capital expenditure on the construction, extension and refurbishment of a building, which is used for the purpose of providing a pre-school service or similar service. There is also an exemption on the usual benefit in kind provisions for employees who enjoy free or subsidised child care facilities provided by their employers. In such circumstances, the employer must be wholly or partly responsible for both financing and managing the child care facility.

The outcomes of the present programme will be monitored closely to inform the forward planning process in order to support the twin needs of quality child care provision and labour market supports. This Government's record in providing enhanced child care services is without parallel and I am confident that we are moving rapidly to ensure that there are quality services available to parents throughout the country.

Visa Applications.

Dan Boyle

Question:

34 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the problems that many immigrants face when trying to get their family to join them here either for a short visit or for a longer period; and the action he intends to take to improve the situation. [32577/04]

The present policy in Ireland regarding the admission of non-national family members to the State to join family members already here is broadly in line with that of the rest of the European Union and with practice internationally. The general policy on family reunification where the family members in question are not visa required, requires that the person already in the State must be in a position to support the family without recourse to public funds. The spouses and children of the majority of foreign workers in the State fall into this category.

The policy on family members who are visa required is that a non-EEA national who is working in the State on an employment permit may apply for family reunification for a spouse or a minor child on condition that he or she has been working here for at least 12 months, or three months in the case of certain skilled workers, and are likely to remain so for a similar period, that is, the employment permit has been renewed. He or she must be in a position to support family members without recourse to public funds.

In line with this policy, visa applications are considered by a visa officer and the average processing time is from four to six weeks. In the case of a refused visa application, the decision may be appealed in writing to a visa appeals officer in the immigration division of my Department. Such an appeal incurs no charge and the only limitation is that an appeal must be submitted within two months of receipt of the refusal notice. A decision on an appeal will issue within four to six weeks of the date of receipt of the appeal.

A person granted refugee status in Ireland may apply for family reunification under section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. Save in very exceptional cases, under section 18(3) upon verification by the Refugee Applications Commissioner of the authenticity of the relationship, such permission must be granted to immediate family members of a refugee, that is, spouse, minor children and, if the refugee is an unmarried minor, his or her parents. Applications for family reunification may also be made for dependent members of a refugee's family under section 18(4). Dependent member of the family means any grandparent, parent, brother, sister, child, grandchild, ward or guardian of the refugee who is dependent on the refugee or is suffering from a mental or physical disability to such an extent that it is not reasonable for him or her to maintain himself or herself fully.

As these applications by their nature require very detailed and individual examination it is not possible to give an average processing time. On a more general note, the immigration division of my Department is continually endeavouring to improve the quality of services to its customers.

Garda Complaints Procedure.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

35 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the total amount paid out either in respect of court awards or out of court settlements for claims taken against members of the Garda in respect of assault, unlawful arrest or other breach of a citizen’s right in respect of 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 to date; the number of cases in which awards were made by the courts and the number of cases which were settled out of court; the number of such cases pending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32498/04]

The information requested by the Deputy on court awards and out of court settlements in actions taken against members of the Garda Síochána in respect of assault, unlawful arrest or other breaches of citizens' rights is set out in the table.

As of 31 December 2003, approximately 750 civil actions taken against members of the Garda Síochána were on hand. A detailed breakdown of these actions in the form of the number of allegations of assault, unlawful arrest and other breaches of citizens' rights is not readily available. However, a database introduced in 2002 for the purposes of recording civil actions taken against members of the Garda Síochána indicates that in 2003, the first complete year for which a detailed breakdown is available, of the 142 actions initiated or received in that year by my Department, 34 cases of alleged assault were recorded and 38 cases of alleged unlawful arrest were recorded. The remaining 70 cases recorded included allegations of defamation and harassment. In the year to date, 120 actions have been initiated or received. They include 37 cases of alleged assault and 25 cases of alleged unlawful arrest.

Civil actions may be taken by the general public against members of the Garda Síochána for compensation for alleged wrongs and personal injuries inflicted on them by Garda members in the performance of their duties. The highest percentage of these types of civil actions against the Garda Síochána concerns assault and unlawful arrest. The majority of these cases have been settled for less than €25,500. Settlement of cases takes place on the advice of the Chief State Solicitor, the Attorney General and State Counsel.

The Garda Commissioner has informed me that incidents, which result in successful claims against the State in respect of the actions of gardaí, are examined with a view to identifying and implementing operational strategies to eliminate or reduce similar claims in the future. The Garda Commissioner has also informed me that the Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations 1989 are invoked in appropriate cases where the actions of individual Garda members come into question. One of the principal aims of the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 is the establishment of a new mechanism for dealing with complaints against members of the Garda Síochána which will secure public confidence and which will address the acknowledged shortcomings in the existing law and procedures on complaints.

Year (Total Amount)

Assault

Unlawful Arrest

Other

2001 €1,619,746.83

Awards

1,904.61 (1)

20,950.68(2)

22,220.42 (1)

Settlements

123,164.59 (5)

33,965.49 (3)

162,782.25 (9)

Costs

244,665.35

123,199.41

886,894.03

Total

€369,734.55

€178,115.58

€1,071,896.70

2002 €1,240,388.40

Awards

1,270 (1)

3,809.21 (1)

56,500 (2)

Settlements

166,924.48 (6)

106,835.58(10)

185,078.82(11)

Costs

230,769.67

148,714.19

340,486.45

Total

398,964.15

259,358.98

582,065.27

2003 (Provisional) €1,276,127.55

Awards

11,000 (1)

10,000 (2)

4,870 (2)

Settlements

75,000 (4)

303,011 (5)

112,814.84 (4)

Costs

145,561.70

71,794.28

542,075.73

Total

231,561.70

384,805.28

659,760.57

2004 (Provisional) €686,993.29 As of 03/12/04

Awards

15,000 (1)

0

3,215.06 (1)

Settlements

48,697.48 (3)

223,007 (7)

47,500(2)

Costs

110,316.31

94,702.16

144,555.28

Total

174,013.79

317,709.16

195,270.34

The number of cases in which awards were made by the courts and the number of cases which were settled out of court are shown in brackets in each case.

Garda Strength.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

36 Mr. Gilmore 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. [32490/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that 1,287 recruits have graduated from the Garda College since 6 June 2002. This figure refers to those members who have successfully completed the student-probationer education-training programme.

I am further informed that a total of 1,072 members across all ranks have resigned, retired or otherwise left the Garda Síochána since the 6 June 2002. A total of 1,563 recruits have been attested to the Garda Síochána in the same period. 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. Therefore the strength of the force has increased by 491 members since June 2002.

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 3 of their training but have not yet formally graduated.

Residency Permits.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

37 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if same sex relationships will be recognised for the purposes of allowing partners living outside the State to enter for the purpose of family reunification; and if he will examine the situation in the UK in order to improve the situation here. [32586/04]

In determining whether or not a non-national should be admitted to the State to join another non-national or indeed an Irish national a number of questions arise. One fundamental consideration, which arises in most cases, relates to the extent to which the couple will in the future be in a position to support themselves without recourse to public funds. That in turn requires an evaluation of the nature and extent of the relationship between the persons in question.

Where the persons in question are married that evaluation is relatively straightforward from an administrative point of view. However, where the relationship is more informal its dynamics are more difficult to determine objectively — particularly where it is not underpinned by any formal legal contract. At present, the Irish immigration system does not recognise same sex couples as families for immigration purposes. It is, of course, possible for both parties to such a relationship to enter the State independently, for example, for work or study purposes. A similar situation arises in the case of unmarried couples.

The issue of non-marital partnerships and same sex relationships is currently being considered by the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution. It is also an issue which I intend to address in my proposed discussion document on an immigration and residence Bill, which will be published in early 2005.

Garda Recruitment.

Damien English

Question:

38 Mr. English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of new gardaí that will be introduced to the force in 2005. [32571/04]

The Government recently approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, in line with the agreed programme for Government commitment 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 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 as part of the new Garda traffic corps. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high visibility policing and they will have a real impact. The advertisement campaign for a new Garda recruitment competition was launched on Thursday, 25 November 2004.

For the year 2005 there will be an intake to the Garda College of 1,096 new recruits. In addition, it is estimated that 523 Garda trainees will become attested members of the force in 2005.

Human Rights Issues.

Willie Penrose

Question:

39 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the serious criticism of conditions in prisons here contained in the report, Human Rights Issues for Prisoners, published by prison chaplains and particularly its conclusion that there had been an appalling lack of progress in addressing human rights concerns in prisons; the steps he is taking to deal with the issues raised in the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32509/04]

The document to which the Deputy refers is the report of the prison chaplains which is made to me annually. The report is currently being studied both by the Irish Prison Service and my Department and I intend to meet with representatives of the chaplaincy to discuss the matters raised in the near future.

Hepatitis C Infection.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

40 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has satisfied himself that procedures are in place to protect prisoners from hepatitis C infection through the use of non-sterilised equipment by prison barbers. [32574/04]

For a considerable time the Irish Prison Service has been involved in an ongoing process of providing both prisoners and prison staff with information regarding the risk factors for the transmission of hepatitis C and other infectious diseases. On the issue raised by the Deputy, while the risk of transmission through normal grooming procedures, including barbering, should be minimal, anyone engaged in such procedures would be advised of the appropriate precautions, particularly in cases of unforeseen blood spillage.

Juvenile Offenders.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

41 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of juvenile liaison officers in the Garda at the latest date for which figures are available; if he has plans to extend the scheme in view of its proven success 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. [32520/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources including personnel, that as of 6 December 2004 there were 86 juvenile liaison officer, JLO, gardaí and eight JLO sergeants working in the various divisions throughout the country. In addition, the national juvenile office has a staff of one superintendent, two inspectors and two sergeants.

The Children Act 2001 came into effect in May 2002 and it was at this point that the existing Garda diversion programme began operating on a statutory basis. Included in that Act is the introduction into the criminal justice system of the concept of restorative justice and family conferencing, the provisions for which are currently being put into effect by the Garda Síochána. The 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.

On Garda resources generally, 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 agreed programme for Government commitment 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 draw up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources and in this context due consideration will,inter alia, be given to the resourcing of the juvenile liaison scheme. Clearly, 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 as part of the new Garda traffic corps. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high visibility policing and they will have a real impact.

Drugs in Prisons.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

42 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will introduce a pilot needle exchange in prisons here in view of the conclusions of the study, Prison Needle Exchange: Lessons from a Comprehensive Review of International Evidence and Experience. [32573/04]

It is the practice of the Irish Prison Service, IPS, 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 programme for Government. 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.

Introducing a needle exchange scheme would act as a clear message that the use of intravenous drugs in prisons is tolerated. For many prisoners, imprisonment offers them an opportunity to examine their problems and, with the support of prison services, to try and address them. By facilitating rather than challenging drug abuse, the Irish Prison Service would be consciously releasing prisoners back into society as full blown addicts with a habit only capable of being fed by the commission of further serious crime or even degrading acts of prostitution.

Needle exchange schemes would subvert and run contrary to increasing staff vigilance in searching for drugs and preventing them being smuggled into prisons. Drug control in prisons would be reduced to a game in which a blind eye approach to successful breaches of the controls would, in time, become the order of the day. As a criminal justice agency, the Irish Prison Service is actively working to prevent breaches of the criminal law relating to illicit drugs. It is simply not possible to have staff fully committed to preventing the possession and distribution of illicit drugs within prisons while simultaneously distributing syringes to prisoners to be used to inject illicit drugs. The Irish Prison Service is committed to the twin strategies of supply and demand reduction to deal with the issue of drugs in prison — closing off routes of supply and providing support to prisoners to tackle their addictions. The introduction of needle exchange would run contrary to these approaches.

The report of the group to review the structure and organisation of prison health care 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 mandatory 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 and we will, early in the coming year, implement our new strategy of mandatory drug testing, addiction counselling and treatment and increase measures to prevent drug usage and to provide a more complete system of rehabilitation.

Defamation Law.

Joe Costello

Question:

43 Mr. Costello 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. [32487/04]

I refer the Deputy to Question No. 120 of Wednesday, 3 November 2004, ref. 27267/04, and the reply to that question.

Internet Services.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

44 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has had meetings with telecoms executives to discuss illegal use of the Internet here and the need for better regulation; his views on whether the current system of self regulation of Internet access by private companies is working effectively; his further views on whether the current optional code of practice for Internet service providers should be made mandatory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31249/04]

In 1998, the Government set up a review group to examine issues arising from the illegal and harmful use of the Internet, with particular emphasis on the protection of children. The group in its report recommended the establishment of a system of self regulation by the Internet service provider industry as the most flexible, efficient, least bureaucratic and cost effective means of combating these illegal and harmful uses. The components of such a system were to include the following: an Internet Advisory Board, IAB — established February 2000 — which promotes awareness of Internet downside issues, co-ordinates efforts to combat child pornography on the Internet and monitors the system of self regulation by the Internet service provider industry; a public hotline for reporting child pornography, established 1999 and funded by the industry; an industry code of practice setting out the duties and responsibilities of each Internet service provider, agreed February 2002.

The code of practice and ethics, which was agreed between the Internet Advisory Board and the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland, ISPAI, sets down the conditions around such issues as acceptable use policies, complaints procedures, obligations in respect to "take down" notices and so forth. The ISPAI has a key role in monitoring compliance with the code and enforcing disciplinary actions in the event of non-compliance.

In 2003, the Internet Advisory Board carried out a review of the implementation and effectiveness of the code of practice and ethics after a year in operation. As part of its review, the board commissioned an independent examination by the IAPCODE project based at Oxford University, which receives funding from the EU's safer Internet action plan. Its report endorsed the code as a model of its type; however, it recommended a number of adjustments to take account of the recent legal developments in the area of data protection, e-commerce and mechanisms for dealing with content originating abroad.

The Internet Advisory Board's review, which was presented to me in July 2004, found that the technical and legal requirements of the code of practice and ethics remains valid and appropriate and also found a positive level of compliance among those service providers who have subscribed to it. However, while at present 15 of the largest of the Internet service providers, representing 95% of Internet traffic in the State, are members of the ISPAI, ongoing effort is needed to ensure that the totality of the industry is represented and signed up to the code of practice and ethics and formally supports the industry hotline.

As part of the ongoing process of evaluation of the effectiveness of the self regulatory regime for the industry, I invited senior executives of all the Internet service providers to meet with me on the 12 October last. I emphasised that, for self regulation to work, it must be supported by all of the industry. I propose to keep this issue of industry self regulation under active review in conjunction with the Internet Advisory Board.

Garda Operations.

Joan Burton

Question:

45 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date by Operation Crossover which was established to combat serious crime in west Dublin; the number of arrests made, weapons seized or charges brought as a result of the operation; if his attention has been drawn to calls made by community representatives for increased community policing in the area; if it is intended to respond to these requests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32492/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Operation Crossover II is a high visibility policing initiative providing extra patrols and checkpoints in the Dublin metropolitan region west division.

There have been 105 arrests to date for offences relating to possession of firearms, possession of controlled substances, assault, public order offences and drink driving. So far, 11 firearms and four knives have been seized. A number of prosecutions are pending as a result of the operation.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that community policing in the Dublin metropolitan region west division forms an integral part of Operation Crossover II and that there are 78 gardaí employed on community policing duties. The total personnel strength of the Dublin metropolitan region west division as at 6 December 2004 was 662, all ranks. Local Garda management is satisfied that the resources available in west Dublin are adequate to meet the policing needs of the area. The deployment of personnel is regularly reviewed by local Garda management in order to provide an effective response to issues as they arise.

On 12 October, the Government approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members, on a phased basis, in line with the An Agreed Programme for Government commitment in this regard. This is a key commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government and its implementation will significantly strengthen the operational capacity of the force. Moreover, it will allow the allocation of additional resources to areas of greatest need, including combating serious crime.

Garda Deployment.

Tom Hayes

Question:

46 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans to increase the size of the Garda Síochána force in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32568/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of the Louth-Meath division on 6 December 2004 was 536, all ranks. That figure represents an increase of 38, or 7.6%, in the number of personnel allocated to the Louth-Meath division since 1 January 1998, when the figure stood at 498. The deployment of Garda personnel throughout the country, along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, is continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible service is provided to the public.

I am pleased that the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda to 14,000 members on a phased basis, in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government. The implementation of this key commitment will significantly strengthen the operational capacity of the force. The Garda Commissioner is drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage the additional resources. The needs of the Louth-Meath division will be fully considered in the context of the needs of Garda divisions throughout the country when probationer gardaí are being allocated. Members of the Garda will be permanently transferred to that division, where possible.

It is clear that the additional resources will be targeted at areas of greatest need, as envisaged in the programme for Government, which identifies such areas as those with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences. It will also be possible to address other priorities, such as the need to increase significantly the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the proposed Garda traffic corps. I have promised that the additional gardaí will not be given administrative duties but will instead be put directly into frontline, operational and high visibility policing. They will have a real impact.

Question No. 47 answered with QuestionNo. 33.

Residency Permits.

Seán Ryan

Question:

48 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the proposals he has to deal with the situation of the estimated 11,000 parents of Irish born children in regard to his interview for a newspaper (details supplied); when such measures will be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32514/04]

Following the decision of the Supreme Court in the cases of L and O in January 2003, the separate procedure for considering residency applications based solely on parentage of an Irish born child was brought to an end on 19 February 2003. The Government decided that all outstanding claims to reside in the State on the basis of parentage of an Irish born child, as well as future claims for leave to remain in the State from the non-national parents of Irish born children, would be examined and decided on individually. A notice to this effect was published on 18 July 2003.

The amendment to the Constitution following last June's referendum has allowed the Oireachtas to deal with the issue of citizenship for children of non-national parents. The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Bill 2004 is before the Oireachtas. The situation on the ground will not change until the legislation has been enacted and commenced. Any person born in Ireland is still entitled to Irish citizenship. This continues to attract persons with no link to Ireland to seek to come here to acquire Irish and EU citizenship for their children.

I will make my proposals for the future handling of such cases known after the legislation has been enacted. As I have said before, the approach will be based on decency, pragmatism and common sense.

Citizenship Applications.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

49 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the length of time it takes to process an application for naturalisation. [32411/04]

The average processing time for an application for a certificate of naturalisation is 24 months.

Garda Investigations.

Mary Upton

Question:

50 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position on the Garda investigation into the murder of persons (details supplied); if a file has been sent to the DPP; if his attention has been drawn to the serious disappointment expressed by relatives of the victims of his decision not to hold an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32521/04]

I am informed that the Garda investigation into this matter is ongoing. As I have outlined to this House previously, I am not satisfied that a public inquiry is required. I can appreciate the distress that this matter has caused to all involved and I have already made direct contact with the families and solicitors involved in this matter, informing them of the current situation.

Liz McManus

Question:

51 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has completed his consideration of 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); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32499/04]

I have previously informed the House that 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. Civil proceedings have been initiated in certain cases and there may yet be other civil actions, so the Deputy will appreciate that, in the circumstances, I am limited in what I can say on the specific details of individual cases.

On 1 November 2004, I received a report from the commissioner in respect of all matters featured in the broadcast in question. In his 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 that 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. One recommendation of the commissioner in this regard is to carry out an initial pilot project for the installation of stand alone digital audio-visual recording systems in two Garda stations. The pilot project is to assess the various issues involved and it will cover reception areas and areas from which access can be gained to interview rooms and detention cells.

The Deputy will appreciate that I need to consider the report carefully and discuss it with the commissioner before making further detailed comments. The Deputy is well aware of my views 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 regarded 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 — Committee Stage of this Bill is being taken in Seanad Éireann today — 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 these proposals will come before this House soon and that they will have the support of all Deputies.

Drugs in Prisons.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

52 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress which 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. [32512/04]

Mindful of the commitments in the programme for Government, a group comprising Irish Prison Service management, prison governors, health authority representatives and clinicians has been consulted regarding a drugs policy for the Irish Prison Service. The intention is that the drugs policy will facilitate consistent regulatory and operational structures in pursuing both 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, and in the designated drug free areas of Wheatfield Prison and the training unit and St. Patrick's Institution in the Mountjoy complex, are required to undergo frequent drug tests to confirm their drug free status.

Mandatory drug testing will, however, soon operate throughout 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 almost finalised in my Department, will include specific provision for mandatory drug testing and, in this context, it is intended that the Irish Prison Service will, early in the new year, commence implementation of a new strategy of mandatory drug testing, addiction counselling and treatment and increased measures to prevent drug usage to provide a more complete system of rehabilitation.

Garda Recruitment.

Richard Bruton

Question:

53 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of years it will take to introduce the proposed 2,000 extra gardaí to the force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32572/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

71 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects the 2,000 extra gardaí promised in the programme for Government to be available for duty; if consideration has been given to the particular Garda stations to which they are to be deployed; if attention is likely to be given to areas experiencing high crime levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32596/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 53 and 71 together.

I am very pleased 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 a commitment in this regard 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.

The new recruitment campaign for the Garda Síochána has already commenced and record numbers of recruits will be taken on. In each quarter, for the next three years, approximately 274 recruits will be taken into the college. If one takes into account the projected number of retirements, one will note that the recruitment process will lead to a combined organisational strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 as early as 2006.

This record recruitment drive will place at the disposal of the Garda Commissioner a significant increase in Garda resources. The commissioner will now draw up plans on how best to distribute and manage these resources. Garda personnel deployments throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources. Clearly, however, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as 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 also be possible to address other priorities, such as the need to significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties. As I have already made clear, the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high visibility policing and they will have a real impact.

Deportation Orders.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

54 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his public statement that deported non-nationals should take their children with them even if those children are Irish citizens is the policy of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32579/04]

As I stated in reply to Questions Nos. 224, 225, 226, 227 and 239 on 16 November 2004, it is a matter for parents of a child who is not liable to be deported to make a decision on the welfare of that child if they are deported.

Ordinarily, parents have a duty as well as a right to provide properly for their children's upbringing and the Constitution recognises this duty. If parents acting in good faith leave their children in the care and custody of another appropriate person, the State will not interfere with those arrangements so long as the decision does not amount to a failure in the duty towards their child which would justify State intervention. There are no circumstances in which I can direct such children to leave the State and I would not wish to do so.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

55 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of occasions since June 2002 on which aircraft have been chartered to facilitate the deportation of persons from this country; the cost involved in such charters; the number of persons deported in this way and the number who were children; the total overall costs involved, including Garda man hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32516/04]

The table contains details of dates, destinations, numbers deported, broken down into adults and minors, in so far as this information is available, and costs of the 11 repatriation charter flights that have taken place to date.

Number of non-nationals deported.

Date

Destination

Adults

Minors

Total

Cost Euro

9 January 2002

Algeria

2

Nil

2

29,833

28 March 2002

Nigeria

6

Nil

6

241,250

14 November 2002

Nigeria

N/A

N/A

12*

191,730

18 November 2003

Romania and Moldova

N/A

N/A

24*

92,490

28 November 2003

Romania and Bulgaria

N/A

N/A

20*

31,989

12 February 2004

Romania

N/A

N/A

62*

93,609

20 February 2004

Gambia

1

Nil

1

50,200

31 March 2004

Romania

49

4

53

71,590

6 April 2004

Nigeria

26

3

29

146,500

26 August 2004

Nigeria

24

1

25

248,610

17 November 2004

Romania and Moldova

56

10

66

82,700

*Note: A breakdown of the numbers deported between adults and minors is not readily available for four of the flights. To attempt to provide such a breakdown would require the Garda revisiting each of the 118 cases involved, which would entail a disproportionate use of time and resources.

The above costs include Garda expenses associated with these removal operations. The Garda Commissioner advises me that, given the wide range of immigration duties performed by the Garda Siochána and the Garda national immigration bureau in particular, it is not possible to identify the particular pay and overtime costs incurred by the gardaí in connection with these charter flights. He informs me that charter flights involve a lower ratio of Garda escorts to deportees than is the case using conventional schedule flights, resulting in savings to the Garda budget.

There are two main categories of repatriation charter flights: small charters, organised to remove disruptive deportees that commercial airlines will not take on account of previous disruptive behaviour on board aircraft, and big charters organised to return larger numbers of deportees in a more efficient way than using scheduled flights. Ireland does not have direct flights to the destinations where these charters have taken place. The alternative to chartering is transiting through hub European airports involving longer transfer times, more inconvenience to deportees and the attendant risk of deportees absconding in transit.

The use of charter flights, including joint charters shared by two or more countries, is accepted and used widely across the European Union as an effective and efficient means of returning persons illegally present on the territories of member states following individual consideration of their cases. The European Council of Ministers adopted a decision in April 2004 facilitating the greater use of joint repatriation flights as a means of demonstrating solidarity among member states, increasing the rate of returns and making more effective use of resources. Ireland has carried out two such joint operations with the Netherlands on 28 November 2003 to Romania and Bulgaria and with the UK to Romania and Moldova on 18 November 2003, details of which are provided in the table.

It is well established that an effective deportation process is a necessary element of an immigration system. The lack of an effective means to deport persons not granted permission to remain in the State would call into question the integrity of the entire immigration and asylum laws. Failure to enforce deportation orders in the case of disruptive behaviour would produce two main outcomes: it would send a clear signal that deportation can be avoided by simply being disruptive and disruptive behaviour by deportees on scheduled flights would become the norm, leading to concerns for the safety of passengers and staff on aircraft, and cause further difficulties for the gardaí in the already problematic task of enforcing deportation orders.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

56 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in view of the recent conviction of two republicans by the Special Criminal Court, he will provide further details on the extent of IRA activity in criminal activities in Dublin Port; the action which has been taken to investigate and stem this activity; the extent to which this activity is ongoing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32559/04]

The conviction of the persons in question raises deep concerns. I have nothing further to add to what I have already put on the public record about criminal activity at Dublin Port other than to say that the Garda authorities assure me that a high priority has been and continues to be placed on the prevention and detection of the larceny of high value products from Dublin Port. This involves the deployment of appropriate strategies involving the exploitation of all available resources in intelligence led operations. In this regard, substantial quantities of stolen goods have been recovered and persons arrested.

Prison Accommodation.

Willie Penrose

Question:

57 Mr. Penrose 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. [32508/04]

My Department has received approximately 400 letters 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 await 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 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 retrofitting in-cell sanitation in Mountjoy and Cork Prisons are prohibitive, the Prison Service seeks to develop new state of the art prison facilities on green field sites. In the case of Mountjoy Prison, a process is under way to identify suitable sites near Dublin. My officials and the Office of Public Works are examining plans for a new prison development on Spike Island.

Garda Strength.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

58 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members of the Garda at the latest date for which figures are available; the number expected to be recruited during 2005; the number expected to retire or otherwise leave the force during 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32493/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of the Garda Síochána as of 6 December 2004 was 12,252, covering all ranks.

The Government recently 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 this regard under the agreed programme for Government. To achieve that, it is planned to recruit almost 1,100 new recruits every year for the next three years. The advertising campaign for this first tranche of 1,100 recruits was launched on Thursday, 25 November 2004.

Some 130 members of all ranks of the Garda Síochána will retire during 2005 on compulsory age grounds. In addition, the Garda authorities project, on the basis of averages from previous years, that an additional 321 members will either choose to retire having attained 30 years' service and reached the age of 50 or otherwise retire or resign.

The commissioner will now draw up plans on how best to distribute and manage the additional resources outlined above. Of course, they 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 also be possible to address other priorities, such as the need to increase significantly the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda traffic corps. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high visibility policing, where they will have a real impact.

Residency Permits.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

59 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on his plans to increase provision for family reunification in Irish immigration law. [32409/04]

The present position on the admission of non-national family members to Ireland to join family members already in the State is as follows.

A person granted refugee status in Ireland may apply for family reunification under section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. Under section 18(3), such permission must, save in very exceptional cases, be granted to immediate family members of a refugee, that is, spouse, minor children and, if the refugee is an unmarried minor, his or her parents, upon verification by the Refugee Applications Commissioner of the authenticity of the relationship.

Applications for family reunification may also be made for dependent members of a refugee's family under section 18(4). Dependent member of the family means any grandparent, parent, brother, sister, child, grandchild, ward or guardian of the refugee who is dependent on the refugee or is suffering from a mental or physical disability to such an extent that it is not reasonable for him or her to maintain him- or herself fully. Such applications may be granted at my discretion.

A non-EEA national working in the State on an employment permit may apply for family reunification with spouse or minor child on condition that he or she has been working here for at least 12 months, or three months for certain skilled workers, and is likely to remain so for a similar period, that is, the work permit has been renewed. He or she must be in a position to support family members without recourse to public funds.

Ireland's policy in this area is broadly in line with that of the rest of the European Union and with practice internationally. However, as family reunification is a very important migratory issue, I will examine this type of immigration fully in the context of the development of the new immigration and residence Bill. However, I do not envisage any significant change in the current conditions regarding the length of time that the non-EEA national has been in the State and the ability to support dependent family members without recourse to public funds.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Mary Upton

Question:

60 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason he has decided not to use the powers available to him under the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 providing for the traceability of alcohol sold on a take away basis; if he intends to introduce measures to assist the gardaí in tracing alcohol sold to persons under age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32522/04]

Section 22 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 provides for the making of regulations specifying particulars to be affixed to containers in which intoxicating liquor is sold for consumption off licensed premises which are adequate to enable the licensee and the licensed premises concerned to be identified.

While the labelling of containers in which intoxicating liquor is sold 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. Those 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. That raises the important 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 would be simpler but it would create logistical difficulties for importers and distributors and that would lead in turn to increased distribution costs. Moreover, in the case of imports from EU countries, such additional labelling requirements could be regarded as infringing internal market rules. Also, it would be naive to overlook 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 in question may have been taken from the family home or may have been sold to a person over the age of 18 years in good faith by the licensee before being passed on to the under age person. Such a container may have passed through several hands before finding its way into the hands of an under age 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 option that could be considered in the context of future legislation is 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 those reasons, I do not, as I have already stated on several occasions, 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. I will give serious consideration to any reasonable and workable proposal that would deal with this matter without giving rise to the practical, enforcement and evidential difficulties that I have outlined.

Garda Remuneration.

Joe Costello

Question:

61 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount allocated in his Department’s Estimates for 2005 for salaries, wages and allowances for the gardaí; the way in which this compares with the equivalent for 2004; the number of additional personnel that this will allow for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32486/04]

The 2005 Estimate allocation for salaries, wages and allowances for the Garda Vote amounts to €791.960 million. The equivalent allocation for 2004 was €752.824 million.

It is projected that 1,096 gardaí will be recruited in each of the next three years as part of the expansion of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 from its present strength of over 12,200. In the Estimates for 2005, €11.793 million has been allocated to deal with recruitment of gardaí in that year.

Juvenile Offenders.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

62 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects to receive the report of the task force on juvenile justice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32519/04]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 104 of 3 November 2004, from his colleague, Deputy Sherlock, in which I indicated that I expect the project team to report to me before summer next year. The position has not changed.

Refugee Status.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

63 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to statements made by the Master of the High Court that those making decisions regarding refugees often fail to make a proper fact based assessment of credibility; if he intends to initiate a review of procedures in view of these comments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32517/04]

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent investigative process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Accordingly, it would be inappropriate to comment in any detail on the statement referred to by the Deputy.

However, for the information of the Deputy, all applications for refugee status are processed in accordance with the statutory framework set out in the Refugee Act 1996, as most recently amended by the Immigration Act 2003. The refugee determination agencies in processing asylum claims also have regard to the UNHCR Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for determining Refugee Status. Consideration of an applicant's credibility is dealt with in some detail in both the UNHCR handbook and in section 11B of the 1996 Act. This would also be a key focus of training in the refugee determination agencies which is provided by a number of sources, including the UNHCR, and is kept under constant review.

Deportation Orders.

John Gormley

Question:

64 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way in which he is to vindicate the constitutional rights of Irish citizen children of deported non-national parents who are taken out of the country, in terms of rights guaranteed by the Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32582/04]

It should first be stated that an Irish born child, who is a citizen, cannot be deported. The Supreme Court judgment of January 2003 in the L&O case is complex but an important finding was that while an Irish born child has a right to have the care and company of his or her parents, there is no absolute right for this to take place in Ireland; further, the Government may determine to deport a family, notwithstanding the effective removal of the Irish born child, without violating the child's rights. The absence of such automatic rights of residence are a feature of most immigration regimes even those withjus soli rule of citizenship such as the USA.

It is a matter for parents of a child who is not liable to be deported to make a decision about the welfare of that child if they themselves are deported. Ordinarily, parents have a duty as well as a right to provide properly for their children's upbringing and this duty is recognised by the Constitution. If parents acting in good faith leave their children in the care and custody of another appropriate person, the State will not interfere with those arrangements so long as the decision does not amount to a failure in the duty towards their child which would justify State intervention. If, on the other hand, the parents exercise their rights in voluntarily taking their child back with them, the exercise of such parental rights cannot be interpreted as contrary to the international conventions referred to by the Deputy.

Garda Equipment.

John Deasy

Question:

65 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on what he intends to spend the 2% increase in equipment for the Garda that was announced in the Estimates in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32565/04]

The 2005 Estimates provision of almost €1.109 billion for the Garda Síochána shows a €53.659 million or 5.1% increase over the provision for the year 2004. It is intended to spend all of this amount in 2005.

The Garda Vote covers expenditure on a wide range of items such as salaries, training, post and telecommunication services, office machinery, other office supplies, clothing, transport and communications equipment and so forth. It is not possible to list all of the equipment that may be purchased by the Garda Síochána during 2005.

Crime Prevention.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

66 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the new initiatives that are planned for crime prevention under the recent budget 2005. [32567/04]

I am firmly of the view that an appropriate level of funding is the key to ensuring that the criminal justice system, crime prevention initiatives and the other public services provided by my Department are responsive to the needs of communities, work effectively in tackling crime and help to make our streets safer. My objective over the period of the annual Estimates campaign has been to ensure that the financial resources being made available by Government for the justice sector in 2005 are appropriate to meet the many challenges that lie ahead.

I have succeeded in securing an all time historic high level of funding for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and its associated agencies. The Garda, the courts and the prisons together with the Department itself have never been better resourced or equipped. The Garda budget is over €1.1billion. Within three years the strength of the force will be 14,000. The Department's budget, which in addition to providing services at central level also supports the work of over 20 agencies which are supplying public services in legal aid, equality, immigration, private security industry and so forth, will have a budget of €366 million in 2005.

The funding will enable a number of key public policy imperatives to go ahead next year. Included in these is the recruitment of additional gardaí to increase the strength of the force by 2000 within two years, bringing its total complement to 14,000, with these additional gardaí being deployed in high visibility and non-indoor policing duties. Also included is the continuation of the national child care programme which is addressing historic shortfalls in the supply of child care facilities in all areas of the State, particularly in the designated RAPID areas, and construction of a brand new state of the art criminal court complex.

In addition, early in November last I made additional direct funding available to the Garda Síochána for the remainder of 2005. This has enabled the Garda to undertake a number of high visibility policing operations including: special burglary prevention patrols in residential housing estates; additional plain clothes and uniform patrols of areas where increased incidents of disorder are identified; additional uniform and plain clothes patrols of areas adjoining business and commercial areas of cities and large towns; additional patrols of public areas where public order problems are prevalent; increased Garda presence on the road network between now and the end of the year to reduce the number of road traffic fatalities through intensified road traffic law enforcement; high visibility uniform presence on busy thoroughfares, particularly late at night, where large numbers of people are congregated following late night entertainment, especially during the lead up to Christmas; increased inspections of licensed firearms to ensure adequate security; patrolling in the vicinity of car parks of licensed premises at key times and when serious road traffic offences are believed to be committed; increased emphasis on community policing patrols, which will entail visits to elderly and vulnerable persons residing in remote locations, and extra patrols during the lead up to Christmas to provide security for the additional cash in circulation.

Prison Staff.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

67 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of staff, broken down by grade, still deployed at the Curragh and Spike Island prisons; the date on which the last prisoners were transferred from these jails; the amount paid in salary and expenses to staff since that date; the overtime paid to these staff; his views on whether this is the most effective use of the moneys allocated to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32510/04]

I draw the Deputy's attention to my responses to previous questions which were taken on 16 November 2004, Nos. 228 and 229, and on 23 November 2004, Nos. 407 to 409. I indicated that, for security reasons and the need to carry out essential maintenance, a small cohort of prison staff continued to be assigned to duties at both the Curragh and Fort Mitchel places of detention. There are currently 11 and 13 staff serving at the Curragh and Fort Mitchel respectively and the following table provides a breakdown by grade:

Grade

Curragh

Fort Mitchel

Governor 2

1

1

Assistant Governor

1

Clerk 1

1

Clerk 2

1

Prison Officer

7

4

Chief Trades Officer 2

1

1

Trades Officer

1

5

Total

11

13

The Deputy will note that since my previous reply to the House on 23 November last there has been an increase of one in the staff assigned to Fort Mitchel, a trades officer. This is because the trades officer in question had been providing cover in respect of an officer on sick leave at another institution and on that officer's return, the trades officer resumed work at Fort Mitchel. I should point out also, regarding the two governor posts, that while they continue to maintain a watching brief in respect of the institutions in question, they have been assigned senior management responsibilities elsewhere.

The last prisoners transferred out of the Curragh and Fort Mitchel on 20 January 2004 and 10 February 2004 respectively. Fort Mitchel was fully operational until mothballed on 10 February 2004 and the Curragh was fully operational until mothballed on 20 January 2004.

The following table shows the amounts paid in salaries, expenses and overtime to the staff remaining at the Curragh and Fort Mitchel from the dates on which they were mothballed to end November 2004.

Curragh

Fort Mitchel

Totals

Salary (incl. employers PRSI)

514,000

606,400

1,120,400

Expenses (Travel and Subsistence)

1,000

4,900*

5,900

Overtime

71,800

56,000

127,800

*The amount shown in respect of expenses at Fort Mitchel is distorted somewhat by the fact that staff of Fort Mitchel are also, on occasion, temporarily assigned to Cork Prison and the above figure reflects expenses in respect of such temporary transfers.

As previously indicated, some overtime at these institutions is necessary due to the pattern of cover required to maintain security on a 24 hour seven day week basis and the small number of staff providing that cover. The mothballing of the Curragh and Fort Mitchel places of detention continues to achieve the Government's objective of significantly reducing overtime levels in the Prison Service. The service has been able to secure savings in respect of pay costs of both facilities in the year to date and significant overall savings in respect of overtime in 2004 has been achieved as most of the staff from the Curragh and Fort Mitchel have been redeployed to effect overtime savings in other Prison Service institutions.

When the Curragh and Fort Mitchel places of detention were mothballed it made sense to retain a small cadre of staff from those institutions rather than retaining private security firms which would have incurred additional costs. In any event, it would not have been appropriate to retain a private security firm in a situation where the institutions in question were not being closed but simply mothballed so that they could be reopened at short notice should the Government decide on that course of action.

The staffing arrangements of both institutions are being kept under continuing review and any decision on their future will have regard to the ongoing discussions between the Irish Prison Service and the Prison Officers' Association about eliminating overtime and reducing other costs. These discussions are close to being concluded and I am hopeful that an agreement will be finalised in the next month or so and that staff will ballot for acceptance.

Human Rights Issues.

John Gormley

Question:

68 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has put procedures in place to determine the prospect of or to deal with the reality of human rights abuse of Irish citizen children of deported non-nationals who are taken out of the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32583/04]

I refer the Deputy to my replies to Questions Nos. 250, 155 and 235 of 13 December 2001, 29 January 2004 and 3 November 2004, respectively.

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 issues 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 ofrefoulement 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. This 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.

Anti-Racism Measures.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

69 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the report produced by the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism showing that 70 racist incidents were reported to it between May and October 2004, representing an increase of almost 30 incidents over the previous six month period; the steps being taken to combat racist incidents; if he has satisfied himself that victims of such incidents have confidence to report them to the gardaí in view of the figures showing a decrease in the number of such incidents reported to them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32525/04]

Racially motivated incidents are independently recorded by two bodies, the Garda Síochána and the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism, NCCRI.

The NCCRI was established with funding from my Department. Its objective is to develop an integrated approach against racism and promote a more participative and intercultural society. The NCCRI, in partnership with a range of non-government organisations, has organised a system of reporting racist incidents. The system aims to profile the number, type and location of incidents and to identify emerging trends.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda racial and intercultural office was established to co-ordinate, monitor and advise on all aspects of policing in the area of ethnic and cultural diversity. The office monitors the statistics of racially motivated incidents on a monthly basis. In addition to this, staff liaise with victims of crime and with the investigating Garda. The Garda authorities inform me that there is an approved policy for recording incidents that are racially motivated. The NCCRI records incidents that are not necessarily related to criminal offences. This is one reason for the difference in the number of incidents reported to the Garda Síochána. I am pleased to note that the number of incidents with a racist motive recorded has fallen since 2002. There were 102 such incidents reported in 2002, 69 in 2003 and 42 incidents reported up to 8 November of this year.

Incidents motivated by racism, sectarianism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism are recorded on the PULSE computer system. Personnel at the Garda racial and intercultural office, which was established in 2001, monitor all incidents to ensure that the system is accurately recording all such offences. Where such incidents occur, the Garda Síochána ensures that an investigation is pursued with reference to the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 and the Prohibition of the Incitement to Hatred Act 1989, which are the relevant legislative instruments pertaining to hate crime. Garda policy on the recording in PULSE of racially motivated incidents was circulated to the organisation in December 2002.

I understand that the Garda Commissioner has approved the appointment of ethnic liaison officers. There are 145 such officers stationed around the country. The role of the liaison officer is to liaise with leaders of ethnic communities and inform and assure the ethnic communities of Garda services and protection.

Garda Transport.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

70 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the improvement and upgrading plans that are in place for Garda vehicles and communications equipment for 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32564/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that it is anticipated that the provision of a modern digital communications network for the Garda Síochána and the other emergency services will commence in 2005. In the meantime sufficient support to underpin the existing analogue communications networks and data communications networks will be maintained. Further information on this issue is outlined in my response to Parliamentary Question No. 27313/04 of 3 November, 2004. In addition, it is planned to upgrade the PABX installations in some 50 Garda stations so that they can be brought on to the Government VPN.

I have also been informed by the Garda authorities that replacement Garda vehicles will be provided in accordance with normal replacement schedules. Normal scheduled replacements take place at approximately 100,000 miles for cars and vans and less for motorcycles. Indications are that between 400 and 500 vehicles will be replaced next year. Upgrading of vehicles depends on the particular use of those vehicles but the policy of the fleet management section is one of continuous improvement in specifications both in terms of safety and vehicle application. This is reflected in terms of safety features and sophisticated Garda equipment, which is written into Garda specifications.

The policy of Garda management is to provide the safest possible working environment for its members and vehicle purchase will always reflect this policy. Improvement in vehicle specification is continuous and upgrades will take place depending on the merits of particular situations.

Question No. 71 answered with QuestionNo. 53.

Courts Service.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

72 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the role and functions of the Courts Service; and if he has plans to amend its governing legislation. [32410/04]

Following the enactment of the Courts Service Act 1998, the Courts Service was established on 9 November 1999 as an independent corporate body to manage the courts, support the Judiciary and provide a high quality and professional service to all users of the courts. The functions of the service are to manage the courts, provide support services for the judges, provide information on the courts system to the public, provide, manage and maintain court buildings, and provide facilities for users of the courts. I have no plans to amend the above legislation at the present time.

Garda Operations.

Joan Burton

Question:

73 Ms Burton 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 total number of Garda personnel and Garda hours involved in the operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32489/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, as at 30 November 2004, the cost of the Garda policing arrangements relating to the visit of the US President in June 2004 was €8.027 million. However, a small number of claims and other miscellaneous charges remain outstanding so it is not possible to provide a full and final cost. I am further informed that approximately 3,800 gardaí were deployed for the visit and that, as at 30 November 2004, approximately 169,021 Garda overtime hours are known to have been incurred.

Garda Equipment.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

74 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of taxpayers’ money spent on the press launch announcing the setting up of the traffic corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32562/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the fleet of vehicles present during the press launch announcing the establishment of the traffic corps was composed of eight cars or jeeps, two motorbikes and one helicopter. The number of Garda drivers, motorcyclists and air crew involved in presenting this fleet amounted to 12 members.

As the members who participated in this presentation were on regular duty at the time, there were no incremental costs above the normal payroll costs associated with the duration of this event. It is estimated that the payroll cost of members present for the press launch of the traffic corps amounted to some €800. The fleet of vehicles present have already been paid for out of the Garda Vote and, consequently, the only cost would have been the fuel costs of diverting these vehicles from existing duties to Garda headquarters.

The motor vehicles on display were sourced from the following stations: Blackrock, Naas, Mullingar, Fermoy, Ennis, Drogheda, Kells and Castlebar.

Witness Security Programme.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

75 Ms Shortall 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 which has been held into the circumstances in which a witness in a major gangland trial of a person (details supplied) was able to evade their Garda minders and travel to London where they are reported to have been subsequently threatened; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32518/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the review of the witness security programme, which operates under the direct control and administration of the Garda Commissioner, is ongoing. The review includes consideration of the measures to support witnesses in court cases who may not wish to enter the programme and current international best practice. 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 in the witness security programme is entirely voluntary on the part of the witness and no compellability can be or is involved.

Proposed Legislation.

Jack Wall

Question:

76 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects that the long promised Judicial Conduct and Ethics Bill will be published; if he has brought proposals to Government on the matter; if the heads of a Bill have been approved by Cabinet; the general approach he intends to adopt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32524/04]

An Agreed Programme for Government promised legislation to provide effective remedies for complaints about judicial misbehaviour. The preparation of heads of a judicial council Bill is at an advanced stage in my Department and I expect to be in a position shortly to bring the heads to Government for approval, with a view to publishing the Bill itself in the first half of 2005. The legislation will provide, among other things, a process for the investigation of complaints about judicial misbehaviour, including lay participation in such investigations.

It is my intention to bring the heads of the Bill before the joint committee on justice when they have reached a suitable stage so that Members of both Houses can have a pre-emptive look at how the legislation is developing. I am confident that the promised legislation will be enacted during the term of office of the present Government so the question of a delay in fulfilling the promise made in An Agreed Programme for Government does not arise.

Trafficking in Human Beings.

Bernard Allen

Question:

77 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the efforts being taken at national and European level to prevent human trafficking into the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30042/04]

Legislation is currently being prepared in my Department which will criminalise trafficking in human beings for the purpose of their sexual and labour exploitation as provided for in the EU Council framework decision on combating trafficking in persons. The legislation will also take into account the protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, supplementing the UN convention against transnational organised crime. It will also take into account the Council of Europe draft convention on action against trafficking in human beings. Negotiations on this instrument have not yet been completed.

A series of measures has been taken at national level. From a legislative point of view, the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking ) Act 2000 creates an offence of trafficking in illegal immigrants and provides a framework by which those engaging in trafficking of illegal immigrants can be dealt with under the law. Section 2(1) of this Act states that a person who organises or knowingly facilitates the entry into the State of a person whom he or she knows or has reasonable cause to believe to be an illegal immigrant or a person who intends to seek asylum shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding £1,500, €1904.61, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both; or on conviction on indictment to a fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or to both. This provision will not apply to anything done by a person otherwise than for gain or to anything done to assist a person seeking asylum by a person in the course of his or her employment by abona fide organisation if the purpose of that organisation includes giving assistance to persons seeking asylum.

Furthermore, the Immigration Act 2003, which was brought into operation in September 2003, requires carriers operating aircraft, ferries or other vehicles bringing persons to Ireland from outside the common travel area to ensure that those carried are in possession of the necessary immigration documentation — a passport and, if required, a visa. The Act provides for a fine to be imposed in respect of each passenger carried with inadequate documentation.

In addition, section 8 of the Act places an obligation on Government Departments, local authorities, health boards, the Garda Síochána and also the refugee determination bodies to share information regarding non-nationals, including applicants for refugee status, for the purpose of the administration of the law relating to their entry, sojourn in the State and removal from the State. The provisions in the Act are designed to ensure the proper flow of information between the relevant Departments and agencies involved in the delivery of services in the asylum and immigration area and for the efficient and effective fulfilment by the bodies in question of their functions in those areas. The sharing of relevant information is an essential tool in the fight against trafficking. It is the very essence of a "joined up" Government approach to the problem.

The Garda national immigration bureau has as one of its primary objectives the co-ordination and direction of strategies to combat trafficking in illegal immigrants. Garda liaison officers in London and Paris interact with local law enforcement authorities on immigration, people smuggling and trafficking matters. European initiatives in the area of enforcement and compliance with immigration procedures and combating illegal immigration have focused on building upon the relevant provisions of the Schengenacquis and incorporating them into Community legislation. Council Directive 2001/51/EC of 28 June 2001 supplementing the provisions of Article 26 of the convention implementing the Schengen Agreement incorporates a system of carriers liability into European law.

Other measures include the establishment of a European agency for the management of operational co-operations at external borders which will co-ordinate all joint operations and pilot projects. It will also establish its own specialised branches responsible for dealing with specific aspects of control and surveillance of land, air and maritime borders by transforming the existing, more informal, centres structure into an EU structure.

The directive on the residence permit issued to third country nationals who are victims of trafficking in human beings or to third country nationals who have been subjects of an action to facilitate illegal immigration who co-operate with the competent authorities was adopted at the JHA Council of 29 April 2004. The purpose of this directive is to strengthen the European Union's legislative framework for combating illegal immigration by granting a residence permit of limited duration for the victims of trafficking of human beings. The granting of the residence permit is subject to conditions designed to encourage victims of trafficking to co-operate with the competent authorities against those suspected of committing the crimes in question.

The Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 makes it an offenceinter alia to organise or knowingly facilitate the entry into, transit through or exit from the State of a child for the purpose of the child’s sexual exploitation or to provide accommodation for such a child while in the State. The penalty on conviction on indictment for that offence is a maximum of life imprisonment, a reflection of the seriousness of this type of crime. Finally, the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 allows for the confiscation of assets of those involved in criminal activity, including trafficking in people, drugs and so forth. In addition, the powers of the Revenue Commissioners may be brought to bear where appropriate — for example, assessment or liability for tax on illegal earnings.

Garda Transport.

Richard Bruton

Question:

78 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of new vehicles that have been allocated to the new Garda traffic corps to date; the number planned for allocation in 2005; the districts which will be the recipients of such vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32561/04]

On 23 November 2004, I announced the establishment of the Garda traffic corps. At that time I also announced that the corps would be headed by a new assistant commissioner. The assistant commissioner, on his appointment, will review the structure of the new traffic corps, the allocation of transport, equipment and human resources and to which divisions these resources will be distributed.

Additional funding has been made available for the purchase of 382 motor vehicles, vans, motor bikes and so forth. It is estimated that approximately 100 of these vehicles will be allocated to the traffic corps to support the road safety initiative. This investment in new vehicles will maximise the safety of members of the Garda Síochána and members of the public in the variety of uses of Garda vehicles. Furthermore, it will minimise maintenance costs and improve the re-sale value of Garda vehicles.

Garda Recruitment.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

79 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is considering proposals to amend the Irish language requirement for entry to the Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32598/04]

In the light of the Government's recent decision to approve my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 I have taken the opportunity to ask the Garda Commissioner to review the eligibility criteria for entry to the Garda Síochána.

The commissioner has already reviewed the maximum age of entry to the Garda Síochána and on foot of this the Government has now approved the commissioner's proposal to increase the maximum age of entry from 26 years of age to 35 years of age. This is reflected in the recruitment campaign currently advertised. There are no other changes to the eligibility criteria for entry to the Garda Síochána as far as the current competition is concerned. The educational requirements with regard to the Irish language remain in place.

As I have stated previously, it is right 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 different ethnic backgrounds in our community. With this in mind I have asked the commissioner, as part of his overall review of the entry requirements for the Garda Síochána, to examine whether any of the existing eligibility criteria militate, however indirectly, against the recruitment of members from ethnic communities in Ireland.

One of the eligibility criteria which could benefit from review in this regard is the requirement for entrants to have an educational qualification in Irish but there may be others which could impact on entrants from ethnic communities. Perhaps there may also be issues not specifically related to entry or eligibility but which might equally raise issues for certain communities. I have, therefore, asked the commissioner to consult appropriately with representatives of the immigrant community in this regard in the context of his review of the eligibility criteria for entry to the force.

With regard to the Irish language specifically, whatever new arrangements might be put in place in the future, Irish will continue to have an important place in the Garda Síochána. 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. Indeed, proficiency in Irish is strongly promoted within the force and that will continue to be the case.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

80 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a replacement back door and the installation of a shower will be carried out under the housing aid for the elderly scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32619/04]

The housing aid scheme for the elderly in County Clare is operated by the Mid-Western Health Board on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. My Department has asked the chief executive of the board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency.

Pat Breen

Question:

81 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 80 of 18 November 2004, if all works have been completed under the housing aid for the elderly scheme; when the person (details supplied) in County Clare will receive payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32620/04]

As previously stated, the housing aid scheme for the elderly in County Clare is operated by the Mid-Western Health Board on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. My Department has asked the chief executive of the board to investigate the matter raised by the Deputy and reply direct to him as a matter of urgency.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Seán Haughey

Question:

82 Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the figure used to avail of free medicines under the drugs refund scheme is increased regularly; the number of times it has increased since 1997; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32621/04]

Prior to 1 July 1999, people with an ongoing condition were able to avail of the drug cost subsidisation scheme which catered for people who were certified as having a medical condition with a regular and ongoing requirement for prescribed drugs and medicines. People who qualified for inclusion in this scheme did not have to pay more than £32 in any month on prescribed medication. Under the drug refund scheme, families and individuals paid the full cost of their prescription medicines and, at the end of each quarter, could claim reimbursement from their health board for expenditure over £90 in that calendar quarter. The threshold for these schemes did not change between June 1997 and July 1999.

With effect from 1 July 1999 the drug payment scheme replaced the drug cost subsidisation scheme and the drug refund scheme with a monthly threshold of £42 or €53.33. Under this scheme, no individual or family paid more than £42 per month for approved prescribed drugs and medicines for use in that month.

The DPS has provided a fairer and more user friendly system than the previous schemes, particularly through the provision of monthly medicine budgeting for families, and has produced significantly greater overall benefit for patients. It introduced full reimbursement, at point of supply, of the cost of approved drugs above the monthly threshold. In line with quality customer service principles, there was no longer any need to pay first and then reclaim this expenditure from the health board and, unlike the DCSS, everybody was eligible for the DPS.

The total reimbursement to patients under the DRS and the DCSS in 1998 was £75 million in the last full year of operation. In contrast, the DPS benefited patients by £110.73 million or €140 million in 2000, the first full year of operation, and this cost has increased to €204 million in 2003, the latest figure available.

The following table sets out the dates on which the thresholds increased and the new thresholds:

Date of increase

New threshold

1 July 1999

£42 (€53.33)

1 August 2002

€65

1 January 2003

€70

1 January 2004

€78

The threshold for the DPS will be increased to €85 with effect from 1 January 2005.

My Department appreciates the concerns raised about the increases in the DPS threshold and has carefully considered the issues involved. However, I hope the Deputy will agree that, given the need to prioritise health spending in order to maximise the benefit over a wide range of pressing expenditure options, the aggregate benefits to its clients of the scheme over its predecessor's and balancing this with the greatly increased expenditure on the scheme, an increase of €8 in the threshold is not excessive.

Medical Cards.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

83 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons in possession of a medical card in each county as at 1 June 2002. [32622/04]

The number of persons in possession of a medical card in each county as at 1 June 2002 is set out in the table below:

County

No of persons covered by a medical card

Dublin

291,310

Kildare

39,505

Wicklow

30,211

Laois

18,375

Longford

12,647

Offaly

19,746

Westmeath

20,887

Clare

31,133

Limerick

52,027

Tipperary North

20,098

Cavan

19,216

Louth

39,075

Meath

32,008

Monaghan

17,993

Donegal

66,787

Leitrim

11,526

Sligo

20,270

Carlow

16,365

Kilkenny

20,567

Tipperary South

29,064

Waterford

35,775

Wexford

39,693

Cork

135,619

Kerry

44,504

Galway

70,884

Mayo

51,052

Roscommon

20,759

Total

1,207,096

Health Board Services.

Bernard Allen

Question:

84 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will examine the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and when the operation will take place. [32623/04]

Responsibility for the provision of services for residents of County Cork is, in the first instance, a matter for the Southern Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the matter and reply to the Deputy directly.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

85 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has satisfied herself with the conditions at a hospital ward in which a person (details supplied) found conditions to be no better than in Third World countries and, despite the best efforts of staff, nurses and doctors, the facilities to be primitive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32652/04]

The provision of services at University College Hospital, Galway, is a matter for the Western Health Board. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the board to investigate the position in this case and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

86 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a decision has been reached on an application for a review of a nursing home subvention in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32656/04]

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

Child Care Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

87 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will consider extra funding in the child care sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32698/04]

Since 1997 this Government has provided additional revenue funding for child care services of €193 million over and above increases for pay costs and inflation. Additional funding of €5 million is being provided for child care services in 2005. This funding is principally targeted at developing services to further the implementation of the Children Act 2001, including family support services, family welfare conferences and providing additional resources for the special residential service board, the ombudsman for children and the social services inspectorate.

Ambulance Service.

Sean Fleming

Question:

88 Mr. Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if proposals are being considered for an air ambulance to cover the midland region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32699/04]

My Department and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Belfast, DHSSPS, commissioned a feasibility study and report on the costs and benefits associated with the introduction of a dedicated helicopter emergency medical services, HEMS, for the island of Ireland. The decision to commission the study followed a recommendation by a cross-Border working group on pre-hospital emergency care, one of a number of groups established under the North South Ministerial Council to examine areas of co-operation in the health field.

The report of the consultants appointed to undertake the study was published on 30 April 2004 and is available on the Department's website. The study concluded that the introduction of a dedicated inter-hospital transfer service would be appropriate in an all-island context. It indicated that this would involve significant capital investment and annual operating costs. The report identified this cost at €12 million capital and €4 million revenue for a single helicopter.

Inter-hospital air ambulance services are currently provided to the health boards by the Air Corps and the Irish Coast Guard on a request and availability basis. The service is provided subject to the nature of the mission, available aircraft and other operational commitments. Most patient transfers are airport to airport with onward transfer by land ambulance.

My Department and the Department of Defence are currently finalising a service level agreement to formalise arrangements for the future provision of an air ambulance service by the Air Corps. A significant helicopter fleet replacement programme is being put in place for the Air Corps. In this regard the Department is advised that the Minister for Defence has authorised his Department to open negotiations for the acquisition of six new helicopters for the Air Corps. Each of the new helicopters will have a specific air ambulance capability and will be made available under the terms of the service level agreement. The new fleet will also have a far greater flying capacity than is available currently.

In addition, the Department has met with the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources which has confirmed that the Irish Coast Guard will continue to provide services on the same basis as heretofore.

Finally, the Department is advised that plans are being developed within the voluntary sector for the introduction of a dedicated HEMS, primarily in an inter-hospital transfer role and with a view to the service becoming operational in 2005. The Department will closely monitor developments in this regard over the coming months.

Care of the Elderly.

Denis Naughten

Question:

89 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the waiting list for home help in County Roscommon; the numbers in each priority category; the action she is taking to address this crisis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32700/04]

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

Community Pharmacy Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

90 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the issue of beneficial ownership of a community pharmacy by a local general practitioner who has a doctor’s GMS contract under the community pharmacy contractor agreement 1996; if these new general practitioner owned or controlled pharmacies are prohibited as stated in clause 21/11 of the 1996 agreement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32810/04]

The opening and operation of retail pharmacies in Ireland is governed by the Pharmacy Acts, 1875-1977, subject to relevant non-pharmacy legislation such as the planning Acts. Since 1890, any individual or company, including a medical practitioner, may open a pharmacy, provided that the shop and the dispensing and compounding of medical prescriptions are personally supervised by a full-time pharmacist who is not acting elsewhere in a similar capacity.

The dispensing and supply of medicines under the community drugs schemes is governed by the 1996 community pharmacy contractor agreement, the community pharmacy contract, between a health board and a pharmacy contractor. Under section 21(1), a pharmacy contract is void where a practitioner — a registered medical practitioner or a registered dental practitioner — who has a beneficial interest in the contracted pharmacy practises or commences practice in the location of the pharmacy.

This sub-clause does not apply to those who held such contracts before 30 May 1996. The reason for this is to prevent any suggestion of impropriety whereby a practitioner would prescribe medicines which are subsequently purchased in the pharmacy in which he or she has a beneficial interest. For the same reason, the pharmacy review group recommends that there should be no beneficial ownership or business interest of any kind between dispensing and prescribing. I am currently examining the report of the pharmacy review group and I expect to take definitive decisions on it shortly.

Decisions on the awarding and retention of contracts are a matter for the health boards. If the Deputy has information on breaches of clause 21(1) of the contractor agreement, he should notify the CEO of the relevant health board.

Health Board Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

91 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason children in need of speech therapy services from Artane, Beaumont, Donnycarney and Marino have to travel outside their own districts for services; and if she will work closely with these families to provide services locally as the children are missing school due to travel. [32811/04]

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

Health Board Staff.

M. J. Nolan

Question:

92 Mr. Nolan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of community drug prevention workers employed in each of the health board areas. [32812/04]

The information requested is not readily available. However, I will forward it to the Deputy as soon as it is collated.

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

93 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when it is expected that the proposed new Garda station at Leixlip, County Kildare, will become operational; if all the preparatory work has at last been completed; if he can give an indication as to when construction is likely to begin or contracts signed; if he can identify any further obstacles to the proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32735/04]

The Commissioners of Public Works are finalising negotiations with Kildare County Council in respect of an additional portion of land to maximise the development potential of the selected site at Station Road, Leixlip, for a new Garda station. On completion of the negotiations a revised sketch scheme will be issued by the commissioners to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for approval.

Tax Collection.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

94 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider reform of the system of stamp duty on houses for persons with disabilities who are purchasing a property due to their current abode not being suitable for a disabled person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32808/04]

There is no stamp duty on the purchase of new residential property for owner-occupiers where the dwelling is not greater than 125 sq. m. and complies with certain conditions as regards building standards. If the property is over 125 sq. m., stamp duty is charged on the site value or one quarter of the total value of the property, whichever is the greater. Certain exemptions and reduced rates of stamp duty apply to first time house purchasers who are owner-occupiers of second-hand houses. The 2005 budget increased the stamp duty exemption threshold for such purchasers from €190,500 to €317,500 and reduced the rates applying to house values up to €635,000.

Section 92B of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999 provides that the trustees of a trust to which section 189A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 applies, whose trust funds are established out of public subscriptions for the benefit of permanently incapacitated individuals, will be entitled to first time purchaser relief in respect of the first house or apartment bought or gifted, following the establishment of the trust, for occupation by the beneficiary. Where there is more than one beneficiary, relief may be claimed for each of the beneficiaries.

I have been advised by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government that a scheme of disabled persons grants is operated by local authorities with capital provision from that Department. These grants are designed to meet the needs of persons who are either physically handicapped or are suffering from severe mental handicap or severe mental illness. Where a new dwelling is being bought or built a maximum grant of €12,700 is payable. In the case of adaptation of an existing dwelling, 90% of the approved cost of the works is available up to an effective maximum grant of €20,320. Full details of the scheme and the conditions applicable are available from the local authority in whose area the dwelling is situated.

There are no plans to change the system of stamp duty in the circumstances outlined by the Deputy.

Mary Upton

Question:

95 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance the provisions in place to ensure that persons dealing in dog breeding and selling, apart from greyhounds, are paying the appropriate levels of taxation on such transactions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32713/04]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that persons dealing in dog breeding and selling, apart from greyhounds, are subject to the self assessment system of taxation. They are obliged to file an annual return and pay income tax on their profits. They are controlled for tax compliance purposes in the same way as taxpayers in all other sectors.

The Revenue Commissioners' statement of strategy, 2003-2005, contains a strong emphasis on maximising compliance with tax and customs legislation and outlines a number of related key objectives and supporting strategies. These apply to dog breeders in the same way as to all taxpayers.

They include the harnessing of technology to provide an effective risk based selection system for Revenue Commissioners audits as well as a new organisational structure designed around the customer base to ensure that an integrated approach to tax compliance is implemented at a regional level. This restructuring has been fully implemented. Special compliance districts, set up under this restructuring, monitor any activity that has been brought to their attention. The strategies provide for an increase in the resources available to the audit programme and ensuring that these resources have the necessary level of skills to enable the audit programme to be implemented successfully.

These initiatives are geared towards ensuring that the maximum number of taxpayers, including those dealing in dog breeding and selling, are paying the appropriate level of taxation on their activities.

Tax Code.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

96 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer of reducing the 13.5% VAT rate to 10%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32809/04]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated cost to the Exchequer in 2005 of reducing the 13.5% VAT rate to 10% would be €1,100 million in a full year. However, this figure includes the cost of reducing the VAT on certain goods and services which were at a reduced rate of VAT on 1 January 1991 and which, under the provisions of the EU sixth VAT directive, cannot be reduced below 12%. If those goods and services which cannot be reduced are excluded, the cost of the rate reduction in question is estimated at €800 million. These figures show that a reduction in the 13.5% VAT rate along the lines proposed would have significant consequences for the Exchequer.

Communications Masts.

Tony Gregory

Question:

97 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, further to Question No. 67 of 30 November 2004, if he will give his response to the recommendations made in a report (details supplied). [32653/04]

I thank the Deputy for identifying the report to which he referred in last week's parliamentary question. In this field, a large number of reports are published each year. In 2004 alone, there have been six major conferences on this subject, each with approximately 100 tabled and poster presentations. The Deputy last week stated that what has become known as "the Stewart report" was "the most recent report published on electromagnetic fields and radio frequency radiation". The Stewart report was published in May 2000 and is, accordingly, not the most recent report in this area.

My advisers are familiar with this report. The Stewart report represented a review of the information available at that time. It led directly to focused programmes of research, some carried out in the UK and some carried out in other countries and co-ordinated by the World Health Organisation, to deal with some of the issues left unresolved or open in the report. While the Deputy has correctly quoted extracts from the report, substantial new information is to hand since it was published. The Stewart report was not a UK National Radiological Protection Board report but the report of an independent expert group on mobile phones. The National Radiological Protection Board, NRPB, published its response to the Stewart report, "Health Effects from Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields",Doc NRPB 12(2) in 2003.

I will deal with the particular sections of the report which I know to be of concern to the Deputy. The report states:

It is not possible at present to say that exposure to RF radiation, even at levels below national guidelines, is totally without potential adverse health effects. The reason is that research is not being done on the issue.

Following the publication of the Stewart report, much research was done on the issue. The NRPB in its 2003 report, following a review of all the work carried out since the Stewart report, stated:

In aggregate the research published since the IEGMP report [the Stewart report] does not give cause for concern. The weight of evidence now available does not suggest that there are adverse health effects from exposures to RF fields below guideline levels.

The World Health Organisation international EMF project stated at its 2004 meeting that no causal relationship had been established between radio frequency emissions and any adverse health effects, notwithstanding very determined scientific efforts to establish such relationships. The Stewart report states, "the gaps in knowledge are sufficient to justify a precautionary approach".

A precautionary approach has indeed been adopted by many countries, including Ireland. This has involved Ireland adopting recognised international guidelines for exposure to electromagnetic radiation. These guidelines limit the exposure to levels which are many times less than the experimental levels at which no adverse effects have been established.

The Stewart report recommends "that an independent random, ongoing, audit of all base stations be carried out to ensure that exposure guidelines are not exceeded". ComReg audits Irish sites on a random basis to ensure compliance with licences. Not all sites are audited. However, ComReg has just concluded a programme of measurements of 400 sites around the country. While the final report is awaited, it is understood that no site was found to exceed the guidelines.

The Stewart report recommends that planning should be extra cautious around schools as children are more susceptible to the effects of radiation and will be exposed to it over their lifetime. Children are indeed more susceptible and will be exposed over a much longer period than today's adults. For this reason, a specific programme of research focusing on children was launched under the WHO project and this work reported back in June 2004 that no adverse health effects in children arising from mobile phone base stations, or the use of mobile phone handsets which cause much greater exposure, had been found.

The Stewart report recommended that "beams of greatest intensity should not fall on any part of school grounds, to ensure that the accessible location where the greatest exposure to the radio frequency radiation signal occurs was not within school grounds". This was consistent with the other recommendations in the report. The most recent work, as mentioned above, has removed any validity for this recommendation. The UK Court of Appeal decision of 12 November 2004 that mobile phone masts "do not pose a risk to public health that would justify a ban on positioning them near schools" was made following consideration of the evidence since the publication of the Stewart report.

The Stewart report also said that, since there are no scientific grounds for setting guidelines below the levels set by the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection for the public, the expert group avoided setting exposure limits for school buildings and grounds below these limits. For the same reason it did not wish to recommend that there should be a particular minimum distance between the base station and the school.

My officials maintain a watching brief on all the evidence presented each year on this issue and Ireland participates in the relevant international bodies which monitor this work and set limits on electromagnetic emissions to protect the public.

Sports Funding.

Liam Aylward

Question:

98 Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will make funding available to sports clubs throughout the country to assist with the cost of urgent repairs to grounds which were damaged during the recent floods; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32657/04]

I have no specific plans to provide funding for sporting facilities recently damaged by flooding. However, it is open to clubs or organisations who have such facilities to apply for funding under the national lottery funded sports capital programme administered by my Department. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

Under the 2004 sports capital programme I allocated €61 million in respect of 738 projects. I advertised details of and invited applications to the 2005 sports capital programme on Sunday and Monday last, 4 and 5 December. The deadline for submission of completed applications to that programme is 4 February 2005.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Joe Costello

Question:

99 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will reply to correspondence (details supplied) in terms of social welfare entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32637/04]

The persons concerned were both in receipt of one-parent family payment. Following their marriage on 2 October 2004 they were no longer qualified to receive this payment. One of the parties concerned applied for unemployment assistance on 7 October 2004. His application was disallowed on the grounds that he was not available for employment. It is open to him to appeal this decision to the social welfare appeals office. A form for this purpose has been issued to him by his local office.

He is currently in receipt of supplementary welfare allowance at the rate €202 per week. The other party is currently on a CE scheme.

Liz McManus

Question:

100 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, in view of the fact that a person granted deserted wife’s benefit in 1996 has had their income limit fixed without index linking, this can lead, over time, to them losing their deserted wife’s benefit; if he will review this and allow for index linking. [32642/04]

Deserted wife's benefit is a social insurance payment made to a woman deserted by her husband. Entitlement to payment is conditional on satisfying contribution conditions based on the social insurance record of either the wife or her husband.

An earnings limit was introduced for deserted wife's benefit as and from 31 August 1992. The limit, which applied only to new claims after that date, is currently €12,697.38 a year, gross earnings. Where earnings are in excess of this amount, there may be entitlement to a reduced rate of payment of deserted wife's benefit, provided earnings do not exceed €17,776.33 per year gross.

The earnings limit was introduced to more effectively target support on those deserted wives who required an additional supplement to their income until they were able to support themselves and to address inconsistencies between the benefits available under this scheme and those available under the social assistance lone parent's allowance — now replaced by the one-parent family payment — and the deserted wife's allowance scheme, which are both means tested.

The deserted wife's benefit scheme was closed to new applications with effect from 2 January 1997, on the introduction of the one-parent family payment scheme under which an eligible parent with dependent children is entitled to payment irrespective of gender or the circumstances that gave rise to lone parenthood. This scheme is effectively a residual scheme which will disappear over time.

A review of the earnings of deserted wife's benefit cases commenced in mid-2004. Depending on the outcome of the review in each case, clients may experience reduction in their benefit.

I am satisfied that the social welfare arrangements in place for deserted wives and lone parents generally are appropriate and there are no plans for changes on the lines proposed.

Rail Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

101 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Transport, further to Question No. 180 of 25 November 2004, if outstanding works will be completed. [32624/04]

The issue raised by the Deputy is a matter which is the day to day responsibility of the Railway Procurement Agency. I understand that the RPA has responded directly to the Deputy on this matter.

Taxi Hardship Panel.

Phil Hogan

Question:

102 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport the amount paid to taxi plate owners arising from deregulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32643/04]

It has been clearly stated since taxi liberalisation that, based on legal precedent, there can be no duty on the State to compensate taxi licence holders as regards open market licence values that may have existed prior to liberalisation.

However, an independent three person panel, the "taxi hardship panel", was established in February 2002 to report in general terms on the nature and extent of extreme personal financial hardship that may have been experienced by individual taxi licence holders arising from loss of income as a direct result of the liberalisation of the taxi licensing regime, including an estimate of the numbers of individual licence holders involved, the likely financial implications and the recommended criteria for assessment of extreme personal financial hardship under any subsequent proposed response by Government.

The report recommended the establishment of a scheme to provide payments to individual taxi licence holders who fall into one of six categories that the panel assessed as having suffered extreme personal financial hardship arising from taxi liberalisation. The payments recommended by the panel range from €3,000 to €15,000 depending on the category of hardship involved. The Government approved the implementation on a phased basis of these recommendations. The payments in question do not represent compensation but rather compassionate payments in respect of extreme personal financial hardship.

Area Development Management Limited, ADM, was engaged to administer the taxi hardship payments scheme which is implementing the recommendations of the taxi hardship panel report. Hardship payments totalling €13,983,000 have been made to 1,192 qualifying applicants under the taxi hardship payments scheme to date. I understand that a meeting of the ADM board is due to take place today following which it is expected that further hardship payments will be made to qualifying applicants.

Driving Tests.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

103 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport the current average waiting times for a driving test at each of the country’s test centres. [32644/04]

The average waiting time for a driving test for each driving test centre at 6 December 2004 is set out in the following table. Average Waiting Time at 6 December 2004.

Centre

Average Weeks Waiting

North Leinster

Finglas

26

Dundalk

29

Mullingar

26

Navan

38

Raheny

41

South Leinster

Churchtown/Rathgar

34

Gorey

28

Naas

42

Tullamore

23

Wicklow

30

Tallaght

32

West

Athlone

24

Birr

34

Castlebar

34

Clifden

16

Ennis

14

Galway

23

Loughrea

21

Roscommon

23

Tuam

24

North West

Ballina

28

Buncrana

33

Carrick-on-Shannon

33

Cavan

37

Donegal

33

Letterkenny

29

Longford

35

Monaghan

31

Sligo

20

South East

Carlow

40

Clonmel

32

Dungarvan

44

Kilkenny

34

Nenagh

40

Portlaoise

36

Thurles

35

Tipperary

40

Waterford

35

Wexford

31

South West

Cork

22

Killarney

31

Kilrush

25

Limerick

34

Mallow

25

Newcastle West

26

Shannon

35

Skibbereen

32

Tralee

27

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

Rural Transport Initiative.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

104 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport his future development plans for the rural transport initiative bus services; the overall patronage on the bus services provided by the initiative in 2003; and the funding sources available for the continuation and development of these services. [32646/04]

Following a full appraisal of the rural transport initiative, RTI, which was completed in July this year, I have extended the scheme for a further two years to end 2006 in line with the principal recommendation of the appraisal.

I have also announced that the 2005 allocation for the RTI will be €3.45 million, which represents an increase of 15% over the 2004 funding for the initiative or more than 12% when account is taken of inflation effects. This increase will result in an overall funding commitment of more than €12 million for the RTI to end 2005 which is all the more impressive when it is borne in mind that a total of €4.4 million was provided for it when the initiative was first proposed in the National Development Plan 2000-2006.

I understand that some 42,000 transport services were provided by the 34 RTI projects in 2003 on some 380 rural transport routes. A total of 305,000 passenger trips was recorded on these services in that year.

Insurance Industry.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

105 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport his proposals to regulate motor insurance premiums (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32655/04]

The matter is appropriate to the consumer affairs director of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority.

Community Development.

Bernard Allen

Question:

106 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason the application for a community grant by a community council (details supplied) was unsuccessful; if there will be further consideration of its application; and when a decision will be made on this application. [32645/04]

My Department received an application for funding from the group in question under the 2004 programme of grants for locally based community and voluntary organisations. All applications received were assessed by reference to the criteria published in the scheme guidelines and prioritised with regard to the focus on disadvantaged communities contained in the application.

The assessment of the application from this group, based on the information provided, was considered in the context of these guidelines and resulted in its application being unsuccessful. A request for a review of the decision on this application has been received in my Department and is currently under consideration.

Single Payment Scheme.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

107 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a single payment amount has not been communicated to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32651/04]

Provisional entitlements could not be established initially for the person named due to an area aid query. However, this query has now been resolved and a provisional entitlement statement issued to the person named on 29 November 2004, showing 24.68 entitlements with a total value of €5,689.97 per annum.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

108 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a decision has been made concerning an application for a decoupling payment for a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32703/04]

An application for consideration under theforce majeure measure of the single payment regulations was submitted by the person named on 27 October 2004. The person named has been notified that the circumstances outlined by him do not satisfy the criteria for force majeure under Article 40 of EU Council Regulation 1782/2003. The person named has been advised that he can appeal the decision to the independent single payment appeals committee, which will carry out a full review of the circumstances outlined.

Animal Welfare.

Mary Upton

Question:

109 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she has satisfied herself that breeding, sale and transport of puppies is adequately managed and audited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32708/04]

Mary Upton

Question:

110 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she has satisfied herself that the conditions for transport of puppies for export are adequate and appropriate; if they fulfil reasonable animal welfare conditions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32709/04]

Mary Upton

Question:

111 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she has plans to introduce legislation to ensure appropriate transport conditions for dogs for export; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32710/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 to 111, inclusive, together.

The EU Council Directive 91/628 on the protection of animals during transport, as transposed by Diseases of Animals (Protection of Animals during Transport) Order 1995, does not apply to the transport of pet animals for non-profit making purposes. However, this order does provide that the transport of dogs for commercial purposes is subject to a number of conditions. Requirements include ensuring that the animals are fit for transport and are accommodated in such a way as to avoid risk of injury or unnecessary suffering. Animals must be provided with adequate ventilation and space to stand in their natural position and to lie down. Food and water must be available to the animals so that they can be fed at intervals not exceeding 24 hours and watered at intervals not exceeding 12 hours.

In March 2004 my Department introduced a system for the registration of transporters of dogs for commercial purposes and for the inspection of vehicles engaging in such transport to the Continent. The forthcoming regulation on the protection of animals during transport will further improve the conditions under which animals are transported throughout the European Union. The breeding and sale of puppies is not a matter for my Department.

Mary Upton

Question:

112 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the French Government has put forward an amendment to the EU proposal for a Council regulation on the welfare of animals during transport and related operations, noting that the transport of kittens and puppies under eight weeks without their mothers should be banned; her views on this amendment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32712/04]

I am unaware of any such proposal from the French Government.

Question No. 113 withdrawn.

Grant Payments.

Tom Hayes

Question:

114 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason an application for area aid for a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary has not been paid. [32716/04]

There is no record in my Department of a 2004 area aid application submitted by the person named. However, the herdowner has since submitted proof of postage together with a copy of his application. This has now been fully processed with an area determined for payment purposes of 24.58 hectares. Payment of his full entitlement under the 2004 area based compensatory allowance scheme will be issued soon.

The person named is an applicant under the dairy premium scheme. As the position regarding the area aid of the person named has now been resolved, this application is now being further processed with a view to issuing the payment due as soon as possible.

Decentralisation Programme.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

115 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding the proposed decentralisation of a Department of Agriculture and Food office to a location (details supplied) in County Cork. [32805/04]

The decentralisation implementation group published its report to the Minister for Finance on the selection of organisations and locations for inclusion in the first phase of moves in the Government's decentralisation programme in November 2004. In this report the DIG recommended 15 locations which are to receive initial priority attention in terms of staff transfers and property procurement and which are to be included in the first phase of moves. Department of Agriculture and Food locations in Cork were not included in this list. The DIG will report again in the spring of 2005 and will deal with the locations not covered in the current report.

Asylum Applications.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

116 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he will take in the case of persons (details supplied); his views on whether Ireland’s immigration policies are anti-family and discriminatory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32608/04]

The specific persons referred to by the Deputy are a husband and wife and the wife's son. The woman concerned has an ongoing asylum application in the State which is at the appeal stage in the Office of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Applications for refugee status in the State are determined by independent bodies such as the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted. A final decision on this application for refugee status will be made upon receipt of the decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

The husband of the woman concerned arrived in the State on 17 January 2002 and applied for asylum on the same day. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and on appeal by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Subsequently, in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, he was informed by letter dated 5 March 2003 that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order. He was given three options, to be exercised within 15 working days. These options were to make representations to the Minister setting out the reasons he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; to leave the State before an order was made or to consent to the making of a deportation order.

Representations have been received setting out the reasons the person concerned should not be deported. The case file in this matter will be examined having regard to section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended. I expect the file to be passed to me for decision in due course.

The son of the woman concerned arrived in the State on 17 January 2002 and claimed asylum. His application was refused and he was notified of this decision by letter of 14 November 2002. His subsequent appeal was refused and he was notified of this decision by letter of 4 April 2003 in which he was informed of the three options open to him at that point. These options were to leave the State before the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform made a deportation order; to consent to the making of a deportation order; or to make written representations within 15 working days to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform setting out reasons he should not be deported and should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

His case was examined under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, which deals with prohibition ofrefoulement, including consideration of all representations received on his behalf. On 26 January 2004 a deportation order was made in respect of this person. He was notified of the order by letter dated 19 February 2004 and was requested to present himself to the gardaí in order for arrangements be made for his deportation from the State. He failed to report as requested and was classified as having evaded deportation on 1 March 2004. He subsequently instituted judicial review proceedings challenging his deportation.

As these proceedings are still ongoing and one of the matters at issue concerns family unity, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is precluded from commenting further on thissub judice case or making any general comments on the issue of family unity which could be interpreted as relating to the points at issue in this case.

Crime Levels.

Finian McGrath

Question:

117 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans and strategies to deal with the major drugs and gangland murders in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32610/04]

A broad range of strong legislation is available to the Garda Síochána to confront serious and organised crime. Our criminal legislative framework reflects international developments to respond to the global growth of organised crime, including drug trafficking, as well as specific measures enacted to meet our own domestic situation. This framework is kept under continuous review.

The Criminal Assets Bureau Act 1996 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 have been successfully used to deprive those engaged in criminal activity of their assets. The powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau will be further bolstered with additional measures in the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Bill 2004, which is currently before the Seanad. This Bill will make certain technical amendments to the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 and will remove doubts about 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 2004. The first of these is provided for in Part 3 of the Bill. These 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.

Other initiatives, which I will propose by way of amendments to the Bill, will make it an offence to participate in or contribute to the activities of a criminal organisation, strengthen existing provisions for minimum mandatory sentences for drug trafficking and create a new offence of supplying drugs to prisoners. 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 currently being negotiated. Following its agreement, my Department, in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, will examine what national legislation is required to give it effect.

The establishment of specialist units within the Garda Síochána, such as the national bureau of criminal investigation, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda bureau of fraud investigation and the Garda national drug unit, have enabled the gardaí to tackle organised crime effectively. These specialist units all operate under the assistant commissioner in charge of national support services and have direct responsibility for addressing organised crime. Strategies pursued by the gardaí include focusing on the structures and systems which support the illegal drug trade, maintaining an intelligence led approach in targeting and dismantling drug distribution networks and depriving criminal networks of their assets.

The national drugs strategy sets out a framework for action for the period 2001-08. Under this strategy, all 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, demand reduction, prevention and treatment and research.

A steering group under the aegis of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs is currently conducting a mid-term review of the national drugs strategy. This review will focus on identifying priorities for future action and enable the group to refocus the strategy, if necessary, for the remaining period up to 2008. My Department and the relevant associated agencies are involved in this review. At this mid-way point in the strategy, the Garda Síochána has far exceeded its drug seizure targets and continues to achieve considerable successes.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Bernard Allen

Question:

118 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the latest report from the Independent Monitoring Commission on the situation in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30046/04]

The third report of the Independent Monitoring Commission, published simultaneously by both the British and Irish Governments on 4 November 2004, is the second report that the commission has made to both Governments on paramilitary activity. The first report of the commission dealing with paramilitary activity was released in April.

I am heartened by the positive elements of the latest report, particularly the reduction in paramilitary activity. However, the report underlines the absolute necessity to end all forms of paramilitarism on this island. Consequently, all criminal activity related to funding paramilitary activity must end as well. This is a central feature of the approach of both Governments in their efforts to ensure a lasting peace and a political settlement in Northern Ireland. The Government appreciates the efforts of the Independent Monitoring Commission in preparing this comprehensive report.

Visa Applications.

Denis Naughten

Question:

119 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application for a holiday visa (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32602/04]

Citizenship Applications.

Martin Ferris

Question:

120 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a person (details supplied) resident here and paying tax since 1964 should have to pay to apply for citizenship. [32603/04]

The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Regulations 1993, as amended in 1996, provides that certain fees are payable on the making of a declaration of post-nuptial citizenship or on the issue of a certificate of naturalisation. The fee for making a declaration of post-nuptial citizenship is €126.97. The normal fee for naturalisation is €634.87. Exceptions are made in the case of a spouse or widow of an Irish citizen or a minor, with a fee of €126.97, as well as in the case of convention refugees, programme refugees and stateless persons, to whom no fee applies. There are no further provisions for exemptions or reduced fees in the relevant regulations.

Ministerial Travel.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

121 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of drivers in the pool for State cars; the number of those who are members of the Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32625/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that there are currently 75 gardaí attached to the ministerial pool, of whom 56 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 they cover periods of absences through annual leave and illness.

Garda Transport.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

122 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons in the Garda transport section; the number of those who are engaged in maintaining or working on vehicles; the number who are members of the Garda Síochána; the rank of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32626/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that 20 personnel are allocated to the Garda transport section. The rank of these personnel is as follows: inspectors — 2; sergeants — 6; gardaí— 7; civilians — 5. Of the 20 staff, 11 are engaged in vehicle repairs directly or in a supervisory capacity regarding this repair work. The rank of these personnel is as follows: inspectors — 1; sergeants — 3; gardaí— 6; civilians — 1, fleet manager.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

123 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the arrangements which are in place for the servicing and maintenance of Garda vehicles outside Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32627/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the following arrangements are in place for servicing of vehicles outside Dublin.

Where possible, the nearest main dealer for that particular make and model is used. If that is not possible, a local repairer is used with the consent of the vehicle distributor. Local districts are required to obtain sanction from the fleet management section at Garda headquarters where there is a likelihood that the bill for the servicing of these vehicles will exceed €317.

The use of the main dealer network for servicing and maintaining these vehicles is done in the interests of safety and vehicle reliability. These main dealers are most likely to possess all the necessary diagnostic tools for proper vehicle maintenance. For vehicles involved in accidents, at least three separate tenders must be obtained and submitted to the technical inspector for evaluation and selection. The decision is then made whether to repair or replace the vehicle.

Garda Training.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

124 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the arrangements which are in place for the sitting of exams by student or trainee gardaí in Templemore; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32628/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

125 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the arrangements which are in place for the supervision and correction of exams by student or trainee gardaí in Templemore; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32629/04]

I propose to take Question Nos. 124 and 125 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the sitting of examinations by student gardaí is arranged by the student and probationer training section at the Garda College. The examinations are conducted in accordance with the academic and professional course requirements document, which is provided to all student gardaí at the beginning of their training. Examinations, which include elements of continuous assessment and written examinations on the completion of each phase of training by student gardaí, form part of the training programme and are conducted in-house according to Garda College regulations. They are set by training staff against the prescribed learning outcomes and training objectives for the particular subject area within the training programme.

The assessments during the practical phases of the student Garda education, training and development programme are carried out at prescribed stages in the training at district level by the divisional training staff, the student and probationer's supervisory sergeant and the superintendent. The written examinations are set by lecturing staff against the prescribed learning outcomes for the particular subject or study area and approved by examiners external to the Garda Síochána. The examination regulations provide for the review, re-check and re-sitting of examinations and the Higher Education and Training Awards Council approves the outcome of the examination process.

The supervision and correction of examinations completed by student gardaí is conducted in-house. Continuous assessment exercises are supervised by training staff. Examinations completed at the end of each phase of training are supervised and invigilated by in-house training staff according to the regulations contained under the academic and professional course requirements.

The correction of examinations which lead to the award of a bachelor of arts degree in police studies is carried out against set answer criteria prepared by course lecturers in the respective subject area and approved by examiners external to the Garda Síochána. The Higher Education and Training Awards Council approves the outcome of the examination process.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

126 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the arrangements which are in place for the sitting of exams by existing members of the Garda in Templemore and other locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32630/04]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

127 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the arrangements which are in place for the supervision and correction of exams by existing members of the Garda in Templemore and other locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32631/04]

The sitting of examinations by existing members of the Garda on courses held under the auspices of the Garda College is conducted through in-house training structures. Examinations are conducted by way of continuous assessment and final examinations where prescribed standards of competency or expertise require certification. The assessment and examination methods used are selected on the basis of their utility in determining or establishing the level of competence/skill/expertise required by members undergoing the examinations.

Examinations form part of the training programme and are set by the course directors against the prescribed learning outcomes and training objectives. Members who are required to undergo examinations as part of their training programmes are fully informed of the examination arrangements, procedures and qualifying standards.

For members of officer rank completing the bachelor of arts degree in police management, the sitting of examinations is arranged by management and supervisory training at the Garda College. The examinations, which include elements of continuous assessment and written examinations on the completion of each semester, are included in the course structures and are conducted in-house according to Garda College regulations. They are set by lecturing staff, including lecturers who are external to the Garda Síochána, against the prescribed learning outcomes for the particular subject/study area. The examination regulations provide for the review, re-check and re-sitting of examinations and the Higher Education and Training Awards Council approves the outcome of the examination process.

The supervision and correction of examinations by existing members of the Garda on courses held under the auspices of the Garda College is conducted in-house. Where continuous assessment exercises form part of the examinations they are supervised by training personnel. Examinations conducted on the completion of training are supervised and invigilated by in-house training staff. The correction of examinations is carried out against set answer criteria prepared by training staff from within the respective area of training.

The correction of examinations which lead to the award of the bachelor of arts degree in police management is carried out against set answer criteria prepared by course lecturers and the process is approved by examiners external to the Garda Síochána.

Prison Visiting Committees.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

128 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) has been appointed or re-appointed to a prison visiting committee; and if political representations were made on their behalf. [32632/04]

Members of prison visiting committees are appointed by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform for a term not exceeding three years. At that point they are automatically removed from the committee and are either re-appointed for a further term or are replaced by new members.

The person referred to by the Deputy was initially appointed to the visiting committee at Arbour Hill Prison on 20 September 1999. He was subsequently re-appointed to the committee with effect from 20 September 2002. Appointments to the visiting committees are made by me on foot of representations, usually either by individuals nominating themselves or from local representatives nominating a constituent. I can confirm that representations by an elected representative were received regarding nominating this person for appointment.

It is my policy to appoint all new members of prison visiting committees to a prison in their home county or a neighbouring county. This has resulted in significant savings for the Irish Prison Service.

Court Procedures.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

129 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has satisfied himself with the state of the law governing efforts by accused persons to impugn the character of homicide victims in their own defence in murder and manslaughter proceedings and the ability of the prosecution adequately to counter those efforts; if he has further satisfied himself that the prosecution uses its best efforts to protect the character of the deceased in such cases, having regard to the present state of the law; if he has received submissions in this regard, in particular from the families of homicide victims; if he is considering proposals for a change in the applicable law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32633/04]

The Law Reform Commission is currently examining the law on homicide, including the defences that may be raised. To date, it has published consultation papers on the mental element in murder, October 2001, and on the plea of provocation, October 2003. Further consultation papers on other defences are being prepared.

Following consideration of responses to these consultation papers, the commission intends to prepare a final report on all aspects of the substantive law on homicide. In these circumstances, it is appropriate that I await the commission's final report before undertaking consideration of any changes to the substantive law in this sensitive area. I will, of course, be prepared to take into consideration submissions from the families of homicide victims in the context of any such change in the law.

With regard to procedural issues and the conduct of the prosecution's case, that, of course, is a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions in any particular instance, having regard to the facts of the case, the available evidence and the issues that he or she considers appropriate and relevant to the case.

Garda Operations.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

130 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason telephone calls to Garda stations during hours of closure are not automatically diverted to the Garda station in the area from which cover is being provided during such periods of closure. [32654/04]

Call forwarding is manually enabled and disabled by the member of the Garda Síochána taking up or standing down from duty at selected stations that are not permanently manned. This facility can only be available at locations where the telecommunication companies provide such a service. Implementing a technical solution that would automatically enable and disable call forwarding would be costly and of little or no value since automation would necessitate equipment to re-route at fixed times and these times would not necessarily coincide with practical needs.

Garda Investigations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

131 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of organised crime syndicates that have been investigated by the Criminal Assets Bureau in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32719/04]

During the period 1999 to 2003, the Criminal Assets Bureau applied its statutory powers against the assets of a number of persons who were directly or indirectly connected to criminal gangs or syndicates. The majority of actions taken by the Criminal Assets Bureau are taken against the assets of persons suspected of a range of offences including, among others, drug trafficking, money laundering, fraud, corruption, receiving stolen property, aggravated burglaries and murder. In some of these cases the conduct of the individuals against which the bureau has acted may be said to be linked to an organised crime gang.

While figures are not directly available for the number of organised crime gangs involved, an estimate can be gained from the number of applications made under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 and the number of Revenue Commissioners actions per year. The number of applications made under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 to the High Court over the five year period 1999 to 2003 was as follows: section 2 — 33 cases involving 58 defendants; section 3 — 36 cases involving 49 defendants; section 7 — 36 cases involving 47 defendants. The number of tax assessments issued over the same five year period was: 1999 — 183 assessments; 2000 — 120 assessments; 2001 — 144 assessments; 2002 — 142 assessments; 2003 — 182 assessments. It should be noted that there will be an overlap between section 2 and section 3 orders and there will be multiple cross overlaps for tax targets so these figures are higher than the number of targets.

The use of specialist Garda units in the fight against organised crime, such as the national bureau of criminal investigation, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda bureau of fraud investigation and the Garda national drug unit, all of which operate under the assistant commissioner in charge of national support services, has enabled the Garda Síochána to tackle organised crime, including drug trafficking, in an effective way.

The legislative package available to the law enforcement agencies in this country for tackling organised crime is one of the toughest in Europe. The Garda Síochána has available to it a broad range of legislation to facilitate the fight against serious or organised crime. The Criminal Assets Bureau Act 1996 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 have been successfully used to deprive those engaged in criminal activity of their assets and continue to be some of the most significant legislative tools available in the fight against organised crime.

The efforts of the Garda Síochána and other State agencies continue to be brought to bear against those who would seek to profit from drug dealing and organised crime. I have been assured by the Garda authorities that the level of resources employed in this area will remain under review with a view to making changes, as necessary, in the ongoing fight against drugs.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

132 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of convictions secured against organised crime bosses in the past seven years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32720/04]

I have been informed by the Garda Síochána that Garda criminal records are not classified in a manner which would facilitate the disaggregation of data in the way in which the Deputy requested.

Recidivism Rate.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

133 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons convicted and jailed for serious crime that have been released in the past seven years; the extent to which all or none have returned to crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32721/04]

While accurate figures relating to rates of recidivism in the prisoner population are not yet available, the computerisation of prisoner records from 2001 will, in future, provide a more detailed view of a prisoner's past committal history. The director general of the Prison Service recently commissioned a major three year research project on this topic which, it is expected, will present an accurate picture of recidivism which, in turn, will assist and shape the way we manage prison sentences in the future. The findings of this research are expected in early 2007.

Prisoner Releases.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if any persons convicted of crimes other than those deemed to be of a political nature have or are likely to be released under the terms of the Good Friday or associated agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32722/04]

Persons who have, to date, benefited from the accelerated release provisions of the Good Friday Agreement were deemed to be "qualifying prisoners" and it remains the case that only those so designated may benefit from those provisions. No other intergovernmental agreement relates to qualifying prisoners.

Court Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

135 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if sufficient funds are being provided by his Department to facilitate the upgrading and replacement of the courthouses throughout the country which are deemed to be in need of attention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32723/04]

Under the Courts Service Act 1998, the Courts Service — which is responsible for the day to day management of the courts — is independent in the performance of its functions. I am responsible for ensuring that the service is adequately funded and, in this regard, €96.7 million has been provided for 2005. Furthermore, I have given the go ahead for the new criminal court complex, to be located at Infirmary Road, Dublin, which will be the first PPP project undertaken in the courts building programme.

Having regard to the statutory independence of the Courts Service, it is a matter for the service to decide how the funding provided is specifically allocated. The funding provided allows the Courts Service to progress the implementation of its strategic plans and policies and I am confident that the level of funding provided is adequate not only to maintain existing levels of service but also to provide for improvements in services and in court accommodation.

Prison Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

136 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prison places currently occupied; the extent to which prison accommodation needs are currently being met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32724/04]

The number in custody on 1 December 2004 was 3,171, as against a total bed capacity of 3,329. A further 251 prisoners were on temporary release on that date.

On the date in question, 95% of the total bed capacity was in use. Moreover, before allocating a prisoner to a particular facility, account has to be taken of factors such as the prisoner's age, gender, the nature of the offence, security and whether they are on remand or sentenced. In addition, consideration must also be given to facilitating visits to the prisoner.

There is a clear need for new accommodation both to address the overcrowding difficulties that arise from time to time in individual prisons and to upgrade some of the existing prison capacity. In particular, I am determined to make progress in eliminating the need for slopping out. To this end, plans are in train for the possible building of two major prison developments, one on a green field site in the greater Dublin area and the other on Spike Island, County Cork. It is intended that these new facilities 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 in-cell sanitation facilities.

Legal Aid Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

137 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of criminal cases in respect of which free legal aid was provided; the costs arising therefrom in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32725/04]

The cost of criminal legal aid and the number of legal aid certificates granted between 1999 and 2003 is set out in the table beneath.

Year

Cost (€m)

No. of certificates

1999

22.45m

20,668

2000

25.11m

figure unavailable*

2001

25.19m

25,084

2002

28.88m

27,241

2003

37.35m

30,060

*The Courts Service is unable to provide this figure at present; I will provide the Deputy with the figure as soon as it is to hand.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

138 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of non-nationals deported in each of the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32726/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

141 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of deportation orders made in the past 12 months and which have been subsequently deferred; the reasons for deferral; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32729/04]

I set out in the table details of deportation orders made under the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and transfer orders made pursuant to the Dublin II regulations which were effected in the 12 months to the end of November 2004.

Month & Year

Deported non-nationals

Transferred under the Dublin II Regulations

December 2003

49

0

January 2004

38

3

February 2004

108

1

March 2004

72

2

April 2004

57

2

May 2004

31

3

June 2004

16

1

July 2004

31

13

August 2004

37

0

September 2004

23

5

October 2004

44

3

November 2004

85

13

Total

544

46

Deferring or postponing the implementation of deportation and transfer orders occurs from time to time for various reasons. These include the taking of judicial proceedings requiring the suspension of the removal; new information being brought to the attention of the Minister about the case which would not have been available at the time the case was first considered; delays in obtaining from the relevant embassies travel documents and visas in respect of the deportee and his/her Garda escorts; Garda operational difficulties; cancellation or delays of scheduled flights by airlines. Each deferral is dealt with as it occurs and no systematic recording of such cases is maintained by my Department or the Garda national immigration bureau. Consequently, figures are not available for the number of such deferrals in the past 12 months.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

139 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he has taken to combat increased crime levels and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32727/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

140 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he has taken to address the issue of street violence and anti-social behaviour and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32728/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139 and 140 together.

Provisional statistics show a decrease, not an increase, of 7% for the third quarter of 2004 compared with the same quarter last year and an overall decrease of 6% for the first three quarters of this year when compared to the first three quarters of 2003. Furthermore, there was a decrease of 3% in headline crime and a decrease of 14% in non-headline crime for 2003 compared to 2002. These decreases are encouraging and are indicative of both mine and this Government's ongoing commitment to reduce crime levels in this country through strong and effective crime prevention methods.

Strong provisions have been put in place to combat the causes of public disorder and anti-social behaviour countrywide. Reductions in violence and public order offences have followed the enactment, during 2003, of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act and the Intoxicating Liquor Act, along with the publication of the Garda Síochána Bill, which give significant additional powers to the gardaí to deal with public order and street crime. I particularly welcome the news that the number of assaults causing harm recorded in the third quarter of 2004 have decreased a further 2% compared with the same period last year.

In July, I published the Criminal Justice Bill 2004. This Bill provides for increased Garda powers in a number of areas, including preservation of a crime scene and powers of arrest and detention. The Bill also contains some additional provisions relating to admission as evidence of previous witness statements, prosecution appeals and fixed charges for certain public order offences. I am proposing to bring forward amendments to the Bill to provide for a number of further legislative measures.

In particular, I am aware that there is a growing concern about incidences of anti-social behaviour in society. I am concerned that vulnerable people, particularly the elderly, can be subjected to serious nuisance and forms of harassment which of themselves may not be criminal offences but which may cause great distress to the people concerned. One of the amendments I am considering for inclusion in the Criminal Justice Bill will empower the gardaí to apply to the courts, by way of civil procedure, for an anti-social behaviour order which would enable the court deal with the matter as it sees fit.

In September of this year, I relaunched the Crimestoppers initiative, an imaginative partnership between the gardaí, the business community and the community which has been in place for a number of years. It operates a confidential freephone Crimestoppers number which is available to the public to alert the gardaí about crime or suspicious activity and to offer information regarding ongoing Garda investigations. The confidential number is staffed by specially trained gardaí who are able to assess the value of the information being offered in the battle against crime. "CrimeCall" has also been launched, replacing "Crimeline". This programme is a proven effective method of identifying the perpetrators of crime based solely on the assistance of the public.

Garda youth diversion projects, formerly Garda special projects, are funded by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. They are a crime prevention initiative designed to engage with young people who have been identified as being at risk of involvement in criminal or anti-social behaviour. Each project is managed by a multi-agency and community based committee, which is responsible for the strategic direction of the project.

With regard to Garda resources generally, I am pleased that the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, honouring the An Agreed Programme for Government commitment 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 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, 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 law enforcement duties. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties but will be put directly into frontline, operational, high visibility policing. In each of the next three years there will be an intake of almost 1,100 new recruits per year. The advertisement campaign for this first tranche of 1,100 recruits was launched on Thursday, 25 November 2004.

I cannot, however, stress enough that while legislative measures such as the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act and the Intoxicating Liquor Act can help to curtail the problem of anti-social behaviour, they cannot be viewed as the only solution. In reality, it falls on all parties with an interest in this area to play their role in helping to address the problem of anti-social behaviour.

Question No. 141 answered with QuestionNo. 138.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

142 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Questions the reason he was compelled to defer the deportation of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32730/04]

Details of this case were given in my replies to previous Parliamentary Questions Nos. 201 — ref.: 30700/04; 406 — ref.: 28912/04; 113 — ref.: 27228/04; 295 — ref.: 26184/04; 165 — ref.: 24718/04; 427 and 437 — ref.: 23525/04 and 23565/04 and dated 24, 17 and 3 November and 5, 13 and 27 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. In my reply of 17 November, I advised the House that on further examination of the case, I decided to grant this person temporary leave to remain for a period of 12 months with her case being reviewed at the end of that period.

Applications by individuals for leave to remain in the State are dealt with on a case by case basis with the merits or otherwise of each application being examined singularly. The granting of leave to remain may arise from a number of factors without any one being predominant. For these reasons, it is not the practice to comment on individual cases.

As stated in my reply of 3 and 17 November, 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 returned to her country of origin. Further, no issue arises in this case which warrants any amendment to the existing relevant legislation.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

143 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of crimes under various categories detected or reported and in respect of which convictions were secured in County Kildare in the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32731/04]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

144 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which the various categories of crime are on the increase/decrease in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32732/04]

I have made inquiries with the Garda authorities regarding the number of crimes recorded under various categories in County Kildare. the accompanying tables show the requested statistics for the Carlow/Kildare division.

Table 1.

Carlow/Kildare Division Headline Offences where convictions are recorded.

2003

2002

2001

Group 1 Homicides

0

0

0

Group 2 Assaults

19

75

16

Group 3 Sexual Offences

1

5

6

Group 4 Arson

0

3

3

Group 5 Drugs

9

28

28

Group 6 Thefts

122

123

55

Group 7 Burglaries

34

46

17

Group 8 Robberies

1

12

2

Group 9 Frauds

24

48

17

Group 10 Other Headline Offences

2

15

6

Total

212

355

150

Comparable statistics for 2004 are operational and not yet available.

Table 2.

Headline Offences recorded and detected in Carlow/Kildare Division 2000-2003.

2000

2001

2002

2003

Rec

Det

Rec

Det

Rec

Det

Rec

Det

Group 1 Homicides

6

6

4

4

1

1

0

0

Group 2 Assaults

72

65

119

98

282

227

216

147

Group 3 Sexual Offences

41

30

80

63

123

70

168

110

Group 4 Arson

51

18

50

16

55

10

63

12

Group 5 Drugs

77

77

83

83

87

87

93

92

Group 6 Thefts

1,196

487

1,661

527

2,049

550

2,290

723

Group 7 Burglaries

1,385

217

1,434

206

1,672

212

1,605

186

Group 8 Robberies

58

23

79

30

80

31

74

15

Group 9 Frauds

216

190

203

174

205

134

212

167

Group 10 Other Headline Offences

10

9

38

34

85

76

51

39

Total Headline Offences Recorded

3,112

3,751

4,639

4,772

Number Detected

1,122

1,235

1,398

1,491

Percentage Detected

36%

33%

30%

31%

Comparable statistics for 2004 are operational and not yet available.

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

145 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations throughout County Kildare which are open on a 24 hour basis, a 12 hour basis or a six hour basis or less; if it is intended to extend the opening hours of any or all of the stations with fewer opening hours than desirable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32733/04]

The number of hours each Garda station in County Kildare is open during a 24 hour period is as set out hereunder.

Station

Hours

Naas

24 hours

Celbridge

9 hours

Clane

3 hours

Maynooth

9 hours

Kill

3 hours

Kildare

24 hours

Newbridge

24 hours

Robertstown

3 hours

Kilcullen

3 hours

Carbury

3 hours

Monasterevin

3 hours

Rathangan

3 hours

Athy

10 hours

Castledermot

3 hours

Ballytore

2 hours

Ballymore Eustace

2 hours

Resources are utilised to ensure that stations are opened for the periods outlined, in conjunction with ensuring car patrols, foot patrols and all other areas of policing are also addressed. Local Garda management states that it is not intended at this time to extend the opening hours of any of the stations in County Kildare attached to the Carlow/Kildare division.

With regard to Garda resources generally, I am pleased 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 An Agreed Programme for Government commitment 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 draw up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources.

Clearly, of course, 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 as part of the new Garda traffic corps. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high visibility policing. They will have a real impact.

Garda Deployment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí deployed to the various Garda stations throughout County Kildare; the extent to which the number has increased or decreased in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32734/04]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of the Carlow-Kildare division as at 7 December 2004 was 324, all ranks. The number of gardaí attached to each Garda station in County Kildare as at 1 December 1999 and as at 1 December 2004 and the percentage change relative to each station between these dates is as set out in the following table.

Station

1/12/1999

1/12/2004

% Change

Naas

77

79

+3%

Celbridge

14

18

+28%

Clane

6

6

Nil

Maynooth

14

15

+7%

Kill

3

3

Nil

Kildare

26

26

Nil

Newbridge

29

29

Nil

Robertstown

3

3

Nil

Kilcullen

3

3

Nil

Carbury

2

2

Nil

Monasterevin

3

3

Nil

Rathangan

2

3

+50%

Athy

16

15

-6%

Castledermot

2

2

Nil

Ballytore

1

1

Nil

Ballymore Eustace

1

1

Nil

Total

202

209

+3.46%

With regard to Garda resources generally, I am pleased 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 An Agreed Programme for Government commitment 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 draw up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources.

Clearly, of course, 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 as part of the new Garda traffic corps. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high visibility policing. They will have a real impact.

Special Educational Needs.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

147 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Wexford, who was granted full-time special needs assistant hours, is now being cut to be given to another pupil who has been granted 12 hours; the reason one child’s allocation can affect another; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32600/04]

I can confirm that my Department has sanctioned a full-time special needs assistant for the pupil referred to by the Deputy. A letter confirming this sanction issued to the school authorities on 29 November 2004.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

148 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of the application for the classroom assistant for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; the reason for the delay in processing this application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32601/04]

Where pupils with special needs enrol in a post-primary school, it is open to the school to apply to my Department for additional teaching and/or special needs assistant support for these pupils. My Department allocates additional teaching support and special needs assistant support to second level schools and vocational education committees to cater for pupils with special educational needs. Each application is considered on the basis of the assessed needs of the pupils involved and having regard to a range of factors, including the overall resources available to the school.

The school concerned has been allocated 25.20 additional teaching support hours per week and 27 hours per week special needs assistant support to cater for the special educational needs of the students enrolled, including the student referred to by the Deputy. The level of support allocated to the school in question by my Department was determined after detailed consideration of the school's application, the supporting documentation provided and having regard to the overall level of resources already available to the school to address special needs issues. It is a matter for the school authority concerned to deploy this allocation having regard to the assessed needs of individual pupils involved and in line with their evolving needs.

Home Tuition.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

149 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Question No. 372 of 28 October 2004, if the formal application has been received by her Department; if the provision of a home tutor will be sanctioned for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32634/04]

An application for a home tuition grant for the pupil in question was received in my Department recently. The application is currently being considered and a decision will be conveyed to the applicant as quickly as possible.

Youth Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

150 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the assistance by way of grants or otherwise that is available to committees which wish to establish youth clubs or facilities, particularly in large urban areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32635/04]

The youth affairs section of my Department administers a number of schemes which give assistance to youth clubs and organisations throughout the country. The local youth club grant scheme was introduced in 1999. The scheme aims to make provision for the support of youth work activities at a local level. These grants are made available to youth clubs and groups through their local vocational education committee. This scheme encompasses a number of grants, including a start-up grant which is designed for new youth groups in need of assistance to begin their programmes.

The special projects for youth scheme makes grant-in-aid available to organisations and groups for specific projects which seek to address the needs of young people who are disadvantaged due to a combination of factors, including substance abuse, homelessness and inadequate take up of ordinary educational opportunities. While my Department has overall responsibility for the allocation of funding, projects are administered on the ground largely by grant administering agencies, which include vocational education committees and national youth organisations such as the National Youth Federation, Foróige and Catholic Youth Care.

School Absenteeism.

Phil Hogan

Question:

151 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will investigate reports that students are being paid to attend a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; the action that will taken to ensure that these matters are stopped; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32636/04]

I am aware of the reports to which the Deputy refers. I understand that County Kilkenny Vocational Education Committee is conducting an investigation into the matter. My Department has asked the chief executive officer of the VEC to provide a full report as a matter of urgency.

Physical Education Facilities.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

152 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science when she expects that physical education facilities will be provided in a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; her views on whether the lack of such facilities in the school is acceptable; and if her attention has been drawn to the length of time it has taken to provide funding for this application. [32658/04]

The building project for the school in question is at an advanced stage of architectural planning and the accommodation to be provided includes the provision of a sports hall.

In the near future I will announce details of up to 75 major primary and 30 major post-primary school projects on a priority basis that are already at an advanced stage of design. I will authorise the schools concerned to complete the design process to the point where tenders can be issued. When these schools and their design teams report back that they have completed the work I will, on a rolling basis during the year, authorise projects to move to tender and construction. Overall, I aim to have at least 50 primary school and 17 post-primary school projects tendered and going on site by year end 2005. I will make further announcements in the coming weeks and months.

Schools Refurbishment.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

153 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department will authorise the board of management of a school (details supplied) in County Kerry to extend and refurbish the school under the pilot scheme introduced in 2003; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32697/04]

The application for an extension at the school to which the Deputy refers is being considered as part of a review of all projects which did not proceed to construction as part of the 2004 school building programme. All projects are being assessed against the published prioritisation criteria, revised earlier this year following consultation 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 school building programme from 2005 onwards. I will make further announcements on the school building programme in due course.

Special Educational Needs.

Willie Penrose

Question:

154 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Parliamentary Question No. 229 of 2 December 2004, if she will indicate if the report of the psychologist (details supplied) was considered by her Department prior to making the decision to reduce rather than increase the hours required in circumstances where the report supplied clearly indicates the requirement for a full-time special needs assistant from September 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32704/04]

I can confirm that all professional documentation received in my Department in support of the application in question, including the report referred to by the Deputy, was forwarded to my Department's professionals for examination prior to the recommendation of 12.5 hours special needs assistant support for the pupil concerned being made. Arrangements will be made to have the matter re-examined should additional information be submitted to my Department in support of the application.

Schools Building Projects.

Jack Wall

Question:

155 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of the proposed school extension (details supplied) in County Kildare; if funding will be provided in 2004 for the project; the arrangements her Department is proposing to address the problems in view of the health and safety factor involved in the increased numbers now attending the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32738/04]

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an early stage of architectural planning. It has a band 2 rating.

The introduction of a multi-annual funding process for school building projects requires a revised approach to how projects are scheduled through the design process and on to tender and construction. To maintain a smooth flow of projects and ensure that the optimum number of projects is ready to go to tender and construction at any given time, I will progress on a priority basis those projects that are in the early design stages. I will provide further details of those projects and notify the schools concerned early in 2005. In this way I want to create a sustained momentum in the schools building programme to match the Government's multi-annual funding commitment.

Special Educational Needs.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

156 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will sanction additional learning support/remedial tuition for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [32806/04]

I can confirm that an application for 2.5 hours resource teaching support per week for the pupil in question was received in my Department.

The Deputy will be aware that my Department is proposing a new system for the allocation of resource teaching supports to pupils with special needs. This system will involve a general teaching allocation for all primary schools to cater for pupils with higher incidence special educational needs, SEN, that is, those with borderline mild and mild general learning disability, specific learning disability and also those with learning support needs. It will also allow for individual allocations in respect of pupils with lower incidence SEN.

The school referred to by the Deputy currently has the services of a shared learning support teacher together with part-time resource teaching hours. The pupil in question falls into the high incidence category. It would be expected that the pupil's SEN can be met from within the current resource/learning support teaching allocation available to the school. The school authorities were advised accordingly on 3 December 2004.

Physical Education Facilities.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

157 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Education and Science if funding is available from her Department for national schools to purchase sports equipment for play areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32807/04]

Primary schools may use funds allocated by my Department under the terms of the grant scheme for minor works to purchase sports equipment provided such funds are not required for more urgent and immediate works.

The position regarding the grant scheme for minor works is set out in the 2004 school building programme, which was published in January. The programme shows that €19 million has been provided for the payment of the full grant and all schools received their grant payment on 26 November 2004. It is also open to primary schools to use their capitation grant to purchase sports equipment, provided such funds are not required for more urgent and immediate needs.

Dog Breeding.

Mary Upton

Question:

158 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will consider introducing legislation to control puppy farming, in view of the fact that it raises many issues of a welfare nature whether carried out in kennels or other establishments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32707/04]

Mary Upton

Question:

161 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has satisfied himself with the terms of reference of the working group set up to review management of dog breeding establishments nationally; if he has further satisfied himself that, by including only the management of kennels, the working group will be able to address the many abuses of dogs which can take place in environments other than kennels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32705/04]

Mary Upton

Question:

162 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the first report of the working group to review the management of dog breeding establishments will be published, if the report will be available to the general public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32706/04]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 158, 161 and 162 together.

On 24 September 2004, my predecessor announced the setting up of a working group to examine the current position regarding management of dog breeding establishments and to make recommendations for such improvements, including better regulation, as it considers necessary in this area. It was not the intention that the group should consider animal welfare issues generally. Instead, the terms of reference were designed to allow the group focus on the specific issue of puppy farms so that it could report at an early date. I am satisfied with that arrangement.

The group undertook public consultation and has held two meetings to date. Its report is currently being prepared and I expect to receive it early in the new year. At that stage, I will consider the group's recommendations and decide the action to be taken. I also intend that the report will be publicly available.

As regards the wider issue of animal welfare, the principal statutes governing cruelty to animals are the Protection of Animals Acts 1911 and 1965. Responsibility for that legislation is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Food.

Mary Upton

Question:

159 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the micro chipping of all dogs in the country to ensure traceability for welfare purposes. [32711/04]

The Control of Dogs Regulations 1998 require the owner or other person in charge of a dog to ensure that the dog at all times wears a collar bearing the name and address of the owner on an attached plate, badge or disc. The regulations contain penalties for non-compliance with this requirement or for defacing or rendering illegible the above particulars. These arrangements followed consideration of all practicable options for ensuring identification of dogs, including that of micro-chipping. There is no proposal at present to alter them.

Public Service Charges.

Michael Noonan

Question:

160 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if any of his officials has forwarded advice from the Office of the Attorney General or other legal advice to Limerick City Council regarding the provision of a waiver scheme in accordance with section 75 of the Waste Management Act 1996 (details supplied); if the purpose of forwarding this advice was to inform the city manager that the city council would be acting ultra vires if it made financial provision in the 2005 estimates for a waiver scheme from charges for collection of domestic refuse by private collectors; if this communication with the city manager was an instruction not to prepare an estimate which included such a provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32648/04]

Limerick City Council has received legal advice indicating that in the present circumstances obtaining in its area for the provision of domestic waste collection services, the council may not be empowered to provide a waiver scheme. It is for the council to address this matter in the context of the local circumstances involved and the possible measures available to it under the Waste Management Acts.

My Department sought subsequent corroboration from the Attorney General's office of the legal advice obtained by Limerick City Council and, at his request, forwarded this to the city manager for information purposes only. At no point did my Department issue, or purport to issue, an instruction to the city council on these matters, as the decision to provide a waiver and/or a collection service is properly one for the local authority.

Questions Nos. 161 and 162 answered with Question No. 158.

Local Government Reform.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

163 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the arrangements in place to enable Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas to obtain reports and responses from local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32612/04]

From the commencement of the single mandate for elective local government, local authorities were required to make specific arrangements to provide a reasonable level of service for Oireachtas Members and to facilitate them in carrying out their work on behalf of local communities. Statutory regulations have been made in this connection. Copies of these regulations — the Local Government Act 2001 (Section 237A) Regulations 2003 — and an information note are available in the Oireachtas Library.

The regulations provide,inter alia, for the supply of specified documentation to Oireachtas Members by the local authority and, in this context, a parliamentary representative may notify a local authority of his or her postal or electronic address. In addition, equivalent systems, procedures and time frames to those used for correspondence from local authority members apply also in respect of Oireachtas Members. Similarly, where there are arrangements for electronic access to information by councillors, these should likewise be made available to Oireachtas Members.

Managers are required to meet at least annually with local Oireachtas Members and thus provide an opportunity for an update on developments and for any difficulties encountered to be raised and addressed. This is, of course, additional to normal and regular contacts between public representatives and local authority officials regarding particular problems or issues.

As these arrangements have been introduced relatively recently, I intend that they will be kept under review with a view to any necessary amendment of current guidance on these matters. In the meantime, I expect authorities to facilitate parliamentary representatives, in the spirit and the letter of the regulations, in the timely provision of local authority documentation.

Election Management System.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

164 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the Government will address, through the provision of postal votes to prisoners, the inconsistency in a system that concedes that prisoners have the right to vote but chooses not to allow them the capacity to exercise that most fundamental of rights, a position which the European Court of Human Rights found contravened the European Convention on Human Rights earlier in 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32584/04]

The issue of voting by prisoners is under review in my Department, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Office of the Attorney General.

Retail Sector Developments.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

165 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the analysis he has carried out on the possible transport implications of a lifting of the cap on the size of retail outlets and if he has asked for an analysis of the implications of the introduction of a possible furniture store (details supplied) adjacent to the M50 motorway. [32398/04]

The retail planning guidelines prescribe a maximum floor area of 6,000 square metres gross retail floor space for large scale single retail warehouse development. This aspect of the guidelines has been under review, taking account of the need to ensure proper planning and sustainable development while also supporting effective competition in this sector of retailing in the context of ongoing developments in retail formats.

With regard to any individual development proposal at a particular location, it would primarily be a matter for the planning authority, and An Bord Pleanála where appropriate, to consider all relevant planning issues, including the potential transport implications, in the context of determining any such application. It would be open to the planning authority to require that any such proposal be accompanied by a traffic impact assessment demonstrating that the road network associated with the development has the capacity to cater for the traffic generated by the development without causing undue congestion and that the development can be served by existing and planned public transport services.

In bringing the review of the retail planning guidelines to a conclusion, all relevant issues, including the possible transport implications as they relate to this type of development generally, will be taken into account in the context of determining whether any changes to the guidelines are appropriate.

Policy on Wildlife.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

166 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on the criteria and methods used in licensing the taking of frogs from the wild to be used in vivisection; and if he will revoke this licence. [29380/04]

The common frog is protected under wildlife legislation and may not be taken from the wild without a licence from the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS, of my Department. Each year the NPWS receives a small number of applications for licences to allow the capture of live frogs and these are adjudicated individually.

So far this year, three licences have been issued for the capture of the common frog alive from the wild. Two were for the purpose of relocating frogs away from a new road building project and the other is an annual licence which authorises the applicant to capture specimens ofrana temporaria— European common frog — by hand from a number of specified counties for the purposes of research. My Department does not license vivisection. The use of live animals in experiments in Ireland is, I understand, strictly controlled by the Department of Health and Children, which issues licences under the Cruelty to Animals Act, as amended by the European Communities (Amendment of Cruelty to Animals Act 1876) Regulations 2002.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

167 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will consider the threat of myopathy for the hare species, which is a stress induced condition; and if he will end licences for hare coursing to minimise the threat. [29372/04]

Under section 34 of the Wildlife Act 1976, my Department is responsible for the issue of an annual licence to the Irish Coursing Club and its affiliated clubs to capture live hares for the purpose of coursing. There is no evidence to date that hare coursing in Ireland adversely impacts on the conservation of hare populations and there are no proposals to change existing arrangements for the licensed netting of wild hares for live hare coursing.

In the case of the coursing meeting last season in which the mortality was exceptionally high, the possibility of stress, myopathy, as a constructive factor was considered by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department. While it was not possible to establish why, in this particular case, the hares should have been particularly vulnerable, my Department regarded this level of mortality as a serious matter. Accordingly, the club in question will, this year, be holding a scaled down event, closely monitored by my Department to ensure that its management regime does not increase the risk of myopathy.

Nuclear Safety.

Billy Timmins

Question:

168 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is informed when nuclear material is being transported within the State; the procedures that are in place for the transport of such material; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28775/04]

I assume the question relates to radioactive material or devices incorporating radioactive material which are referred to as nuclear devices in the Radiological Protection Act, 1991 (Ionising Radiation) Order. Such materials or devices are transported by road within the State to hospitals, research laboratories and to or from sites where industrial radiography is being performed.

My Department would not be informed of such transportations as these are regulated by and require a licence from the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII. The licence obliges the licensee to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency regulations for the safe transport of radioactive material as well as a number of additional requirements. Furthermore, the Garda is also informed in the case of the transportation of large sources used in medical product sterilisation facilities.

Planning Issues.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

169 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has satisfied himself that the regional planning guidelines will ensure that new development will accord with the principles of sustainable development. [32804/04]

An important milestone in the ongoing implementation of the national spatial strategy, NSS, has been reached with the adoption by all regional authorities of regional planning guidelines. Such guidelines were introduced by the Planning and Development Act 2000 to provide a long-term strategic framework for the development of the region concerned. Section 23(2) specifically provides that regional planning guidelines shall address a range of matters for the whole of the region, in accordance with the principles of proper planning and sustainable development.

Regional planning guidelines, acting as a framework for development plans at county and city level, will advance the process of more deeply embedding the concept of sustainable development within the development plan process. In addition, and building on the national spatial strategy, the regional planning guidelines now in place across the country provide a more strategic and transparent framework to inform the assessment of development plans during their public consultation phases with regard to a range of criteria, including sustainable development.

Section 10(1) of the 2000 Act provides that each planning authority's development plan must set out an overall strategy for the proper planning and sustainable development of the area. All proposed development is regulated by the planning process and decisions made by the planning authority on planning applications must take development plan policies and objectives into account.