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 34, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 35 to 89, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions No. 90 to 96, inclusive, answered orally.

State Airports.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

97 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport his views on the proposed major rationalisation programme for Shannon Airport that may result in the loss of up to 200 jobs; if further job losses are anticipated at Cork and Dublin airports under similar rationalisation programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4791/05]

Jack Wall

Question:

108 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport the position with regard to the break-up of Aer Rianta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4769/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97 and 108 together.

In keeping with the provisions of the State Airports Act 2004, the board of the Dublin Airport Authority has a statutory mandate to do everything necessary to give effect to the restructuring of the State airports.

The Shannon and Cork Airport Authorities were incorporated in October 2004 and in line with the framework provided by the State Airports Act 2004, these two new authorities will, in due course, own and operate their respective airports once sufficient distributable reserves are available to transfer the relevant assets.

Prior to the assets of Shannon and Cork airports being vested in their respective authorities, their boards are charged with preparing to assume full responsibility for the management and development of their airports. They are also empowered to undertake functions delegated to them, on an agreed basis, by the Dublin Airport Authority. Each of the airport authorities is also required to prepare comprehensive business plans for their airports.

In accordance with the 2004 Act, the transfer of assets to Shannon and Cork Airport Authorities cannot take place earlier than 30 April 2005 and, thereafter, a phased approach will allow one of the new airport authorities to be vested first, that is, Shannon Airport, while Cork Airport will be vested once sufficient distributable reserves have been built up within the Dublin Airport Authority.

Both I and the Minister for Finance must be satisfied as to the state of operational and financial readiness of the Shannon and Cork Airport Authorities before the assets of the airports are vested in those authorities. The formulation of comprehensive business plans by the new boards will be a key aspect of achieving operational and financial readiness. The business planning process has been initiated with a view to meeting the requirements of the State Airports Act.

Since its incorporation in September last, the Shannon Airport Authority has been considering, under the overall stewardship of the Dublin Airport Authority, a range of measures for the future successful development of the airport on a sustainable basis. The airport authority has stated that these measures include initiatives to promote traffic growth through Shannon Airport together with measures to address the airport's cost base. It has been recognised for some time that costs in Shannon Airport are high relative to comparable airports and that this is an issue that needs to be addressed to position the airport to be able to continue its valuable contribution to business, tourism and the regional economy generally of the mid-west.

I expect that arrangements for implementing rationalisation can be agreed through consultation between management and union representatives. The authority has made it clear that it is looking to engage with trade union representatives on its proposals and that it is expected that any necessary staff reductions can be achieved by means of voluntary early retirement or voluntary severance schemes. The objective is to develop a long-term sustainable business at Shannon Airport, which is a major feature of the thinking underlying the State Airports Act 2004.

As to Cork and Dublin, it is a matter for the relevant airport authorities to assess on an ongoing basis the measures necessary to ensure that the airports can operate in a financially sustainable way.

I am confident that the new boards of the three airport authorities will successfully meet the challenges ahead. Through more focused commercial operation, all three airports can play a greater role in stimulating and supporting regional and national economic activity to the benefit of their customers, both airlines and passengers, and of Irish tourism, trade and industry.

Transport Investment Plan.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

98 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport the details of the new Government ten-year transport investment plan; if these proposals have been brought to Cabinet; the specific proposals that are concerned; the amount needed to fund the proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4764/05]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

110 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the process which his Department is engaging in to establish the ten-year transport investment plan proposed in budget 2005; the analysis which has been undertaken to help prioritise projects; and the planning guidelines which are being used to provide a background to the investment decisions that are being made. [4804/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 110 together.

In his recent Budget Statement, the Minister for Finance agreed in principle that an extended ten-year capital envelope was appropriate in the case of investment in transport. This reflects the reality of the long lead-in times required for design and planning as well as the substantial construction periods required for major capital projects in the transport sector. It also provides clear and concrete evidence of this Government's determination to provide our First World economy with a first-rate transport system.

The ten-year transport investment framework will identify the investment and outline the measures required to develop further all elements of national transport infrastructure, address existing bottlenecks and capacity constraints, enhance quality, optimise the use of the network and make prudent advance provision for future economic growth. It is not possible to outline the specifics of the draft plan pending its consideration by the Cabinet infrastructure committee and by the Cabinet itself.

The ten-year framework will take account of the substantial changes over the last 15 years or so. We have seen large increases in our population, wealth and employment. Economic growth has led to huge increases in the amount of goods being transported as well as strong growth in car ownership levels, increased travel demand and increases in the numbers of people and goods passing through our airports and ports.

The ten-year framework will also take account of the linkages between transport and land use and spatial planning so that we can develop a transport system that contributes to sustainable development in all its dimensions — economic, social and environmental. The plan will be fully informed by and will support the policies set out in the national spatial strategy. It will also take account of the regional planning guidelines adopted during 2004 and will be informed by and support a number of regional land use and transportation strategies for the cities, such as the Dublin Transportation Office's long-term strategy, A Platform for Change, and the Cork area strategic plan. I am also considering whether the development of this draft framework will fall within the scope of the strategic environmental assessment directive.

My officials have been engaging with Córas Iompair Éireann, the Railway Procurement Agency, the National Roads Authority and the Dublin Transportation Office, and the expertise and inputs of these agencies have been significant in helping to identify broad lines and priorities for programmes to be undertaken under the auspices of the new framework.

The current five-year investment envelope for transport investment is €10.2 billion over the 2005 to 2009 period. The precise financial parameters for the period to 2014 will be subject to final agreement with the Minister for Finance and the Government. Details of the draft plan are being finalised and I will be bringing it to the Cabinet infrastructure committee early next month.

Road Signage.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

99 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Transport if a review of signage policy will be carried out nationally to allow locations in, for example, Donegal to be signposted on exit roads from Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4491/05]

The provision of destination signposting is a matter for the relevant local authority in the first instance. The traffic signs manual 1996 sets out directions given to road authorities by the Minister for Transport pursuant to section 95(16) of the Road Traffic Act 1961 regarding the provision and use of warning and information traffic signs, including directional information signs. A copy of the manual is available in the Oireachtas Library. The manual contains advice for road authorities in relation to the provision of directional signs on national routes. The policy on content of all advance directional signs on national primary routes is to display the terminal destination of the national route plus terminal of spur route.

The recognised terminal destinations listed in the traffic signs manual for national primary road N2 are Derry and Dublin and, accordingly, destination signage on routes leaving Dublin indicate Derry. My Department is pursuing a comprehensive review of the present traffic signs manual in association with the National Roads Authority and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Consultants have been engaged to prepare a new manual. The issue of the format and content of destination signs will be considered in the context of this review. The example referred to by the Deputy in relation to Donegal raises a wider question as to the signing of destinations and this will be the subject of particular examination in that review.

Public Transport.

John Gormley

Question:

100 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport when he expects to introduce a public transport regulator; and the nature and scope that he expects such an office to hold. [4813/05]

Tom Hayes

Question:

150 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Transport the progress made to date in the introduction of competition in the bus market in the greater Dublin area; if his Department has a strategy of implementation in place to allow for the introduction of such competition; if so, when this implementation plan will commence and be fully completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4746/05]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

154 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the introduction of private bus operators in the Dublin bus market. [4814/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100, 150 and 154 together.

As I have indicated previously, I have met the key stakeholders in public transport and welcome the consensus that both State-owned and private bus companies have valuable roles to play in delivering future public transport needs. The overall objectives of public transport policy are to ensure the provision of a well-functioning, integrated public transport system which enhances competitiveness, sustains economic progress and contributes to social cohesion; to ensure the provision of a defined standard of public transport at reasonable cost to the customer and the taxpayer; and to ensure the timely and cost-effective delivery of the accelerated investment in infrastructure and facilities necessary to ensure improved public transport provision.

A key element of our public transport system is the bus market. The Transport Act 1932 provides the statutory basis for regulating the bus market. This Act is outdated and is in need of reform. It is a commitment of the Government to replace the Act with a modern regulatory framework which achieves a more open, effective and competitive regime.

The public transport market is an expanding market and I am committed to reforming measures to provide opportunities for both public and private companies to deliver increased public services and to ensure the taxpayer and the customer gets a high quality of service and best value for money in line with our overall objectives. I want to see more people using a better and more extensive public transport network. In this context, it remains my intention to establish an independent national public transport procurement and regulatory body to, inter alia, procure socially necessary bus services, licence commercial services and regulate fares.

Officials in my Department continue to meet stakeholders regarding their views on how to reform the market within the framework I have set out. When I have had an opportunity to consider these views, I will decide how best, in a spirit of partnership, to give effect to reform of the public transport market.

Railway Stations.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

101 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Transport if there are plans to develop a railway station for Ballyfermot; his views on whether there is demand for such a direct rail service in the immediate area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4788/05]

Iarnród Éireann informs me that there is already an operating railway station at Cherry Orchard on the Dublin-Kildare railway line. The company is considering re-locating this station in the context of the Kildare route project. While Iarnród Éireann submitted a business case in relation to this project recently, I understand that revised proposals on certain aspects of the project will be submitted to my Department shortly.

Road Network.

Seán Crowe

Question:

102 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if, in view of widespread concern surrounding the Dublin Port tunnel in respect of the use of so-called super cube trucks, he will reconsider or reinvestigate the possibilities of making the tunnel accessible to these vehicles. [4651/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

119 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which the Dublin Port tunnel is capable of accommodating all types of trucks currently in use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4725/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 119 together.

I announced on 21 October 2004 that the operational height of the Dublin Port tunnel will not be changed. My decision was based primarily on safety grounds but cost and time delays to the opening of the project were also factors. The Dublin Port tunnel, therefore, is being completed as planned and will have an operational height of 4.65 m.

It is the view of Dublin City Council and the NRA that the Dublin Port tunnel will facilitate almost all the HGV traffic currently using Dublin Port. Two vehicle height surveys of HGVs using Dublin Port, one by the Dublin Port Company and one by the National Institute of Transport and Logistics, indicate that between 0.6% and 1.7% of HGVs entering and leaving the port exceed 4.65 m.

Driving Licences.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

103 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Transport if advance notification of the expiration of their driving licences to all motorists affected, in the form of renewal notifications has commenced; if not, the reason therefor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4757/05]

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government holds and administers the national driver file licence records, and my Department is liaising with it to have the necessary arrangements for the issue of renewal notices from the national driver file put in place. It is the intention that the issue of renewal notices will commence in 2005.

Airport Development Projects.

Simon Coveney

Question:

104 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Transport the number of expressions of interest in the development of a second terminal at Dublin Airport which have been received by his Department; the evaluation of each expression which has been undertaken by his officials; when he expects a final decision to sanction the development of a second terminal and by whom; if it will be publicly announced; the criteria which will determine who is awarded the contract to build and-or operate this terminal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4753/05]

Willie Penrose

Question:

120 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport if there have been any further developments with regard to proposals to construct a second terminal at Dublin Airport; his views on reports of an agreement signed between SIPTU and private businessmen to build a private terminal at the airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4790/05]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

155 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport if there have been any further developments with regard to the establishment of a second terminal at Dublin Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4795/05]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

165 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the provision of a second terminal at Dublin Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4816/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104, 120, 155 and 165 together.

I already dealt in detail with the position in regard to the development of a second terminal at Dublin Airport in my reply to Priority Question No. 90 today.

Railway Stations.

David Stanton

Question:

105 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport the plans for the development of Kent Station in Cork; the estimated cost of same; when the work will commence; the most recent communication or meetings he has had on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4793/05]

The development of Kent Station is a matter for CIE and Iarnród Éireann to decide. It is intended that the project will be funded by CIE from its own resources rather than from the Exchequer.

Rail Network.

David Stanton

Question:

106 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport further to the recent decision by the Government to sanction the reopening of the rail link to Midleton in east Cork, the progress that has been achieved in this matter in the meantime; the estimated cost of reopening the line; when he expects the reopening to occur; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4794/05]

In May 2004, the Government agreed to the development of a commuter rail service for the Cork area. This includes the relaying of track and signalling between Glounthaune and Midleton as well as the construction of a number of new stations along the length of the route.

I understand that Iarnród Éireann is finalising an engineering feasibility study of the proposed Glounthaune to Midleton section of the line. It appears that there are no insurmountable engineering difficulties and the company will proceed to the public consultation phase shortly. An application for a railway order will follow under the terms of the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) Act 2001. The feasibility study will identify the projected cost of reinstating the line and will establish a timeframe for the project. The project will be financed by the Exchequer, EU funds and by special contribution schemes, established by the local authorities in Cork.

Road Network.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

107 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Transport if he has received correspondence from the Garda in respect of the condition of the N81; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4775/05]

My Department has not received correspondence from the Garda in respect of the condition of the N81. As the Deputy will be aware the National Roads Authority, NRA, and the relevant local authority are responsible for the maintenance and upgrade of the national roads network. I understand that the NRA receive accident reports on an ongoing basis from the Garda in respect of accidents on the national road network.

Question No. 108 answered with QuestionNo. 97.

Rail Network.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

109 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on the latest plans with regard to the development of a dedicated rail link from the city centre to Dublin Airport; if his attention has been dawn to the recent comments from the manager of strategic planning of Iarnród Éireann that such a link would take four years to deliver; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4787/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Priority Question No. 93 of today on this matter.

Question No. 110 answered with QuestionNo. 98.

Road Network.

Willie Penrose

Question:

111 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a section of the Dublin-Galway motorway being built by the private sector is costing more per kilometre than a State-financed section of the same route; his estimate of the number of years motorists will have to pay tolls to travel on the section of the motorway constructed by the private sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4789/05]

The planning, design and implementation of national roads improvement projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA, and the relevant local authorities concerned — in this case Westmeath County Council. I assume the Deputy is referring to a recent newspaper report comparing the cost of the upgrade of the Kilcock-Kinnegad section of the N4-N6 to the estimated cost of the Kinnegad-Athlone section of the N6.

I understand from the NRA that the report was inaccurate in a number of respects. The Kilcock to Kinnegad section is a full motorway with provision for the addition of a third lane in the median should that be necessary in the future. The Kinnegad to Kilbeggan section is a standard dual carriageway. Typically, there is a construction cost difference, using standard costings, of over €2 million per kilometre between these two road types. This alone would generate a difference in costs of at least €80 million between the two road types for a 39 km motorway.

The amount of private finance assigned in the newspaper report to the Kilcock-Kinnegad scheme for the purpose of calculating the per kilometre costs was overstated by over €40 million and the length of the Kilcock-Kinnegad scheme was understated by 4 km which would cost approximately €35 million to construct. The combination of these amounted to an overestimate of €120 million.

In addition, the Kilcock-Kinnegad scheme costs include provision for maintenance and reinvestment throughout the 30 year concession period and no such maintenance or life-cycle reinvestment costs apply in the tender price for design and build schemes. The Kilcock-Kinnegad scheme will require the construction of a toll plaza. Allowing for a three year construction period tolls will be payable over 27 years.

It should also be noted that all national road schemes are procured by means of a competitive tendering process in accordance with national and EU tendering and procurement regulations and the Kilcock to Kinnegad PPP contract was subject to rigorous evaluation and the conclusion reached by independent financial advisers to the NRA was that it represented excellent value for money.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

112 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he has plans to conduct a buy-out of the deal that has given National Toll Roads control over the West-Link toll bridge until 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4780/05]

The West-Link bridge toll agreement, concluded in October 1987 between the then Dublin County Council and NTR, provides that the toll company, NTR plc, has until the expiry of the agreement in the year 2020, the exclusive right to toll traffic using the West-Link bridge. A buy-out of NTR's rights has not been considered having regard to the potential cost involved, the possible implications for the funding of the upgrade of the M50, and the limited contribution the removal of the toll plaza would make to the reduction of traffic congestion overall on the M50.

Air Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

113 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if he will take action in the growing dispute between Aer Lingus unions and management over the removal of staff’s right to free travel on some Aer Lingus services; his views on whether a successful resolution to this dispute can be achieved in the short term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4766/05]

Both management and unions in the Dublin Airport Authority are continuing their discussions regarding the future of the travel concessions on Aer Lingus flights which are available to certain airport workers. If management and unions cannot reach agreement on the status of the concession travel arrangements, the State's industrial relations machinery is available to assist both sides. I understand that the Labour Relations Commission has invited the parties to talks and that the first meeting under the LRC is scheduled for the end of this week.

Road Network.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

114 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport if the promised safety barriers along the middle of the M50 have been fitted; if these barriers will be permanently in place along the motorway; if they are a temporary measure; his plans to fit such safety barriers on other major roads throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4783/05]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

122 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Transport if a decision has been made on the retrofit of crash barriers on the M50, before the completion of its upgrade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4739/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 114 and 122 together.

The provision of median barriers on national roads is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA, having regard to best practice in road safety and EU standards for safety barriers of this type.

The position generally in regard to the provision of median barriers on national roads is that: median barriers are currently being provided on all new motorways and dual carriageways irrespective of the median width; and median barriers are being retrofitted on all existing inter-urban motorways and dual carriageways irrespective of median width. This work is expected to be completed by mid-2005 with the exception of the M50.

In the specific case of the M50, the NRA had originally intended to provide median barriers in the context of the upgrade project which is due to get under way, subject to An Bord Pleanála approval, on a phased basis in late 2005 for phase 1 and in 2006 for phase 2.

However, in light of a tragic crossover accident on the M50 in late 2004, in which a young woman lost her life, the NRA reviewed the position in relation to the M50 and have now decided to proceed with the erection of crash barriers on the M50 with the aim of having the work substantially complete or underway on all sections of the motorway by the end of 2005. This approach will achieve the permanent installation of crash barriers on the motorway at a significantly earlier date than was previously anticipated.

Driving Tests.

Simon Coveney

Question:

115 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Transport the number of driver testers currently employed by his Department; if this figure has increased since 2002; if he envisages additional testers will be employed in 2005; when he expects this to take effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4752/05]

The authorised number of driver testers, including a chief tester and supervisory testers is 130. This number has not increased since 2002. At present there are 103 permanent driver testers and 19 contract driver testers employed. There are also six former testers who have returned on short term contracts. My Department is in discussions with the Department of Finance with a view to increasing the number of testers in 2005.

Road Network.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

116 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Transport the proposals which are being developed to create national road infrastructure (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4750/05]

The national roads development programme being implemented by the NRA and local authorities is in line with the principles, and with the transport infrastructure priorities, identified in the national spatial strategy. A key priority of the national roads programme at present is the upgrading of the national primary road network serving the national gateways. Major road projects have been completed, are under way or are well advanced in planning on routes serving these centres including, for example, a number of major projects in the Limerick-Shannon area, Dundalk western bypass and Sligo inner relief road.

Major road improvement projects are also underway or planned on routes serving many of the towns identified as development hubs in the national spatial strategy, including, for example, Ennis bypass, the N26 between Ballina and Castlebar, Kilkenny ring road extension, Tullamore bypass, Monaghan bypass and Cavan bypass. Work on the Kilkenny ring road extension and Monaghan bypass is due to commence this year.

As the roads programme is implemented and rolled forward, other road infrastructure priorities identified in the national spatial strategy, which is a 20 year planning framework, will be addressed.

Road Signage.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

117 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport the number of locations in the country which have to date introduced the new 30 km/h speed limits. [4808/05]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

153 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport if he has instructed local authorities to ensure that appropriate low speed limits are observed at schools and other high risk areas following the changeover to metric speed limits; the reason such low limits were not in place at the time of the changeover; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4760/05]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

347 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport if guidelines have been issued to local authorities regarding the implementation of 30 km/h speed limits in the vicinity of schools and other appropriate areas (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4919/05]

Denis Naughten

Question:

364 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport, further to Parliamentary Questions. Nos. 127 and 128 of 27 January 2005, the progress to date; when he will be in a position to facilitate local authorities in carrying out such reviews; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5114/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 117, 153, 347 and 364 together.

The relevant provisions of the Road Traffic Act 2004 that establish a new system of speed limits based on metric values were commenced on 20 January 2005. The changeover process involved the provision of more than 58,000 traffic signs depicting the application of speed limits across the country. The new traffic signs that were provided prior to 20 January indicate the locations at which the default speed limits provided for in the 2004 Act apply or the locations at which special speed limits that had been determined special speed limits already made by county and city councils apply in lieu of default speed limits. The power to apply special speed limits has been vested in the elected members of county and city councils since the passage of the Road Traffic Act 1994.

The determination of what speed limit should apply at particular locations in lieu of a default speed limit is a matter for the elected members of city and county councils. The Minister for Transport has no statutory power to issue instructions or directions in this regard.

Through section 12 of the Road Traffic Act 2004 determinations relating to the application of special speed limits made by county and city councils under the previous legislation are deemed to continue to apply. The application of the new special speed limit of 30 km/h could not have been applied from the date of the changeover to metric speed limits in view of the fact that its deployment may only be pursued through the provisions relating to special speed limits under the new Act.

Section 9 of the 2004 Act sets out a new process for the making of speed limit by-laws by the elected members of county and city councils. The range of options available to county and city councils in relation to the deployment of special speed limits has been expanded by comparison to previous legislation. It also provides that the Minister for Transport may issue guidelines relating to the making of special speed limit by-laws.

With the commencement of the provisions in the Road Traffic Act 2004 relating to speed limits generally with effect from 20 January 2005 and the completion of the programme for the provision of the traffic signs necessary to support the actual changeover, county and city councils are now free to embark on the process of making new special speed limit by-laws.

The deployment of the new 30 km/h special speed limit may only be pursued in accordance with provisions in guidelines that I am empowered to issue under section 9. Draft guidelines are being prepared at present and my Department is currently engaged in a consultation process with county and city councils. That process will be completed in the coming weeks and I will then issue the statutory guidelines to the local authorities on a formal basis. Within a matter of weeks therefore, local authorities will be in a position to pursue the full range of initiatives available through special speed limit by-laws including the provision of appropriate low speed limits in the vicinity of schools and other high risk locations.

Transport Infrastructural Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

118 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which the various projects identified by his Department in the context of the national development plan are on time and within cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4726/05]

It is expected that all the projects in the public transport sector, which are being funded under the national development plan, will be completed. Projects completed to date have been done on time and within budget. The very significant Exchequer allocation to my Department in respect of the provision of transport infrastructure clearly demonstrates the Government's strong ongoing commitment to the NDP programme and to maintaining a high level of investment in infrastructural projects. Over €2.4 billion has been spent from Exchequer and EU funds to date, with public transport capital expenditure for this year at €486 million.

Services on the two Luas lines, the green line from Sandyford to St. Stephen's Green and the red line from Tallaght to Connolly Station are operating to wide public acclaim since June and September 2004, respectively. The Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, the body with responsibility for the Luas project, has assured me that the Sandyford and Tallaght lines will be completed within the €775 million budget, as notified to the Government in December 2002.

The national development plan provides for a substantial investment in the upgrade of the national roads network over the period 2000-06. Significant priorities within the national roads programme are the upgrade of the five main inter-urban routes, linking Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Dundalk with Dublin, to motorway-high quality dual carriageway standard, the construction of the Dublin Port Tunnel and the M50 and major improvement works on other national routes throughout the country. While the completion of this upgrade programme will extend beyond 2006 and will cost more than estimated in 1999, good progress is nevertheless being made in implementing the ambitious NDP upgrade programme.

The current position in relation to the upgrading of the five major inter-urban routes is that the M1 is expected to be fully complete by end 2006. Work is complete on major projects on the N7, Kildare, Monasterevin bypasses and Limerick southern ring road phase 1, and the N8, Cashel and Watergrasshill bypasses. Work is underway on the Kilcock-Kinnegad section of the N4-N6 on the Dundalk western bypass on the M1, on the Fermoy bypass, N8, and on Naas Road widening, N7. Work is expected to start this year on such major projects as, the Dundalk to Newry section of the M1, Kinnegad-Athlone on the N6, phase 1 of the M50 upgrade and Waterford city bypass.

Completion of these projects will eliminate many of the major bottlenecks on these routes. Good progress has been made also on upgrading routes other than the major inter-urban routes. Major projects completed in recent years include bypasses of Rathnew-Ashford, Ballincollig and Youghal. Projects under way or due to start in 2005 include Ennis bypass, Sligo inner relief road, Monaghan bypass, Mullingar bypass and the N55 Cavan bypass.

In addition, it is expected that compulsory purchase orders and environmental impact statements for the remaining projects in planning on these routes will either be approved by, or be before, An Bord Pleanála by early 2005.

In relation to the national roads programme overall, it should be noted that since 2000 a total of 47 projects, nearly 330 km, have been completed. Work is in progress on 20 projects, almost 200 km, and another eight projects, 140 km, are at tender stage with a further 12 projects, 167 km, through the statutory approval process.

The first round of approved projects was completed on time and within grant allocation. Projects selected for grant-aid under the second round have recently been approved and will be announced shortly.

It will be clear from the capital investment framework and the budget commitment to a ten year transport capital programme that the Government is fully committed to maintaining investment at high level and to the transformation of our transport networks.

Question No. 119 answered with QuestionNo. 102.
Question No. 120 answered with QuestionNo. 104.

Regional Airports.

Richard Bruton

Question:

121 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the future funding of regional airports after the conclusion of the current round of funding under the national development plan in 2006; his views on a system of rolling investment by the State in such airports post-2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4740/05]

The primary objective of the regional airports measure of the NDP is to provide the airports with financial assistance towards essential infrastructure projects to facilitate continued safe and viable operations. The final round of allocations for the regional airports under the NDP will be announced shortly. The question of providing further funding allocations, following the completion of the NDP will focus on any additional safety and security requirements arising at each of the airports in due course. I envisage that my Department's forthcoming investment plan will address the broad policy framework for regional airport investment over its ten year time span.

Question No. 122 answered with QuestionNo. 114.

Public Transport.

John Gormley

Question:

123 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport the estimated length of new quality bus corridors due to come into operation in Dublin in 2005; the number of new buses that will be added to the Dublin Bus fleet; his views on whether Dublin Bus has a sufficiently large fleet to be able to provide the frequency of bus services for these routes to be characterised as quality bus corridors. [4812/05]

A key element in improving bus performance has been the provision of quality bus corridors. So far, there are nine QBCs in operation in the Dublin area — Malahide, Lucan, Stillorgan, Finglas, north Clondalkin, Rathfarnham, Tallaght, Swords and Blanchardstown. It is proposed to complete a number of projects in the course of 2005, accounting for a total of about 40 km in length. However, the sections of new QBCs that will be completed in 2005 depend on the outcome of public consultation and tendering processes.

I have allocated €40 million to the traffic management grants scheme for 2005. The QBCs account for a significant proportion of the funding under this scheme, which is administered by the Dublin Transportation Office. The specific amount to be allocated for QBC projects has not yet been finalised by the DTO steering committee. Therefore, these projects are also dependent on funding being provided.

The capacity of Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann has been significantly expanded, particularly at peak times, with capacity increased by almost 25% in recent years. I understand the management of Dublin Bus is currently examining ways of maximising utilisation of the existing bus fleet in light of the significant investment made to date under the national development plan, including investment in other modes and the ongoing changes in demand patterns for Dublin. In this context, it would be premature to make any decisions on further investment in additional capacity.

Road Network.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

124 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport the role his Department will have with regard to the possible construction of a new outer orbital motorway for Dublin. [4810/05]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the concept of a Dublin outer orbital route. Both the strategic planning guidelines for the greater Dublin area 1999 and the DTO's, Platform for Change 2000, identified a possible need for a Dublin outer orbital route linking Drogheda-Navan-Naas. More recently the regional planning guidelines, RPG, for the greater Dublin area 2004 also provide for the development of such a route in the medium to longer term on the basis that these centres would be strengthened by the provision of good links between them without having to pass through the Dublin city area. A 2001 strategic study commissioned by the NRA of a Dublin outer orbital route concluded that such a route had significant merit and is feasible on engineering and environmental grounds. As a high level strategic study of the concept, the 2001 report, apart from identifying a possible corridor for an outer orbital, did not consider route options, appropriate road type and costs. Detailed consideration of these and other issues including spatial planning, land use and environmental issues and the appropriate type and class of road to be provided will be the subject of further studies.

I have asked the NRA to carry out these further studies and to consider the proposed route as part of future road infrastructure development plans taking account of the national spatial strategy, the regional planning guidelines and the planning and traffic implications of such a route for the greater Dublin region and neighbouring regions. The proposal will also be considered in the context of the ten year transport investment framework presently being prepared within my Department.

Toll Charges.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

125 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the outcome of his request to a company (details supplied) to review its plan to introduce a 20% hike in toll charges at the West-Link Bridge on the M50; the details of the request he made to this company; his views on the 20% increase that was granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4779/05]

I made no request to National Toll Roads to review its decision to increase toll charges at the West Link Bridge. The West-Link toll agreement, approved in principle by Government in October 1984 and concluded in October 1987, provides that the tolls can be increased in line with inflation. The maximum toll that can be charged at West-Link is updated each year by reference to the consumer price index. More specifically, the maximum toll from 1 January of any year is calculated as the aggregate of: the base tolls, as set out in the toll scheme by-laws, multiplied by the consumer price index for August of the preceding year divided by the opening index, as set out in the by-laws, and VAT at the prevailing rate on the amount derived pursuant to subparagraph (a) and the resulting amount is rounded to the nearest 10 cent.

This is the mechanism followed to determine annual maximum toll charges. Subject to the tolls being within this maximum limit the setting of tolls is a matter for NTR. It is open to NTR to apply lower toll charges should it so decide for commercial, or other reasons, as has been done by the company in the case of heavy goods vehicles.

Regional Airports.

Enda Kenny

Question:

126 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport his position in relation to a request from the management of Knock International Airport for an increased level of State investment to facilitate its expansion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4748/05]

The programme for Government provides for the continued support of the six regional airports including Knock Airport and my Department provides a range of financial mechanisms in support of this objective. Knock Airport benefits considerably through a range of direct and indirect support mechanisms, namely, capital grant assistance towards essential infrastructural improvements under the BMW regional operational programme of the NDP, the allocation of assistance towards marketing, safety and security related expenditure incurred by the airport and scheduled flights supported by the PSO programme.

Under the NDP capital measure, my Department has provided €2.337 million in grant-aid towards essential infrastructural improvements at the airport since December 2001. The primary purpose of the NDP measure is to provide grant assistance to facilitate the continued safe and viable operations at the airport. As to the recent expansion plans submitted by the airport company, those proposals have been evaluated in the light of the existing approach to grant assistance to regional airports. I will shortly announce the next round of capital grant allocations under the scheme.

In recognition of the role that the airport can play in stimulating more balanced economic development for the north-west, my Department will continue to assist Knock Airport as it develops into the future. However, any capital expenditure allocation of Exchequer funding to Knock and the other regional airports will be in line with the existing policy of prioritising those projects that are required for safety and security reasons.

Light Rail Project.

Damien English

Question:

127 Mr. English asked the Minister for Transport his views on the reported possible conflict of interest in awarding contracts for the introduction of smart cards on Luas, as highlighted recently in the media; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4743/05]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the procurement process for the substantive contract for integrated ticketing. A 2002 ministerial order gave the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, statutory responsibility for the delivery of integrated ticketing. Procurement procedures and processes used in the delivery of integrated ticketing are matters for the RPA. The RPA has advised my Department that its procurement process is fully compliant with EU procurement directives.

In accordance with best practice, the RPA has appointed an external and independent procurement process auditor who reviews all aspects of this procurement. My Department has been informed that the independent process auditor, appointed by the RPA chief executive, has expressed the view that appropriate procedures are in place to deal with matters, such as the reported possible conflict of interest. The RPA has informed my Department that such procedures are being followed.

Driving Tests.

Jack Wall

Question:

128 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport the reason the new technical requirements of the driving test with regard to knowing the way in which ten parts of a vehicle are checked and serviced were introduced; if he plans to introduce further technical requirements to the driving test; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4770/05]

The technical checks, which form part of the driving test with effect from 14 February 2005, are being introduced to meet our obligations under EU Directive 2000/56/EC on driver licensing. The technical checks involve candidates being asked to explain how she-he might carry out three out of a number of checks on the vehicle. If, for example, a person is asked to show how oil levels should be checked, it will be necessary to open the bonnet, point to the oil dipstick and explain how oil levels should be checked. A test candidate will not have to actually carry out the procedure.

Additional technical checks relating principally to trucks and buses will be introduced when suitable off-road compounds become available at selected test centres around the country. The Office of Public Works in consultation with my Department is in the process of providing such compounds. However, although the test is kept under review, no further checks are planned for the ordinary — category B — car test at this stage.

Public Transport.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

129 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport the reason CIE was recently granted a fare increase of 5% effective from the start of 2005, and not the 8% rise sought by the company; his views on whether the annual public subvention received by CIE is insufficient to meet the company’s costs, necessitating it to seek this annual fare increase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4786/05]

Last year CIE applied for a fares increase for 2005 for each of the operating companies averaging 8%. Following a detailed examination of the application and the financial position of each of the companies, I agreed to a fare increase which would yield a 3.5% increase in revenue to CIE. This in effect meant that most Bus Átha Cliath fares increased by 5 cent or 10 cent and a range of increases applied across the board in Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann fares depending on journey distance.

The annual subvention to the CIE companies is paid in respect of the provision of socially necessary but non-commercial transport services. The subvention has been increased annually by 5% since 2001. I am satisfied that the increase in fares yield, together with the 5% increase in subvention and cost improvement measures being undertaken by the companies are adequate to enable CIE to maintain the financial stability of the group.

Road Network.

Billy Timmins

Question:

130 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport the input he has into the selection of national roads or proposed new national roads for funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4772/05]

The national development plan, NDP, and the national spatial strategy, NSS, provide the strategic framework for the national roads development programme and together with the Economic and Social Infrastructure Operational Programme, ESIOP, sets out the overall development strategy and main priorities to be pursued. The detailed programming of the work involved and the allocation of funding to individual projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA.

Parking Regulations.

John Perry

Question:

131 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport the progress made in introducing a new regulatory provision to allow for an increase in the fine for wrongly parking in a parking spot for the disabled; when this regulation will come into effect; the level this fine will be set at; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4758/05]

The offence of illegally parking in a disabled persons' parking bay currently comes within the scope of the on-the-spot fines system. The amount of the on-the-spot fine applicable to this offence is €19, which is the level that applies to the majority of parking offences. Where a person does not pay the on-the-spot fine and is subsequently convicted in court of the said offence he or she is liable to a fine not exceeding €800 for a first offence. The maximum fine for a second or subsequent offence is €1,500 and in the case of a third or subsequent offence committed within a 12 month period €1,500 and-or a prison sentence of up to three months.

The Road Traffic Act 2002 provides for the replacement of the current on-the-spot fines system by a fixed charge system. The new system already applies to the offences of exceeding a speed limit and non-compliance with seat belt regulations. The original amount of the fixed charge will automatically increase by 50% where payment is not made within 28 days of the date of the original notice.

Regulations to provide for the roll-out of the fixed charge system to the majority of traffic and parking offences, including the offence of parking in a disabled persons' parking bay, are currently being prepared by the Department of Transport in consultation with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Síochána.

I indicated in the Dáil during the passage of the Road Traffic Bill before Christmas that I intend that the level of fixed charge for the offence of illegally parking in a disabled persons' parking bay will be pitched at a level that will be significantly higher than the fixed charge for other parking offences. The operation of the fixed charge system is dependent on the development of a new computerised processing system for the Garda. I understand that it is expected to have the new system available during the second quarter of 2005. Regulations to support the extension of the fixed charge system to a range of offences, including the offence of illegally parking in a disabled persons' parking bay will be put in place.

Question No. 132 answered with QuestionNo. 95.

Toll Charges.

Joe Costello

Question:

133 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport the breakdown of the State subsidies of €6.4 million given to National Toll Roads during the period 2002-03; the purpose of these subsidies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4781/05]

The licence fee, also described as the State's share of the gross toll revenues, payable by NTR to the State under the terms of the West-Link Bridge toll agreement was reduced by €2.902 million in respect of 2002 and €3.529 million in respect of 2003. The total licence fee paid to the State in respect of 2002 and 2003 toll revenues was €7.585 million and €8.044 million, respectively.

The licence fee was reduced, as part of the agreement between the NRA and NTR in relation to the construction of the second West-Link Bridge, in order to moderate and phase toll increases, attributable to the cost of the second bridge and the imposition of VAT from September 2001.

Road Network.

Enda Kenny

Question:

134 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied with the situation whereby only 54.6% of the main inter-urban routes will be completed by the end of the national development plan; if he remains confident that the major inter-urban routes designated for priority will be completed by 2010; if so the measures he intends to pursue to fast-track road construction of these major inter-urban routes to enable them to be completed by 2010 as proposed by the NRA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4749/05]

Work is complete or under way on about 45% of the major inter-urban road routes at present, that is, the routes serving Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Dundalk. Work is due to get under way on the final section, Dundalk-Border, of the M1 and on phase 1 of the Kinnegad-Athlone section of the N6 this year.

Investment in these routes to date has targeted the removal of major bottlenecks such as those at Kildare, Monasterevin, Cashel, Watergrasshill, Limerick, Kilcock-Enfield, Drogheda, etc. Full completion of these routes to motorway-dual carriageway standard will extend to 2010 but in the meantime the major traffic bottlenecks will have been eliminated. The publication of CPOs and EISs, for the remaining sections of these routes will be completed this year. The capital investment framework combined with private sector funding through PPPs provides for the necessary funding over the period 2005-09.

Upgrading of the national roads network is not limited to the major inter-urban routes. Major improvements have been completed, are underway or are well advanced in planning on other routes throughout the country, including such major projects as by-passes of Ennis, Ballincollig and Ashford-Rathnew and Sligo inner relief road.

Vehicle Height Restrictions.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

135 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport if a decision on the maximum height limit for vehicles will be made; the number of submissions his Department has received in this regard; the reason a maximum height restriction must be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4798/05]

The question of whether to impose a specific maximum height standard for vehicles is being considered by my Department at present. In December 2004 I initiated a wide consultation process on the matter with the publication of a discussion document and an invitation to interested parties to make submissions. As outlined in the discussion document, a range of factors of national importance such as business competitiveness, rail safety, environmental and quality of life issues, protection of existing infrastructure, and the need for certainty in planning for future infrastructure investment, will influence the decision.

By the closing date of 28 January, 41 responses to the discussion document had been received in my Department. I will now carefully consider these responses and all the factors mentioned before I make a decision in this matter.

Road Safety.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

136 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the measures he intends introducing to try to prevent the continued incidence of fatal accidents between cyclists and heavy goods vehicles. [4805/05]

A disproportionate number of cyclists' fatalities are through collisions with heavy goods vehicles. Developments at EU level will result in new heavy goods vehicles, HGVs, having to comply with higher standards in relation to the fields of vision of drivers. In November 2003, the EU adopted Directive 2003/97/EC, which provides for an extension of the field of vision to address the issue of blind spots. The directive harmonises the rules relating to the type-approval of devices for indirect vision, including mirrors and camera-monitors, on motor vehicles and of vehicles equipped with these devices. These enhanced requirements should lead to a reduction in fatalities and serious injuries involving pedestrians and cyclists due to the driver's inadequate field of vision. The directive requires all new HGVs entering into service from 26 January 2007 to meet the revised standards for field of vision set in the directive.

The Irish Road Haulage Association, IRHA, has a strong commitment to the improvement of road safety and has taken a number of initiatives in recent times to improve safety awareness with regard to the more vulnerable road user such as cyclists and school children.

On a more general basis, the National Safety Council has been mandated with responsibility for road safety advertising and education. The council has developed safe cycling leaflets to promote the use of reflective clothing and safe cycling practices. The council also issues road safety advice through the media on a regular basis and generally refers to the vulnerability of cyclists in order to make both cyclists and drivers aware of the importance of road safety.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

137 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport the number of schools engaged in safe routes to schools programmes; and the budget for these projects in 2005. [4809/05]

In 2000, an interdepartmental working group, chaired by the Dublin Transportation Office, DTO, was formed consisting of representatives from the Departments of Health and Children, Education and Science and Environment, Heritage and Local Government, National Parents Council, public transport operators and local authorities in order to initiate some pilot safer routes to school schemes in the greater Dublin area. The DTO carried out a review of the pilot programme in 2004 and I am currently awaiting recommendations from the DTO based on the results achieved.

There were initially six schools involved in this pilot programme. Four continue to be actively engaged in the programme. There are a number of other schools engaged in independent schemes, both inside and outside the greater Dublin area.

I am aware that the DTO has received some applications for funding for school safety measures, which are being considered in the context of the overall budget for the traffic management grants scheme administered by the DTO. The steering committee of the DTO is currently finalising the 2005 allocations from this scheme. Whether funding is made available in 2005 for safer routes to schools initiatives is a matter for the DTO steering committee.

EU Regulations.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

138 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Transport when the new EU regulation to replace the existing drivers hours rules, as set out in regulation 3820/85, will be finally adopted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4494/05]

At the Transport Council in Brussels on 9 December last, the council formally adopted its common position on the Commission proposal to replace the existing drivers' hours rules.

The next stage in the process is that the European Parliament will consider the common position in its second reading of the proposal. This stage is expected to be completed in April after which a further three months is provided for the council to consider the Parliament's second reading. If the council is able to accept the Parliament's second reading, the proposal could be finally adopted in July 2005.

However, if the council is unable to accept the Parliament's second reading, then the conciliation procedure may be invoked with a view to finding a compromise. In that event, the procedure leading to final adoption, assuming an agreement can be reached between the council and Parliament, could take until the end of 2005 to complete.

Light Rail Project.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

139 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the progress which has been made to date on the proposals to link up the two existing Luas lines in Dublin’s city centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4737/05]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

168 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport if he is considering any new proposals to extend the two Luas lines in Dublin; if he is considering any new east-west link; the situation with regard to extending the Luas to the IFSC; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4792/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139 and 168 together.

The Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, is currently developing proposals for extensions of the Luas to the docklands and Cherrywood. This work includes consultation, design and route planning. A particular feature of the work concerns the issue of private sector funding captured through levies, provided for under planning legislation, from developers who own land along a proposed route. My Department is awaiting business plans from the RPA in order to assist in its evaluation of both Luas extensions.

The RPA has also received and considered a preliminary analysis of the feasibility and cost of linking both lines in the city centre and a more detailed proposal is now being prepared for consideration by the RPA board before its submission to my Department.

Transport Projects.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

140 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Transport if, in the context of the national development plan review, the access to Donegal by road, rail and air will be comprehensively reviewed on the criteria of its geographical location next to the fourth largest city on the island which is Derry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4490/05]

The north-west region is served by two airports, Donegal Regional Airport and City of Derry Airport. The Government has a long-standing policy of assisting City of Derry Airport on the basis that the natural catchment area of the airport includes east Donegal. My Department will continue to support both airports, and air access to the region in general, in keeping with commitments made in the programme for Government.

The Government recently approved specifications for the next round of contracts under the PSO air services programme. Twice daily return air services on routes linking Dublin with both Donegal and Derry will continue to be subsidised by my Department under the new arrangements.

Since 2001, Donegal Airport has received almost €1 million in capital grants under the BMW regional operational programme and a further allocation will be announced shortly. Derry City Council submitted proposals for the development of City of Derry Airport last year to my Department, and to the relevant authorities in Northern Ireland which, of course, have the lead responsibility in this area. A report on all aspects of the proposed development, including the extent of works required to make the airport fully operational and compliant with safety requirements is being considered by my Department in the light of consultation with the relevant authorities in Northern Ireland.

While the matter of the provision of bus services in Donegal is for Bus Éireann and other private licensed operators to consider on the basis of their assessment of demand, significant improvements can be reported. Stranorlar Bus Éireann building was upgraded in 2003, and the upgrade of Letterkenny bus station is now completed. There is increased service frequency on the Letterkenny-Dublin route and on the Donegal-Enniskillen-Dublin route and this month a new service via Dublin Airport was introduced in cooperation with Translink, with ten departures daily serving the airport on the Letterkenny-Derry-Dublin route. Irish Rail and Translink offer the facility to travel by rail from Dublin to Derry, changing at Belfast. I understand that Irish Rail and Translink, the operator of the Northern Ireland railway network, are working to improve journey times by rail.

The planning, design and implementation of national roads improvement projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA, and the relevant local authorities concerned, in this case Donegal County Council. Major investment in roads in County Donegal includes the completion of the N56 Mountcharles bypass, N15 Donegal bypass, N15 Clar Barnesmore, N13 Bridgend-Northern Ireland Border and the construction of the N15 Bundoran-Ballyshannon bypass, and there are additional major projects in progress and in planning, including the new cross-Border link between the A5 and N15 at Strabane-Lifford. This proposed project will involve the design of a major new bridge over the River Finn and up to 10 km of road linking the strategic N14, N15 and A5 routes. The preliminary design will be completed by mid to late 2005.

State Airports.

Mary Upton

Question:

141 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the proposals from the Irish Aviation Authority to close air traffic control towers at Shannon and Cork Airports from midnight until 6 a.m.; the number of jobs that would be lost were these proposals to be implemented; when a decision on this issue will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4768/05]

The Irish Aviation Authority has statutory responsibility for regulating the technical and safety aspects of civil aviation and for the provision of air traffic services. In 2004 the Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, engaged independent consultants to carry out a strategic review of its operations in the areas of air traffic control and management systems covering the years 2005 to 2010. The review was conducted jointly by international consultants, Airways Corporation of New Zealand and Sofravia, a French company. It was prompted by a number of significant developments and considerations in the air traffic area, including likely changes arising from the implementation of the European Union's single sky proposals, the acquisition by the IAA of an additional block of airspace off the north-west coast to be controlled from Shannon and the completion of a major €115 million investment programme in new air traffic management systems and equipment. This investment included the construction and equipping of new air traffic control centres in Dublin and Shannon.

The consultants' report was presented to the board of the authority on 28 January 2005. Later that day the report, in full, was presented to the IAA management and to the IAA trade unions. Copies of the report were also forwarded to my Department. Since 28 January the IAA has engaged in a major consultation and communications exercise with its staff. I understand that, following this consultation with unions and staff and consideration by management over coming weeks, a plan of action will then be presented to the board for decision.

The IAA has indicated that the consultants' report is very positive, that there is no question of compulsory redundancies or compulsory transfers and, where there are implications for stakeholders, these implications will be discussed before implementation. The IAA has also indicated that any changes will be designed to deliver greater efficiencies in the provision of services while at the same time maintaining the highest level of safety.

My Department will discuss the report with IAA senior management shortly as part of ongoing business review meetings.

Road Safety.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

142 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to new figures from research carried out by a company (details supplied) that fewer than half of motorists are now driving more carefully as a result of the penalty points system; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that the absence of any high visible Garda fear-factor enforcement, random breath testing and a proper network of speed cameras means drivers believe they will not be caught for road traffic offences; his plans to address this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4784/05]

I am not aware of the research to which the Deputy refers. The effectiveness of the penalty points system can be judged primarily on the basis of the contribution it has made to road safety since its introduction. In the first two years since the introduction of the system in October 2002, the number of deaths as a result of road collisions fell by 116 by comparison to the previous two years. The number of road deaths unfortunately increased in 2004 compared to 2003 when we experienced the lowest levels in 40 years. It should be borne in mind, however, that the number of road deaths in 2004 is the third lowest level of road deaths since 1998, the first full year of the road safety strategy.

Penalty points now operate in respect of speeding, seat-belt wearing, driving without insurance and careless driving. Since the introduction of the system over 209,000 drivers have incurred penalty points. In overall terms the introduction of penalty points has had a very positive effect on road safety and I am confident that the full roll-out of the system will further enhance that effect.

The intended effect of the penalty points system is to instil greater caution and responsibility in motorists in relation to their driving and to change the driving behaviour of those who repeatedly commit road traffic offences. Indications from the Garda are that, with no reduction in enforcement levels, there has been a significant reduction in speeding detections since the introduction of the penalty point system.

The new road safety strategy 2004-06 outlines a range of issues that it is intended will be pursued over the period in question. In overall terms, measures will focus on the areas of education, enforcement, engineering and legislation and will target the key areas of speeding, driving while intoxicated and seat-belt wearing. The strategy recommends the introduction of random breath testing and a network of privately operated speed cameras. Enforcement of road traffic legislation is a matter for the Garda Síochána, and in this context, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform recently announced plans to create a dedicated traffic corps over the next three years.

Private Sector Funding.

Liz McManus

Question:

143 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Transport if the Government has made a decision with regard to allowing Aer Lingus to access private sector funding; when a decision on this matter is likely to be made; if discussions on this issue have been held with Aer Lingus unions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4802/05]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

169 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to efforts by Aer Lingus unions to raise their shareholding in the national airline; his views on such a move; the way in which this will affect plans to privatise or sell off any part of the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4761/05]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

170 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport if he is still considering the privatisation of Aer Lingus some time in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4803/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

357 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the position in regard to the future of Aer Lingus; the discussions that have taken place with management or workforce; if any conclusions have been reached; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5064/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 143, 169, 170 and 357 together.

I dealt in detail with the future ownership of Aer Lingus in response to a priority question on the matter.

On staff shareholding in Aer Lingus, following the allocation of employee share ownership plan, ESOP, shares last August, the staff currently hold 14.9% of the company. In accordance with the terms of the ESOP agreement and in line with Government policy, for so long as the State holds any shares in Aer Lingus, the maximum shareholding which the ESOT and staff can hold is 14.9% of the entire issued share capital of the company. I have no proposals to change this agreement.

Public Transport.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

144 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the function which will be served by the new Dublin Bus depot at Harristown, which is nearing completion in view of the failure of this Government to fund the purchase of any additional buses for Dublin Bus, since 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4751/05]

I wish to advise the Deputy that Dublin Bus began to transfer buses to Harristown in October 2004 and the depot will be officially opened shortly. Harristown has capacity for 240 buses and the depot will cater for 199 buses immediately. The new garage is required because the Dublin Bus fleet of buses grew from approximately 900 buses in 1997 to 1,062 buses in 2004. Harristown now enables the company to house all its fleet within the confines of their depots.

With regard to a further expansion in the Dublin Bus fleet, I understand the management of the company is currently examining ways of maximising the utilisation of the existing bus fleet in light of the significant investment made to date under the national development plan, including investment in other modes and the ongoing changes in demand patterns for Dublin. In this context, it would be premature to make any decisions on further investment in additional capacity.

Road Network.

Billy Timmins

Question:

145 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport the amount of funding he has allocated to the NRA for national roads for 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4771/05]

The Exchequer provision for 2005 for national road improvement and maintenance, including a carryover of €42 million from 2004 is €1.415 billion, an increase of 15% on the 2004 outturn. This allows for good progress to be maintained on the national roads programme and will fund 20 major projects, nearly 200 km, in construction, including Kinnegad-Enfield on the N4, Dundalk western bypass, Sligo inner relief road, Fermoy bypass and so on. Many of these, including the south eastern motorway and Loughrea bypass, are scheduled for completion this year and early in 2006. It will also fund the commencement of a further 19 projects, over 200 km, including major projects on N6, phase 1 of Kinnegad-Athlone, N4, Edgeworthstown bypass, and N5, Charlestown bypass.

Transport Projects.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

146 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to a recent report on transport here in 2050 proposing a sub-sea tunnel between County Wexford and Pembroke in Wales and a second Dublin Port at Loughshinny in County Dublin; his views on whether either of these projects is viable and necessary; the action he plans to take on the proposals contained in this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4800/05]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the report, A Vision of Transport in Ireland in 2050, published in September 2004 by the Irish Academy of Engineering. The report outlines a vision of transport in Ireland in 2050 and while the report is not a transport plan or a set of transport proposals it is a useful input to the longer-term transport planning process. The concepts and ideas contained in the report, including those referred to by the Deputy, have not to date been studied or evaluated. Issues in relation to Dublin Port are matters for my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

Ministerial Appointments.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

147 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport the names, functions and salaries received by special advisers appointed to work with him since he took up his role in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4799/05]

Following my appointment to the Department of Transport, I have appointed Colin Hunt as a special adviser in accordance with section 11 of the Public Service Management Act 1997. Mr. Hunt's contract was laid before the Houses on 10 January 2005.

Road Safety.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

148 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport if he plans to conduct a review of speed limits for large vehicles following the recent spate of deaths in lorry accidents; the reason larger vehicles were excluded from the speed limit changes introduced under the conversion to the metric system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4763/05]

The Road Traffic (Ordinary Speed Limits — Certain Vehicles) Regulations 2005, SI 9 of 2005, made by me on 12 January 2005 prescribe maximum speed limits for certain classes of vehicles from 20 January 2005. The speed limit of 80 km/h limit has been prescribed for vehicles that have accommodation for more than eight passengers, for goods vehicles having a design gross weight in excess of 3,500 kg. and for any vehicle towing a trailer, caravan, horse box, etc. A speed limit of 65 km/h has been prescribed for double deck passenger vehicles.

In setting the new metric speed limits for these classes of vehicles I made no change to the speed limit policy that had applied since 1992 other than converting the previous maximum limits to the nearest equivalent metric value.

I made it clear, however, when I announced the vehicle speed limits concerned on 17 January last that I intend to revisit the matter of maximum speed limits for classes of vehicles later in the year. This will be done in consultation with the relevant interest groups.

National Car Test.

Joan Burton

Question:

149 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport the details of the review of the national car testing service; when the review will commence; the length of time he expects it to last; the level of public consultation that will take place; the main issues in the review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4778/05]

I expect to settle the detailed terms of reference for the mid term review of the national car testing service shortly. The review will cover all aspects of the service, including customer service and the nature and scope of the test. An extensive public consultation process will support the review and will include an invitation to all interested parties to make written submissions, a comprehensive customer survey and a number of regional meetings to which the public will be given ready access. It is my intention that the review will be completed by the end of June next.

Question No. 150 answered with QuestionNo. 100.

Traffic Management.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

151 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport if Bus Éireann vehicles have been given permission to drive on the hard shoulder of some main roads; if the quality of the road surface on these lanes is sufficient; the speeds at which buses will be travelling past slow moving traffic on main lanes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4797/05]

Pat Breen

Question:

158 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport if proposals are being examined in relation to allowing bus operators to use hard shoulders; the extent to which such proposals are developed; the specific road route ways on which such hard shoulders may be used, in entering Dublin city; when he anticipates a decision on this issue will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4745/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 151 and 158 together.

Proposals are being pursued in my Department to ensure that measures are taken to improve public transport flows and to reduce congestion. The objective of providing bus priority measures is to assist bus operators in meeting their schedules thereby assisting in the achievement of modal shift from the private car to public transport.

My officials are engaged in discussions with the Dublin Transportation Office, the quality bus network office of Dublin City Council and the National Roads Authority to progress how the hard shoulder area could be safely used at congestion hot spot locations on national roads, including those linking Dublin and satellite towns.

Local authorities are responsible for traffic management in their areas and the progression of bus priority measures involves a sequence of steps such as the identification of congestion pinch points, the carrying out of an engineering inspection of the road at those locations to ascertain the structural carrying capacity of the hard shoulder area and the execution of any strengthening or improvement works necessary. At planning stage, a public consultation process is undertaken in relation to the preliminary design for the bus priority project.

Pilots of this bus priority initiative are being developed at present at a number of locations, including the northbound and southbound approaches to Dunshaughlin and at Bracetown between Dunshaughlin and Clonee in County Meath and at various locations on the Naas Road in South Dublin County Council. The operation of the pilot measures will be monitored with a view to having similar measures followed at other suitable locations throughout the country.

My Department is at present directly engaged in two issues that are relevant to this initiative. In the first instance, it is engaged in consultations with the National Roads Authority and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in the development of special new traffic signs for the purpose of informing road users of the provision of bus lanes in hard shoulders. In addition, guidelines in relation to the deployment of special speed limits are being developed at present. The preparation of the guidelines is one of a number of initiatives contained in the Road Traffic Act 2004 which I brought into operation on 20 January 2005. The Act introduces a more flexible policy for the application of speed limits generally, including the flexibility to apply separate lanes, which may be appropriate at some locations where bus lanes are provided on hard shoulders.

Where a bus lane is provided on a hard shoulder area it is a matter for the council of the city or county council concerned to decide if special speed limits arrangements are warranted.

Road Safety.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

152 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport his views on the success of Operation Lifesaver for the Christmas and new year period; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the number of road deaths recorded during this period is back to the level attained before the introduction of penalty points; if he has new initiatives in this regard for 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4762/05]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

167 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on the success of the Government’s road safety strategy in view of figures showing that road deaths rose in 2004 for the first time in a number of years; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Ireland has moved above the international best practice level with regard to the average monthly number of road deaths; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4796/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 152 and 167 together.

The Government strongly pursued the implementation of its first strategy for road safety 1998-2002. The strategy prioritised a systematic and co-ordinated set of measures for preventing and reducing road accidents.

By the end of the period of the first strategy almost all the measures set out were either fully or partially implemented. During the intervening period between the completion of the first strategy and the introduction of the new strategy, my Department and all the agencies concerned with the implementation of road safety measures ensured that the successful measures brought forward under the road to safety continued to be implemented.

The primary target of the first road safety strategy was to achieve a 20% reduction in road deaths and serious injuries, by the end of 2002 compared with 1997 levels. This target was achieved in the case of road deaths and was surpassed in the case of serious injuries.

Unfortunately, the number of road deaths in 2004 increased compared to the previous year, when we experienced the lowest number of road deaths in 40 years. The increase experienced in 2004 is a cause for concern. However, this should be considered against the background of significant reductions in road deaths in recent years. It should be noted that the number of road deaths in 2004 is the third lowest figure since 1998, the first full year of the road safety strategy.

The new road safety strategy 2004-06 outlines a range of issues that it is intended will be pursued over that period. In overall terms, measures will continue to focus on the areas of education, enforcement, engineering and legislation and will target the key areas of speeding, driving while intoxicated and sea-belt wearing.

The primary target of the new Government strategy on road safety is to realise a 25% reduction in road collision fatalities by the end of 2006 over the average annual number of fatalities in the 1998 to 2003 period. Achievement of the target will result in no more than 300 deaths per annum by the end of the period of the strategy. This is a very demanding target and its realisation would be a very welcome achievement. My Department, the other Departments and agencies involved in the pursuit of road safety policies will continue to positively promote initiatives aimed at meeting that target. I take particular encouragement in the recent announcement by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform of the establishment of the traffic corps and the enhancement of enforcement resources this will achieve.

The overall aim of our road safety policy is to bring our record more into line with experience in the better performing states in the EU and meeting the target established in the road safety strategy will also assist in the achievement of the longer term EU target of a 50% reduction in road deaths across the EU by 2010.

The enforcement of road traffic legislation, including the implementation of Operation Lifesaver is a matter for the Garda Síochána. The number of road deaths increased over the Christmas and new year period in 2004 compared with 2003 and 2002, when a sharp reduction was experienced immediately after the introduction of penalty points. However, the number of deaths experienced during that period has not reached levels which were regularly experienced before the introduction of penalty points. Between 1998 and 2001, the average number of road deaths in November and December was 36 per month. Since the introduction of the penalty point system, the average number of deaths during those months was 27.

Comparisons with the best performing countries in the EU can be made by examining the number of road deaths per 1,000,000 population for 2002, the most recent year for which comparisons are available. The road fatality rate in Ireland in 2002 was 96 per 1 million population, which placed Ireland in seventh place in the European Union, of the 15 member states. The best performing countries are the United Kingdom, Sweden and the Netherlands. The fatality rate in the UK, Sweden, and the Netherlands is 61, 60 and 61 fatalities per 1,000,000 population, respectively.

Question No. 153 answered with QuestionNo. 117.
Question No. 154 answered with QuestionNo. 100.
Question No. 155 answered with QuestionNo. 104.

Dan Boyle

Question:

156 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Transport his views on the concerns of local people in Louth over the fact that an area, which has been designated a high accident location by the National Roads Authority between the Dundalk by-pass and the Border, has a speed limit of 100 km/h; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4807/05]

Dan Boyle

Question:

162 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Transport the extent of consultation between local authorities and the NRA on the designation of speed limits in high accident locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4806/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 156 and 162.

The Road Traffic Act 2004 establishes that the default speed limit on national roads in rural areas is 100 km/h. This provision came into force on 20 January 2005.

It is a matter for each county or city council to determine whether the default speed limit at any particular location should be replaced through the deployment of a special speed limit. Such determinations are made through the making of special speed limit by-laws by the elected members of the council. Such by-laws are made following consultation with the Garda Síochána and urban authorities in a county and, in respect of proposals relating to national roads and motorways, the consent, in writing, of the National Roads Authority must be obtained to any changes proposed.

Question No. 157 answered with QuestionNo. 95.
Question No. 158 answered with QuestionNo. 151.

Road Network.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

159 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport when he intends to introduce legislation which will allow for the use of electronic tolling; if it will be possible to convert all existing toll plazas to such an electronic system; and the contracts for new tolling arrangements which are being designed on the basis that they will be collected electronically. [4815/05]

Electronic toll collection is in use on existing toll plazas and will be used on all future toll schemes. Electronic toll collection does not require legislation for its use. However, the electronic toll collection systems in place use a barrier as the main enforcement tool. Toll operators do not consider the existing legislative arrangements robust enough to support a move to barrier free tolling. My Department is working on proposals for legislative amendments to strengthen the enforcement provisions relating to non-payment of tolls in a barrier free environment.

EU Directives.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

160 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the action he intends to take to control the emission of certain fluorinated greenhouse gases as proposed in Directive 70/156/EEC; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4081/05]

The proposed directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on emissions from air conditioning systems in motor vehicles and amending Council Directive 70/156/EEC is progressing through the Community's deliberative process. The directive will lay down the requirements for the EC type-approval of vehicles as regards emissions from, and the safe functioning of, air conditioning systems fitted to vehicles. The Commission intends that compliance with the directive will be mandatory in all member states. Ireland is fully supportive of the proposal. When adopted the directive will become one of the separate directives governing the technical standards for the manufacture, sale and initial entry of service of new vehicles. The directive will be transposed into Irish law by regulations made by the Minister for Transport. The effect of the regulations will be that new vehicles that do not comply with the directive may not be registered in Ireland.

Public Transport.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

161 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Transport the status of A Platform for Change; if he remains committed to its full implementation; the way in which, in view of the gross underdevelopment of public transport infrastructure in Dublin, the reported standing down of two project teams in the Railway Procurement Agency is consistent with such a commitment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4756/05]

The Dublin Transportation Office's report, A Platform for Change, provides the transport planning framework for the development of the transport system in the greater Dublin area up to 2016 and is being used by my Department to guide the preparation of a ten year transport investment framework. The Dublin Transportation Office has recently commenced preliminary work on updating A Platform for Change. I have asked my officials to ensure that the Dublin Transportation Office, in undertaking this work, focuses on a vision and strategy for Dublin's transport system beyond 2014, taking full account of those aspects of the ten year transport investment framework that are relevant to the greater Dublin area.

The Railway Procurement Agency has not stood down two of its project teams. However, its board decided in early 2004 that sufficient preliminary analysis had been done on the proposed metro and that it would be prudent to stand down technical, legal and financial advisors until a Government decision had been taken on the project.

Question No. 162 answered with QuestionNo. 156.

Taxi Hardship Panel.

Seán Crowe

Question:

163 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the amount from the taxi hardship fund which has been distributed; the maximum amount paid out; the number of persons who have applied; and the approximate timescale for applicants to be heard and receive their payments. [4652/05]

The taxi hardship payments scheme is based on the recommendations and parameters set out in the taxi hardship panel report, as approved by the Government. The report recommended 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 range from €3,000 to €15,000 depending on the category of hardship involved.

The taxi hardship payments scheme is administered by Area Development Management Limited on behalf of my Department. A total of 1,938 applications have been received by Area Development Management Limited under the scheme. Hardship payments totalling €16,349,000 have been approved in respect of 1,412 qualifying persons under the scheme up to 7 February 2005. The maximum payment in any individual case is €15,000 in accordance with the recommendations of the taxi hardship panel report. A total of 327 applicants did not qualify for a hardship payment and a further 101 application files have been closed where the applicant did not submit the requisite requested information or documentation to facilitate the consideration of his or her application.

Remaining applications with Area Development Management Limited will be dealt with in the coming weeks. All cases, with the possible exception of any appeals that may arise, will be considered by end March 2005. Sufficient funds have been made available to Area Development Management Limited to enable it to meet the cost of all qualifying applicants under the scheme.

Road Network.

Joan Burton

Question:

164 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport if he has had communication with the Comptroller and Auditor General regarding his preliminary review of the contract between the State and National Toll Roads plc to determine whether a full value for money examination is warranted; his views on whether the deal between the State and this company has been good for the State and the driving public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4777/05]

The Comptroller and Auditor General has informed my Department of his intention to commence a preliminary review of the West Link Bridge toll agreement with a view to determining whether a full value for money examination is warranted.

The original agreement was approved in principle by Government in October 1984 and concluded in October 1987. This was a time when the economic outlook was uncertain and funding for infrastructure development was limited. Against this background, the west link bridge agreement funded the provision, upgrading and maintenance of an important part of national transport infrastructure.

Traffic volumes have changed substantially since the agreement was concluded and the bridge opened to traffic. Traffic volumes and growth were substantially lower, both when the agreement was concluded and up to the mid-1990s, to what has transpired since the mid-1990s. These factors should be kept in mind in assessing the agreement today.

Question No. 165 answered with QuestionNo. 104.

Rail Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

166 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport the position with regard to the provision of a Dublin metro service; if any such proposals have been brought to Cabinet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4765/05]

The programme for Government contains a specific commitment to develop a metro rail service for Dublin with a link to Dublin Airport. The Railway Procurement Agency has submitted to my Department a detailed business case for a metro from Dublin city centre to Dublin Airport, while Iarnród Éireann submitted proposals last July for an integrated rail network in the greater Dublin area. These proposals include the electrification of the Kildare, northern and Maynooth lines, a DART service to the airport off the northern line and an interconnecting tunnel linking Heuston Station to the Docklands to enable greater integration of rail services.

I expect to put proposals to Government in the near future for a ten-year transport investment plan in the light of the announcement by the Minister for Finance in his Budget Statement of agreement in principle to a ten-year capital investment envelope for transport. This plan will set out a comprehensive investment strategy for the greater Dublin area within the policy framework established by the Dublin Transportation Office's report, A Platform for Change, and these proposals.

Question No. 167 answered with QuestionNo. 152.
Question No. 168 answered with QuestionNo. 139.
Questions Nos. 169 and 170 answered with Question No. 143.
Question No. 171 answered with QuestionNo. 95.

Grant Payments.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

172 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the funds and grants which are available from his Department, or agencies responsible thereto, to support initiatives to combat anti-social behaviour; the details of such funding, including the amounts expended in 2004 and the amount available in 2005. [4500/05]

There are no funds and grants available from this Department or its agencies to support initiatives to combat anti-social behaviour.

Departmental Expenditure.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

173 Mr. Durkan asked the Taoiseach further to the reply of 27 January 2005 in respect of the use of credit cards in his Department, the total expenditure involved and the various transactions covered by credit card payment during the period in question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4501/05]

Further to my reply on 1 February 2005, the following table details departmental expenditure by credit card since June 2002.

2004

101,730

2003

65,386

2002

31,623

Records indicate that a total of 809 official transactions were made in the period. Of these, 161 transactions, amounting to €54,597, related to travel expenses and 395 transactions, amounting to €78,722, related to official entertainment purposes. The other 253 transactions, amounting to €65,420, related to purchase of goods and services, such as subscriptions to journals, purchase of books, training courses and conference fees.

Tourism Revenue.

Phil Hogan

Question:

174 Mr. Hogan asked the Taoiseach the value of inward bound tourism to Ireland each year for the past five years [4559/05]

The latest Central Statistics Office figures on expenditure by overseas visitors relate to the period ending 30 September 2004.

Estimated number of overseas visits to Ireland and expenditure by overseas visitors to Ireland: 1999-2003.

Visits ’000

Expenditure €m

1999

6,068

2,280

2000

6,310

2,617

2001

5,990

2,893

2002

6,065

3,045

2003

6,369

3,198

Figures for the first nine months of 2004 show that there were 5,147,000 overseas visits to Ireland with an estimated expenditure of €2,555 million. This compares to 5,009,000 overseas visits in the first nine months of 2003 with an estimated expenditure of €2,542 million. Expenditure figures for the fourth quarter of 2004 will be published before the end of March.

Regulatory Reform.

Pat Breen

Question:

175 Mr. P. Breen asked the Taoiseach if he intends, as part of the better regulation process, to introduce legislation along the lines of the United Kingdom’s Regulatory Reform Act 2001 to enable provision to be made for the purpose of reforming all legislation that has the effect of imposing burdens affecting persons in the carrying out of any activity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4990/05]

In 2004, the Government published the White Paper, "Regulating Better", which commits to six principles of better regulation and outlines an action programme to implement these principles. As I stated in answer to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 10 to 15, inclusive, on 16 November 2004, a better regulation group of senior officials has been established to oversee implementation of the White Paper and to promote better quality regulation across the public service.

The White Paper does not provide for the enactment of legislation along the lines of the United Kingdom's Regulatory Reform Act. However, the White Paper sets out the actions that should be taken with respect to statute law reform and the burdens imposed by regulation. A key element is the Government's initiative to update pre-1922 legislation, which saw the publication last November of the Statute Law Revision Bill. This Bill provides for the repeal of 91 Acts dating from before the foundation of the State. These Acts will be removed as they have been identified as unnecessary. As well as the repeal of legislation, the White Paper provides for the greater use of statute law revision tools such as amendment of existing legislation, consolidation of existing legislation into one Act and restatement of legislation in a more modern form.

Under the 2002 Statute Law (Restatement) Act, four restatements have been certified to date by the Attorney General and laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. These include the Sale of Goods Acts, the Defence Acts, the Tourist Traffic Acts and the Succession Act. Several significant consolidation projects are also under way, including conveyancing, consumer legislation, companies legislation and liquor licensing legislation. These are several examples of the regulatory reform measures under way in the Civil Service. Collectively, the Government's activity in this area will help to improve the accessibility of the Statute Book, reduce the burden of transaction costs on citizens and businesses and improve the efficiency of the public service.

Health Services.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

176 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will seek additional funding for rape and sexual assault services, such as rape crisis centres and specialised sexual assault units which are usually located in hospitals, in view of the recent rise recorded in cases of rape and serious sexual assault; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4696/05]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

177 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number and location of rape crisis centres and specialised sexual assault units throughout Ireland; if she will consider the establishment of more rape crisis centres and specialised sexual assault units which are usually located in hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4699/05]

John McGuinness

Question:

188 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the level of funding allocated to rape crisis centres in each of the past five years; if funding has been increased relative to the expanded services now being offered and the increased number of persons availing of services; her policy in this area and the way in which she intends to deal with the funding deficit and general funding for the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4528/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 176, 177 and 188 together.

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for services to victims of abuse. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's primary, community and continuing care area to investigate some of the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputies.

In the past, my Department did not directly fund or co-ordinate health and personal social services to victims of abuse. Moneys were made available each year, formerly through the health boards, and now through the Health Service Executive, for the provision of services to women victims of violence. In recent years, funding has increased substantially; more than €12 million is now provided annually for the provision of such services. It is now a matter for the Health Service Executive to resource the provision of these services.

The national steering committee on violence against women recommended the need for additional sexual assault units should be examined by the Department of Health and Children. I have established a committee under the chairmanship of a senior official of the Department to consider the matter. The committee will be representative of the relevant statutory, voluntary and professional interests and will report to me and to the national steering committee as soon as possible.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

178 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the long delays being experienced by persons in the north west in securing appointments with a neurologist in specialist centres; the plans there are to deal with the lack of service, even on a cross-Border basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4514/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of neurology services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's north western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy. Last December my Department provided additional revenue funding of €200,000 to the North Western Health Board for the development of neurology services.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

179 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Donegal will be called for a mammogram; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4515/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the issues raised by the Deputy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's north western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

180 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the discussions which have already taken place or are planned to provide a local solution to the lack of a BreastCheck service in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the right of women in the Donegal area to have access to even a mobile unit as an urgent interim measure in response to the levels of breast cancer found in the county. [4516/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the issues raised by the Deputy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the north western area of the executive to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

181 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the current waiting times for women to be called for mammograms in both Sligo and Letterkenny General Hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4517/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the issues raised by the Deputy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the north western area of the executive to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

182 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be included on a panel retained by the western branch of the Health Services Executive and if this cannot be done immediately, when a vacancy might arise; when it may be possible to include this person on this list; if they will ever be included on the list; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4518/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for recruitment. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the western area of the executive to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Centres.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

183 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to provide the village of Dunleer with a new health centre. [4521/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of health centres. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the north eastern area of the executive to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

184 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason hand or grab rails have not been provided at the home of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if a response in the case will be expedited. [4524/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for aids and appliances. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the south eastern area of the executive to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

185 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will review a medical card application in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny with a view to granting the card based on her urgent medical needs; if this person qualifies for a general practitioner visit only card; and if a response will be expedited. [4525/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the assessment of applications for medial cards. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the south eastern area of the executive to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

186 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if immediate support and service will be given to person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if she will work with Dublin City Council on this matter. [4526/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of health services in Dublin 3. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the eastern regional area of the executive to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Grant Payments.

Finian McGrath

Question:

187 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of public money granted in 2004 to an organisation (details supplied) in Dublin 3; the position regarding its recent problems; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4527/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of funding to voluntary organisations. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the eastern regional area of the executive to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 188 answered with QuestionNo. 176.

Cross-Border Projects.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

189 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the contacts she has with her counterparts in Northern Ireland to help advance in a logical manner the development of medical services on the island of Ireland (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4555/05]

I had arranged to have lunch with Ms Angela Smith MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office, on the occasion of her visit to Dublin on 9 December 2004 on other business. Unfortunately, on the day, I was obliged to cancel the lunch appointment as I was scheduled to take Report Stage of the Health Bill 2004 in the Dáíl. I hope to meet her as soon as possible.

There is a long history of close contact at the highest level and good relations between my Department and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Belfast. This relationship was boosted by the establishment of the North-South Ministerial Council, which enabled a strategic context to emerge for ministerial oversight, support and drive for advancing the designated areas of health co-operation. These areas include accident and emergency services, planning for major emergencies, high technology equipment, cancer research and health promotion. Work continues in these areas towards identifying actions and measures to improve planning, efficiency and service from an all-island perspective. A recent meeting at Secretary General level reviewed progress under each of these headings.

Practical co-operation between health authorities on both sides of the Border has always been an operational fact of life. A major force and focus for this co-operation is the co-operation and working together project, a cross-Border initiative. Co-operation and working together is an invaluable catalyst for joint working in the Border area. It is ideally placed to identify, initiate and implement proposals for future service development. My Department and the Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety recognise the force for joint working represented by Co-operation. Working together we are committed to ensuring the progress of Co-operation and working together. Examples of co-operation at the wider North-South level are the work of the Food Safety Promotion Board and joint initiatives in nursing and midwifery and in specialist medical training rotation schemes. I look forward to the continuation of close working contacts with our Northern Ireland counterparts.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Phil Hogan

Question:

190 Mr. Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the finance spent on the national treatment purchase fund in 2004; the number of patients treated in respect of each procedure carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4558/05]

The provisional outturn for the national treatment purchase fund in 2004 was €44 million. My Department has asked the chief executive of the national treatment purchase fund to reply directly to the Deputy on the number of patients treated in respect of each procedure carried out.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

191 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the direction given to public nursing homes and long-stay institutions regarding the retention of the pensions of patients; the restriction on payments from a patient property account to cover only money for small comfort; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4615/05]

Following receipt of legal advice on the matter, my Department issued an instruction to each former health board on 9 December 2004 to cease imposing any charges on fully eligible individuals in receipt of in-patient services in the public long-stay care facilities in question with effect from that date. The Health Service Executive, responsible for the delivery of health and personal social services since 1 January 2005, has advised that the former chief executive officers of all health boards instructed staff to comply with this directive.

The Health Service Executive has reported that where it has been authorised to act as the patient's agent when dealing with the patient's pension payments, weekly spending money is paid to each patient and the balance of such patient's pension is lodged to his or her patient private property account, from where it is accessible to the patient. With regard to the matter of the return of the pension book to patients, it is important that the process of altering the existing arrangements be carried out in an appropriate manner. Accordingly, the Health Service Executive has indicated that it is issuing a letter to all patients who have authorised it to act as their agent, offering them choices with regard to their pension books, and that arrangements will be made to return the pension books to the patients in question if that is their choice. Some patients may not be in a position to make a decision regarding their arrangements and the process will have to involve the patient's next of kin. This matter will be dealt with by each nursing home or institution and, so, there will be an opportunity to discuss the matter with the relevant local staff.

The Health Service Executive is working conjointly with the Department of Social and Family Affairs in this regard. The emphasis is on ensuring that a choice is given to those who are in a position to exercise it and to ensure that the best interest of the patient is maintained at all times.

Health Services.

Michael Lowry

Question:

192 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the crisis in speech therapy and psychological services in the mid-western region; her proposals to improve the speech therapy and psychological services in the mid-western region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4616/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of speech and language therapy for people with a physical and/or sensory disability. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the mid-western area of the executive to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Michael Lowry

Question:

193 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the proposals she has to improve orthodontic dental treatment services in the mid-western region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4617/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for orthodontic services.

Several measures have been adopted to improve orthodontic services in the Health Service Executive mid-western area and on a national basis. The grade of specialist in orthodontics has been created in the orthodontic service. In 2003, my Department and the former health boards funded 19 dentists from various health board areas for specialist in orthodontics qualifications at training programmes in Ireland and at three separate universities in the United Kingdom. These 19 trainees for the public orthodontic service include six dentists who successfully completed their training in September 2004 and have taken up duties with the Health Service Executive. These measures will complement the other structural changes being introduced into the orthodontic service, including the creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist to work in the orthodontic area.

The commitment of the Department to training development is manifested in the funding provided to both the training of specialist clinical staff and the recruitment of a professor in orthodontics at the Cork Dental School. This appointment at the school will facilitate the development of an approved training programme leading to specialist qualification in orthodontics. The Department has given approval in principle to a proposal to further substantially improve training facilities for orthodontics at the school, which will ultimately support an enhanced teaching and treatment service to the wider region, including the mid-western area, under the leadership of the professor of orthodontics.

Water Fluoridation.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

194 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the cost of the fluoridation of the nation’s water supplies (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4618/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the fluoridation issues raised by the Deputy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the health services executive areas to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Joe Costello

Question:

195 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the respite unit at Drumcar, County Louth has not been provided with the promised 64 staffing requirements and funds to enable it to remain open and provide an essential service to the families of children and young persons with special needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4623/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. To ensure the smooth transition and delivery of services, I met representatives of the executive and the Order of St. John of God and discussed the issues.

Following a further meeting held on 1 February 2005 between the Health Service Executive north-east area and St. John of God north-east services, it was agreed to use the existing joint partnership forum to develop a strategy on how best to continue the implementation of the 2002 report to address the outstanding priority concerns regarding health and safety issues and critical staffing levels at St. Mary's residential services. In the meantime, St. John of God north-east services has undertaken to defer the decision around the suspension of respite service provision in St. Mary's. The Health Service Executive north-east area disability services and St. John of God north-east services will arrange to keep parent representatives abreast of developments in the process. Both parties are hopeful of a positive outcome.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

196 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive is empowered to contribute to the funding of private nursing home care in circumstances in which the income of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry is insufficient to meet the full cost of private nursing home care but exceeds the prescribed limited for nursing home subvention; if this person, being unable to fully provide for their own health needs, may access entitlement to financial support equivalent to the cost of the public long-term residential care to which they are entitled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4627/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage, deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of nursing home subvention in County Kerry. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's southern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

197 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the maxillo facial service for the north-west that has been located in Altnagelvin Hospital, Derry will be safeguarded; if there are any outstanding proposals made by the cross-Border working group that have as yet to be progressed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4628/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of oral maxillo facial services for the north-western region.

My Department allocated additional revenue funding of €1.2 million in July 2004, to the North Western Health Board to facilitate the provision of a joint oral maxillo facial service at Altnagelvin Hospital. My Department has asked the chief officer of the north western area of the executive to contact the Deputy directly in relation to the progress of this development.

Finian McGrath

Question:

198 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if services will be improved for all patients with cystic fibrosis; and if she will invest €8 million immediately. [4632/05]

John Gormley

Question:

208 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason she has not met to date with the Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland; if she will meet with this organisation in the near future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4709/05]

John Gormley

Question:

209 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the review of cystic fibrosis services by a person (details supplied) and the 11 recommendations made by same; if these recommendations will be implemented as soon as possible; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4710/05]

Pat Carey

Question:

210 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason cystic fibrosis patients in Northern Ireland have a longer survival rate than those in the Republic; the way in which the recommendation contained in the Pollack report will be implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4717/05]

Pat Carey

Question:

240 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason cystic fibrosis patients in Northern Ireland have a longer survival rate than those in the Irish Republic (details supplied); the way in which she sees the recommendation contained in the Pollack report being implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4965/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 198, 208 to 210, inclusive, and 240 together.

I welcome the recent Pollack report commissioned by the Cystic Fibrosis Association of Ireland on the treatment of cystic fibrosis in Ireland. The Health Service Executive, which has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services, recently met with the association and has agreed to its request to establish a working group to consider the recommendations in the report.

The report provides an assessment of need for current and future cystic fibrosis patients and makes a number of recommendations with regard to numbers and types of staff appropriate for a modern, multi-disciplinary cystic fibrosis service. The report concludes that in the future it will be essential to base cystic fibrosis care in fewer units of a more significant size in order to sustain viable staffing levels and to ensure that staff have a sufficient workload to enable them to maintain their skills level.

I understand that the Health Service Executive is pursuing with St. Vincent's Hospital, which is designated as the national adult cystic fibrosis centre, proposals for improvement to the physical infrastructure to support the highly professional treatment and care services provided there at the moment.

Jack Wall

Question:

199 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position of an appointment for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare for a brain scan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4641/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of health services to persons residing in County Kildare. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

John McGuinness

Question:

200 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a back operation at Tallaght Hospital for a person (details supplied) in County Carlow will be expedited; the reason for the postponements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4648/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. As the person referred to by the Deputy resides in County Carlow, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's south eastern area to investigate the matter raised and reply directly to the Deputy.

Seán Haughey

Question:

201 Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has received an application from a group (details supplied) in Dublin 5 for a site at Abbotstown, Dublin; if the OPW will be of assistance to this group in its endeavours; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4659/05]

The Health Act, 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for palliative care. I wish to advise the Deputy that my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, has received correspondence and she has written to the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Parlon, about this matter.

John McGuinness

Question:

202 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an appointment will be made for a person (details supplied) at the county clinic, Kilkenny; and the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4677/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. As the person referred to by the Deputy resides in County Kilkenny, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's south eastern area to investigate the matter raised and reply directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

203 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason respite services are being cut for persons with an intellectual disability on 28 February 2005 at a centre (details supplied); if this situation for the families will be ended and the 84 additional staff required for these services filled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4678/05]

As the Deputy is aware the Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. To ensure the smooth transition and delivery of services I met representatives of the executive and representatives of the Order of St. John of God and discussed the issues.

Following a further meeting held on the 1 February 2005 between the Health Service Executive north east and St. John of God north east services, it was agreed to use the existing joint partnership forum to develop a strategy on how best to continue the implementation of the 2002 report to address the outstanding priority concerns regarding health and safety issues and critical staffing levels at St. Mary's residential services.

In the meantime, St. John of God north east services has undertaken to defer the decision around the suspension of respite service provision in St. Mary's. The Health Service Executive north east disability services and St. John of God north east services will arrange to keep parent representatives abreast of developments in the process. Both parties are hopeful of a positive outcome.

Health Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

204 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate the need to provide a residential place for a person (details supplied). [4679/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of residential places. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

School Closures.

Michael Lowry

Question:

205 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate the circumstances surrounding the closing of a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary; the steps she will take to rectify this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4681/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of funding. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the Executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Official Engagements.

Denis Naughten

Question:

206 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will facilitate a request for a meeting with the North West Hospice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4682/05]

I wish to advise the Deputy that my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, met representatives from the North West Hospice on Wednesday, 9 February 2005.

Health Centres.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

207 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the protracted discussions which took place between her Department and the Northern Area Health Board regarding the provision of a new health centre in Ballymun, Dublin 9; the reason it has taken two years for these discussions to be completed while the new facility has lain idle for this two year period; if it was her Department or the NAHB which was responsible for this inordinate delay; the funding commitments she has entered into now for the rental purchase and fit-out of the facility; the proposed phasing of same; when she will reimburse Dublin City Council for the two years’ rent which it paid on behalf of the NAHB; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4700/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the funding of the Ballymun health centre, including the fit-out and equipping of the facility.

The former Eastern Health Board and its successors the former Eastern Regional Health Authority and the Northern Area Health Board, in conjunction with Ballymun Regeneration Limited — a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dublin City Council — proceeded with the development of Ballymun primary care centre in the absence of my Department's involvement or approval. Consequently, my Department was obliged to conduct a review of this project, which primarily centred on issues relating to procurement and funding. The responses received over a period of time from the ERHA were examined in detail by my Department. Account had also to be taken of legal opinion received in relation to procurement issues. It is only recently that, bearing in mind all the circumstances of the case, my Department was in a position to recommend sanction for the HSE to proceed with the fit-out of the centre.

I am satisfied that my Department was not responsible for any unnecessary delay in progressing this project, given the various concerns involved. I am advised that the fit-out will not be phased but will be carried out under a single construction contract. In fact I have indicated that I wish the project to be opened as quickly as it logistically can.

As I have indicated, the HSE is responsible for the funding and delivery of this project. Accordingly, I have asked the chief officer of the Executive's eastern regional area to examine the funding and other issues raised and reply directly to the Deputy.

Questions Nos. 208 to 210, inclusive, answered with Question No. 198.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

211 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there are plans in her Department for the provision of services for persons suffering from eating disorders; if she will report on these plans; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4731/05]

Persons presenting with eating disorders are generally treated through the local mental health services. Outpatient psychiatric services are provided from a network of hospitals, health centres, day hospitals and day centres. Where inpatient treatment is deemed necessary, it is provided in the local acute psychiatric unit or hospital, beds being allocated on the basis of patient need at any particular time.

A tertiary referral service for eating disorders is available to public patients in St Vincent's Hospital, Elm Park, Dublin where three inpatient beds are designated for this purpose. A similar services is available privately at St Patrick's Hospital, James's Street, Dublin and at St. John of God Hospital, Stillorgan, Co Dublin.

The expert group on mental health policy is currently preparing a national policy framework for the further modernisation of the mental health services, updating the 1984 policy document, Planning for the Future. The expert group has a number of sub-groups looking at specialist issues in mental health services, including eating disorders. The expert group on mental health policy is expected to report in 2005.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

212 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the design team will be appointed to Letterkenny General Hospital in relation to the construction of the accident and emergency unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4735/05]

The provision of a new accident and emergency unit at Letterkenny General Hospital is a matte to be addressed in the context of the Health Service Executive's national service plan, which will indicate its proposed capital plan for this year. I expect this plan will be presented to me shortly.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

213 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of a new community hospital in Dingle, County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4736/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. As part of the executive's responsibility to prepare and submit an annual service plan for my approval, it is obliged under section 31 of the Act to indicate any capital plans proposed by the executive. In this process the executive can be expected to have regard to the full range of potential capital developments, its own criteria in determining priorities, available resources and any other relevant factors.

My Department has not yet received the 2005 service plan from the Heath Service Executive. In the interim, my Department has asked the chief executive of the HSE southern area to investigate the position in relation to this project and to reply direct to the Deputy.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

214 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she will grant approval to the south eastern area of the Health Service Executive to appoint a design team in regard to the planning brief for Waterford Regional Hospital, submitted to her Department on 30 January 2003 with a request for approval of a design team; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4834/05]

The question of a new capital development at Waterford Regional Hospital is a matter to be addressed in the context of the Health Service Executive's national service plan, which will indicate its proposed capital plan for this year. I expect this plan will be presented to me shortly.

Grant Payments.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

215 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the grant aid advanced to the Irish Wheelchair Association for 2003 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4835/05]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

221 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the grant aid advanced to the Irish Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus for 2003 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4841/05]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

226 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the grant aid advanced to the Huntingdon’s Disease Foundation for 2003 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4847/05]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

227 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the grant aid advanced to the Anne Sullivan Foundation for Deaf Blind for 2003 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4848/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 215, 221, 226 and 227 together.

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of funding to voluntary organisations. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive's eastern regional area to investigate the matters raised and reply to the Deputy.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

216 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the grant aid advanced to the Alzheimer Society of Ireland for 2003 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4836/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage, deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes services delivered by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and its associated branches which are located throughout the country. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officers for the executive's areas to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

217 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the grant aid advanced to the AWARE organisation for 2003 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4837/05]

AWARE received national lottery funding of €20,000 in 2003. It received a grant from my Department of €40,000 and national lottery funding in the amount of €30,000 in 2004. As the Deputy may be aware, an additional €15 million revenue funding will be made available for the further development of mental health services, including voluntary organisations, in 2005. Details of the allocation are being finalised at present and it is not possible at this stage to be specific regarding the level of funding to be provided to the voluntary agencies.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

218 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the grant aid advanced to the GROW organisation for 2003 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4838/05]

GROW received funding in the amount of €297,676 from my Department in 2003. Further grants totalling €143,000 were made available to the organisation by my Department in 2004. As the Deputy may be aware, an additional €15 million revenue funding will be made available for the further development of mental health services, including voluntary organisations, in 2005. Details of the allocation are being finalised at present and it is not possible at this stage to be specific regarding the level of funding to be provided to the voluntary agencies.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

219 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the grant aid advanced to the National Suicide Review Group for 2003 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4839/05]

The National Suicide Review Group received additional revenue funding of €50,000 in 2003 to bring its total allocation from my Department to €303,000. This amount was also allocated to the group in 2004. As the Deputy may be aware, an additional €15 million revenue funding will be made available for the further development of mental health services, including suicide prevention measures, in 2005. Details of the allocation are being finalised at present and it is not possible at this stage to be specific regarding the level of funding to be provided for suicide prevention this year.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

220 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the grant aid advanced to Down Syndrome Ireland for 2003 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4840/05]

Down Syndrome Ireland received funding of approximately €50,000 from the Eastern Regional Health Authority in each of the years mentioned by the Deputy for the engagement of a paediatric nurse in Tallaght Hospital to undertake a pivotal role in the provision of information and advice related to the medical management of persons with Down's syndrome.

Question No. 221 answered with QuestionNo. 215.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

222 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the grant aid advanced to NAMHI for 2003 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4842/05]

NAMHI received grants of €315,000 and €355,000 in 2003 and 2004 respectively as the national voluntary organisation promoting the rights of people with an intellectual disability.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

223 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the grant aid advanced to Children in Hospital Ireland for 2003 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4843/05]

Children in Hospital Ireland, CHI, is a voluntary organisation which was established in 1970. It provides support and advice to parents before, during and after their child's stay in hospital. In 2003, CHI received grant aid of €165,000 from my Department. In 2004, CHI received funding of €150,000, including €100,000 approved under the national children's play policy — Ready, Steady, Play — to assist CHI to support the play needs of children in hospital.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

224 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the grant aid advanced to the National Suicide Research Foundation for 2003 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4845/05]

The National Suicide Research Foundation received additional revenue funding of €30,000 in 2003 to bring its total allocation from my Department to €284,000. This amount, together with an additional €100,000 was provided to the organisation in 2004. As the Deputy may be aware, an additional €15 million revenue funding will be made available for the further development of mental health services, including suicide prevention measures, in 2005. Details of the allocation are being finalised at present and it is not possible at this stage to be specific regarding the level of funding to be provided for suicide prevention this year.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

225 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the grant aid advanced to the Association of Higher Education Access and Disability for 2003 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4846/05]

The Deputy has been asked for additional information in relation to the matter raised by him. On receipt of this information in my Department, my officials will have the matter investigated and a reply will issue to the Deputy.

Questions Nos. 226 and 227 answered with Question No. 215.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

228 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the grant aid advanced to the Irish Association of Suicidology for 2003 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4849/05]

The Irish Association of Suicidology received revenue funding of €75,000 in 2003. The organisation also received national lottery funding of €40,000 from my Department in the period 2003 to 2004. As the Deputy may be aware, an additional €15 million revenue funding will be made available for the further development of mental health services, including suicide prevention measures, in 2005. Details of the allocation are being finalised at present and it is not possible at this stage to be specific regarding the level of funding to be provided for suicide prevention this year.

Health Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

229 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of public long-stay elderly care beds in each of the former health board regions; the number of publicly contracted elderly long-stay beds in private nursing homes in each of the former health board areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4850/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage, deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of public long-stay beds and publicly contracted long-stay beds in private nursing homes. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's areas to investigate the matter raised and to reply direct to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

230 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the procedure involved in the appointment of general practitioners co-ordinators for methadone treatment and other drug addiction services; the person who created the position; the job specifications for the position; the person who monitors them; the persons to whom they are answerable; the working hours; and the wage involved. [4851/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

231 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if general practitioner co-ordinators can do other private or public work while working as coordinators; and if such a person is on sick or other leave from one position, if they can work for another body. [4852/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

232 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that it is intended to review the titles and work practices of the general practitioners co-ordinators similar to that for other newly created posts. [4853/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

233 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the qualifications required for the position of general practitioners co-ordinators; the additional training which has been supplied to appointed general practitioners co-ordinators since their appointment; if there was an interview of potential candidates for the positions; if they were advertised internally within the health sector and externally among the general public; and if there were an internal appointment within health boards. [4854/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

234 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the actions of the general practitioners co-ordinators since having been appointed. [4855/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

235 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the job specification of the national general practitioner co-ordinator for methadone treatment and other drug addiction services; the number of general practitioners co-ordinators who are presently appointed; if more are envisaged; the person who audits them; and the person to whom they are responsible. [4856/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

236 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that general practitioner coordinators suspended two of the 25 general practitioners involved in the drug scheme and that both have subsequently been vindicated and reinstated; and her views on the matter and on the procedures involved in the suspensions. [4857/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 230 to 236, inclusive, together.

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the delivery of drug treatment services. I have no comment to make in relation to matters arising from grievance procedures and sick leave protocols which are clearly a matter for individuals and their employers.

I have been advised by the chief executive of the HSE that general practitioner co-ordinators were appointed in 1997 by the then Eastern Health Board on the basis of their experience in the treatment of drug misuse at the time. The purpose of the posts is to oversee drug treatment services and specifically the development of methadone services.

I am advised by the HSE that there are currently five GP co-ordinators in post, all of whom are approved, accredited and audited general practitioners with expertise in the treatment of opiate users. They report to the assistant chief officer with responsibility for addiction in each of the HSE areas in the east. Continuing medical training is a necessary requirement for the co-ordinators to maintain their accreditation. The co-ordinators are employed on a sessional basis and are not precluded from engaging in other work. I understand from the HSE that the co-ordinators are paid on a sessional basis which currently equates to €65.37 per hour.

I am advised that the national GP co-ordinator was also appointed by the then Eastern Health Board with the agreement of the Department of Health and Children to provide additional clinical support and advice to areas outside the then eastern region. I am not aware of any specific plan to review the titles and work practices of GP co-ordinators in the drug misuse field, although the operation of the methadone protocol is reviewed by an implementation committee on an ongoing basis and the roles and functions of different service providers are routinely considered in that context. At the end of December 2004, there were 316 GPs involved in the methadone protocol.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

237 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a medical card has not issued to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4858/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the assessment of applications for medical cards. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's south-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John McGuinness

Question:

238 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if arrangements will be made for a hip replacement operation for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4914/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. As the person referred to by the Deputy resides in County Kilkenny, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's south-eastern area to investigate the matter raised and reply directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Pat Carey

Question:

239 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the procedure for providing Garda clearance for staff who work in day nurseries which are linked with health boards; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that managers of these nurseries have been told they will have to process requests for clearance through health boards and cannot do so directly with the Garda authorities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4964/05]

Garda clearance arrangements apply in respect of candidates for paid employment in the health services where they would have access to children and vulnerable individuals. This includes services in respect of children and vulnerable adults provided by external agencies but funded by the Health Service Executive.

Under procedures agreed in 1994 and 1995, Garda clearance requests for agencies funded by the Health Service Executive are processed through the relevant HSE area. This procedure conforms with a 2004 recommendation of the working group on Garda vetting on which my Department was represented.

Question No. 240 answered with QuestionNo. 198.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Pat Carey

Question:

241 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will establish with the health service the policy goal and the actual practice of providing speech therapy services to day nurseries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4966/05]

The provision of speech therapy services for children attending day nurseries is being considered in the course of my Department's strategic review of disability services, which is being conducted in accordance with the Sustaining Progress agreement. On completion of this review, I expect to produce a comprehensive policy document which will address the issue raised by the Deputy.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

242 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite a cataracts operation for a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4968/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. As the person referred to by the Deputy resides in County Carlow, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's south-eastern area to investigate the matter raised and reply directly to the Deputy.

John McGuinness

Question:

243 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an early date for an assessment will be arranged for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4978/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. As the person referred to by the Deputy resides in County Kilkenny, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's south-eastern area to investigate the matter raised and reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Staff.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

244 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department has allocated funding for two neurology consultants and a full complement of support staff for Waterford Regional Hospital as endorsed by the Comhairle na nOspidéal report; and when will the neurologists take up their posts. [4979/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of services at Waterford Regional Hospital. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's south-eastern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Infectious Diseases.

Denis Naughten

Question:

245 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will review the regulations which do not oblige health service staff to inform embalmers of infectious diseases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4989/05]

If the Deputy would like to forward more detailed information in regard to the specific regulations to which he refers, as well as additional details of his specific concerns, I will ask the Health Service Executive to examine and review this issue.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Denis Naughten

Question:

246 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) will be called for a cataract operation; the reason for the delay in calling this person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4999/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for people resident in County Roscommon. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Denis Naughten

Question:

247 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of patients from counties Roscommon, Galway and Mayo respectively currently awaiting urology appointments; the average waiting time for an outpatient appointment and for elective surgery for patients from each county respectively; the action she is taking to address the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5000/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for people resident in counties Mayo, Galway and Roscommon. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Jack Wall

Question:

248 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the application by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare for a hearing aid. [5001/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for audiology services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

249 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive their complete medical history and all files from their admission to hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5002/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of health services to persons residing in County Kildare. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Palliative Care Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

250 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the paediatric palliative care needs assessment study report and the expert group on specialist design guidelines for palliative care setting report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5003/05]

The paediatric palliative care needs assessment and the design guidelines on specialist palliative care settings will be published shortly.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

251 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the decision regarding an application for a medical card in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be expedited. [5004/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the assessment of applications for medical cards. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's south-eastern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

252 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the authority which is responsible for overseeing the safety and well-being of children in child care; if it is open to the public to make complaints regarding specific providers under this provision; if she has made arrangements for the compiling of statistics in regard to the compliance with standards of child care in different premises and in regard to the number of complaints made, investigated and adjudicated upon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5005/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services.

This includes responsibility for overseeing the safety and well-being of children in pre-school child care in accordance with the Child Care Act 1991 and the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 1996 and Child Care (Pre-School Services) (Amendment) Regulations 1997. It also includes dealing with complaints made by the public and compiling statistics in this regard. Accordingly, my Department has requested the national director of primary, community and continuing care in the Health Service Executive to investigate the matters raised and reply directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Funding.

Michael Lowry

Question:

253 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the funds her Department or the HSE has provided to a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary each year since 2000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5006/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of funding. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Liam Aylward

Question:

254 Mr. Aylward asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in expanding the national breast screening programme, which was approved in 2003 to the south-east region to include the counties of Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford; when it is likely that the screening facility will be available to women in these counties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5112/05]

The expansion of the breast screening programme to counties Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford and the roll-out to the remaining counties is a major priority in the development of cancer services. This will ensure that all women in the relevant age group in every county have access to breast screening and follow-up treatment where appropriate.

The expansion of the programme to counties Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford will result in approximately 18,000 women being invited for breast screening. Screening commenced in Wexford in March last year and BreastCheck has advised my Department that the first round of screening will be completed there shortly. BreastCheck expects to commence screening in County Carlow in April this year and screening will follow in County Kilkenny when the first round of screening in Carlow is completed.

Any woman irrespective of her age or residence who has immediate concerns or symptoms should contact her GP who, where appropriate, will refer her to the symptomatic services in her region.

Ambulance Service.

Denis Naughten

Question:

255 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to the adjournment debate of 15 December 2004 concerning the ambulance service, the progress to date on the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5113/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of ambulance services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Disabled Drivers.

John Dennehy

Question:

256 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for Finance the progress made by the review group on the disabled drivers and disabled passengers scheme. [4998/05]

John Dennehy

Question:

272 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for Finance if he will give an update on the progress of the review group dealing with the disabled drivers and disabled passengers scheme; when their report will be published; if blind persons are included in the category of passengers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5014/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 256 and 272 together.

I assume the Deputy is referring to the interdepartmental review group which was established to review the scheme. It examined all aspects of the scheme, including qualifying medical criteria, benefits and the appeals process. The report of the group was published on my Department's website in July 2004 and copies have been placed in the Oireachtas Library.

Following the report's recommendations concerning the appeals process, amendments to the regulations governing the scheme were made to improve the operation of the appeals process. These were signed by the Minister for Finance on 23 July 2004. These amendments provided for an expansion of the panel of medical practitioners serving on the medical board of appeal from three to five. The appeals process was amended by the introduction of a six-month waiting period between an appeal and subsequent application, and the introduction of the requirement for a second or subsequent application to be certified by a registered medical practitioner to the effect that there has been material disimprovement in the medical condition since the previous application.

Given the scale and scope of the scheme, further changes can only be made after careful consideration. For this reason, the Government has decided that the Minister for Finance will consider the recommendations contained in the report of the interdepartmental review group in the context of the annual budgetary process, having regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme.

Decentralisation Programme.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

257 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance the position in regard to decentralisation to Birr; if a site has been agreed; when the contract documents will be signed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4540/05]

FÁS has responsibility for the sourcing and purchase of its own decentralisation site in Birr. It has informed the Commissioners of Public Works that an advanced stage has been reached in the acquisition of a suitable site.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

258 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance if tax relief was given by his Department on the purchase of sugar beet contracts in 2001; if recognition was given by his Department that farmers own the national beet quota; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4541/05]

I am informed by the Minister of Agriculture and Food that under the EU sugar regime, which comes within the remit of that Minister, each member state has a quota for manufactured sugar. There is no quota for sugar beet nor is there a quota at farm level. The EU regulations stipulate that the quota must be made available to the sugar manufacturing enterprises in the member state. Accordingly, in Ireland the entire sugar quota is processed by Irish Sugar Limited, which is the only sugar manufacturer here. Irish Sugar Limited places annual contracts with farmers to grow a specific tonnage of sugar beet sufficient to manufacture the sugar quota.

I understand that in 2000 an arrangement was put in place by Irish Sugar Limited and the Irish Farmers Association, whereby a grower who was offered a beet growing contract for the 2000 to 2001 growing season could nominate another grower to take the contract subject to the agreement of Irish Sugar Limited. I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that any payments between growers in respect of such nominations were payments of a revenue nature in the hands of the payer, and, as such, are eligible to be deducted in calculating the payer's income for tax purposes in the basis period in which the payment is written off in the payer's accounts. The payments were capital receipts in the hands of the recipient and chargeable to capital gains tax.

It should be understood that any such payments were unrelated to quota, since there is no quota for sugar beet nor is there a quota at farm level, but were private arrangements between individual growers in respect of nominations for sugar beet growing contracts.

Flood Relief.

Tony Gregory

Question:

259 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance the reason the replacement of the Distillery Road Bridge on the River Tolka in Dublin 3, prioritised by the OPW as an essential anti-flood measure, has still not been implemented; if the OPW will liaise with Dublin City Council to have this serious flood risk dealt with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4572/05]

The Deputy is aware that the Office of Public Works is anxious to have all works carried out on those areas along the River Tolka designated as having a high flood risk. Dublin City Council officials have informed the OPW that they have agreed plans with the developer in question, which will result in works on the wall commencing in the next few weeks. Work on the design of the bridge is also starting and the council has indicated that it expects the bridge to be in place and operational by mid-year.

Tony Gregory

Question:

260 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance the reason the new sea and canal locks at Spencer Dock, Dublin 1, prioritised as anti-flood measures, have still not been installed; the role the OPW has in this matter; if the OPW is aware that the promised temporary works at this location have had to be abandoned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4573/05]

The Office of Public Works has no responsibility for works being carried out at Spencer Dock. These works are being carried out by Dublin City Council. However, I am informed that the work in question has not stopped and that the council expects the works to be completed on schedule.

Traffic Management.

Tony Gregory

Question:

261 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance if the OPW has fully assessed the projected traffic increases on Blackhorse Avenue, Dublin 7 and the Navan Road, Dublin 7 resulting from its proposed one-way system in the Phoenix Park, particularly in the context of the major new housing and apartment developments in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4574/05]

The introduction of the proposed one-way system in the Phoenix Park is on hold pending completion of a traffic management study, which I understand is being carried out at present by Fingal County Council.

The reasoning behind the proposals to implement a one-way system at the Ashtown and Cabra Gates of the Phoenix Park is two-fold. It is intended to deal with the existing hazardous traffic management arrangements and to plan for the substantially increased traffic volumes which will be generated in this area due to major housing developments.

The objective of the Office of Public Works is focused on the conservation of this national historic park and the fostering of passive recreation within its boundaries.

Tax Code.

Martin Ferris

Question:

262 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the decision by the EU Commission to allow the UK and Germany to waive excise duties on biofuels, if a similar request will be made from this State. [4579/05]

Martin Ferris

Question:

270 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if the European Commission has approved the proposals made in March 2004 to allow the introduction of excise relief for the production of biofuels. [4895/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 262 and 270 together.

My Department, following consultation with the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, has submitted a formal application for Commission approval for a scheme which allows excise relief for pilot projects in the biofuels area, including pure plant oil, biodiesel and bioethanol. The EU Energy Tax Directive (2003) envisages such tax relief and the Commission has approved schemes for excise relief on biofuel in other EU member states. Assuming approval is granted, the necessary commencement order will then be signed.

Seán Haughey

Question:

263 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Finance if he will exempt the over 80s from paying 21% VAT on phone, gas and electricity bills; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4660/05]

The rate of VAT that applies to a particular good or service is determined by the nature of the goods or service, and not by the status of the customer. Telecommunications services including phones are subject to the standard rate of VAT at 21%. The supply of electricity and gas is subject to the reduced VAT rate of 13.5%. There is no provision in European VAT law, with which Irish VAT law must comply, that allows the application of an exemption from VAT for supplies to customers over the age of 80.

However, under the social welfare code, any person resident in the State who is aged 70 or more is entitled to the social welfare household benefits package, subject to certain conditions and regardless of income or household composition. This package comprises an electricity or natural gas or bottle gas allowance, a telephone allowance, and a free television licence.

The electricity allowance covers the normal standing charge and up to 1,800 units of electricity each year. At current prices, the value of the electricity allowance to the consumer is approximately €339 per annum for urban dwellers, and €381 for rural dwellers, inclusive of VAT at 13.5%. Alternatively, if the natural gas allowance option is selected, the customer is entitled to the supply charge and up to 1,674 kwh of gas per year. The annual value of this is up to €250 per annum, inclusive of VAT at 13.5%. If the person's home is not connected to an electricity or natural gas supply, the person is entitled to 15 cylinders of bottle gas per annum at an annual value of approximately €320, inclusive of VAT at 13.5%.

The telephone allowance is paid as a credit on the customer's telephone bill. The value of the allowance is €24.70 per month, including VAT, or €296.40 per annum.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

264 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the new regulations concerning the compulsory provision of safety equipment on small craft fishing vessels, he will introduce regulations to have a zero VAT rate for the purchase of safety equipment for mountain rescue, lifeboats, coastal search and rescue and small fishing vessels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4662/05]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

265 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Finance if he will introduce regulations to reduce the VAT rate from 21% to the reduced rate of 13.5% for safety equipment which must now be installed on all small fishing vessels. [4663/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 264 and 265 together.

The VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law, with which Irish VAT law must comply. While we can maintain the zero rating on those goods and services which were zero-rated before 1 January 1991, the goods and services referred to by the Deputy do not fall within this category. Similarly, member states may only apply a reduced VAT rate to those goods and services set out in annexe H of the EU Sixth VAT Directive. Safety equipment is not included in this annexe. Therefore, it is not possible to apply a zero or reduced VAT rate to these goods and services.

However, fishermen who are registered for VAT are entitled to claim a refund for all VAT charged to them in respect of equipment used for their business. Fishermen who are not registered for VAT are entitled to claim in respect of certain inputs, under section 29, regarding remission or repayment of tax on fishing vessels and equipment, of the 1979 VAT regulations. In the case of safety equipment, the inputs included are anchors, autopilots, bilge and deck pumps, buoys, floats, compasses, life boats and life rafts, marine lights, radar apparatus, radio navigational aid apparatus, radio telephones, provided the vessel concerned has been the subject of a grant or loan from Bord Iascaigh Mhara.

In addition, the Value-Added Tax (Refund of Tax)(No. 18) Order 1985 provides for the repayment of VAT, subject to certain conditions, incurred in respect of equipment for use in rescue or assistance at sea. Furthermore, the 1973 Finance Act provided for the zero-rating of "life saving services provided by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, including the organisation and maintenance of the lifeboat service". This means that while the RNLI does not charge VAT on the services it provides, it is entitled to reclaim VAT incurred on the goods and services which it purchases in delivering those services.

The Irish Coast Guard, under the aegis of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, administers the community Inland and inshore rescue services grant scheme. The Community of Inshore Rescue Services and the Inland Rescue Service may apply for grants under the scheme in respect of both current and, more recently, capital expenditures. Guidelines on the scheme in terms of eligibility criteria and grant levels are available from the Irish Coast Guard.

Sale of Land.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

266 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied); and if the request was examined by the Commissioners of Public Works. [4676/05]

A meeting has been arranged between the Commissioners of Public Works and the person concerned to discuss the possible sale of the portion of land attached to the Garda station.

Coastal Protection.

Richard Bruton

Question:

267 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the progress that has been made with Dublin City Council in respect of the proposals emerging from the coastal zone risk assessment; if a commitment of funding will be made by the Office of Public Works to commence some of the more urgent works; and if a commitment will be made to early action to raise the sea wall on the Clontarf seafront to prevent flooding as a result of high tides and strong winds. [4707/05]

The Dublin coastal protection project, which is being carried out by Dublin City Council and part-funded by OPW, is a study examining the causes and impacts of flooding from Portmarnock to Booterstown. A draft report is being finalised and the OPW expects to receive it shortly for detailed consideration. OPW officials have recently met with the council and have discussed some of the recommendations highlighted in advance of the completed report.

Dublin City Council has indicated that proposals for improved sea defences in the Clontarf area will be contained in the report and that this area is high on the council's priority list. The OPW indicated its commitment to this process and will examine requests for funding when more details are available. It is understood that flood defence proposals in the report are estimated to cost €100 million. Any such requests for funding must to be carefully considered in the context of the OPW's annual budget for flood relief projects of €20 million approximately, and the large amount of flood alleviation projects currently being advanced by OPW.

Departmental Correspondence.

Tony Gregory

Question:

268 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance if the Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW will reply to correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4718/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to his question on 23 November 2004. A reply to the correspondence from the Deputy has issued.

Tax Collection.

Billy Timmins

Question:

269 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance if the Revenue Commissioners have sub-contracted out some of the work that comes under their remit; the amount involved; if this work has been completed satisfactorily; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4893/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they outsource a broad range of tasks, including cleaning and security, IT systems, data capture, training and debt collection. I understand the Deputy is referring to work undertaken on behalf of the Revenue Commissioners in regard to tax collection and data capture of information from the income tax return. form 11, and corporation tax return, form CT1.

Six firms of solicitors are engaged by the Revenue Commissioners for work in connection with the enforcement of tax debts. They are engaged under contract following a public procurement process and are paid in accordance with the terms of those contracts. The following table sets out the amount of work completed by the solicitors in 2004.

Number of cases or warrants referred by Revenue

6,723

Payments received by Revenue

€65.9m

Cost to Revenue

€3.53m

The Revenue Commissioners assure me that outsourcing certain tax debts to solicitors is efficient and works well.

In regard to data capture, I am informed that in early 2004 the Revenue Commissioners contracted out the capture of certain accounts information for income tax and corporation tax purposes. Such data is successfully used by the Revenue Commissioners to drive compliance activities. In late 2004, the data capture project was extended, on a pilot basis, to also capture information from the returns for the purpose of raising tax assessments.

The pilot project in regard to income tax has experienced some technical difficulties and steps are being taken to resolve these. A full review will be carried out by the Revenue Commissioners on completion of the pilot projects to identify problems and propose solutions with a view to continuing the project. The cost of this outsourcing was €650,597 in 2004.

Question No. 270 answered with QuestionNo. 262.

Tax Code.

Dan Neville

Question:

271 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Finance the concessions on stamp duty which are available to voluntary sporting organisations which purchase property for use by their communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4977/05]

There are no exemptions or reliefs in the stamp duty code for voluntary sporting bodies.

Question No. 272 answered with QuestionNo. 256.

Departmental Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

273 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if the vehicle registration office in Mullingar will continue to operate at its present location (details supplied); if it is not due to re-locate to Tullamore. [5015/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

274 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of staff employed at the Mullingar vehicle registration office; the grades held by these staff members. [5016/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 273 and 274 together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that their office in Mullingar will continue to operate as a revenue office. However, following the successful introduction of on-line vehicle registration through the ROS, revenue on-line service, the demand for direct customer contact services at vehicle registration offices has declined substantially. In 2003, for example, 55% of new vehicles nationally were registered on-line. By January 2005, that percentage had risen to more than 86%.

The Revenue Commissioners have recently reviewed the implications of these changes in vehicle registration practices. As a result of their review, and having regard to the reduction in customer services demand at the vehicle registration office in Mullingar, they have decided to consolidate the provision of vehicle registration and associated services for counties Westmeath and Offaly at their office in Tullamore from March. I understand this decision has no implications for the continuance of a revenue office in Mullingar and that staff at the office will be assigned to other duties and will not be relocated.

This is in the context of a national review of the implications of a declining service demand for front-line VRO services which is leading to consolidation of service provision across the country. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that affected staff are being assigned to other duties and will not be involuntarily relocated.

There are four full-time staff, comprising two executive officers, one clerical officer and one service officer, assigned to the revenue office in Mullingar. Two of these staff are engaged in the provision of vehicle registration and other associated services, a third official is engaged on unrelated debt management duties and the fourth is assigned to excise control.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

275 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if there are restrictions imposed by the EU VAT code on introducing new exempted activities, new zero rate activities, switching activities between the standard and high rate VAT bands and new VAT bands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5122/05]

VAT rates are governed by the EU Sixth VAT Directive with which Irish VAT law must comply. Member states may only grant a VAT exemption to activities listed under Article 13 of this directive. Therefore, the introduction of new exempt activities does not arise. In general, these exemptions are transposed by the first Schedule to the VAT Act 1972, as amended.

Under the EU Sixth VAT Directive, member states may retain the zero rates on goods and services which were in place on 1 January 1991, but cannot extend the zero rate to new goods and services. It is possible to move existing zero-rated items to either the reduced rate or the standard rate. However, once moved, it is not possible to revert them to the zero rate.

Member states may apply up to two reduced VAT rates of not less than 5% to supplies of goods and services listed in annexe H of the EU Sixth VAT Directive. Ireland operates a single reduced rate of VAT of 13.5%. The goods and services in annexe H include certain foods, non-oral medicines, supply, construction and alteration of housing provided as part of a social policy, and newspapers and periodicals. Goods and services at the reduced rate may be moved to the standard rate, but only those listed in annexe H may be reverted from the standard rate to the reduced rate.

As regards the VAT rate structure, any changes made by member states must comply with the EU Sixth VAT Directive. Member states have the option of retaining the zero VAT rates which were in force on 1 January 1991 but no new zero VAT rates can be introduced. As a transitional arrangement, member states may maintain, at a reduced rate of not less than 12%, any items not listed in annexe H, provided such items were at a reduced rate on 1 January 1991. These goods and services are considered to be "parked".

In addition, member states may have up to two reduced VAT rates of not less than 5% for a specified number of goods or services which are set out in annexe H of the EU Sixth VAT Directive. Member states may not set the standard VAT rate lower than 15% and there is political agreement that the standard rate applying in each member state may not exceed 25%. Ireland's standard rate of VAT is 21%.

I hope this clarifies the European legislative framework which governs Irish VAT law.

Post Office Network.

Denis Naughten

Question:

276 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the plans he has to retain the full rural post office network; the policy measures which he intends to implement; the discussions he has had with the EU Commission regarding the retention of the social welfare payments system by An Post; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4589/05]

The Government and the board of An Post are committed to the objective of securing a viable and sustainable rural post office network as set out in the programme for Government. The overarching objective continues to be the retention of post offices services, in as many locations as possible, in the manner which best meets consumer needs, whether via post offices, postal agencies or the PostPoint network.

It may be helpful to illustrate the current strength of the network. There are 1,000 automated post offices, 475 non-automated post offices and 160 postal agencies. Furthermore, An Post has established 3,000 PostPoint outlets in retail premises, of which 600 can be used for bill payment.

The future of the post office network has been subject to a number of studies and reviews in recent years and many of the recommendations have been implemented, including the provision in 2003 of Government equity, amounting to some €12.7 million to assist with the modernisation process. The post office network has a high volume of people passing through the premises, a recognised brand name and a countrywide retail network. The priority for all stakeholders is to build on these strengths to maintain and increase the amount of business conducted through the network in order to secure its future.

There is widespread recognition that the best development strategy to sustain the network is for An Post to continue adapting to its customer needs within the financial constraints in which it now finds itself. As part of this strategy, An Post has secured additional business for the network, including bill pay facilities for the ESB andBarclays Bank credit cards, telephone top-ups through its PostPoint service and a contract with the AIB under which the bank's customers can access their accounts through the network. Further opportunities from both the public and private sectors are being actively explored by the company with a view to bringing on stream additional services, at the post office counter where possible.

The long-term future of the post office network can only be secured by meeting the demands of customers. In this regard, I have asked the Irish Postmasters Union and An Post to work in partnership with a view to securing existing business and pursuing new business opportunities at every opportunity. As outlined above, that strategy is being followed with some success.

I have had no discussions with the European Commission regarding the social welfare payments contract between An Post and the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Any such discussions are a matter for that Department.

Denis Naughten

Question:

277 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the recommendations in the Flynn report on the post office network which have been implemented; the recommendations yet to be implemented; the action he is taking to implement the outstanding recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4590/05]

The Government is committed to a viable and sustainable nationwide post office network. Arising from this commitment, a number of reports, including the Flynn report, have examined modernisation of the network to provide a range of products and introduce service delivery channels which meet consumer needs. Key recommendations have either been implemented or continue to be addressed as part of the long-term strategy to secure the future of the post office network.

Following receipt of the Flynn report, the Government moved to underpin its commitment to the post office network by approving an equity injection of €12.7 million for An Post to facilitate the modernisation of the network. This was paid to the company in 2003. Increased postmaster scale payment remuneration has also been granted and the requirement to address the structure of such remuneration is the subject of ongoing discussions between the Irish Postmasters Union and An Post. Initiatives are under way to implement necessary restructuring of the post office network itself. In particular, non-automated sub-post offices are being converted to postal agencies offering an appropriate range of services, in particular social welfare payments and the sale of stamps.

Furthermore, and of particular importance, An Post continues to pursue new business opportunities for the network. Additional business won includes bill paying facilities for the ESB and Barclays Bank credit cards, telephone top-ups through its PostPoint service, and a notable flagship contract with the AIB under which the bank's customers can access their accounts through the post office network. Further opportunities from both the public and private sectors are being actively explored by the company with a view to bringing on stream additional services, at the post office counter wherever possible. An Post, with my Department's support, is also taking steps to ensure that it successfully retains existing core business, particularly in the fields of social welfare payments and savings services.

The Flynn report emphasised the need for the parties to explore avenues whereby the network can adapt to current and future realities. In this regard, there has been a clear recognition on all sides that the long-term future of the post office network can only be secured by meeting the needs of customers. Accordingly, I have asked the Irish Postmasters Union and An Post to work in partnership with a view to realising the twin goals of securing existing business and pursuing new business opportunities as they arise. As outlined above, that strategy is being followed with some success.

Hazardous Waste.

Michael Lowry

Question:

278 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will consider meeting the residents of Silvermines, County Tipperary, prior to making any decision on the remediation alternatives for the Gortmore tailings pond; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4609/05]

I am aware of the concerns of the local community regarding Gortmore tailings pond, about which I wrote to the chairman of Gortmore environmental action group last month.

The Department is preparing a detailed report on the subject which I will receive later this month. I asked the Department to meet the Gortmore local community with a view to the inclusion of their views in the report, and that meeting took place in Nenagh on 3 February last. I intend to determine whether and on what conditions the current dialogue will Mogul on its latest remediation proposal will proceed.

I will consider a meeting with the local community after evaluating the Department's report later this month.

Electricity Generation.

Michael Lowry

Question:

279 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the amount raised from the public service obligation levy charged to residential electricity customers since its introduction; the amount contributed by residents from each county in tabular form and from north Tipperary; the amounts and number of renewable energy projects funded to date from the PSO levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4612/05]

By virtue of the Electricity Regulation Act 1999 (Public Service Obligations) Orders 2002, public service obligations which relate to electricity generation have been imposed on ESB with effect from 1 January 2003 in the interests of security of supply and environmental protection. All PSO orders require the approval of the European Commission. The Commission for Energy Regulation, CER, is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the PSO levy arrangements and certifying the additional costs incurred by ESB in accordance with the terms of the PSO order.

The PSO levy is imposed on three categories of electricity account holders so that each category pays a percentage of the levy in each year in proportion to its share of the maximum system demand, as determined each year by the CER. This results in a total PSO levy for each category which is then applied to individual account holders within each category so that, for instance, domestic and small account holders pay a standard charge per electricity bill while medium and large account holders pay on the basis of a standard charge per kVA of maximum import capacity. Adoption of this approach will not result in any cross-subsidisation between the categories as the "percentage of total system capacity" allocates the total PSO levy in a consistent non-discriminatory way across all categories.

In regard to the Deputy's request for statistical information, my Department is endeavouring to compile the information in conjunction with the CER. It has not been possible within the constraints of time and available resources to source the information. Such data as is available will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Postal Services.

Seán Crowe

Question:

280 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to An Post’s social obligations; and the measures he proposes to introduce to assist the company meet these obligations. [4723/05]

The universal service obligation, which includes nationwide postal delivery requirements, is enshrined in EU and Irish law and is a statutory requirement for An Post, as the designated universal service provider. Furthermore, the European Communities (Postal Services) Regulations 2002, establish the area of the postal market solely reserved for universal service providers and this reserved area assists An Post to fulfil its universal service obligations.

In regard to the post office network, the Government has already provided significant funding by way of a €12.7 million equity investment in 2003 to support modernisation of the network. The network also benefits from significant contracts with the Department of Social and Family Affairs for social welfare payments and the National Treasury Management Agency for Government savings products.

It is not envisaged that further public funding will be provided to An Post. The best way to sustain the post office and postal delivery networks is to gear the networks to provide a range of products and services which meet consumer needs. Part of the challenge at this point is for An Post unions and management to agree and implement a change programme to allow necessary restructuring to take place.

Harbours and Piers.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

281 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will consider FHC status for a harbour (details supplied) in County Kerry; if he will increase the funding available to the harbour; if he will meet with the harbour board to discuss these matters; his plans for the future of harbours and ports generally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4975/05]

Dingle Harbour operates under the 1946 Harbours Act whereby commissioners are appointed to manage the port. Dingle Harbour commissioners have sought designation of Dingle as a fishery harbour centres, so as to rank among the fishery harbour centres, which are 100% funded by the Exchequer, to which the Fishery Harbour Centre Acts 1968 to 1998 apply. The designated fishery harbour centres are Howth, Dunmore East, Castletownbere, Rossaveel and Killybegs. Such designation for Dingle Harbour is under consideration and no decision has been made to date.

In 2004, funding of €201,000 was provided for dredging site investigation works and €86,000 for a weighbridge at Dingle Harbour. The question of funding works at Dingle Harbour will depend on the amount of funding available for works at fishery harbours generally and overall national priorities into the future. My officials met with the board in 2004 to discuss these and other matters and will be happy to do so again.

The national development plan sets out the programme objectives for fishery harbour development. These are the development and construction of fishery harbour and related facilities at key strategic fishery harbours and the construction and improvement of berthage at smaller harbours and landing places. The plan provides €84.35 million for capital investment in fishery harbours infrastructure and facilities over the period 2000 to 2006. Up to the end of 2004, the Department has spent €98.58 million under this programme.

The total allocation for 2005 is €20.55 million. This includes funding for various projects, including the upgrading and modernisation of Port Oriel, Clogherhead, which is owned by Louth County Council and for which the council will contribute 25% of the cost; the development of the Dinish Wharf extension and the provision of a suitable harbour services building on the extension; the development of new ferry berths at Rossaveel fishery harbour centre, for which funding is provided jointly with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; and the development options at Dunmore East fishery harbour centre.

The completion of the programme in future years will be dependent on the availability of funding.

Fishing Industry Development.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

282 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of times he has met the Irish South and East Fishermen’s Organisation since his appointment; the plans he has to meet the association; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5024/05]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

284 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of times he has met the scallop fishermen since his appointment; the plans he has to meet them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5026/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 282 and 284 together.

I have met the representative of the Irish South and East Fishermen's Organisation on a number of occasions since my appointment as Minister of State. I met representatives of the fishing industry, including a representative from the Irish South and East Fishermen's Organisation, for detailed discussions on 20 December, in advance of the December Fisheries Council. I also met the organisation on 21 December to update representatives on developments at Council.

I afforded the organisation an opportunity to meet on the morning of 22 December to advise on the outcome of the negotiations at Council, which the representative did not avail of at that time. I subsequently met the representative later that day on an informal basis. I also met the organisation's representative informally on 7 December last on the margins of a presentation to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources on total allowable catches, TACs, and quotas for salmon.

In regard to meeting the scallop fishermen, I received a letter in early January setting out the issues arising for the scallop sector. I asked officials in the Department to meet with the scallop fishermen's representatives and to review the fishery and consider options for effective management. My officials met the representative organisation and fishermen on 4 February 2005. I informally met the industry representatives and scallop fishermen last Friday, 11 February, and heard their concerns.

In the coming days, I will be reviewing the outcome of these meetings and will be considering the options available to me. I intend to hold a further meeting with industry representatives shortly with a view to finding a way forward that will ensure that the EU effort limits are respected while providing for a sustainable scallop fishery into the future.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

283 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he intends to implement changes to the scallop fishing industry; the consultation he will have with the fishermen involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5025/05]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

285 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the plans he has for the scallop fishing industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5027/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 283 and 285 together.

It is important to set out the background to the issues arising for the scallop fishing sector. The main scallop fishery has traditionally been off the south-east coast of Ireland and fishing effort has been increasing since the mid-1990s. There are serious concerns about the state of the scallop stock in Irish waters where fishing effort and fishing mortality is regarded as too high and unsustainable. The Irish scallop fleet in the recent past has moved from these traditional fisheries to prosecute the scallop fishery in the English Channel.

At EU level, ceilings on fishing effort were first established in 1996, in the context of the management of fishing effort for western waters. During the review of the western waters fishing effort regime in 2003, new fishing effort ceilings were established for this fishery based, as for all other fisheries, on the average of the fishing effort levels for the reference period 1998 to 2002, inclusive. This established a fishing effort ceiling for the scallop fishery of 109,395 kwdays inside the biologically sensitive area, new Irish Box, and 525,012 kwdays for the rest of Area VII.

During the period of implementation of the previous western waters regime, the focus was primarily on the management of fishing effort targeting whitefish stocks. Under the new regime for western waters, member states are required to take active measures to ensure that the ceilings established for all the fisheries with effort ceilings applied under the regulations are fully respected. It should also be noted that, following concerns expressed about the increased level of fishing effort on scallops being deployed in the English Channel, the Commission has committed to bringing forward specific conservation measures, including fishing effort limitations for the scallop stocks in the English Channel. Any such measures are likely to impact on the Irish scallop fishery in the Channel.

The Irish scallop fleet has been increasing fishing effort over the period between 1998 to 2002, and 2003 saw a substantial increase in effort over 2002. The level of effort available for 2005 for the Irish fleet is accordingly less than the recent level of fishing effort deployed in the fishery. My officials have held detailed meetings, the most recent on 4 February 2005, with the representative organisation for the scallop fishermen to review the fishery and consider options for effective management. I informally met the industry representatives and scallop fishermen last Friday, 11 February and heard their concerns.

In the coming days, I will review the outcome of these meetings and will considering the options available to me. I intend to hold a further meeting with industry representatives shortly with a view to finding a way forward that will ensure that the EU effort limits are respected while providing for a sustainable scallop fishery into the future.

Question No. 284 answered with QuestionNo. 282.
Question No. 285 answered with QuestionNo. 283.

Fishing Vessel Licences.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

286 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of fishermen who have got new licences or licences renewed for scallop fishing in the past three months; if their attention had been drawn to the Departments plans for scallop fishing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5028/05]

The Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003 transferred responsibility for the licensing of sea-fishing boats from the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to the Licensing Authority for Sea-Fishing Boats which operates on an independent basis subject to criteria set out in that Act. The licensing authority implements general licensing policy in accordance with policy directives issued by the Minister. The head of the licensing authority is the registrar general of fishing boats, a senior official in the Department.

Sea-fishing boat licences are issued on a fleet segment basis rather than for individual species such as scallops. The segment in respect of which a licence is issued does, however, broadly determine the species for which vessels may fish. Under national licensing policy, the Irish fleet is categorised into five fleet segments. these are the pelagic segment, which comprises tank boats which fish for pelagic species, such as herring, mackerel and horse mackerel; the polyvalent segment, comprising multi-purpose vessels which can fish for demersal and shellfish species, and, unless specifically precluded, for pelagic species; the beam trawl segment, made up of beam trawlers which fish for bottom-dwelling species; the specific segment, comprising vessels which can only fish for aquaculture or bivalve shellfish species; and the aquaculture segment, involving vessels which are solely engaged in aquaculture.

While sea-fishing boat licences for fleet segments other than the aquaculture segment do not preclude vessels from fishing for scallops, it is understood that, in practice, the owners of vessels proposing to predominantly engage in this form of fishing apply to have their boats licensed in the specific segment. Fishermen wishing to have the scope to fish for a broader range of species than scallops, or other bivalve shellfish species, have their boats licensed in the polyvalent segment.

The licensing authority informs me that it has, within the past three months, issued one new sea-fishing boat licence for the specific segment and 18 such licences for the polyvalent segment. It further advises that a number of amended or renewal licences were issued over this period but a precise figure is not readily available. The purpose of issuing these licences did not specifically relate to scallop fishing but to general issues such as vessel re-measurement and updating of vessels' data. Some existing licensed vessels which have complied with a code of practice relating to vessel safety had the period of validity of their licences extended. I understand that a general renewal of sea-fishing boat licences is due to take place before the end of June next, when the vast majority of current licences will expire.

At EU level, ceilings on fishing effort were first established in 2003 based, as for all other fisheries, on the average of the fishing effort levels for the reference period 1998 to 2002, inclusive. The Irish scallop fleet has been increasing fishing effort over the period 1998-2002, and 2003 saw a substantial increase in effort over 2002. The level of effort available for 2005 for the Irish fleet is accordingly less than the recent level of fishing effort deployed in the fishery. My officials have held detailed meetings, the most recent on 4 February 2005, with the representative organisation for the scallop fishermen to review the fishery and consider options for effective management. I informally met the industry representatives and scallop fishermen last Friday, 11 February and heard their concerns.

In the coming days, I will review the outcome of these meetings and will consider the options available to me. I intend to hold a further meeting with industry representatives shortly with a view to finding a way forward that will ensure that the EU effort limits are respected while providing for a sustainable scallop fishery into the future.

Port Development.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

287 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the plans he has for Waterford Port; if he plans to sell sections of the port; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5029/05]

The Port of Waterford Company operates under the Harbours Acts 1996 and 2000. Under the Acts, the primary function of the company is the management, control, operation and development of its harbour, ensuring that its revenue is sufficient to meet its expenditure. In the light of this statutory requirement, the company informs me that it has been conducting a review of its non-core assets to determine the appropriateness of their retention in present circumstances.

The company provides its core facilities for ships and goods at Belview, County Kilkenny. Accordingly, the property at the north quays in Waterford is one of the company's principal non-core assets. It offered the north quays for sale by public tender process, which concluded on 3 February 2005. I understand a contract for sale has now been made and completion of the sale will take place in accordance with the contract.

The company has also offered for sale by public tender a pier at Ballyhack, County Wexford. However the sale has been deferred for one month to allow Wexford County Council an opportunity to consider its position in regard to the property.

Pension Provisions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

288 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he is aware that many pensioners of Eircom are now on pensions which are considerably less than those to which they would have been entitled had they remained as members of the Civil Service; if the Government provided conditions in its sale arrangements when Eircom was privatised that the legal rights of workers under that Act should be protected; the steps he intends to take to vindicate the right of workers under that legislation. [5049/05]

I am aware that individual pensioners, formerly employed by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, believe their pension entitlements are not being fully respected. An appeals process is under way in regard to the issues raised by the pensioners concerned. My Department and the Department of Finance, which has overall responsibility for public service pension policy, are examining the complex issues involved with a view to coming to a determination in the matter.

Human Rights Issues.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

289 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, during the recent visit by members of the Government to China, the case of a person (details supplied) was discussed with the Chinese Government. [4498/05]

The Government has previously raised the case of Ms Yang Fang with the Chinese authorities through the EU-China human rights dialogue, which is the agreed framework for raising individual human rights cases. The situation of Ms Yang Fang was again raised with the Chinese authorities on 18 January 2005, during the course of the Taoiseach's recent visit to Beijing.

The Chinese side reported that Ms Yang Fang was not in detention and that she had left her employment several months ago to care for her ageing mother. The Chinese also expressed regret that in two previous cases where they had responded to Irish Government representations to allow Chinese students to return to Ireland to continue their studies, the students concerned had become outspoken critics of the Chinese Government in Ireland.

Inter-Country Co-operation.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

290 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the plans to develop more links between Ireland and Scotland. [4650/05]

The traditionally strong relations between Ireland and Scotland continue to develop in a positive way, including since devolution. The Irish Consul General in Edinburgh, where premises opened in 1998, is involved in a broad range of activities supporting the development of enhanced bilateral links. These include the promotion of trade, tourism, culture and investment opportunities in close co-operation with State agencies and the Scottish Executive.

In recent years, Irish-Scottish links have also been strengthened by an increasing number of high level visits and exchanges, including visits by the President, Taoiseach and Ministers to Scotland and the attendance by the Ceann Comhairle and Cathaoirleach at the official opening of the new Scottish Parliament in October 2004. We have also welcomed a number of high level Scottish visitors here, including, most recently, First Minister Jack McConnell, MSP, who met the then Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, in Dublin in September 2004.

In addition to these ongoing contacts, our participation with Scotland and other members in the British-Irish Council provides a valuable opportunity for practical consultation and co-operation on a wide range of matters of mutual interest.

Visa Applications.

Martin Ferris

Question:

291 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will make a statement on the impact on tourism in the north west, especially Donegal, of the requirement on some foreign visitors to acquire a separate British visa if crossing the Border. [4907/05]

Issues relating to visa requirements for foreign visitors to Ireland are a matter in the first instance for my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell. From a tourism perspective, the impact of separate British visa requirements on tourists wishing to travel across the Border with Northern Ireland is negligible given that the level of tourism business to the island of Ireland from countries which are subject to such special visa requirements is minimal at this point in time.

Sports Capital Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

292 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of sports capital programme applications submitted to his Department from counties Roscommon, Longford and Leitrim respectively; the value of applications submitted from each county concerned; the fund available; if he intends to make a decision on applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4986/05]

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis. Applications for funding under the 2005 programme were invited through advertisements in the newspapers on 5 and 6 December last. The closing date for receipt of applications was 4 February 2005. Subject to confirmation, details of the number of applications under the programme and the amounts sought in the counties concerned are as follows:

Applications

Amount Sought

Roscommon

32

€3.94 million

Longford

18

€3.40 million

Leitrim

23

€3.19 million

All applications received before the closing date are being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Denis Naughten

Question:

293 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will approve an application for a centre (details supplied) in County Roscommon under the sports capital programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4987/05]

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis. Applications for funding under the 2005 programme were invited through advertisements in the newspapers on 5 and 6 December last. The closing date for receipt of applications was 4 February 2005. Subject to final confirmation, a total of 32 applications were received from County Roscommon, including one from the organisation in question. All applications received before the closing date are being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Denis Naughten

Question:

294 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will approve funding for a sports capital application for a club (details supplied) in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4988/05]

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis. Applications for funding under the 2005 programme were invited through advertisements in the newspapers on 5 and 6 December last. The closing date for receipt of applications was 4 February 2005. Subject to final confirmation, a total of 32 applications were received from County Roscommon.

No application was received before the deadline in the name of the organisation concerned. All applications received before the closing date are being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Decentralisation Programme.

John McGuinness

Question:

295 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a property solution has been identified for the Health and Safety Authority in Thomastown, County Kilkenny; if he will confirm the numbers of staff involved in each; the number that have offered to transfer; the steps he is taking to promote both locations; if local interest groups can assist the Department in marketing the locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4892/05]

The Office of Public Works is currently working on a property solution for the Health and Safety Authority in Thomastown, County Kilkenny, and a decision has not yet been made. Some 111 posts in the authority are identified for transfer to Thomastown. Eight staff of the authority have indicated an expression of interest to relocate to Thomastown. In addition, 40 expressions of interest have been received from the wider civil and public service.

Taxi Regulations.

Seán Crowe

Question:

296 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the substantial increase in taxi seals for taxi owners in the past year; his views on same; and if he has been in contact with the relevant Department on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5402/05]

The legal metrology service of the National Standards Authority of Ireland operates under the aegis of my Department and implements the provisions of the Metrology Acts 1980 to 1998. One of the objectives of the legislation is to ensure fair trade and consumer protection by checking the accuracy of measuring instruments used in trade throughout the economy. The law imposes obligations on traders to ensure that the measuring instruments they use in trade are of an approved type and have been verified by the legal metrology service.

Section 4 of the Metrology Act 1996, as amended, provides that the National Standards Authority of Ireland may, with the consent of the Minister, charge fees for, inter alia, verification services. When considering the basis for a fee increase in the latter part of 2004, the board of the authority was of the view that the fee set should be such as to fully recover the costs associated with the verification process. To enable full cost recovery, the board proposed an increase in the verification fee for taximeters from €32 to €75, excluding VAT, and ministerial consent was granted for this increase.

The fee increase was advertised in the national press on 13 November 2004 and came into effect on 22 November 2004. The rate reflects the fact that the provision of these services to the taxi industry and the application of metrology law is both a personnel and equipment intensive operation.

Community Employment Schemes.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

297 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason no reply has been received for Parliamentary Question No. 189 of 14 December 2004; and if a reply will issue. [4530/05]

I am informed by FÁS that the information being sought by the Deputy is complex and requires a considerable amount of time to collate. At present FÁS is in the process of examining its records to establish the circumstance where statutory redundancy has been paid to participants on community employment, CE, schemes. There is a high throughput each year on CE schemes of between 7,000 and 9,000 participants, with new entrants joining schemes as previous participants complete their duration on CE. In addition, there is mobility between the various CE schemes. I am informed by FÁS that it will provide the information during March.

Job Creation.

Phil Hogan

Question:

298 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs created each year for the past five years in respect of IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4561/05]

Data on job creation are compiled from an annual employment survey carried out by Forfás. The table below indicates the number of jobs created by the client companies of Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland in the period 2000-03. Definitive results for 2004 will not be available until mid-2005. Preliminary figures for 2004 indicate that client companies of Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland created 11,898 and 10,825 jobs respectively. The following tables provide background information on job creation in Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland client companies over the period 2000-04.

Table of jobs created in Enterprise Ireland client companies.

Year

2000

2001

2002

2003

Gains

18,897

14,670

14,020

12,300

Source: Forfás Annual Employment Survey 2004.

Table of jobs created in IDA Ireland client companies.

Year

2000

2001

2002

2003

Number of New Jobs Created

22,994

12,802

11,059

9,182

Source: Forfás Annual Employment Survey 2004

Industrial Development.

Phil Hogan

Question:

299 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the annual funding for industrial development authority and Enterprise Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4562/05]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for attracting foreign direct investment, FDI, to Ireland, its regions and areas, while Enterprise Ireland has primary responsibility for supporting indigenous industry. My Department will provide funding of €149.073 million to IDA Ireland for 2005. This figure includes an amount of €2.5 million from the national training fund. My Department will provide funding of €248.286 million to Enterprise Ireland for 2005. This figure includes an amount of €2.5 million from the national training fund.

Export Licences.

Tony Gregory

Question:

300 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if evidence exists that computer components with defence implications are being purchased in the US by Irish business interests and exported from Ireland to Russia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4571/05]

My Department has not issued any export licences for computer components in respect of defence-related military end-uses in Russia, nor have any licence applications for such transactions been received. The Department is aware of recent media reports concerning possible trade of the kind referred to in the Deputy's question and is examining whether any export licensing regulations may have been contravened.

Job Losses.

Denis Naughten

Question:

301 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason his Department is seeking the shedding of jobs from FÁS at a time when its training services are being expanded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4683/05]

On foot of the Government's decision in 2002 to reduce public service numbers by 5,000, FÁS is required to reduce its staffing complement of nearly 2,400 by 150. This is to be achieved through the non-filling of vacancies. FÁS has flexibility to decide where the reductions should be made and to prioritise resources to take account of the demands placed on the organisation.

Similar reductions are required of all Departments and non-commercial State agencies. All the organisations including FÁS are expected to ensure that these reductions do not impact on the service provided through improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of public service delivery as required under the modernisation programme in Sustaining Progress.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Billy Timmins

Question:

302 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the safety checks carried out at NCT centres; the safety measures required at these centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4903/05]

I am addressing the Deputy's question from the viewpoint of occupational safety and health. Day-to-day responsibility for the administration and enforcement of occupational safety and health legislation through the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 and the range of regulations made under it, including the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 1993 and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Chemical Agents) Regulations 2001, is a matter for the Health and Safety Authority.

National car testing centres, as in the case of all other workplaces, are subject to occupational safety and health legislation and are liable to inspection by the Health and Safety Authority, in accordance with its prioritised programme of work and standard operational procedures.

The methods used for the inspection of workplaces depend on a range of factors including the nature of the inspection visit, that is whether it is a routine inspection, a follow-up inspection, the investigation of an accident, investigation of a complaint etc. In the course of inspections, inspectors speak to managers, safety officers and, where available, worker safety representatives. Follow-up action includes both verbal and written advice and, where necessary, the issuing of enforcement notices. Where an inspector issues a formal enforcement direction or notice, this is generally copied to the site safety representative for information.

Monitoring of the workplace atmosphere as it relates to potential for exposure to hazardous chemical agents is covered by the Chemical Agents Regulations 2001. The regulations require employers to identify the hazards arising, assess the risks and put in place appropriate control measures. As part of the risk assessment it may be necessary for the employer to establish, or have established on his or her behalf, the levels of chemical agents being emitted in the workplace atmosphere. Following the risk assessment, it may be necessary for employees to undergo health surveillance of which records are required to be kept.

Hazardous Substances.

Pat Breen

Question:

303 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 58 and 59 of 12 October 2004, the various Seveso establishments that have produced the requisite safety report in accordance with Article 9 of Council Directive 96/82/EC, together with the date each such establishment complied with the said article; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5007/05]

Council Directive 96/82/EC on the control of major accident hazards involving dangerous substances has been transposed into Irish law by the European Communities (Control of Major Accident Hazards Involving Dangerous Substances) Regulations 2000 (S.I. No. 476 of 2000), as amended by the European Communities (Control of Major Accident Hazards Involving Dangerous Substances)(Amendment) Regulations 2003 — SI 402 of 2003. A further directive, 2003/105/EC on the control of major accident hazards involving dangerous substances, is due to be transposed into Irish law by 1 July 2005.

The directive and transposition regulations require that a safety report be produced if the inventory of dangerous substances exceeds stated thresholds in Annexe 1 of the directive. The report must address in detail: the nature of the establishment and its surrounding environment; the character of the dangerous substances and their processing; the extent and severity of potential major accidents; emergency planning; and the company's safety management system. The production of such reports often requires the use by a company of external specialist expertise to conduct the necessary consequence and risk assessment.

The following table shows the dates that safety reports were received from the various establishments that are, or were, subject to the requirement to produce a safety report. Following their receipt they have been subject to a detailed assessment and additional information or clarification has been sought as necessary. Safety reports have not been requested from those establishments, which will no longer be top tier sites when Directive 2003/105/EC comes into force; this is required of the member states before 1 July 2005. The basis for this decision was that by the time the reports would have been produced and evaluated the relevant establishments would have been close to or already outside the legal requirement for such a report.

Company/County

Safety Report received

Flogas, Drogheda, Louth

May 2001

Calor, Dublin

January 2001

Flogas, Tivoli, Cork

May 2001

Calor, Tivoli, Cork

February 2001

Calor, Whitegate, Cork

February 2001

Irish Refining, Cork

February 2001

IFI, Marino Point, Cork

May 2001

Dynea, Marino Point

May 2002

IFI, Arklow, Wicklow

April 2001

Merck Sharp Dohme (Irl) Ltd, Tipperary

February 2001

SmithKline Beecham (Cork) Ltd

Jan, 2001

Eli Lily S.A., Cork

February 2001

Schering Plough, Avondale, Wicklow

February 2001

Contract and General Warehousing Ltd, Dublin

June 2002

Campus/Calor, New Ross, Wexford

February 2001

Automation Transport, Dublin

March 2002

Irish Distillers, Cork

September 2001

Bantry Terminals, Cork

March 2001

Irish Industrial Explosives Ltd, Kildare

February 2002

Univar, Dublin

February 2003

Pfizer, Incheera, Cork

December 2003

Esso JFT, Dublin Port

July 2004

TOP Dublin

January 2004

Chemco (Irl) Ltd, Dublin

April 2004

The National Oil Reserves Agency Ltd, Cork

February 2004

Aer Rianta, Shannon, Clare

July 2004

Health and Safety Regulations.

Pat Breen

Question:

304 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether all employers whose activities pose a risk to third parties in the immediate vicinity of workplaces, should be obliged in the interests of natural justice to provide full details of the relevant sections of safety statements and their mandatory risk assessments to such vulnerable third parties; and if he has proposals to amend the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill 2004 in that regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5008/05]

The current law on safety in the workplace is set out in the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989. Section 7 of that Act imposes a general duty on employers to conduct their undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in their employment who may be affected thereby are not exposed to risks to their safety or health.

This law is now due to be updated by the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Bill 2004. Section 12 of that Bill carries over the general duty on employers to persons other than their employees. The Bill will also maintain, in Section 20, the requirement of every employer to have a safety statement, based on an identification of hazards and a risk assessment, setting out the manner in which the safety, health and welfare at work of his or her employees will be secured and managed.

Under the Bill, employers will be required to bring the safety statement to the attention of his or her employees and other persons at the place of work who may be exposed to any specific risk to which the safety statement applies. Where specific tasks are being performed at a place of work that pose a serious risk to safety, health or welfare, an employer will be required to bring to the attention of those affected by that risk relevant extracts of the safety statement setting out: the risk identified; the risk assessment; and the protective and preventive measures taken regarding that risk.

In that regard, a place of work is defined in section 2(1) of the Bill. The definition states: ‘place of work' includes any, or any part of any, place (whether or not within or forming part of a building or structure), land or other location at, in, upon or near which, work is carried on whether occasionally or otherwise, etc.

Community Employment Schemes.

Joan Burton

Question:

305 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the serious situation facing a centre (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if his Department will assist it to find alternative accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5018/05]

The centre in question runs a community employment project, CE, which is funded by FÁS. I am informed by FÁS that it will assist the centre to find alternative affordable premises. It is the practice of FÁS to provide a standard payment to sponsors of CE projects. This is based on the number of participants and supervisors. In addition, a contribution is given towards the costs of materials and the personal development and training of participants.

Social Welfare Appeals.

John McGuinness

Question:

306 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a request for an appeal in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow has not been dealt with; and if the full submission made will be reconsidered and a decision issued. [4506/05]

The appeal in question relates to an application for rent supplement under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme which is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. The southern region of the executive has advised that the person concerned was refused rent supplement on the grounds that he had deprived himself of income, which would have enabled him to provide for his rent from within his own resources. The person concerned has been unsuccessful in appealing against this decision to the executive's appeals officer.

At the request of the person concerned, the decision in his case has been referred to the social welfare appeals office for review by an appeals officer. I understand that an oral hearing in this case is expected to take place in early March. Decisions and appeals on individual claims are dealt with by designated officers in the Health Service Executive or the social welfare appeals office where appropriate and I have no function in this regard.

Social Insurance.

Joe Higgins

Question:

307 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the terms of any concessions made by his Department to any one of a group of companies (details supplied) with regard to the obligation to pay tax and social insurance in respect of employees; and his estimate of the cost of these concessions up to December 2004. [5017/05]

Exemption from payment of employment contributions, for a period not exceeding 52 weeks, can be granted in respect of the temporary employment of persons who are not ordinarily resident in the State. Such exemptions are subject to the persons concerned having valid work permits and confirmation that social insurance contributions are paid in their home country. The social insurance cost of the exemptions cannot be quantified, as salary details of the employees involved are not required to process exemption requests.

Issues relating to tax are a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Finance.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Question:

308 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved for the carer’s allowance. [4502/05]

Under the regulations governing carer's allowance, a person may participate in employment for a maximum of ten hours per week. Following the necessary investigations to determine the person's entitlement to this allowance, the application was refused on the grounds that the person concerned is employed in excess of the ten hours allowed each week. The person concerned was notified of this decision on 1 February 2005, the reason for it and of his right to appeal to the social welfare appeals office. Under social welfare legislation decisions on claims must be made by deciding officers and appeals officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Tony Gregory

Question:

309 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a decision will be made on the application of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1 for disability allowance. [4575/05]

The person's claim for disability allowance was refused by a deciding officer following an examination by a medical assessor of the Department who expressed the view that he was not medically qualified for this payment. He appealed this decision to the social welfare appeals office and in the context of his appeal he was examined by another medical assessor who was also of the opinion that he did not satisfy the relevant medical eligibility criteria. Following an oral hearing the appeals officer, having considered all the available evidence, was not satisfied that the person is substantially handicapped to the degree that would prevent him from undertaking suitable employment. Notification of the decision has issued to the person concerned. Under social welfare legislation decisions on claims must be made by deciding officers and appeals officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Denis Naughten

Question:

310 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason community welfare officers were instructed not to support people through the supplementary welfare allowance who required transport for hospital appointments; if he will review this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4588/05]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive, provides for exceptional needs payments to be made to assist with essential, once-off expenditure in exceptional circumstances. There is no automatic entitlement to an exceptional needs payment. Every decision is based on consideration of the circumstances of the case, taking account of the nature and extent of the need and of the resources of the household concerned. Account is also taken of the availability of an alternative source to meet the need, for example, entitlements or relevant services from other state agencies.

The type of assistance referred to by the Deputy is appropriate to the ambulance service, which operates in each of the Health Service Executive regions. This service is funded to provide transport, including the hiring of taxis if necessary, to bring patients and clients to and from hospital appointments.

In response to various enquiries from the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive from time to time regarding this matter, the advice by my Department has been that it is not appropriate that the supplementary welfare allowance scheme be used to supplement or substitute for ambulance or related hospital transport services. This remains the position. This advice does not affect the general discretion available to community welfare officers to issue an exceptional needs payment to assist an individual or household in any particular hardship situation, which might arise.

Mary Upton

Question:

311 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 is entitled to free fuel allowance. [4619/05]

According to the records of my Department, the person concerned has not submitted an application for fuel allowance. The person concerned does not qualify for the allowance as the total weekly income of her household exceeds the qualifying income threshold, which in her case, is €374.99 per week.

The person concerned is a qualified adult on her husband's old age contributory pension and their current weekly rate of payment is €165.40 comprising €96.10 personal rate and €69.30 qualified adult allowance. Her husband also has income from an occupational pension of €16,884 per year in 2003, which is €324.69 per week, giving a total household income of €490.09 per week.

If the person concerned has special heating needs and is unable to provide for those needs, she may qualify for a heating payment under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. A heating supplement is available under that scheme for people who require extra heating in their homes because of ill health or infirmity. An application for this supplement may be made through her local community welfare officer.

Seán Haughey

Question:

312 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will review the household benefits package in order that a person in receipt of a qualifying payment but living with an adult child in employment is eligible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4654/05]

The household benefits package, which comprises the electricity or gas allowance, telephone allowance and free television licence schemes is generally available to people living permanently in the State, aged 66 years or over, who are in receipt of a social welfare type payment or who fulfil a means test. The package is also available to carers and people with disabilities under the age of 66 who are in receipt of certain welfare type payments. People aged over 70 years of age can qualify regardless of their income or household composition.

To be eligible for the schemes a person who is under 70 years of age must, as well as receiving a qualifying payment, be living alone or with an excepted person. In this regard, a child under 18 or, if in full-time education, 22, is regarded as an excepted person. However, an adult or child who is in employment is not regarded as an excepted person for the purpose of the schemes, and this is considered to be a reasonable approach.

David Stanton

Question:

313 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on the means testing of persons whose savings from their non-contributory old age pension payments only has put them over the means threshold; if the threshold has not increased proportionately with pension rates over the past 25 years; if he will review this situation and make changes in same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4916/05]

In assessing means for social assistance purposes account is taken of any cash income the person may have, together with the value of capital and property, except the home. Capital may include the following: stocks and shares of every description, which are assessed according to their current market value; savings certificates, bonds, national instalment savings, which are assessed according to their current market value; and money invested in a bank, building society etc.

The source of any capital held by a pensioner can and does vary. It can include savings from income while formerly working, savings derived from the sale of property or other assets, savings from occupational or social welfare pensions, gifts, inheritances, accumulated interest or dividends or a combination of these. It would not be possible or practicable to distinguish savings derived from a particular source.

For the purposes of old age non-contributory pension, an initial amount of capital has always been disregarded for means test purposes. This amount was £200 up to 1997 and was increased to £2,000 in that year. In October 2000, the disregard was substantially increased to £10,000. Last October, I requested my Department to carry out a comprehensive examination of the current arrangements for the assessment of capital, particularly in so far as they apply to SSIAs, with a view to bringing forward proposals in budget 2005. On budget day, I was pleased to announce that the amount of capital disregarded for means test purposes for all schemes, except supplementary welfare allowance, will be increased from €12,694.38 to 420,000, an increase of more than 47,300. The enhanced disregard applies to all capital regardless of where it is held, be it in an SSIA, a credit union, with An Post or any other account with a bank or other financial institution.

The new arrangements will mean that a single non-contributory pensioner, with no other means, can have capital of up to €28,000 and still qualify for a pension at the maximum rate. This figure is doubled in the case of a pensioner couple. As a consequence of the increases in the capital disregards in 2000 and, now in 2005, the capital disregard has increased at a rate significantly ahead of increases in the weekly rates. Since 1980, the weekly rate of old age non-contributory pension has increased by approximately 520% while the capital disregard has increased by nearly 8,000%.

The new arrangements announced by me on budget day are designed to ensure that social welfare means testing arrangements do not act as a disincentive to claimants to become savers or penalise those who have been regular savers in the past.

Pension Provisions.

David Stanton

Question:

314 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 259 of 28 October 2004 the amount recovered each year since and including 2000 following the assessment of overpayments of means tested pensions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4917/05]

The number of means-tested pension cases where my Department assessed overpayments against the estates of deceased pensioners since 2000 with the value of overpayments recovered from those estates is as follows;

Year

Number of Cases

Value of overpayments recovered

2000

508

£3,463,606.00

2001

442

£4,541,903.00

2002

406

€5,016,542.40

2003

388

€5,081,195.49

2004

335

€5,462,235.46

2005 (January)

18

€272,874.69

Social Welfare Benefits.

Richard Bruton

Question:

315 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person paying a maintenance charge for an apartment is entitled to apply under supplementary welfare for support on the basis of hardship or exceptional need; and if his Department has issued guidelines to community welfare officers regarding the way in which they should treat such applications. [5019/05]

Subject to certain conditions, rent supplements are provided through the supplementary welfare allowance scheme which is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive.

The legislation governing rent supplements precludes payments being made to defray the cost of maintenance of, or repairs to, a dwelling for which, in the absence of agreement to the contrary, the tenant would be liable. Neither is rent supplement payable in respect of management charges for services such as gardening, window cleaning or general upkeep, which might apply to a tenancy.

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme also provides for exceptional needs payments to be made at the discretion of the community welfare service to assist with essential, once-off expenditure in individual situations of need. In general it is not appropriate for an exceptional needs payment to be made to a tenant in respect of normal recurring management charges for an apartment. However, it is open to the community welfare service to assist if necessary in the specific circumstances of an individual case, particularly if an unforeseen charge arises, which would cause hardship.

Rail Network.

Joe Higgins

Question:

316 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport if he has received a report outlining the viability of a rail line from Dublin to Dunboyne; and if he will provide investment for this urgently needed public transport infrastructure. [4833/05]

Iarnród Éireann, in consultation with Meath and Fingal county councils, has, in recent days, completed a feasibility study into the development of a spur off the Maynooth to Dublin line at Clonsilla to a location at the N3 beyond Dunboyne. While a copy of the feasibility study has been forwarded to my Department, it is now a matter for Iarnród Éireann to decide how it wishes to proceed with this proposal.

Air Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

317 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the details of his policy priorities for the development of the Irish aviation sector; his preferred strategy for the future of the State airline and for the development of a second airport terminal at Dublin Airport; his views on the way in which State airports and regional airports can be developed and capacity increased at both; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5048/05]

It is Government policy to encourage as wide a range as possible of safe, reliable and competitive air services to and from Ireland. The central tenet of this policy is the belief that strong, competitive and efficient networks of air links are vitally important for developing our trade and tourism sectors, particularly having regard to our island status and peripheral location.

The operation of air services within Europe has been totally liberalised by the EU and this has ensured that fares, routes and frequency of services operated by carriers, including Irish carriers, are entirely commercial decisions for each company. Increased competition between air carriers has resulted in cheaper air fares and more choice for consumers.

A major policy development in the airports sector was the enactment of the State Airports Act 2004 and the appointment of the new board of the Dublin Airport Authority, which has a statutory mandate to do everything necessary to give effect to the restructuring of the State airports. The new Shannon and Cork airport authorities have also been incorporated and all three airport authorities are in the process of preparing comprehensive business plans for their airports for consideration by me and the Minister for Finance. We both must be satisfied as to the state of operational and financial readiness of the Shannon and Cork airport authorities before the assets of the airports are vested in these authorities.

The other main policy issues currently being addressed are the future of Aer Lingus, the second terminal issue at Dublin Airport and the facilitation of greater access for all airlines providing transatlantic air services to and from the US. I have already addressed the position regarding the future of Aer Lingus and further terminal capacity of Dublin Airport in response to Priority Questions earlier today. With regard to transatlantic air services, I accept that an open skies agreement between the EU and the US is inevitable. Ireland's support will be contingent on an acceptable arrangement on Shannon being agreed between Ireland and the US, and that arrangement being reflected in the EU-US agreement. My officials have been maintaining contact with the US authorities, to explore what adjustments to the current Ireland-US arrangements are possible. While further informal contacts took place on 7 February when some senior US officials were in Dublin for a seminar on aviation regulation organised by the Institute of European Affairs, no conclusions were reached.

In general, it is Government policy that the three State airports should be in a position to provide cost competitive and appropriate infrastructure to meet the current and prospective needs of users consistent with a commercial mandate. Our six regional airports also provide an additional means of access for business and tourism to the regions, which they serve and my policy is to support the efforts of the regional airports in this regard. This support is manifest through a range of support schemes for regional air access such as the PSO programme, which supports air services to the regions. My Department will also continue to provide support to facilitate continued safe and viable operations at the airports and for essential capital works under the NDP. However, the level of support for the regional airports must continue to be considered in the light of wider aviation policy and the availability of Exchequer funds.

Departmental Programmes.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

318 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the process which his Department is engaging in to establish the ten-year transport investment plan proposed in budget 2005; the analysis which has been undertaken to help prioritise projects; and the planning guidelines which are being used to provide a background to the investment decisions that are being made. [5091/05]

In his recent Budget Statement, the Minister for Finance agreed in principle that an extended ten-year capital envelope was appropriate in the case of investment in transport. This reflects the reality of the long lead-in times required for design and planning, as well as the substantial construction periods required for major capital projects in the transport sector. It also provides clear and concrete evidence of the Government's determination to provide our First World economy with a first rate transport system.

The ten-year transport investment framework will identify the investment and outline the measures that I believe are required in order to further develop all elements of national transport infrastructure, addressing existing bottlenecks and capacity constraints, enhancing quality, optimising the use of the network and making prudent advance provision for future economic growth. It is not possible to outline the specifics of the draft plan pending its consideration by the Cabinet infrastructure committee and by the Cabinet itself.

The ten-year framework will take account of the substantial changes over the past 15 years or so. We have seen large increases in our population, wealth and employment. Economic growth has led to huge increases in the amount of goods being transported, as well as strong growth in car ownership levels, increased travel demand and increases in the numbers of people and goods passing through our airports and ports.

The ten-year framework will also take account of the linkages between transport and land use and spatial planning so that we can develop a transport system that contributes to sustainable development in all its dimensions: economic, social and environmental. The plan will be fully informed by and will support the policies set out in the national spatial strategy. It will also take account of the regional planning guidelines adopted during 2004 and will be informed by and support a number of regional land use and transportation strategies for the cities, such as the Dublin Transportation Office's long-term strategy, A Platform for Change, and the Cork Area Strategic Plan. I am also considering whether the development of this draft framework will fall within the scope of the strategic environmental assessment directive.

My officials have been engaging with CIE, the Railway Procurement Agency, the National Roads Authority and the Dublin Transportation Office and the expertise and inputs of these agencies have been significant in helping to identify broad lines and priorities for programmes to be undertaken under the auspices of the new framework. The current five-year investment envelope for transport investment is €10.2 billion over the 2005-09 period. The precise financial parameters for the period to 2014 will be subject to final agreement with the Minister for Finance and the Government. Details of the draft plan are being finalised and I will bring it to the Cabinet infrastructure committee early next month.

Public Transport.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

319 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the estimated length of new quality bus corridors that are due to come into operation in Dublin in 2005; the number of new buses that will be added to the Dublin bus fleet; and his views on whether Dublin Bus has a sufficiently large fleet to be able to provide the frequency of bus service for these routes to be characterised as quality bus corridors. [5092/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 123 which I replied to earlier.

Road Traffic Offences.

John Gormley

Question:

320 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether cars parked in cycle lanes is an increasing problem for cyclists; if he intends to introduce more stringent measures to deal with this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4734/05]

The statutory basis for the use of cycle tracks is set out in the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 and 1998. The regulations prohibit parking in a cycle track. The offence of illegal parking in a cycle track comes within the scope of the on-the-spot fines system and the amount of the on-the-spot fine currently applicable to the offence is €19, which is the level that applies to the majority of parking offences. Where an on-the-spot fine notice is issued, it is open to the person to whom the notice is addressed to pay the relevant amount so as to avoid the matter proceeding to court. Section 23 of the Road Traffic Act 2002, which was commenced on 31 October 2002, provides for major increases in certain financial penalties for road traffic offences including an increase in the general penalty that applies to the majority of offences under the Road Traffic Acts, including the offence of illegally parking in a cycle track.

If the motorist elects to go to court and is convicted of this offence he or she is liable to a fine not exceeding €800 for a first offence, a fine not exceeding €1,500 for a second or subsequent offence and if a third or subsequent such offence is committed within 12 months the person is liable to a fine not exceeding €1,500 or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or both. The determination of the fine to be imposed in each particular case is a matter for the courts. The enforcement of the road traffic parking regulations is a matter for the Garda Síochána and local authority traffic wardens. My Department does not have statistics on the enforcement and prosecution of parking offences.

The Act also provides for the replacement of the present on-the-spot fines system by a fixed charge system. The new system will bring greater certainty to the application of administrative charges for the traffic and parking offences to which it will apply. It is proposed that the level of fixed charge for motorists who illegally park in a cycle track will be significantly higher than €19. I expect that the roll out of the fixed charge system to a wide range of traffic and parking offences will be completed later this year when the Garda Síochána's new IT fixed charge processing system is in place.

National Car Test.

Billy Timmins

Question:

321 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport the criteria used in selecting NCT centres; if there is any safety requirement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4904/05]

The selection of test premises for the provision of a car testing service was a matter for the successful contractor subject to compliance with the requirements of the tender specification for the contract. These requirements included that each test centre should be located within 30 miles of 90% of the car owners for whom it is the nearest centre, within or close to a large town served by national roads, satisfy certain standards regarding building facilities, design and services, and meet all relevant statutory requirements including safety, health and welfare regulations.

Departmental Bodies.

Fiona O'Malley

Question:

322 Ms F. O’Malley asked the Minister for Transport the list of expenses paid to the directors of Aer Rianta, Aer Rianta International and CIE in the past five years. [4495/05]

Although some information has been supplied to me in respect of the aggregate expenses of directors of State bodies, in no case have I detailed a list of the expenses paid to individual directors. This is a day-to-day matter for the bodies concerned

Fiona O'Malley

Question:

323 Ms F. O’Malley asked the Minister for Transport the way in which worker directors appointed to State boards, under his authority, are remunerated; and if they are required to carry out their day-to-day duties as members of the company workforce. [4496/05]

Worker directors appointed to State boards of bodies under the aegis of the Department of Transport are remunerated on the same basis as other directors and are paid rates as approved by the Department of Finance. They are required to devote to the performance of their duties as a member of the board so much of their time as may be necessary in addition to the efficient discharge of their normal work duties.

Rail Network.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

324 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the situation regarding a new railway station for Dunleer, County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4520/05]

I refer the Deputy to my response to an identical question on 29 September last. The situation since then is unchanged. The location of stations on the rail network is a matter for Iarnród Éireann. The company informs me that it has examined the case for reopening Dunleer station on a number of occasions in the past. A review of the Dublin suburban rail strategy, conducted on behalf of the company, concluded that the station would only have very modest daily boardings given the population of the area. However, I understand that a new development plan has been approved for Dunleer, which involves significant population growth.

While I understand that Iarnród Éireann has still not yet seen the revised development plan, the company has indicated that it is prepared to re-examine its position regarding the reopening of the station if the plan provides for an increase in population in the area and if funding can be provided from developers.

Traffic Regulations.

John McGuinness

Question:

325 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Transport if the new regulations introduced restricting coaches and buses to the use of the slow lane on motorways and imposing a maximum limit on such vehicles of 80 km/h is at variance with current EU tachograph regulations which set the speed limit at 100 km/h and has no lane restrictions; if he will review the situation and respond to the suggestions made by the coach tourism and transport council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4542/05]

The Road Traffic Acts 1961 to 2004 provide powers to the Minister for Transport to prescribe maximum speed limits for classes of vehicles and to regulate for the driving of such vehicles on the public roads.

The EU speed limiter directives require that goods vehicles having a design gross weight exceeding 12,000 kg be equipped with speed limitation devices that must be set so that the vehicle speed cannot exceed 90 km/h. From 1 January 2005 that requirement was extended to all new goods vehicles over 3,500 kg. In addition, the mandatory speed limiter requirements for passenger vehicles that accommodate more than eight passengers is that the permissible maximum speed be 100 km/h except for buses with provision for standees, in which case the limiter should be set so that the vehicle cannot exceed 65 km/h.

The purpose of these EU directives, which have been transposed into Irish law, is to limit to specified values the maximum road speed of certain vehicles. The directives do not constrain member states from setting lower speed limits for the classes of vehicles concerned. The Road Traffic (Ordinary Speed Limits — Certain Vehicles) Regulations 2005 (SI No. 9 of 2005) made by me on 12 January 2005 prescribe maximum speed limits for certain classes of vehicles from 20 January 2005. The speed limit of 80 km/h has been prescribed for vehicles that have accommodation for more than eight passengers, for goods vehicles having a design gross weight in excess of 3,500 kg and for any vehicle towing a trailer, caravan, horsebox etc. A speed limit of 65 km/h has been prescribed for double deck passenger vehicles.

In setting the new metric speed limits for these classes of vehicles I made no change to the speed limit policy that had applied since 1992 other than converting the previous maximum limits to the nearest equivalent metric value. In addition, I also made the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) (Amendment) Regulations 2005 (SI No. 12 of 2005). These amend Article 80 of the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to provide that, from 20 January 2005, the maximum speed that a bus — single deck or double deck — may be driven at when carrying standee passengers is 65 km/h.

I made further regulations on 12 January, namely, the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) (Amendment) Regulations 2005 (SI No. 11 of 2005). Driving rules for traffic on motorways were introduced in October 1997 under the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997 (SI No. 182 of 1997). One of these 1997 regulations prohibited the driving of a vehicle, for which an ordinary speed limit of not more than 50 mph is prescribed, in the traffic lane nearest the right hand edge of a carriageway having more than one traffic lane except where it is necessary to proceed in that lane due to an obstruction or because another lane or lanes are for the time being closed to traffic.

I made no change in the 2005 regulations to the policy that has applied since 1997 for the relevant classes of vehicles other than converting the previous maximum limit of 50 mph to the nearest equivalent metric value, which is 80 km/h. I made it clear when I announced the vehicle speed limits concerned on 17 January last that I intend to revisit the matter of maximum speed limits for classes of vehicles later in the year. This will be done in consultation with the relevant interest groups including the Coach Tourism and Transport Council.

Driving Licences.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

326 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the number of persons holding provisional driving licences; the number of such drivers who are on first, second, third or subsequent provisional licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4557/05]

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, which administers the national driver file, on which driving licence records are held, has advised me of the number of provisional licence holders as at 31 December 2004. These are set out in the following table:

Series of Licence

Number of Provisional Licence Holders

First

177,808

Second

107,466

Third or Subsequent

95,073

Total

380,347

Driving Tests.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

327 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the status of registered driving instructors with regard to the Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4578/05]

Proposals being developed by my Department for the regulation and quality assurance of driving instruction will involve a test of the competence of individual instructors. A working group comprising representatives of my Department and instruction interests has formulated the design of the standards that a driving instructor must meet. I am considering what arrangements will be put in place to oversee implementation of the standard in the context of the establishment of the Driver Testing and Standards Authority. The Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill 2004, which provides for the establishment of the Authority was published on 6 July 2004 and the Second Stage debate commenced on 14 October 2004.

Rail Network.

Michael Lowry

Question:

328 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to correspondence (details supplied); his views on the matters outlined in the letter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4620/05]

Pat Breen

Question:

331 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport if he will meet a deputation (details supplied) to discuss the feasibility study on the Shannon rail link; the actions which will be taken to expediently move towards having this feasibility study progressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4689/05]

Martin Ferris

Question:

342 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Transport if he will meet with the Shannon Rail Partnership to discuss the forthcoming feasibility study on the Shannon rail link. [4869/05]

Michael Noonan

Question:

348 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Transport if he will meet a delegation from the Shannon Rail Partnership to discuss a number of issues arising from the feasibility study being undertaken by Iarnród Éireann to consider the viability of the proposal to develop a Shannon rail link; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5022/05]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

365 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Transport the position concerning the viability of the proposal to develop a Shannon rail link; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5115/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 328, 331, 342, 348 and 365 together.

The proposed Shannon rail link was examined in the course of the Strategic Rail Review, which my Department published in 2003. The cost benefit and multi criteria analyses carried out as part of the review showed that the proposal did not perform very well in terms of net economic benefit and, therefore, it was not included by the consultants in the recommended investment strategy. However, the review was conducted at a strategic level rather than a feasibility study level and many interests in the Shannon region see the proposed rail link as bringing strong economic benefits to the region. As a result of this my predecessor as Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan, requested Iarnród Éireann to undertake a feasibility study on the viability of this proposal in consultation with various local interests.

I have brought the matters raised in the letter referred to by Deputy Lowry to the attention of Iarnród Éireann. However, it is a matter for the company to decide what matters to consider when assessing the feasibility of the proposals. I will, of course, be happy to meet a delegation from Shannon Rail Partnership to discuss the proposal further and following its letter of 2 February, my office has already been in contact with it with regard to a suitable date for a meeting.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

329 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if EU or other funding for North-South rail projects is available to part fund a rail link via Dunboyne, Navan and Kingscourt. [4625/05]

Iarnród Éireann, in conjunction with Meath and Fingal county councils, recently completed a feasibility study into providing a spur from the Dublin to Sligo railway line at Clonsilla to Dunboyne. It is now a matter for Iarnród Éireann to decide how to progress this matter. While there are no plans, at present, to extend this line beyond Dunboyne, I understand that the provision of a park and ride site near the N3 to cater for Navan traffic is being considered.

Light Rail Project.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

330 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if he has received the anticipated application for a light rail order for the green line Luas extension to Cherrywood. [4630/05]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

333 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if he has received the anticipated application for a light rail order for the green line Luas extension to Cherrywood. [4729/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 330 and 333 together.

The Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, is developing proposals for an extension of the Luas to Cherrywood. This work includes consultation, design and route planning. A particular feature of the work concerns the issue of private sector funding, captured through levies provided for under planning legislation, from developers who own land along the proposed route. My Department is awaiting a business plan from the RPA to assist in its evaluation of the Cherrywood extension. An application for a railway order would follow approval of the business plan.

Question No. 331 answered with QuestionNo. 328.

Departmental Properties.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

332 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport his views on an Iarnród Éireann proposal to charge customers for the use of its car parks at Dublin suburban rail stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4715/05]

I have not received any formal submissions from Iarnród Éireann regarding charging customers for the use of car parks at Dublin suburban rail stations. I understand, however, that the company is giving consideration to such proposals.

Question No. 333 answered with QuestionNo. 330.

Rail Network.

Liam Twomey

Question:

334 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Transport the reason recent media reports of Government orders for new railcars excluded the Dublin to Rosslare Europort route even though new carriages were expected to replace the current commuter trains on this route; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4859/05]

Liam Twomey

Question:

338 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Transport if he intends increasing the frequency of trains on the Dublin to Rosslare Europort line in line with what is expected to happen on other important railway lines in the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4865/05]

Liam Twomey

Question:

339 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Transport the reason the Greystones to Rosslare Europort line is expected to be the last for the new Iarnród Éireann mini-CTC programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4866/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 334, 338 and 339 together.

Iarnród Éireann considers the development of the infrastructure and the use of particular rolling stock on a route in the light of the demand for services and the likely return on the investment required. Iarnród Éireann informs me that it has upgraded all the trackwork on the Rosslare line in the past two years. More modern rolling stock was allocated to the route since last December. The timetable has been altered to provide a better spread of services, including an early morning departure from Dublin. Commuters from Gorey have been facilitated since last year by extending the Arklow commuter train to serve Gorey.

The company is undertaking a significant network-wide re-signalling project and work on the Rosslare line is due to be completed in 2007. From 2007 onwards it is intended to provide a two-hourly frequency in both directions on the route with reduced journey times.

Noel Grealish

Question:

335 Mr. Grealish asked the Minister for Transport when he will receive the report on the working group on the western rail corridor; when he expects to make a decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4862/05]

Last year, my predecessor as Minister for Transport, Deputy Brennan, appointed a working group to carry out an examination of the proposal to re-open the western rail corridor. The group is under the chairmanship of Mr. Pat McCann, group chief executive, Jurys Doyle Hotel Group. The group comprises county managers, directors of the regional authorities, representatives of city and county development boards, the Western Development Commission, West-on-Track and the intercounty rail committee, Iarnród Éireann, the Railway Procurement Agency and my Department. The working group and its sub-groups have been considering the question of the feasibility of the western rail corridor since June last year and I understand that it may now be nearing the end of its deliberations. Accordingly, I expect to receive a report in the coming months. Prior to the receipt of that report it would be premature for me to make any further comment.

Driving Tests.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

336 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport the number of persons on waiting lists for a driving test at each of the country’s test centres at present; and the average waiting time nationally at present for the driving test. [4863/05]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

346 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport the number of persons on waiting lists for a driving test at each of the country’s test centres; and the average waiting time nationally for the driving test. [4873/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 336 and 346 together.

The following table sets out the number of applicants waiting for a driving test at each test centre at 14 February 2005. The average waiting time nationally for a driving test at 14 February 2005 was 30 weeks.

Driving Test Centres

Number of applicants waiting for a driving test at 14 February 2005

North Leinster Region

Finglas

9,207

Raheny

7,558

Dundalk

2,998

Mullingar

1,601

Navan

4,473

South Leinster Region

Churchtown/Rathgar

11,595

Tallaght

8,505

Gorey

2,092

Naas

5,510

Tullamore

2,011

Wicklow

2,360

West Region

Athlone

1,247

Birr

1,130

Castlebar

2,058

Clifden

370

Ennis

1,173

Galway

2,831

Loughrea

883

Roscommon

860

Tuam

1,052

North West Region

Ballina

1,048

Buncrana

643

Ck-on-Shannon

1,019

Cavan

1,658

Donegal

1,029

Letterkenny

2,158

Longford

929

Monaghan

1,354

Sligo

1,340

South East Region

Carlow

2,483

Clonmel

1,984

Dungarvan

1,591

Kilkenny

2,175

Nenagh

827

Portlaoise

1,625

Thurles

1,182

Tipperary

1,030

Waterford

2,833

Wexford

2,429

South West Region

Cork

6,293

Killarney

2,103

Kilrush

438

Limerick

3,764

Mallow

2,038

Newcastle West

1,693

Shannon

878

Skibereen

1,869

Tralee

1,697

Departmental Expenditure.

Noel Grealish

Question:

337 Mr. Grealish asked the Minister for Transport the level of investment made in key transport infrastructure in the west (details supplied) over the past five years, particularly road and rail spend, and corresponding figures for the eastern seaboard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4864/05]

It is not possible to give a breakdown of the level of key rail expenditure in the west and the eastern seaboard region on the county basis specified in the Deputy's question. The provision of public transport, including rail, is by its nature, a trans-regional business. Much of the public transport investment in the five-year period 2000-04 is spread across both the Border, midlands and west BMW, region and the south and east regions.

The benefits of investment in additional rolling stock, the development and upgrading of trackwork and associated facilities and re-signalling projects across the rail network are felt throughout both regions. These benefits include additional capacity, shorter train journey times and improved quality of service and safety. Recent examples of this cross-regional investment include the upgrading of facilities at Heuston Station benefiting mainline rail services to the south and west, the acquisition of 80 new diesel railcars, the new diesel rail depot at Drogheda and vast amounts of funding for trackwork and signalling improvements on mainline lines throughout the country.

Under the national development plan, NDP, and the economic and social infrastructure programme, based on the latest figures available, a total of €210 million was directly spent in public transport projects in the BMW region up to mid-2004. A total of €2.04 billion was invested in the south and east region in the same period. Further substantial expenditure in rail rolling stock and infrastructure improvements was incurred since then in both regions. This will continue to the end of the NDP programme in 2006 and beyond under a multi-annual funding programme for public transport, resulting in continual improvements to rail services.

The level of capital grant assistance provided to the regional airports in counties Galway and Sligo and Knock in Mayo over the past five years is outlined in the following table:

Airport

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

Galway

258,646

287,807

728,065

944,712

1,276,421

Knock

0

302,610

0

2,030,996

0

Sligo

0

181,759

470,060

238,694

9,441

Total capital expenditure by the Irish Aviation Authority on air traffic services infrastructure for the period 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2004, by location, was as follows: Dublin, €26,043,000; Mayo, €15,300. The authority incurred no air traffic services capital expenditure in Galway, Sligo, Meath and Kildare in the five years to 31 December 2004. The expenditure in Dublin was part of a major €115 million investment programme in new air traffic management systems and equipment by the authority. The new system and centre in Shannon accounted for €82.6 million of total expenditure.

Relevant expenditure on national roads in the counties specified by the Deputy is set out in the following table.

Galway

Sligo

Mayo

Year

Improvements

Maintenance

Improvements

Maintenance

Improvements

Maintenance

2000

12,324,398

2,656,741

6,044,358

937,166

16,773,462

2,111,082

2001

15,401,902

3,318,873

9,187,600

1,343,135

28,919,090

3,673,293

2002

16,069,886

4,046,388

11,941,190

1,178,000

26,253,754

3,340,909

2003

14,595,009

3,468,676

13,205,970

1,312,609

16,026,625

3,659,683

2004

25,878,900

3,637,900

20,851,500

1,343,600

19,896,353

3,005,600

Total

84,270,095

17,128,578

61,230,618

6,114,510

107,869,284

15,790,567

Meath

Kildare

All 4 Dublin Authorities

Year

Improvements

Main tenance

Improvements

Maintenance

Improvements

Maintenance

2000

54,100,288

1,153,054

22,517,058

1,309,054

129,850,953

2,260,134

2001

90,932,138

1,815,936

38,654,780

1,762,117

294,476,220

3,453,764

2002

107,029,818

1,761,495

86,818,729

1,794,768

329,390,398

3,388,314

2003

52,485,011

1,508,303

102,483,970

1,730,000

429,513,623

4,455,389

2004

101,786,500

1,769,100

127,919,000

1,833,100

271,901,000

4,319,300

Total

406,333,755

8,007,888

378,393,537

8,429,039

1,455,132,194

17,876,901

Questions Nos. 338 and 339 answered with Question No. 334.

Rail Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

340 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Transport the reason Iarnród Éireann suddenly raised its container freight charges by 25% and placed undue pressure on exporters who use this service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4867/05]

As part of Iarnród Éireann's plans to reshape its loss-making operations, the company has restructured its rail freight operations to refocus on the more profitable elements of rail freight and seek out new business in those areas where the rail mode is best suited to the traffic. I understand from the company that it has had some success in this regard and that its efforts are continuing. Iarnród Éireann's decision to increase its charges is in line with its plans to return this aspect of its operations to profitability.

Rail Network.

Liam Twomey

Question:

341 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Transport if there are plans to purchase more locomotives for the 2005 sugar beet season in the south east given that the number of journeys will increase to 42 per week (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4868/05]

The allocation and deployment of locomotives is a matter for Iarnród Éireann. The company has assured me that it has sufficient numbers of locomotives in its fleet to provide for the demands of the 2005 sugar beet season. I also understand from the company that it operates a pool of locomotives with Northern Ireland Railways which are used from time to time by both companies. These locomotives operate across all Iarnród Éireann and Northern Ireland Railway services and are not confined to use in freight movement.

Question No. 342 answered with QuestionNo. 328.

Departmental Bodies.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

343 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Transport if it is the Government’s intention to merge the recently established Shannon Airport Authority with the Shannon Free Airport Development Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4870/05]

A working group was established by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment last year to consider options for how Shannon Development and the Shannon Airport Authority can best contribute to the development of the mid-west region. While consideration has been given to a range of options, no decision has been taken on a possible merger of Shannon Airport Authority and Shannon Development.

Question No. 344 answered with QuestionNo. 95.

Public Transport.

Seán Ryan

Question:

345 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Transport his proposals for a public transport connection from Dublin city centre to the airport with a connection to Swords. [4872/05]

I refer the deputy to my earlier answer to Priority Questions Nos. 91 and 93.

Question No. 346 answered with QuestionNo. 336.
Question No. 347 answered with QuestionNo. 117.
Question No. 348 answered with QuestionNo. 328.

Rail Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

349 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport his proposals in regard to rail freight; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5023/05]

It is my policy that Iarnród Éireann should remain in the rail freight business and I am aware that the company has made great strides in restructuring this element of its operations. As part of an overall plan to address its difficult financial position, Iarnród Éireann is undertaking a restructuring of its rail freight business. Its strategy is to develop the profitable traffic it already has, such as bulk freight and trainload traffic, and reshape the loss- making container business.

I understand the company is in negotiation with prospective customers and continues to examine new sources of business, all of which will serve to reduce the impact of freight on the road network.

Airport Development Projects.

Pat Breen

Question:

350 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to a proposed variation to the county development plan of Fingal County Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5030/05]

The zoning of land is a matter for the planning authorities. On the ERM report into public safety zones, I understand that Fingal County Council is fully aware of its contents, having been consulted directly by ERM a number of times as part of ERM's work on the report. The recommendations in ERM's report permit a number of different kinds of new developments up to specific densities in the outer public safety zones, including developments of new working premises, such as factories and offices, for example.

State Airports.

Pat Breen

Question:

351 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport , further to Question No. 264 of 28 October 2004, relating to the airport development plan of March 1968 for Dublin Airport inclusive of developmental restrictions associated with both proposed runways and runway extensions, if a similar plan was prepared at or around the same time for Shannon Airport; if such plan outlined appropriate restrictions on runways 06/24, 13/31, 05/23 and 18/36 in addition to catering for extensions to runways 06/24 and 13/31; the details of such extensions; if such plan was conveyed by his Department to Clare County Council; if the council subsequently designated red zones in its county development plan based on the restrictions outlined in the departmental plan. [5031/05]

I understand that in the late 1960s, in the context of drafting a county development plan, a scheme showing restrictions that were considered necessary for the purposes of air safety was forwarded to Clare County Council. I am advised by the Dublin Airport Authority, formerly Aer Rianta, that the scheme took account, inter alia, of possible future extensions of two runways at Shannon Airport, namely 06/24 and 14/32, subsequently redesignated 13/31. The subsequent incorporation of any or all of that information into the county development plan of the time was a matter for Clare County Council.

Pat Breen

Question:

352 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport if a company (details supplied) submitted a hitherto undisclosed report relating to public safety zones at Dublin Airport to his Department in July 2001; if so, the reason such report was not made available subsequently as part of the public consultation process in relation to such public safety zones; and if, in relation to such secretion of public information, he has plans to rectify this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5032/05]

Pat Breen

Question:

353 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport if a company (details supplied) submitted a hitherto undisclosed report relating to public safety zones at Cork and Shannon airports to his Department in April 2002; if so, the reason such report was not made available subsequently as part of the public consultation process in relation to such public safety zones; if in relation to such secretion of public information he has plans to rectify this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5033/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 352 and 353 together.

The Deputy seems to be referring to early drafts of ERM's report into public safety zones which were sent to the Departments of Transport and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government by ERM. The draft report on Dublin Airport, dating from 2001, and the draft reports on Cork and Shannon, dating from 2002, were amalgamated by ERM and formed the basis for its draft final report in June 2003 which was published on its website and opened for comments from all interested persons. In addition, ERM held an open day at each of Dublin, Shannon and Cork airports at which it presented the results of its work. The report was finalised by ERM in September 2003. Subsequently, the Government, at its meeting on 19 January 2005, approved the drawing up of guidelines by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government based on ERM's report to be issued to local authorities regarding public safety zones at the three State airports.

It should be noted that the issue of guidelines by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will provide a further opportunity for public consultation. Also, when those guidelines are issued to the local authorities concerned, those local authorities will engage in further public consultation regarding any changes they propose to their development plans should they feel that changes may be necessary on foot of the guidelines issued to them. Accordingly, I am satisfied that there has been and will be ample opportunity for the public and any interested parties to give their views on this issue.

Question No. 354 answered with QuestionNo. 95.

Road Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

355 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his plans to ensure that the port tunnel is capable of meeting the requirements of the modern transport fleet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5061/05]

The Dublin Port tunnel, when completed, will have an operational height of 4.65 metres. It is the view of Dublin City Council and the National Roads Authority that the Dublin Port tunnel will facilitate almost all of the HGV traffic using Dublin Port. Two vehicle height surveys of HGVs using Dublin Port — one by the Dublin Port Company and one by the National Institute of Transport and Logistics — indicate that between 0.6% to 1.7% of HGVs entering and leaving the port exceed 4.65 metres.

The issue of routing vehicles greater than 4.65 metres through the city will be addressed in the context of the HGV management strategy being prepared by Dublin City Council.

Light Rail Project.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

356 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the number of passengers carried daily on the Luas; the extent to which this has replaced motor cars; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5062/05]

I understand that the Luas system is carrying 300,000 passengers per week. The average Monday to Friday carryings are 50,000 passengers per day. During last December, there were days where passenger numbers exceeded 70,000. Passenger figures on the Luas system are expected to rise during 2005.

The Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, and the Dublin Transportation Office are carrying out a comprehensive assessment of the effect of Luas on travel patterns. The "Before Luas" survey was carried out in the spring of 2004 and the "After Luas" survey will be carried out when time travel patterns have become established after the introduction of the new service.

The RPA has also carried out less formal research on its customer base and it is clear that a large proportion of Luas users had previously used private vehicles. Apart from car transfers, there also appears to be a significant number of new trips to the city centre for business and-or recreation. This view is shared by city centre businesses which report a substantial increase in business as a result of the Luas, and is reflected in the high levels of Luas usage in the traditional off-peak periods and at weekends.

Question No. 357 answered with QuestionNo. 143.

Public Transport.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

358 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the action taken to address safety issues at bus stops with particular reference for the health and safety needs of passengers; if bus shelters are required arising any such evaluations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5066/05]

The power to determine the locations for the provision of bus stops and termini is vested in the Garda Commissioner under section 85 of the Road Traffic Act 1961. Under that section, the commissioner may issue a direction to a bus operator identifying the specific location of bus stops and termini in respect of any bus route and in that context may determine that certain stops may only be used for passengers boarding or leaving buses. I understand that the Garda engages in a consultation process with the local authority and the bus service provider before issuing a direction under section 85. The provision of bus shelters is a matter for the individual bus operators and the relevant planning authority. I have no function regarding any of these matters.

Rail Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

359 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which the frequency of trains serving commuters in Celbridge and Sallins, County Kildare, can be increased, mornings and evenings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5068/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

361 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which the passenger carrying capacity of trains from Monasterevin, Kildare, Newbridge, Sallins and Hazelhatch to Dublin and vice versa can be increased to facilitate the increased demands; and if he will address the potential health and safety risks arising from large numbers of passengers remaining standing on such journeys; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5070/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 359 and 361 together.

The scheduling and timetabling of trains is a day-to-day operational matter for Iarnród Éireann to consider. I understand from the company that some of the 36 new diesel railcars due to come into service at the end of this year will be allocated to the Kildare route to extend all trains to eight-car length. This will improve the capacity on individual trains by up to 20%. This capacity increase comes on top of a capacity increase of almost 160% delivered on that line in the past 18 months.

Iarnród Éireann has proposals to double the track on a section of the Kildare line, which will lead to significant capacity increases. I understand that the company is revising some elements of the proposals already submitted to my Department for this project. When the finalised proposals are submitted, they will be assessed and I will respond to the company.

On the health and safety implications of passengers standing on trains, the available studies indicate that there is no evidence to suggest that the net level of risk is increased to an individual from standing in a crowded train.

The Government's commitment to a quality rail infrastructure has recently been underscored by the order of 120 new railcars. It will continue to invest in our railways to deliver a quality service for all passengers.

Question No. 360 answered with QuestionNo. 95.
Question No. 361 answered with QuestionNo. 359.

Road Network.

John Curran

Question:

362 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Transport if there are plans to provide a second ring road west of the M50 for Dublin, and, if so, the details of progress being made to realise these plans. [5077/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 94.

Dublin Transportation Office.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

363 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the advisory committee of the DTO cannot meet until such time as the Minister confirms the nominations which are now with the DTO since shortly after the local elections of June 2004; if he intends to make these appointments or if it is his intention to abolish the DTO or remove local representation. [5094/05]

I am considering the nominations for the advisory committee of the Dublin Transportation Office, DTO, and hope to finalise and approve the nominations in the near future. It is not my intention to abolish the DTO or remove local representation.

Question No. 364 answered with QuestionNo. 117.
Question No. 365 answered with QuestionNo. 328.

International Agreements.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

366 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the status of the Columba initiative between Ireland and Scotland. [4650/05]

The traditionally strong relations between Ireland and Scotland continue to develop in a very positive way, including since devolution. The Irish Consulate General in Edinburgh, which was opened in 1998, is involved in a broad range of activities supporting the development of enhanced bilateral links. These include the promotion of trade, tourism, culture and investment opportunities in close co-operation with the State agencies and the Scottish Executive.

In recent years, Irish-Scottish links have also been strengthened by an increasing number of high level visits and exchanges, including visits by the President, Taoiseach and Ministers to Scotland and the attendance by the Ceann Comhairle and Cathaoirleach at the official opening of the new Scottish Parliament in October 2004. We have also welcomed a number of high level Scottish visitors here, including, most recently, First Minister Jack McConnell, MSP, who met the then Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin, in Dublin in September 2004. In addition to these ongoing contacts, our participation with Scotland and other members in the British-Irish Council provides a valuable opportunity for practical consultation and co-operation on a wide range of matters of mutual interest.

Coastal Protection.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

367 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to coastal erosion on Tory Island, particularly from the recently built sea wall at West End along the shore between the hostel and the sea; and if he will provide funding to facilitate the continuation to the recently erected partition wall from the new pier. [5121/05]

While primary responsibility for coastal protection comes within the remit of the Minister of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, my Department has, over the past five years, made some funding available for that purpose.

From 1999 to date, my Department has spent €987,220 on the sea wall at West End on Tory Island. An application for additional funding to reinforce and extend this wall by 30 metres is at present being examined by my Department in the context of the funding available to me this year for island projects and the competing demands for same.

Community Development.

Tony Gregory

Question:

368 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if additional funding will be made available for a further phase of the young peoples facilities and services fund; the timescale involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4569/05]

As the Deputy is aware, I recently announced a further round of capital funding under the young people's facilities and services fund. A letter issued to the development groups in the 14 local drugs task force areas in early January asking that they submit proposals by the middle of March. Decisions on the funding will be made in due course.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Seán Haughey

Question:

369 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will restore funding to the Community Workers Co-operative via the anti-poverty networks funding mechanism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4658/05]

Simon Coveney

Question:

370 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the withdrawal of funding for the Community Workers Co-operative. [4706/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 369 and 370 together.

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 216 to 224, inclusive, and 226 and 227 of 1 February 2005.

Departmental Programmes.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

371 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will include Ringsend and Irishtown, Dublin 4, into the RAPID programme for Pearse Street and the adjoining area in view of the fact that unemployment, educational disadvantage and the number of lone parents are higher in the Pembroke East A ward, which comprises Ringsend and Irishtown, in contrast to Mansion House A and South Dock wards, which make up the bulk of the RAPID area in the vicinity of Pearse Street; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4716/05]

I have no plans at present to expand the geographical boundaries of RAPID areas to include additional communities. However, as I stated previously, I am examining an apparent anomaly regarding Ballyfermot which, despite meeting the criteria for inclusion in strand I of the programme, was omitted due to its inclusion in the URBAN II programme.

Rural Social Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

372 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if persons partaking in rural social schemes receive the €14 increase given to the persons in community employment schemes and on unemployment assistance. [4901/05]

Increases in the rural social scheme payment rates in 2005 will be in line with the increases in social welfare payments announced in budget 2005 and will be effective from the same dates as the social welfare increases. The increases are currently being calculated and will be paid shortly, backdated to the applicable effective date.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

373 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if a rape crisis centre (details supplied) in County Carlow will be successful in its applications for funding for grants under the dormant accounts funds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4974/05]

Decisions on the disbursement of funds from dormant accounts moneys are currently a matter for the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board, an independent body established under the Dormant Accounts Acts. The board has engaged Area Development Management Limited, ADM, to administer the initial round of funding on its behalf, which involves the disbursement of up to €60 million from the fund.

I understand that two applications from South Leinster Rape Crisis and Counselling Centre, Carlow, were received by ADM and are currently being evaluated against the criteria set out in the published guidelines. It is expected that recommendations will be made to the dormant accounts board for decisions shortly. The group concerned will be advised of the board's decisions in due course.

Departmental Programmes.

John Curran

Question:

374 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that all RAPID areas are not the same in terms of size and population; if he intends to take measures to ensure that resources allocated to RAPID areas will not only be on an area-by-area basis but will also be allocated in proportion to the size and population of each area. [5071/05]

I am aware of the variations in the population and size across RAPID areas. However, the RAPID programme is essentially about prioritising investment in areas experiencing particular disadvantage rather than dividing resources between RAPID areas. I accept that the issue can arise in certain circumstances, such as the disbursement of the RAPID leverage fund. I have asked ADM to consider the matter and I await its consideration of the matter.

Animal Diseases.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

375 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the efforts she has made to bring about an all-Ireland animal health policy and agreement; her views on whether the co-operation from the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland, Ms Brid Rodgers, had a very positive influence on the outcome of the foot and mouth issue and proved, if necessary, that there are major benefits in having an all-Ireland policy; if there is any possibility of such a policy being implemented without the working of the Assembly in Northern Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4543/05]

I am fully committed to the development and implementation of an all-Ireland animal health and welfare strategy. My ultimate target is a policy that facilitates the free movement of animals on the island, subject to EU rules. I believe that such a policy can generate real, practical benefit for the agriculture sectors North and South and for all whose livelihoods are bound up with agriculture on this island.

I agree with the Deputy that the 2001 outbreak of FMD highlighted the value and necessity of close co-operation and co-ordination between Administrations North and South. The two Administrations worked successfully in a co-ordinated manner at official, ministerial and political level to address the FMD crisis and have since developed co-ordinated contingency arrangements in the event of any future outbreaks of FMD, or indeed other animal diseases. This deepening and strengthening of co-operation, information exchange and ongoing co-ordination between the two Administrations will be a linchpin for future implementation of a unified strategy for the island as a whole.

In the absence of the Assembly in Northern Ireland, the programme of work mandated by the NSMC to agree a common animal health and welfare strategy for the island has been taken forward by a series of working groups at official level. These working groups have met at regular intervals over the past two years. Their work has focused on three main themes: common or equivalent controls at points of entry to the island; convergence of internal animal health policies; and development of joint strategies for the control of animal disease.

The main achievements to date are the development of a co-ordinated and complementary approach towards import policies and portal controls at points of entry to the island, the convergence of policies in regard to animal identification and scrapie and the strengthening of co-ordination and co-operation between both Administrations on a variety of issues such as FMD, BSE and cross-Border fraud.

It must also be recognised that the achievement of such an all-island animal health strategy involves complex dialogue and negotiation over a range of areas between the Irish, Northern Irish and British authorities. Ultimately, the agreement of the European Union will be required.

Afforestation Programme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

376 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the proposals she has to meet the concerns of the Society of Irish Foresters in regard to a European Commission proposal for a Council regulation on support for rural development for the period 2007 to 2013 (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4544/05]

Martin Ferris

Question:

394 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the effect which the proposed changes to the EU regime governing forestry will have on the Irish forestry sector; and the stance which her Department will be adopting in this regard. [4875/05]

Michael Ring

Question:

401 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a case has been made for Ireland by her Department at EU level on the proposed cutbacks for the forestry industry in this country; the meetings which have taken place with her Department and the European Commissioner with responsibility for forestry on this matter. [4900/05]

Denis Naughten

Question:

404 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her negotiating position regarding the Commission proposals to reduce the financial supports available to forestry under the rural development budget 2007 to 2013; the steps she intends to take to overturn this budget cut; if she has discussed this issue with her Council colleagues; the support she has received; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5040/05]

Willie Penrose

Question:

405 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the proposals of the European Commission for a Council regulation on support for rural development for the period 2007 to 2013; if her focus will be on the major cutbacks in grant aid and support for afforestation which is proposed therein; her plans to ensure the restoration of grant aid and supports to current levels; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5043/05]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

408 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she proposes to take to convince the European Commission that its proposals under the Council regulation on the support for rural development for the period 2007 to 2013 is flawed in so far as it will greatly inhibit the growth of forestry here; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the proposals are to reduce the planting grants to 40% of eligible costs, that to cap farm forest premiums at €500 per hectare and to reduce the premium timespan from 20 to ten years; her views on whether, if such proposals were implemented, they would have a very adverse effect on forestry here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5109/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 376, 394, 401, 404, 405 and 408 together.

The draft rural development regulation is not just about forestry. It covers a range of rural development measures. Some of the proposals are positive and others, particularly that pertaining to forestry, are not.

When the proposed new regulation was published by the European Commission last summer, Ireland was one of the first member states to recognise the threat that the draft regulation posed to countries with active afforestation programmes.

From the outset, the Irish position on the draft regulation in respect of forestry has been clear and unequivocal. We have continually and consistently made known our opposition to the Commission's proposals particularly those proposing to reduce establishment grants, premiums and associated premium payment periods.

This is the position we have articulated consistently at every level from working group up to the agriculture Council. I expressed my views forcefully on the impact of the proposals for forestry in Ireland at the ministerial agriculture Council meeting in November 2004 and I also restated these concerns directly to Commissioner Fischer Boel.

Member states are coming to appreciate the full impact of the proposals on forestry and we will continue to work at all levels to achieve the best possible deal for Ireland in the admittedly tough negotiations that lie ahead. To this end, I am heartened by the support we are receiving from all sectors of the industry. Very early on in the process, I established a consultative-liaison group, comprising of representatives of the forestry sector. It meets regularly. Through this group, the sector is consulted and informed of developments and is involved in the development of the Irish position as the negotiations unfold. At this stage, intense negotiations on the regulation are continuing and a final decision is not expected to be taken by the Council of Ministers for several months.

Grant Payments.

John McGuinness

Question:

377 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if an application for consideration of force majeure in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be reconsidered as a matter of urgency; if she will expedite a positive response given the hardship of the case and the medical circumstances involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4547/05]

The person named has been notified that the circumstances outlined by him did not satisfy the criteria for force majeure or exceptional circumstances under Article 40 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1782/2003. Following this decision, the person named submitted an appeal to the independent single payment appeals committee. A full review of the circumstances of the case will be carried out by the committee and the person named will be notified shortly of the outcome.

Willie Penrose

Question:

378 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason an appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath was not allowed, despite this person’s having very severe medical difficulties which were fully set out; if, in this context, this matter can be reconsidered and further details of their full entitlements can now be set out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4550/05]

The person named, having been notified that the circumstances outlined by him did not satisfy the criteria for force majeure or exceptional circumstances under Article 40 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1782/2003, submitted an appeal to the independent single payment appeals committee.

Following a full examination of the circumstances outlined in the appeal, the independent single payment appeals committee made a recommendation and a letter issued to the person named on 28 January 2005. The findings of the appeals committee were that the original decision taken by my Department should be upheld.

Both my Department and the independent single payment appeals committee took full cognisance of the medical evidence put forward in this case. However, while accepting the serious nature of the medical difficulties outlined, there is no evidence that production in any of the reference years was affected as a result. Production, both throughout the reference period 2000-02, and during the earlier reference period 1997-99, remained relatively constant.

Willie Penrose

Question:

379 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if, in view of a recent decision relating to an application of a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath under the single payment scheme in respect of force majeure and exceptional circumstances she will take steps to have the years 2001 and 2002 as the base years for entitlements, have them divided by two rather than 2001 and 2002; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4551/05]

The person named, having been notified that the circumstances outlined by her did not satisfy the criteria for force majeure or exceptional circumstances under Article 40 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1782/2003, submitted an appeal to the independent single payment appeals committee. The findings of the appeals committee were that the original decision taken by my Department should be upheld. However, the Department has now obtained additional information regarding the circumstances of this case and is satisfied that force majeure criteria should be applied. As a result, the year 2000 will be excluded and the single farm payment entitlement will be based on the two-year average of 2001 and 2002 only. An updated statement of provisional entitlements reflecting this position will issue shortly to the person named.

Food Industry.

Phil Hogan

Question:

380 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if there is any financial assistance available in any form to assist small-scale food exporters here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4563/05]

My Department's strategy for developing the potential of small food exporters is implemented by Bord Bia, which has statutory responsibility to promote, assist and develop the marketing of Irish food and drink products. Under the national development plan, Bord Bia operates two company grant schemes, namely the market improvement assistance programme and the market participation programme, to enhance the marketing capabilities of micro-sized, small and medium-sized food companies. Funding is provided for trade fair participation, market research and design of packaging and point of sale material. In 2003, grants to the value of €970,000 were awarded to 85 small food businesses.

Over the past three years small food companies grant-aided by Bord Bia have grown on average by 17% per annum. Strong sales growth has been experienced in Ireland and the United Kingdom, with annual turnover growing to €250 million.

The Bord Bia small business unit works closely with over 300 small-scale producers to increase trade listings and to improve distribution and marketing capabilities. It provides a range of services including trade and consumer public relations, marketing competency development, buyer relationship management and promotion activities.

In 2003, Bord Bia facilitated the establishment of the "Taste Council", an artisan expert group to encourage the strategic development of the speciality food sector. The council has identified market entry, innovation and distribution as key strategic issues facing small food producers. Bord Bia and the Taste Council have prepared multi-annual strategies to develop the small business and speciality food sector, including development of new routes to market. For example, Bord Bia's Small Business Strategy 2003-2007 focuses on strategic marketing initiatives designed to increase sales in Ireland and Britain.

Organic Farming.

Phil Hogan

Question:

381 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the value of organic vegetable and meat sales in Ireland; the extent by which this particular sector has been growing over the past five years; the comparisons with other countries in the European Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4564/05]

The value of the Irish organic food market as a whole has increased from €23 million to €38 million in the five years up to 2003, an average increase of 13% per year. The market has continued to grow over the past year, but at the slightly lower rate of around 10%. The value of the EU market for organic food reached over €10 billion in 2003, and is currently growing at about 8% per year.

Beef Exports.

Phil Hogan

Question:

382 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the value of Irish beef exports that are exported on the hoof; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4565/05]

Phil Hogan

Question:

383 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the value of Irish beef exports annually; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4566/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 382 and 383 together.

The value of Irish beef exports to all markets in 2004 was €1.5 billion, representing 25% of total Irish agri-food exports. Of this figure the value placed on live cattle exports is €116 million.

The EU now comprises 90% of our total beef exports compared with 49% in 2000. The focus of the Irish beef industry is to broaden and expand its market reach at EU retail level, shifting its orientation away from international commodity markets and into the higher priced EU marketplace. An increased presence in this high-value market is the key to the success of the beef industry in the long term.

I am fully committed to ensuring that the option of exporting cattle live to overseas countries is maintained, as it preserves competition in the beef trade. The Department, together with Bord Bia and the Department of Foreign Affairs, will continue to seek to exploit every opportunity to expand the market for the live trade and beef exports.

Grant Payments.

Phil Hogan

Question:

384 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the entitlements for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4567/05]

The person named submitted an application on 15 October 2004 for consideration of his circumstances under the second tranche of the force majeur-exceptional circumstances measure of the single payment scheme. Long-term incapacity due to ill health was indicated on the application form as giving rise to the circumstances outlined. However, having examined the medical evidence furnished in support of the application, the Department deemed that a more detailed explanation of the circumstances and further medical evidence was required. The person named was advised of these requirements on 10 February 2005 and that, on receipt, his force majeure application would receive further consideration.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

385 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of forestry grant applications approved for Údaras na Gaeltachta and in respect of each application to date of approval, area planted, planting grants, maintenance grants, premiums paid to date and an estimate of premiums payable in future years. [4585/05]

The information requested is as follows:

Reference

Date of Approval

Area (Ha)

First instalment grant

Second instalment grant

OP2170

December 1989

3.7

3,171

1,056

OP7060

December 1989

12.7

9,675

3,225

OP2169

December 1989

2.0

1,714

Not paid

OP3866

April 1990

13.5

10,285

3,428

WP4570

September 1990

7.9

6,018

2,006

OP6029

September 1992

8.8

10,894

3,631

CN4005 (Recon.)

December 1995

2.0

2,209

736

CN11810 (Recon.)

March 1997

6.4

7,923

2,641

There is no record of any forestry premium payments in respect of any of these plantations.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

386 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if persons (details supplied) or any party acting on its behalf submitted a forestry grant, premium application or any type of documentation in respect of the land or part thereof. [4586/05]

An application for grant aid approval in respect of the land referred to by the Deputy was submitted by the person in question in November 1996 and approved in March 1998. The approval was not availed of by the person in question as the land was subsequently transferred to another party.

Company Closures.

Michael Lowry

Question:

387 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps she will take to assist the farmers affected by recent Greencore closures in Athy, County Carlow and Banagher, County Offaly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4607/05]

Denis Naughten

Question:

396 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans to meet a company (details supplied) concerning the sugar and malting barley industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4877/05]

Denis Naughten

Question:

397 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her plans to meet with a company (details supplied) to discuss matters concerning the malting barley industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4878/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 387, 396 and 397 together.

I am aware that Minch Malt Limited, which is part of the Greencore Malting Group, is to close its malting plant at Banagher, County Offaly, and its two intake points at Tullamore, County Offaly, and Borrisokane, County Tipperary, with effect from September 2005. I am of course concerned about the closure and the impact it will have on jobs and families in the area. However, the decision to close these facilities was a commercial decision taken by the company itself. The reason given for the closure is increased competition on export markets. Greencore has decided to consolidate its malting operations at its bigger plant in Athy in order to solidify the domestic market. I understand from Greencore that the Banagher, Tullamore and Borrisokane facilities will be offered for sale as going concerns and may be taken over by current players in the trade.

Farmers who are affected by the closure of Banagher may decide to produce barley for the feed barley market instead. It has been suggested that this will put pressure on grain storage in the midlands area next autumn. Consequently, my Department is currently carrying out an inventory of grain storage capacity in the Offaly-north Tipperary area. In the event that this inventory shows up a problem in storage capacity for the coming harvest, I am willing to examine the possibility of making funds available to deal with the problem.

The decisions by Greencore to close the malting facilities and the sugar plant at Carlow were discussed in the course of a meeting which I had recently with the company. I have no plans to meet any other company regarding the malting barley industry at the present time.

Afforestation Programme.

Michael Ring

Question:

388 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason forestry planting grants are being reduced to 40% of the eligible costs. [4674/05]

Michael Ring

Question:

389 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason farm forest premiums are being capped at €500 per hectare. [4675/05]

Michael Ring

Question:

393 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason, in regard to forestry, the premium timespan is being reduced from 20 years to ten years. [4874/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 388, 389 and 393 together.

I refer the Deputy to the proposed new draft rural development regulation for the period 2007 to 2013, first published by the European Commission last summer and which is the subject of intense ongoing negotiations in Brussels. The issues raised by the Deputy relate to proposals for forestry contained in the draft regulation and I emphasise that these are merely proposals at this stage and are a long way from agreement in their present format. The proposals as they stand are unacceptable to Ireland and I have forcefully expressed this view over recent months at every level from working group up to the Agriculture Council. A final outcome on the draft regulation is not expected to be taken by Council for several months.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

390 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway has not received a higher rate of single payment; if the additional entitlements under the force majeure measure are included in the figure of €3,413.58; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4702/05]

The person named was notified by my Department on 3 November 2004 that her application under the force majeure measure of the single payment scheme was successful resulting in the exclusion of the year 2001 in the calculation of her single payment entitlements. The revised single payment entitlements following the application of the force majeure measure and using the two-year average based on 2000 and 2002 are not included in the figure of €3,413.58. A revised provisional entitlement notification outlining the revised position will issue shortly to the person named.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

391 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the total draw of headage by a person (details supplied) in County Galway for the years 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4703/05]

The person named received the following payments under the cattle headage scheme for the years 1997 to 2000:

Year

1997

1,018.08

1998

988.03

1999

988.03

2000

1,018.55

The area-based compensatory allowance scheme replaced the cattle and sheep headage schemes in 2001 and the person named received the following payments under the scheme for the years 2001 to 2002: €1,389.19 in 2001 and €1,389.19 in 2002.

Extensification premium payments for 1997 to 2002 are as follows:

Year

1997

Nil — stocking density greater than 1.4 LUs/ha.

1998

€34.20

1999

€547.67

2000

Nil — stocking density of holding greater than 2 LUs/ha.

2001

Nil — CEN.1 and CEN.2 bovine animal number declaration forms not returned to the Department.

2002

€200

Ewe premium payments for 1997 to 2002 are as follows:

Year

1997

455.15

1998

582.68

1999

566.39

2000

723.55

2001

474.79

2002

806.40

Special beef premium payments for 1997 to 2002 are as follows: 1997, €1,517.82; 1998, €103.29; 1999, €1,144.98; 2000, €502.84; 2001, €413.40; and 2002, €750.00.

Slaughter premium payments for 1997 to 2002 are as follows:

Year

1997

Nil — Not an applicant

1998

Nil — Not an applicant

1999

Nil — Not an applicant

2000

€103.83

2001

€149.20

2002

€240

John McGuinness

Question:

392 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if an application to appeal a decision under the force majeure criteria in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4724/05]

The person named has been notified that the circumstances outlined by him did not satisfy the criteria for force majeure or exceptional circumstances consideration under Article 40 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1782/2003. Following this decision the person named submitted an appeal to the independent single payment appeals committee. This appeal is listed for examination by the committee on 16 February 2005.

A full review of the circumstances of the case will be carried out by the independent single payment appeals committee and the person named will be notified shortly of the outcome.

Question No. 393 answered with QuestionNo. 388.
Question No. 394 answered with QuestionNo. 376.

Tom Hayes

Question:

395 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary has been refused an application for grant aid assistance. [4876/05]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the application by the person concerned for grant aid under the farm waste management scheme which was received by my Department on 23 May 2001. No payment was made in respect of that application due to the unacceptability of the documentation submitted by the person concerned in support of his application.

Questions Nos. 396 and 397 answered with Question No. 387.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

398 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of REPS 3 applications received by her Department in each of the last five months of 2004; the number of applications which have been processed, approved, payment issued in each month concerned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4879/05]

REPS 3 was launched on 1 June 2004 and the first applications were received that month. Payments began to issue in September 2004. The numbers of applications received in my Department in each month from June to December last year are set out in the following table. It includes both first-time applicants and those transferring from REPS 2 into REPS 3. The table also shows the number of payments issued each month.

Applications

Payments

June

1,156

0

July

1,539

0

August

1,924

0

September

1,873

492

October

1,905

1,590

November

2,229

2,784

December

2,064

5,294

Total

12,690

10,160

Farm Waste Management.

Denis Naughten

Question:

399 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will review her decision to postpone the introduction of enhanced CFP grants given that many applications will require planning permission which will significantly delay the drawdown of such grants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4880/05]

As the Deputy is aware, consultations are ongoing with the European Commission in regard to the action programme for implementation of the nitrates directive. The question of possible grant aid levels under the farm waste management scheme will be decided in the light of the requirements of the action programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

400 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she intends to publish specifications for earthen bank storage of slurry and out-wintering pads; the status of these specifications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4881/05]

My Department, together with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, has set up a technical working group to determine whether earth-lined stores, out-wintering pads and constructed wetlands should have a place in agricultural practice. The working group has taken expert advice from a variety of researchers and other sources and has been preparing detailed specifications and guidance documents for each of these systems. The specifications and guidance documents for the earth-lined stores, together with the group's recommendations, are expected shortly. Similar specifications and documents are being developed for constructed wetlands and a report is due when these have been finalised. A decision cannot be made in relation to out-wintering pads until the results of ongoing research into the environmental implications, operational details and construction requirements associated with the system become available.

Question No. 401 answered with QuestionNo. 376.

Grant Payments.

John McGuinness

Question:

402 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the date the forestry premium will be paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if the payment can be expedited given the circumstances of the case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4913/05]

An application for payment of the 2005 forestry premium has not been received from the person in question. I have arranged for an application to be issued and the application will be processed on receipt of same. It is expected that payment of the 2005 forestry premium will be made in April of this year.

Dan Neville

Question:

403 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food, further to Question No. 286 of 2 February 2005, the details of the calculation of single payment entitlements for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [4961/05]

The person named was notified by my Department early in February 2005 that his application under the new entrant measure of the single payment scheme was successful, resulting in the exclusion of the years 2000 and 2001 in the calculation of his single payment entitlements. The revised single payment entitlements following the application of the new entrant measure and using the one-year — 2002 — average is 57.45 entitlements with a total single payment of €3,038.53. A statement of provisional entitlements reflecting this position will issue to the person named as soon as possible.

Questions Nos. 404 and 405 answered with Question No. 376.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

406 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason force majeure or exceptional circumstances entitlement was not granted to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; if a more lenient view will be taken when this appeal is being considered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5052/05]

The person named has been notified that the circumstances outlined by him did not satisfy the criteria for force majeure or exceptional circumstances under Article 40 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1782/2003. Following this decision, the person named submitted an appeal to the independent single payment appeals committee. A full review of the circumstances of the case will be carried out by the committee. As the single payment appeals committee is a fully independent body, my Department does not have any input into the adjudication process carried out on appeals submitted. The person named will be notified shortly of the outcome of his review.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

407 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a decision will be made in connection with the force majeure and exceptional circumstances application from a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5108/05]

An application for consideration under the force majeure, exceptional circumstances measure of the single payment regulations was submitted by the person named on 1 January 2004. The person named has been notified that the circumstances outlined by him do not satisfy the criteria for force majeure, exceptional circumstances under Article 40 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1782/2003.

The person named has been advised that he can appeal the decision to the independent single payment appeals committee who will carry out a full review of the circumstances outlined.

Question No. 408 answered with QuestionNo. 376.

Disability Bill 2004.

David Stanton

Question:

409 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the companies that have been established under the Companies Acts 1963 to 2001 as outlined in the Disability Bill 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4640/05]

David Stanton

Question:

424 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the persons, bodies or organisations other than the Defence Forces established or under any enactment, other than the Companies Acts 1963 to 2001 as set down in section 2 of the Disability Bill 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4643/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 409 and 424 together.

Section 2 of the Disability Bill defines "public body" for the purposes of the Bill. The definition includes Departments and offices, local authorities and health boards — paragraphs (a) to (g) of the definition.

The part of the definition which is the subject of the Deputy's questions relates to paragraph (h) as follows:

(h) a person, body or organisation (other than the Defence Forces) established—

(i) by or under any enactment (other than the Companies Acts 1963 to 2001), or

(ii) under the Companies Acts 1963 to 2001, in pursuance of powers conferred by or under another enactment, and financed wholly or partly, whether directly or indirectly, by means of moneys provided, or loans made or guaranteed, by a Minister of the Government or shares held by or on behalf of a Minister of the Government;

The broad range of bodies encompassed by paragraph (h)(i) of the definition are all those established by or under enactment, other than the Companies Acts 1963 to 2001. Examples of such bodies are: the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland established under the Radio and Television Act 1988; the Central Statistics Office established under the Statistics Act 1993; the National Disability Authority established under the National Disability Authority Act 1999; the Courts Service established under the Courts Services Act 1998; and the Legal Aid Board established under the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995.

The range of bodies encompassed by paragraph (h)(ii) are those established under the Companies Acts, in pursuance of powers conferred in other enactments, and aided financially by the State. Examples are Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann which were established by powers conferred under the Transport (Re-organisation of Coras Iompar Éireann) Act 1986.

Violence against Women.

Richard Bruton

Question:

410 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the proposal for the development under the strategic management initiative of a framework for addressing issues concerning violence against women; and if he will consider taking an initiative to promote the development of such a framework. [4499/05]

Following receipt of a report by a task force on violence against women, which recommended the establishment of a steering committee at national level on the issue of violence against women, the Government established a national steering committee on violence against women in December 1997. The committee comprises representatives from five Departments — Health and Children, the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Education and Science, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Justice, Equality and Law Reform — the Health Service Executive, the probation and welfare service, the Garda, the Courts Service, medical and legal professions and the relevant non-governmental agencies working in the area. The national steering committee is chaired by Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Fahey, and my Department co-ordinates its work.

In addition to the national steering committee, regional committees on violence against women have also been established in eight Health Service Executive regions throughout the country.

The remit of the national steering committee is to advise on and co-ordinate a multi-disciplinary and cohesive response to the issue of violence against women. The committee has several objectives which include developing public awareness campaigns, advising on the co-ordination and distribution of resources, including funding for non-governmental agencies, throughout the eight health board regions, advising on the ongoing development of policies including those concerning services and supports and perpetrator-criminal justice intervention issues. The committee has established sub-committees to deal with these issues.

Since its establishment, the national steering committee has undertaken a number of initiatives, particularly in regard to raising awareness of the issue of violence against women. It has developed a public awareness campaign on domestic violence which will be conducted from next week as a joint initiative with the Northern Ireland authorities.

My Department has recently commissioned the development of a five year strategic plan for the committee. This strategic plan will record the progress that has been made on the recommendations contained in the task force report, take account of developments since the publication of that report and prioritise further progress over the next five years.

Planning Issues.

Dan Neville

Question:

411 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if quarry blasting permits are issued when the courts are examining the legal status regarding the requirement for planning permission for quarries which have applied for blasting permits. [4507/05]

The Garda authorities have advised me that the Garda Síochána does not issue blasting permits where a local authority has refused planning permission to carry out such activity, or where an enforcement order under the Planning Acts to prevent such activity as blasting exists.

The granting of blasting permits is a responsibility for the superintendent of the Garda district in which the blasting occurs and I have no statutory function in the matter.

Visa Applications.

Tom Hayes

Question:

412 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary was refused a holiday visa to this country. [4508/05]

The visa application to which the Deputy refers was refused on 12 January 2005. In assessing any visa application, the visa officer will consider various matters, including whether it is reasonable in all the circumstances to conclude that the applicant would fully honour the conditions of the visa for example, it is unlikely that the applicant would overstay the length of time applied for. The visa officer will also have regard to information provided and to such factors as the applicant's ties and general circumstances in their country of origin.

The application in question was refused because the visa officer could not reasonably be satisfied, on the basis of the documentation supplied to my Department, that the applicant would observe the conditions of the visa applied for. In particular, it was felt that the applicant had not displayed evidence of an obligation to return home following the proposed visit.

Sufficient evidence was not submitted to permit the visa officer to establish to an acceptable degree, that a previous relationship history existed between the applicant and their reference in Ireland. An appeal in respect of the decision to refuse the visa application was subsequently submitted by the applicant. However, based on the level of additional documentation submitted, the appeals officer was unable to conclude that the initial decision to refuse the visa should be overturned. This appeal was therefore refused on the 14 February 2005 and the applicant will be notified of this decision as soon as possible. If the applicant still wishes to travel, a fresh application should be submitted to my Department accompanied by any additional documentation that it is felt will address the reasons for refusal outlined above.

Garda Deployment.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

413 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether there is a need to reconsider the strength of the Garda in the Border areas in view of the breakdown in the peace talks; his further views on whether it is unacceptable that Garda stations such as those at Clones, Emyvale and Belturbet are not opened and manned full time in the new and delicate situation; if he will reconsider the manpower available in these areas and the availability of that manpower 24 hours, seven days a week; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4509/05]

The current resources and personnel deployments in the Border Garda divisions are considered adequate to meet public expectations and to maintain security. The allocation and deployment of Garda resources within the Border region remains under constant review, particularly in the light of broader political developments, including negotiations as part of the Northern Ireland peace process.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

414 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals to realign the boundaries for the Garda in Cavan, Monaghan and Louth; if changes will be made, when they will come into operation; if the regional commissioner is looking at these proposals; the provisions which are being made to consult the public; if there is a proposal to move the divisional headquarters from Monaghan town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4510/05]

The final report of the Garda strategic management initiative implementation steering group made several recommendations on the Garda Síochána's regional, divisional, and district structure. The report did not identify which districts, divisions or regions would be affected.

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, the commissioner might develop in this context.

A preliminary study group under the chairmanship of the assistant commissioner, in the northern region has recently been established to examine various issues associated with possible new boundary alignments. This group has examined various possibilities to facilitate the establishment of a cohesive consultative study group. There are no plans to move the divisional headquarters from Monaghan town.

Asylum Applications.

John McGuinness

Question:

415 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an application to stay here on humanitarian grounds in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford will be expedited. [4511/05]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 6 June 2003 and had his claim investigated, in turn, by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, both of which concluded that he did not meet the criteria for recognition as a refugee. The recommendations of these two bodies were communicated to the person concerned on 22 June 2004 and 29 November 2004 respectively.

The ministerial decisions unit in my Department will write to the person concerned in the coming days to outline his position in the State and setting out the options open to him.

John McGuinness

Question:

416 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application for asylum in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and when a decision will be made in this case. [4512/05]

The person concerned applied for asylum on 24 March 2004 and had her claim investigated, in turn, by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, both of which concluded that she did not meet the criteria for recognition as a refugee. The recommendations of these two bodies were communicated to the person concerned on 30 December 2004 and 7 February 2005 respectively. My Department's ministerial decisions unit will write to the person concerned in the coming days to outline her current position in the State.

Child Care Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

417 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of an application in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; if a response will be made to the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4513/05]

The group submitted an application for capital grant assistance under the equal opportunities child care programme 2000-06, to my Department some time ago. The programme is a seven year development programme which aims to increase the availability and quality of child care to support parents in employment, education and training.

The level of demand for capital grant assistance was such that I considered it important to increase the capital provision for the present programme. Following discussions with my colleague the Minister for Finance, an additional capital provision of €90 million was made available over the period 2005-09, in the context of the 2005 budget.

Of this amount, €50 million is being made available under the present programme and the remaining €40 million will flow under the next phase of the post 2006 programme. This augments the increased EU funding of some €12 million made available last year in recognition of the progress of the programme. This brings the total funding available for the programme to €499.3 million and now includes an increased provision for capital developments for which €205 million has been set aside. In December 2004, I announced an allocation of almost €35 million in capital funding to community based not-for-profit groups.

The availability of the additional capital funding will enable me to make further capital grant assistance available over the coming months and years to groups which address significant child care service gaps and where the project proposal represents good value for money when considered in the context of the current guidelines on building costs. In light of this, the group in question has been advised that whilst its project had not been prioritised for immediate funding in December 2004, it will be reconsidered in the future, and I hope to make further significant capital commitments during 2005 and thereafter.

The ongoing appraisal of the applications in the pipeline will be concluded as speedily as possible to facilitate the development of additional child care facilities and places at the earliest opportunity. When the appraisal on the project in question is completed, the application will then be considered by the programme appraisal committee, chaired by my Department, before I make a final decision. In the interim, it would be premature of me to comment further on this application.

Departmental Correspondence.

John McGuinness

Question:

418 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to a parliamentary question, if the file of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be examined; and if a decision in the case will be expedited. [4531/05]

A decision has been made on the issue to which the Deputy refers and a letter has issued to the person concerned advising her of the position.

Drug Seizures.

Tony Gregory

Question:

419 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there is recent evidence of a serious new and increased influx of heroin into the Dublin area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4570/05]

Heroin seizures for 2002, 2003 and 2004 have remained reasonably static with minor fluctuations in the quantities being seized. The trend for this year to date appears similar to other years with the exception of one seizure of three kilos of heroin at a Dublin address in mid-January.

While there have been a few heroin seizures at street level to date in 2005, the Garda authorities indicate that there is no evidence to suggest that more heroin is available in the Dublin area.

Garda Deployment.

Tony Gregory

Question:

420 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the policing arrangements that will be put in place in the vicinity of Dalymount Park, Dublin 7 when Shamrock Rovers play their home matches there; if the Garda will have an input as to the timing of these matches to minimise disruption to the local community; if an effective plan will be formulated and adequate additional Garda resources deployed to provide proper crowd control and traffic management; and if the nearby Shandon residents association will be consulted on these issues. [4576/05]

Policing arrangements for public events and in locations generally, with the allocation of Garda resources, are solely a matter for the Garda Commissioner. The Garda Síochána is not aware of any decision having been made regarding Shamrock Rovers playing at Dalymount Park. As I am sure the Deputy will understand, in the event of this situation arising, various factors will influence the policing arrangements which will arise. Where such events take place, the Garda authorities work closely with the relevant persons in the matter to avoid as much disruption as possible for residents in the immediate area and the surrounding community.

Deportation Orders.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

421 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the country to which it is proposed to deport persons (details supplied) in County Galway; if he will take into account the representations made to him and the uncertainty and danger to which these persons involved would be committed; and if, in view of these circumstances, he will discontinue the deportation proceedings and respond on humanitarian grounds to the case that has been made to him for permission to stay of these persons. [4600/05]

The persons concerned arrived in the State on 14 August 2000 and claimed asylum. Their applications were refused by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and they were notified of this recommendation by letter of 14 November 2001. Their subsequent appeal was refused by the Office of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and they were notified of this recommendation by letter of 20 August 2002. They were notified of my decision to refuse them refugee status by letter of 26 September 2002 in which they were informed of the three options open to them at that point namely, to leave the State before the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform made deportation orders in respect of them; to consent to the making of deportation orders in respect of them; or to make written representations, within 15 working days, to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform setting out the reasons why they should not be deported that is, why they should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

The case was examined under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999 and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (Prohibition of Refoulement), including consideration of all representations received on their behalf. Deportation orders were made in respect of the persons concerned on 9 November 2004. The orders were served by registered post and they presented themselves to the Garda national immigration bureau on Thursday, 10 February 2005. They are due to present themselves again to the bureau on Thursday, 14 April 2005.

My Department uses extensive country of origin information drawn from different independent sources, including the UN High Commission on Refugees, in evaluating the safety of making returns to third countries. I am satisfied that in this case the requirements of section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (Prohibition of Refoulement) have been complied with and that no refoulement matters arise. The enforcement of the deportation orders is a matter for the Garda national immigration bureau.

Residency Permits.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

422 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) in County Wexford is required to apply to him for leave to remain here owing to their having separated from their spouse; if the local immigration officer has the authority to extend this person’s leave to remain here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4629/05]

The immigration division of my Department has recently written to the person concerned requesting documentation on her residence in the State. On receipt of same, a decision will be made in the case.

Visa Applications.

Billy Timmins

Question:

423 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position on a visa application by a person (details supplied); if this application will be re-examined and this person allowed to come here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4642/05]

The visa application in question was to enable the wife of a non-EEA national employed under the work permit scheme to reside with him in the State. A worker employed under the work permit scheme may be joined by his or her spouse and minor children after the worker has been in the State for one year and has been offered a contract for a further year. The worker must also be able to fully support the family members in question without the need to have recourse to public funds. When assessing applications for family reunification, the visa officer considers, among other things, whether the level of salary of the worker would come within the ambit of qualifying for payments from public funds. As the level of the worker's income in the case in question, as evidenced by his payslips and P60, would qualify for payments from public funds, the application was refused.

The application was refused because the applicant was not able to support his wife fully. The refusals were appealed but the visa appeals officer was unable to conclude, based on the additional evidence supplied, that the initial decisions should be overturned. As each application is entitled to only one appeal, if the applicant still wishes to travel, she should submit a fresh application to my Department with all required accompanying documentation and the visa section will examine the case anew.

Question No. 424 answered with QuestionNo. 409.

Citizenship Applications.

Seán Haughey

Question:

425 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for Irish citizenship for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 will be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4656/05]

The citizenship section of my Department received a declaration of acceptance of Irish citizenship as post-nuptial citizenship on 17 January 2005 from the person to whom the Deputy refers. The processing time for such declarations is approximately ten months from the date of lodgement and it is likely, therefore, that the processing of the declaration of the person will be finalised by the end of October this year. I will advise the Deputy and the applicant when the matter has been concluded.

Crime Prevention.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

426 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will consider bringing issues involving rape and serious sexual assault under the authority of one specialised unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4697/05]

The Garda domestic violence and sexual assault investigation unit was established in 1993 to oversee all cases of domestic violence and sexual assault in the Dublin Metropolitan area. The unit, which was subsequently given a national role in 1997, investigates complex cases of rape and sexual assault and provides assistance to regional and divisional investigation teams with other cases of rape and sexual assault.

In December 1997, the Government established a national steering committee on violence against women to address the issue of violence against women in Ireland, including domestic violence, rape and sexual assault.

The committee is chaired by the Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Fahey, and comprises representatives from five Departments, Health and Children, Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Education and Science, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the health boards, the probation and welfare service, the Garda Síochána's domestic violence and sexual assault investigation unit, the Courts Service, the medical and legal professions and the relevant non-governmental agencies working in this area, including Rape Crisis Network Ireland and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

The remit of the national steering committee is to advise on and co-ordinate a multidisciplinary and cohesive response to the issue of violence against women. The committee has several objectives which include developing public awareness campaigns, advising on the co-ordination and distribution of resources, including funding for non-governmental agencies, throughout the eight health board regions, advising on the ongoing development of policies, including those concerning services and supports and perpetrator-criminal justice intervention issues. The committee has established sub-committees to deal with these issues.

The national steering committee recently established a working group to consider the treatment services that should be available to victims of sexual violence, including the question of forensic medical examinations. This working group is convened and chaired by an official of the Department of Health and Children which is responsible for the provision of such medical and treatment services. My Department will be represented on the working group.

My Department has recently commissioned the development of a five-year strategic plan for the committee. This strategic plan will record the progress that has been made on the recommendations contained in the task force report, take account of developments since the publication of that report and prioritise further progress over the next five years.

The Deputy may also be interested to know that my Department has provided joint funding for comprehensive research into attrition rates in rape cases. The research, 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 Rape Crisis Network Ireland over three years. This research should provide a greater understanding of why some victims choose not to report cases to the Garda, what can be done about under-reporting and why, of the cases that are reported, only a relatively small percentage result in a court hearing.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

427 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will consider the introduction of specialist investigators to work exclusively in the area of sexual violence; if his attention has been drawn to similar initiatives in Britain and Germany; his views on whether such a measure is necessary here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4698/05]

The Garda domestic violence and sexual assault investigation unit was established in 1993 to oversee all cases of domestic violence and sexual assault in the Dublin metropolitan area. The unit, which was subsequently given a national role in 1997, provides advice, guidance and assistance in the investigation of child sexual abuse, other sexual crimes and domestic violence to investigating gardaí. In more complex cases the unit leads the investigation.

The garda domestic violence and sexual assault investigation unit also liaises with relevant Departments, State bodies and voluntary groups to give the very necessary multi-agency approach to tackling these crimes and their causes. One of the primary considerations for the Garda Síochána in these cases is the protection and welfare of those affected while ensuring the proper investigation of the alleged activity.

The unit has been involved in an ongoing Europol training module involving police investigators from all EU member states. As a result of the introduction of the Sex Offenders Act 2001, certain requirements are now imposed on a category of convicted sex offenders. The Garda domestic violence and sexual assault investigation unit has a central role in the operation of this legislation.

The unit also managed and controlled Operation Amethyst into child pornography on the Internet.

Asylum Applications.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

428 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an appeal for refugee status for a person (details supplied). [4713/05]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 25 July 1999 and applied for asylum. 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 26 February 2002 that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State, leaving the State before an order is made or consenting to the making of a deportation order.

This person's case file, including all representations submitted, will be considered under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 (Prohibition of Refoulement). I expect the file to be passed to me for decision in due course.

Registration of Title.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

429 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4714/05]

The Registrar of Titles informs me that the details supplied by the Deputy refer to a Land Commission schedule application and the registration was completed on 11 February, 2005. Dealing Nos. D2000GY004657T, transfer, lodged on 4 May 2000, and D2003GY003629R, discharge of burden, lodged on 14 April 2003, which are associated dealings, are receiving attention in the Land Registry and, subject to no queries arising, will be completed as soon as possible.

Garda Strength.

Tony Gregory

Question:

430 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of the recent increases in the number of community gardaí in the north Dublin city Garda districts; and the areas to which these additional gardaí were then deployed. [4720/05]

The Garda authorities responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, inform me that the personnel strength of the Dublin north central division, as at 15 February 2005 was 637 — all ranks. The personnel strength of the Dublin north central division as at 1 January 1998 was 594 — all ranks. This represents an increase of 43 or 7.2% in the number of personnel allocated to the division since that date. There have been no recent increases in the number of community gardaí within the Dublin north central division.

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 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 draw up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources. The needs of the north Dublin central division will be fully considered within the context of the needs of Garda divisions throughout the country. The additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a high number of public order offences but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to 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 will have a real impact.

Prison Visiting Committees.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

431 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the names of all members of prison visiting committees, their county of residence and the date of their appointment. [4884/05]

The table sets out details of the individuals who are serving on the various prison visiting committees:

Committee

Member

County of Residence

Date of Appointment

Arbour Hill Prison Visiting Committee

John Murphy

Co. Cork

20 September 2002

Eithne Killeen

Co. Dublin

20 September 2002

Seamus Quinn

Co. Galway

1 October 2002

Rita Hayes

Co. Dublin

1 October 2002

Jim Hanrahan

Co. Dublin

17 February 2003

Ita Green

Co. Dublin

17 February 2003

Castlerea Prison Visiting Committee

Nuala Carroll

Co. Dublin

17 February 2003

Susan Meagher

Co. Tipperary

17 February 2003

Christy Gorman

Co. Meath

17 February 2003

Michael Nevin

Co. Longford

17 February 2003

Paul Hogan

Co. Galway

17 February 2003

Eddie Brady

Co. Cavan

26 March 2003

Billy Burgoyne

Co. Galway

9 April 2002

Mary Hoade

Co. Galway

9 November 2004

Eileen Morris

Co. Galway

17 December 2004

Marie Cleary

Co. Galway

17 December 2004

Michael Geraghty

Co. Galway

17 December 2004

Cloverhill Prison Visiting Committee

Peggy Downey

Co. Meath

7 December 2003

Fintan Hudson

Co. Wicklow

7 December 2003

Eddie Martin

Co. Wicklow

7 December 2003

Michael Coyle

Co. Louth

7 December 2003

Christine Ryan

Co. Dublin

7 December 2003

Dermot Flynn

Co. Dublin

7 December 2003

Cork Prison Visiting Committee

Bosco O’Farrell

Co. Meath

8 March 2002

Sadie Jordan

Co. Dublin

20 September 2002

Colette Carter

Co. Dublin

20 September 2002

Jack Roche

Co. Cork

20 September 2002

Eddie Creighton

Co. Limerick

1 October 2002

Anne Butler

Co. Waterford

1 October 2002

Ray O’Mahony

Co. Cork

1 October 2002

Terry Kelly

Co. Cork

17 February 2003

Donal O’Shea

Co. Cork

16 October 2002

Cáit Ní Fhaoláin

Co. Waterford

18 December 2003

Eileen Curran

Co. Kerry

18 December 2003

Oliver Clery

Co. Waterford

6 December 2004

Curragh Place of Detention Visiting Committee

Gerry McMahon

Co. Limerick

17 February 2003

Paddy Cullotty

Co. Dublin

17 February 2003

Evelyn Varley

Co. Galway

17 February 2003

Mairin Hyland

Co. Kildare

17 February 2003

Michael Hanrahan

Co. Dublin

17 February 2003

Wilhelmena Daly

Co. Dublin

17 February 2003

Brian O’Reilly

Co. Kildare

26 March 2003

Fort Mitchel Place of Detention Visiting Committee

Margaret Coady

Co. Waterford

17 February 2003

Joseph Murphy

Co. Cork

25 February 2002

John Hodnett

Co. Cork

20 September 2002

Angela O’Connor

Co. Dublin

20 September 2002

Kevin O’Neill

Co. Cork

20 September 2002

Eamon Rafter

Co. Laois

20 September 2002

Elizabeth Leahy

Co. Limerick

1 October 2002

Dan Collins

Co. Cork

12 November 2002

Limerick Prison Visiting Committee

Michael Fahy

Co. Galway

30 August 2002

Ger Connolly

Co. Offaly

20 September 2002

Collette Scanlon

Co. Kerry

20 September 2002

Tom O’Keeffe

Co. Kildare

20 September 2002

Ann O’Keeffe

Co. Limerick

20 September 2002

Eileen O’Brien

Co. Cork

2 October 2002

Noirin Mitchell

Co. Limerick

2 October 2002

Teresa Lynch

Co. Cork

15 October 2002

Pat Driscoll

Co. Kerry

15 November 2004

Michael O’Shea

Co. Kerry

15 November 2004

Loughan House Visiting Committee

Eugene Delaney

Co. Mayo

20 December 2004

Rita Delahunty

Co. Dublin

20 December 2004

Eddie Feeley

Co. Cavan

31 October 2002

Clifford Kelly

Co. Cavan

31 October 2002

Kathleen Richie

Co. Cavan

31 October 2002

Niall McCole

Co. Donegal

31 October 2002

Alice Bonner

Co. Donegal

31 October 2002

Brendan Hughes

Co. Monaghan

31 October 2002

Martin Doonan

Co. Sligo

31 October 2002

Mary Kathleen Johnston

Co. Sligo

12 November 2002

Midlands Prison Visiting Committee

Colm Wylie

Co. Clare

9 April 2004

Teresa Mulhare

Co. Laois

9 April 2004

Jennifer Murnane O’Connor

Co. Carlow

9 April 2004

Patrick Boland

Co. Offaly

9 April 2004

Nuala Halpin

Co. Dublin

9 April 2004

Brigid Teefy

Co. Limerick

19 April 2004

Jody Gunning

Co. Offaly

15 November 2004

John Sheey

Co. Clare

6 January 2005

Jim Casey

Co. Tipperary

6 January 2005

Mountjoy Prison Visiting Committee

Bernie Nolan

Co. Dublin

4 April 2004

Paddie Connellan

Co. Longford

4 April 2004

Stephen Langton

Co. Kildare

6 January 2005

Bridie Fitzgerald

Co. Kerry

31 May 2002

Desmond Gibney

Co. Dublin

2 October 2002

Betty Minihane

Co. Dublin

2 October 2002

Carmel Bolger

Co. Kildare

12 November 2002

Liam Hogan

Co. Dublin

6 January 2005

Portlaoise Visiting Committee

Jim Lanigan

Co. Meath

31 May 2002

Catherine Quinn

Co. Dublin

30 August 2002

Mary Wheatley

Co. Carlow

20 September 2002

Tom Colgan

Co. Laois

18 December 2003

Michael Hough

Co. Tipperary

18 December 2003

Eilis Croke

Co. Laois

3 March 2004

Ann Turley

Co. Laois

3 March 2004

Walter Lacey

Co. Carlow

20 December 2004

Eithne Reddy

Co. Carlow

6 January 2005

Shelton Abbey Place of Detention Visiting Committee

Kevin Fitzgerald

Co. Wicklow

13 August 2002

Pat Doran

Co. Wicklow

13 August 2002

Oonagh Doyle

Co. Wicklow

13 August 2002

Pat Fitzgerald

Co.Wicklow

13 August 2002

Colette Douglas

Co. Dublin

9 September 2002

Hugh O’Keeffe

Co. Wicklow

31 October 2002

P.J. Sheridan

Co. Kildare

31 October 2002

John Byrne

Co. Wicklow

31 October 2002

John Murphy

Co. Wexford

17 February 2003

Kathleen Maher

Co. Tipperary

31 October 2002

St. Patrick’s Institution Visiting Committee

Patrick O’Sullivan

Co. Kerry

5 June 2002

Hugh Lynn

Co. Roscommon

20 September 2002

Noel Cloak

Co. Leitrim

20 September 2002

Mary Murphy

Co. Galway

20 September 2002

Michael Burns

Co. Cork

20 September 2002

Anthony Gavin

Co. Kildare

17 December 2004

Training Unit Place of Detention Visiting Committee

Tras Honan

Co. Waterford

20 September 2002

Kathleen Diamond

Co. Sligo

31 October 2002

Noel Coade

Co. Wicklow

31 October 2002

Deirdre Kenneally

Co. Cork

31 October 2002

Geraldine Foster

Co. Dublin

31 October 2002

Mary Kelly

Co. Dublin

31 October 2002

Patsy Geraghty

Co. Galway

12 November 2002

Wheatfield Prison Visiting Committee

Rena Donaghey

Co. Donegal

25 February 2002

John O’Neill

Co. Kildare

8 November 2004

Stephen O’Neill

Co. Dublin

8 November 2004

Gerry Hannon

Co. Dublin

17 December 2004

Elva MacKay

Co. Dublin

17 December 2004

Teresa Clarke

Co. Kildare

17 December 2004

Garda Stations.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

432 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of times Ardfinnan post office, County Tipperary, has been raided during the past eight years; the number of convictions secured for each raid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4885/05]

The post office at Ardfinnan, County Tipperary, has been subject to three raids in the last eight years, the latest occurring on the 31 January 2005. To date, no convictions have been secured arising from these raids. Preventative measures are ongoing, including mobile and foot patrols, by day and at night. The divisional crime prevention officer has also carried out a full survey of the office premises.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

433 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of hours a Garda station (details supplied) has been open during the past six months; the number of gardaí assigned to the station on a full-time basis; if the station is de facto closed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4886/05]

The Garda authorities responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, inform me that the personnel strength of Ardfinnan Garda station as at February 11 2005 was one garda.

The garda attached to Ardfinnan Garda station was on maternity leave from 14 June 2004 to 10 January 2005. In her absence a garda attached to Cahir Garda station visited Ardfinnan Garda station several days a week and dealt with matters.

Over the Christmas period, gardaí from Cahir performed foot patrol duty in the Ardfinnan area. Local Garda management state that during the past six months Ardfinnan Garda station has been open to the public for approximately four hours per week.

As of 10 January 2005, Ardfinnan Garda station is open to the public for two hours daily depending on the member's rostered tour of duty. When not open, public access call box and call diversion systems are in operation to the district headquarters at Cahir Garda station.

Registration of Title.

Michael Ring

Question:

434 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will instruct the Land Registry to expedite a dealing for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [4887/05]

The Registrar of Titles informs me that this is an application for transfer of part which was lodged on 4 October 1999. Dealing Number D1999SM006629K refers. The application is receiving attention in the Land Registry and will be completed as soon as possible.

Drug Seizures.

Billy Timmins

Question:

435 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the street value of drugs seized in Bray, Wicklow town and Arklow for the years 2002, 2003 and 2004; the breakdown of these by type; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4888/05]

The data requested by the Deputy and supplied by the Garda authorities is set out in the table.

Bray*

Arklow

Wicklow Town

Year

Drug Type

Estimated street value

2002

Cannabis Resin

3,073

17,765

880

Ecstasy

2,149

200

10

Herbal Cannabis

300

Cocaine

8,126

20

Heroin

3,237

1,775

Methadone

300

Rohypnol

80

Amphetamine

13

30

10

2003

Cannabis Resin

19,291

63,800

660

Herbal Cannabis

50

Ecstasy

71,353

390

560

Cocaine

27,413

Heroin

1,714

550

Amphetamine

267

10

400

Physeptone

100

Methadone

100

40

2004

Cannabis Resin

9,688

1,375

660

Heroin

1,810

7,575

Ecstasy

1,890

800

30

Cocaine

103,880

400

Cannabis Herb

36

40

Methadone

50

Amphetamine

30

*Statistics as provided for Bray are a district return — N District — and include Bray and Shankill Garda districts.

Garda Operations.

Michael Ring

Question:

436 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform why young persons travelling abroad for working holidays and education find it so difficult to acquire Garda clearance; and the reason for this difficulty. [4889/05]

The Garda central vetting unit was established in January 2002 to carry out criminal record vetting in respect of prospective full-time employees working primarily in the health care area and in certain designated agencies.

When the unit became fully operational, it was envisaged that a phased extension of the vetting arrangements to other groups would take place. To this end, a working group was established to examine the issue. The working group submitted its final report in March 2004 and this report has since been published in electronic form on my Department's website.

On the basis of this report, my colleague, Deputy Brian Lenihan, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children with special responsibility for children, announced the provision of additional staff resources for the unit to enable the Garda Síochána's vetting services to be extended. The Minister of State's announcement implements one of the key recommendations of the working group. The other practical recommendations are being brought forward by an implementation group chaired by the Garda Síochána and comprising representatives of my Department, the Departments of Health and Children, Education and Science, and Finance, the Office of the Attorney General, and Mr Paul Gilligan, chief executive officer of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. The extension of the services of the vetting unit will commence this year as soon as the necessary practical arrangements are in place, and public announcements will occur in this regard in due course.

Garda Training.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

437 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the recent allegations of bullying in the Garda Síochána Templemore training centre; if action was taken in each case; the anti-bullying procedures that are in place in the college to deal with such cases. [4890/05]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

446 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the allegation of sexual harassment having been made in the Garda training college in Templemore; if a full inquiry has taken place into the allegation; the outcome of any such inquiry; if the guidelines in relation to harassment and bullying need to be updated, particularly in so far as they affect student gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4993/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 437 and 446 together.

The Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, inform me that an investigation under the Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations 1989 is being conducted following an internal complaint at the Garda college. As the investigation is ongoing it would not be appropriate to comment further until the investigation has concluded.

Anti-bullying procedures in place in the Garda college, are in accordance with the Garda Síochána policy on equality, bullying, harassment, sexual harassment and grievance procedure of July 2002. The policy applies in full to student gardaí as they are contracted by the commissioner as Garda trainees.

Registration of Title.

Michael Ring

Question:

438 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding a dealing (details supplied) in County Mayo. [4908/05]

The Registrar of Titles informs me that this is an application for first registration which was lodged on 24 January 2005. Dealing Number D2005SM000859D refers. This application was rejected and the documents were returned to the lodging solicitors on 10 February 2005.

Prison Accommodation.

Joe Costello

Question:

439 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform how much has been spent on refurbishment or building in the Mountjoy complex over the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4909/05]

The Irish Prison Service informs me that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily available. I have directed the Irish Prison Service to forward the information requested directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Prisoner Releases.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

440 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will consider providing release on a re-socialisation programme for a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4915/05]

I have carefully examined the case to which the Deputy refers and am not prepared to approve additional periods of temporary release at this time.

Voluntary Repatriation Schemes.

Pat Carey

Question:

441 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has explored the concept of “spend and save” in the area of repatriation; if he will consider the possibility of entering into a bilateral agreement with some countries as outlined (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4962/05]

The Transfer of Sentenced Persons Act 1995 and 1997 is the legislative basis for enabling the repatriation of prisoners to Ireland. While the Act was intended, in the main, to allow for the operation of the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, it also provides under section 2 of the Act for the repatriation of prisoners from or to a state which is not a party to the convention but with which Ireland has a bilateral agreement for such transfers.

The United Kingdom adopted the "spend and save" policy on prisoner repatriation owing to the high numbers of British citizens requiring consular assistance as a result of being imprisoned in foreign countries. The provision of consular services to Irish citizens abroad is a matter solely for my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I understand, however, that the problem facing the UK authorities does not exist to any great extent in regard to Irish nationals abroad.

The Council of Europe Convention applies to most countries where Irish nationals have been imprisoned. There are significant costs involved in repatriating prisoners to Ireland to complete their sentences here. A bilateral agreement to allow for the transfer of prisoners to and from another state is put in place primarily for humanitarian and rehabilitative reasons.

While Ireland has as yet no bilateral agreements in place, several states have expressed an interest in negotiating an agreement. Proposals for the conclusion of a bilateral agreement between Cuba and Ireland are expected to be forwarded to the Cuban authorities soon and that agreement will form the basis for further such agreements between other states which are interested in putting in place such arrangements.

Child Care Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

442 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he will take to provide the much needed funding for a community playgroup (details supplied) in County Longford under the equal opportunities child care programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4971/05]

The group was awarded staffing grant aid of €190,461 over three years in September 2000. In addition, the group was awarded staffing continuation funding totalling €79,375 up to 31 August 2005 under the equal opportunities child care programme 2000-2006. The group submitted an application for capital grant assistance under the programme to my Department some time ago. The programme is a seven-year development programme which aims to increase the availability and quality of child care to support parents in employment, education and training.

The level of demand for capital grant assistance was such that I considered it important to increase the capital provision for the present programme. Following discussions with my colleague, the Minister for Finance, an additional capital provision of €90 million was made available over the period 2005 to 2009 in the context of the 2005 budget. Of this amount, €50 million is being made available under the present programme and the remaining €40 million will flow under the next phase of the post-2006 programme. This augments the increased EU funding of €12 million made available last year in recognition of the progress of the programme. This brings the total funding available for the programme to €499.3 million and now includes an increased provision for capital developments for which €205 million has been set aside. In December 2004, I announced an allocation of almost €35 million in capital funding to community-based not-for-profit-groups.

The availability of the additional capital funding will enable me to make further capital grant assistance available over the coming months and years to groups which address significant child care service gaps and where the project proposal represents good value for money when considered in the context of the guidelines on building costs. In light of this, the group in question has been advised that while its project had not been prioritised for immediate funding in December 2004, it will be reconsidered in the future and I hope to make further significant capital commitments during 2005 and thereafter.

The ongoing appraisal of the applications in the pipeline will be concluded as speedily as possible to facilitate the development of additional child care facilities and places at the earliest opportunity. When the appraisal on the project in question is completed, the application will be considered by the programme appraisal committee, chaired by my Department, before I make a final decision. In the interim, it would be premature of me to comment further on this application.

Willie Penrose

Question:

443 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department will take steps to fund an important community child care service (details supplied) in County Westmeath; if he will develop an after-school service to deal with the ever-increasing demands on the current accommodation and facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4972/05]

The group was awarded staffing grant aid of €195,000 over three years in June 2003 under the equal opportunities child care programme 2000-2006. The group submitted an application for capital grant assistance under the programme to my Department some time ago. The programme is a seven-year development programme which aims to increase the availability and quality of child care to support parents in employment, education and training.

The level of demand for capital grant assistance was such that I considered it important to increase the capital provision for the present programme. Following discussions with my colleague the Minister for Finance, an additional capital provision of €90 million was made available over the period 2005 to 2009, in the context of the 2005 budget. Of this amount, €50 million is being made available under the present programme and the remaining €40 million will flow under the next phase of the post-2006 programme. This augments the increased EU funding of €12 million made available last year in recognition of the progress of the programme. This brings the total funding available for the programme to €499.3 million and now includes an increased provision for capital developments for which €205 million has been set aside. In December 2004, I announced an allocation of almost €35 million in capital funding to community-based not-for-profit-groups.

The availability of the additional capital funding will enable me to make further capital grant assistance available over the coming months and years to groups which address significant child care service gaps and where the project proposal represents good value for money when considered in the context of the guidelines on building costs. In light of this, the group in question has been advised that while its project had not been prioritised for immediate funding in December 2004, it will be reconsidered in the future and I hope to make further significant capital commitments during 2005 and thereafter.

The ongoing appraisal of the applications in the pipeline will be concluded as speedily as possible to facilitate the development of additional child care facilities and places at the earliest opportunity. When the appraisal of the project in question is completed, the application will be considered by the programme appraisal committee chaired by my Department, before I make a final decision. In the interim, it would be premature of me to comment further on this application.

Garda Operations.

Joe Costello

Question:

444 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals to measure Garda performance in each division; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4984/05]

The Garda corporate strategy and annual policing plans outline the objectives of the force. The annual policing plan details policing policy for the year setting measurable performance indicators. The progress made towards achieving this level of performance is subsequently contained in the annual report.

The Garda Síochána Bill, which is before Dáil Éireann, will comprehensively modernise the law governing the force. It will set out the role and objectives of the force and clarify its relationship with the Minister and Government. There will be formal provision for the setting of policing priorities and the establishment of performance targets. The Garda Commissioner will then formally be required to submit a three-yearly strategy statement and an annual policing plan.

Human Rights Issues.

Pat Breen

Question:

445 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Question No. 406 of 30 November 2004, if his attention has been drawn to the requirement contained in section 9 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 that a Minister must, on or before introducing a Bill into the Assembly, make a statement to the effect that in their view the Bill is compatible with the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights; if, accordingly, the Government has proposals to implement similar measures in this jurisdiction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4992/05]

I note that section 9 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 deals with the making of statements by Ministers in charge of Bills to the effect that such Bills are within the legislative competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Perhaps what the Deputy has in mind is section 19 of the UK Human Rights Act 1998. It provides for the making of written statements by Ministers before the Second Reading on the compatibility or otherwise of Bills with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The question of whether a similar procedure should be adopted in our case was fully examined in the context of the preparation of the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003. I explained the position in this regard during the passage of the Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas. The Government took account of the establishment of the Human Rights Commission in this jurisdiction and its wide role and mandate in relation to the review of proposals for legislation as well as the Attorney General's responsibilities as guardian of the public interest in protecting the Constitution and vindicating constitutional rights. This responsibility co-exists with the functions of legal adviser to the Government, and both areas come into play in the context of the proposals by the Government for draft legislation.

The two parliamentary systems differ in so far as parliamentary procedures may be established by law in the United Kingdom but in this jurisdiction they are governed by the system of Standing Orders drawn up by each House. Even if legislation provided for such statements, unless adopted by the Houses of the Oireachtas, they would be of no value. It is possible, of course, that the Oireachtas might amend its Rules of Procedure so as to provide for statements indicating the compatibility or otherwise of draft legislation with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Question No. 446 answered with QuestionNo. 437.

Garda Remuneration.

Joe Costello

Question:

447 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the establishment of the Garda Síochána reward fund; the way in which it is administered; the way in which it is maintained; and why it is to be retained. [4995/05]