Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies received from the Departments (unrevised).
Questions Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 7 to 55, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions No. 56 to 64, inclusive, answered orally.

Proposed Legislation.

Seán Ryan

Question:

65 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects that the long promised judicial conduct and ethics Bill will be published; if he has brought proposals to Government on the matter; if the heads of a Bill have been approved by Cabinet; the general approach he intends to adopt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4948/05]

I expect to be in a position shortly to bring the scheme of a judicial council Bill to Government for approval with a view to publishing the Bill itself in the first half of this year. The preparation of the scheme of the Bill is at an advanced stage. I am engaged in a number of necessary consultations on the draft scheme at present.

The Bill will establish a judicial council with responsibility for a number of matters. Among these will be the devising of a code of ethics and the management of a process, to be set out in the Bill, for the investigation of complaints about judicial misbehaviour. An important feature of this disciplinary process will be provisions requiring lay participation, that is to say people who are not judges or lawyers, in the process. Other matters to be included in the council's functions will be responsibility for judicial education and training and the exchange of information among judges on such matters as sentencing. In these regards, the Bill will build on the report of the committee on judicial conduct and ethics chaired by the former Chief Justice Ronan Keane.

It is my intention that when the scheme of the Bill has been approved by Government, I will make it available to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights. Any views that may emerge from the joint committee can be taken into account during the drafting of the Bill, which will be proceeding at the same time.

Garda Complaints Procedures.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

66 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of complaints received by the Garda complaints board in the years 2000 to 2004 inclusive; the number of cases that went through the entire process; the number of cases in which sanctions were imposed on members of the force; the number of cases determined as being frivolous; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5050/05]

The information sought by the Deputy and furnished to me by the complaints board is set out in the attached appendix which is being circulated to members with this answer. As the Deputy will see, the annual number of complaints over the period in question has ranged from 1,175 to 1,405, with the figure for last year being 1,232.

Complaints referred to as having gone through the entire process are regarded as those which have been admitted by the chief executive for investigation, investigated by an officer of the Garda Síochána under the direction of the board and formally decided upon by the board. The number of these cases over the period in question has ranged from 373 in 2000 to 509 in 2003. The figure for last year was 507. It is important to note that the outcome of complaints listed in the appendix refers to work processed under the years in question and this includes complaints on-hand at the start of each year as well as complaints received during the year in question.

The figures for 2004 are provisional and the final figures will be included in the board's annual report which will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas in due course.

As regards the sanctions imposed on members of the Garda Síochána, minor breaches of discipline are referred to the Garda Commissioner and these are dealt with under the Garda disciplinary code. Matters of a more serious nature are referred to tribunals. The figures are not yet to hand for 2004 but for the period 2000 to 2003, the outcomes of tribunal hearings resulting in Garda members being found to be in breach of discipline are as follows:

Year 2000

Year 2001

Year 2002

Year 2003

6

2

4

10

* Detailed breakdown of these figures and other statistics are contained in the annual reports of the board.

Appendix 1

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004*

Number of complaints received:

1,309

1,281

1,405

1,175

1,232

Cases that went through the entire process:

373

474

444

509

507

Cases referred by the board to the complaints tribunal under section 7(5) (breaches of discipline not of a minor nature):

9

10

16

14

27

Cases referred by the board to the Garda Commissioner under section 7(4) (breaches of discipline of a minor nature):

28

18

15

13

31

Cases that were deemed frivolous by the board or the chief executive:

40

31

1

8

28

Cases that were deemed vexatious by the board or the chief executive:

167

161

50

142

259

* Provisional figures for 2004 only.

Garda Deployment.

Liz McManus

Question:

67 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of serving members of the gardaí employed as full-time drivers for Ministers, former Ministers and judicial figures; the annual cost in terms of salaries of such drivers; if he will undertake an assessment of whether this is the best use of Garda resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4935/05]

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

There are no set rules as to when ministerial cars are replaced but, in general, those which are two years old and-or have a mileage in excess of 100,000 miles are considered for replacement.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that there are currently 73 gardaí attached to the ministerial pool of which 56 are allocated on a full-time basis as drivers for the ministerial fleet. The remaining 17 gardaí are on a relief panel and cover periods of absences through annual leave and illness. I am further informed that the annual costs of such drivers is approximately €5.2 million and includes salaries, allowances and subsistence. These drivers are tasked with providing personal protection, in addition to their driving duties, and there are currently no plans to replace them with civilian drivers.

Joe Costello

Question:

68 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the security arrangements the gardaí are planning for the Phibsboro area in view of concerns expressed by local residents arising from a decision that Shamrock Rovers will play its home matches at Dalymount from March 2005 when the new soccer season starts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4955/05]

Policing arrangements for public events and in locations generally, along with the allocation of Garda resources, are solely a matter for the Garda Commissioner. However, I understand from the Garda authorities that the Garda Síochána is not aware of any decision having been taken in relation to Shamrock Rovers playing at Dalymount Park. As I am sure the Deputy will understand, in the event of this situation arising, a multiplicity of 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 in order to avoid as much disruption as possible for residents in the immediate area and the surrounding community.

Dan Boyle

Question:

69 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action which has been taken in 2005 to address the incidence of prostitution in the Dublin 7 area; the number of plain clothes and undercover gardaí available in the area; the average response time; and the details of the most recent prosecutions under the Breaches of Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 in that area. [5097/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that within the Bridewell district, which covers the Dublin 7 area, there are two plain clothes gardaí assigned to deal with incidents of prostitution. In addition to this, both regular patrols and district detective units are also involved in dealing with incidents of prostitution in the Dublin 7 area. I understand that response times are immediate in respect of the designated gardaí in the area, but that response times will vary in respect of other patrols depending on other demands at any given time.

I have further been informed that since 1 January 2005, there have been 12 prosecutions under the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 in the area concerned. As the Deputy may already be aware, the legislation governing this activity is quite modern with the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 being the most recent statute. Prostitution is not in itself a crime, but the law seeks to protect prostitutes from exploitation and to protect the public from certain manifestations of prostitution. It is an offence for a person, in a street or public place, to solicit or importune another person for the purposes of prostitution. The offence applies equally to a prostitute soliciting a client, a client soliciting a prostitute or a third party soliciting one on behalf of the other. The same offence and penalties apply to prostitutes, clients or anyone who solicits in a public place. It is also an offence to solicit or importune another person in order to commit certain sexual offences, such as sexual offences with underage persons or to keep or to manage a brothel.

A significant provision is that a member of the Garda Síochána, who has reasonable cause to suspect that a person is loitering in a street or public place in order to solicit for the purpose of prostitution, may direct that person to leave the scene immediately. It is then an offence not to comply with such a direction without reasonable cause. "Loitering" includes loitering in a motor vehicle and this provision therefore also applies to kerbcrawlers. In addition to its other provisions the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993 also extended the law on soliciting in public, which previously applied only to prostitutes and any third parties organising and profiting from prostitution.

Site Acquisitions.

Jack Wall

Question:

70 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason his Department purchased a site for the probation and welfare service in Blanchardstown to locate its services; the further reason it sought and obtained planning permission for a probation and welfare centre on the site; the further reason it decided not to proceed with the development of the centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4954/05]

The old AIB premises at Main Street, Blanchardstown, was acquired by the Office of Public Works on behalf of the Probation and Welfare Service. As the intention was to renovate and extend these premises, using one portion as a local office and the other as a probation centre, planning permission was required. The proposed change in the use of the building would also have required planning permission.

However, before proceeding with the refurbishment project, due to concerns which emerged in the matter, my Department decided to review the suitability of the location in questionand examine alternative options in the Blanchardstown area, including locations near the town centre. It is hoped to have the matter resolved in the near future.

Garda Deployment.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

71 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of juvenile liaison officers in the gardaí at the latest date for which figures are available; his plans to extend the scheme in view of the proven success of it in dealing with juvenile offenders and in view of the huge work load carried out by juvenile liaison officers who are dealing with more than 17,000 juvenile offenders each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4930/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that as of 14 February 2005 there were 86 juvenile liaison officer, JLO, gardaí and eight JLO sergeants working in the various divisions throughout the country. In addition to this, the national juvenile office has a staff of one superintendent, two inspectors and two sergeants.

The Children Act 2001, which came into law in May 2002, gave a statutory basis to the juvenile diversion programme which includes a restorative justice aspect. The Garda authorities estimate that in 2004, the Garda juvenile office received between 17,000 and 20,000 referrals under the programme. Exact figures are expected to be available in March 2005. Early assessments indicated a very high level of satisfaction from those involved in the process.

Ongoing evaluation of restorative justice practice is being carried out by the Garda research unit. All Garda juvenile liaison officers have received training in restorative justice and over half have received training in mediation skills. It is expected that the ongoing development of restorative justice within the juvenile diversion programme will lead to a significant reduction in the incidence of recidivism.

The diversion programme already exists on a nationwide basis and is delivered throughout the country by specially trained gardaí. Resource implications are constantly under review and applications for additional resources are made on a case by case basis when and where necessary.

In relation to Garda resources generally, the House will be aware that the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, in line with the An Agreed Programme for Government commitment in this regard. This is a key commitment in the programme for Government, and its implementation will significantly strengthen the operational capacity of the force.

The commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources, and in this context due consideration will, inter alia, be given to the resourcing of the juvenile liaison scheme. Clearly, of course, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies, in particular, areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences, but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to very significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda traffic corps. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing. They will have a real impact.

Garda Disciplinary Proceedings.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

72 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the total amount paid out in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and to date in 2005 either in respect of court awards or out of court settlements for claims taken against members of the gardaí in respect of assault, unlawful arrest, or other breach of a citizen’s right; the number of cases in which awards were made by the courts and the number of cases which were settled out of court; the number of such cases pending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4931/05]

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

As of 31 December 2003, there were approximately 750 civil actions taken against members of the Garda Síochána on hand. A detailed breakdown of these actions in the form of the number of allegations of assault, unlawful arrest and other breaches of citizens' rights is not readily available. However, a database introduced in 2002 for the purposes of recording civil actions taken against members of the Garda Síochána, indicates that in 2003 — the first complete year for which a detailed breakdown is available — of the 142 actions initiated or received in that year by my Department, there were 34 cases of alleged assault recorded and 38 cases of alleged unlawful arrest recorded. The remaining 70 cases recorded included allegations of defamation and harassment. In 2004, 127 actions have been initiated-received. They include 40 cases of alleged assault and 26 cases of alleged unlawful arrest. In 2005 to date, 19 actions have been initiated-received. They include four cases of alleged assault and four cases of alleged unlawful arrest.

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

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

Year (Total Amount)

Assault

Unlawful Arrest

Other

2001 €1,619,746.83

Awards

1,904.61 (1)

20,950.68 (2)

22,220.42 (1)

Settlements

123,164.59 (5)

33,965.49 (3)

162,782.25 (9)

Costs

244,665.35

123,199.41

886,894.03

Total

369,734.55

178,115.58

1,071,896.70

2002 €1,240,388.40

Awards

1,270 (1)

3,809.21 (1)

56,500 (2)

Settlements

166,924.48 (6)

106,835.58 (10)

185,078.82 (11)

Costs

230,769.67

148,714.19

340,486.45

Total

398,964.15

259,358.98

582,065.27

2003 €1,276,127.55

Awards

11,000 (1)

10,000 (2)

4,870 (2)

Settlements

75,000 (4)

303,011 (5)

112,814.84 (4)

Costs

145,561.70

71,794.28

542,075.73

Total

231,561.70

384,805.28

659,760.57

2004 (Provisional) €938,799.09

Awards

15,000 (1)

0

3,215.06 (1)

Settlements

198,697.48 (5)*

73,007 (5)*

50,500 (3)

Costs

231,646.62

100,019.36

266,713.57

Total

445,344.10

173,026.36

320,428.63

2005 (Provisional) €449,654.07 as at 11/02/05

Awards

250.00 (1)

Settlements

6,113.00 (1)

Costs

442,686.07 (1)

605.00 (1)

Total

449,049.07

605.00

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

* Further to the reply given to Parliamentary Question No. 35 on 8 December 2004, following a review of the categories of actions taken, the provisional figures for settlements under assaults and unlawful arrest in the year 2004 have been adjusted.

Industrial Disputes.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

73 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to his negotiations with the Prison Officers’ Association to resolve the long running dispute; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4939/05]

I draw the Deputy's attention to my response to Question No. 692 on 26 January last in which I indicated that officials of the Irish Prison Service had re-engaged in discussions with the Prison Officers' Association at the Labour Relations Commission following on a determination by the Civil Service Arbitration Board on a number of financial issues. The position is that these discussions concluded on 8 February with agreement between the Irish Prison Service and the Prison Officers' Association on a proposal for organisational change which will shortly be put to staff for ballot.

As I have indicated previously to the House, the heretofore dependence on overtime cannot be sustained in a progressive modern prison service. It is my firm belief that the proposal for organisational change presents an important turning point for the Irish Prison Service and it offers a mutually satisfactory way forward for the service. For staff there is a real opportunity to gain improved terms of service, including a guaranteed level of earnings and predictable attendance patterns as well as paving the way for greater staff development. For the Irish Prison Service, there is a real prospect of a more efficient and cost effective method of service delivery. I hope that staff will seize the opportunity they are now presented with and that the proposal for organisational change will be endorsed in the forthcoming ballot.

Juvenile Offenders.

Mary Upton

Question:

74 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the measures his Department has in place to deal with juveniles who are at risk or who have committed offences; the proposals he has to improve the juvenile justice system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4959/05]

The Children Act 2001 is a fundamental revision of the law governing the treatment of children in conflict with the law and non-offending children in need of special care and protection. The principal considerations behind the Act are: prevention, through early intervention, is desirable; diversion, where a child has committed an offence, is the preferred option where society would not be adversely affected; community sanctions should be available where it is necessary to bring a child before the courts; and although appropriate in certain cases, detention for children should be a measure of last resort.

The Children Act is comprehensive but complex legislation and, as was envisaged at the time of its enactment, it is being implemented on a phased basis. Responsibility for implementing the Act lies with the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Education and Science and Health and Children. Despite the complexity of the legislation, significant progress has been made in its implementation to date. The implementation process is being co-ordinated by the National Children's Office.

A key aim of the Act is to retain the distinction between offending children and non-offending children in need of care and protection by providing two distinctive pathways for addressing their needs: a youth justice route which emphasises diversion and restorative justice; and a welfare route which emphasises care and protection.

As regards the youth justice route, Part 4 of the Children Act providing for a diversion programme to replace the Garda juvenile liaison scheme was brought into operation in May 2002. The objective of the programme, which is administered by the Garda Síochána, is to divert any child who accepts responsibility for his or her criminal behaviour from committing further offences. It is implemented throughout the country by specially trained gardaí working as juvenile liaison officers. The programme introduced the concepts of restorative justice and family conferencing.

In addition to the diversion programme, my Department also funds the Garda youth diversion projects. These projects are community-based, multi-agency initiatives that aim to divert young people from becoming involved in anti-social and-or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development, promote civic responsibility and challenge offending behaviour. The number of such projects has grown from 12 in 1997 to 64 at present, a growth made possible in part by funding under the National Development Plan 2000-2006. I am committed to their continuing development and, as resources allow, their expansion.

The probation and welfare service supports 73 projects nationally which offer programmes to offenders and those at risk of offending. Forty-six of these projects target young offenders specifically. There are plans to extend the range of projects which offer services to young offenders and children as part of the implementation of the Children Act 2001.

Within the prison system, facilities and programmes for young offenders are centred mainly at St. Patrick's Institution, although young offenders are accommodated at other places of detention. A broad range of services is provided, including individual and group programmes involving education, training, medical and welfare supports.

It is important to emphasise too that a wide range of educational and support services for young people generally is provided by a number of Departments. Although not all these services are targeted specifically in the area of crime prevention, of course, there are linkages and co-operation with other Departments on significant cross-cutting issues relevant to the area of youth justice.

The initiatives put in place by the Government under the national drugs strategy target young people at risk of substance misuse as a priority group and my Department continues to play an active part in the framework established to implement the drugs strategy. My Department is represented on the national assessment committee of the young peoples facilities and services fund. This fund was set up by the Government to attract young people at risk into sports, recreational facilities and activities and to divert them away from the danger of substance misuse. The Government has provided approximately €75 million to date to support about 450 facilities and services.

The cross-cutting and interdependent nature of the Children Act reflects a well-acknowledged need to begin to join up strategy and operation of services for children. With this in mind, I established a project team in my Department which has been charged with examining the scope for rationalising and restructuring the delivery of the State's services in the area of youth justice. A sound statutory framework for a modern youth justice system has been established with the Children Act, but I consider that some fresh thinking with regard to the institutional and strategic environment in which it is to operate may be helpful.

The project team is consulting with the statutory bodies which have responsibilities for the delivery of services to young people, whether they are offenders or at risk. The team is also meeting with a wide range of non-governmental service providers and experts in the area. An evaluation of certain developments in other jurisdictions is also being undertaken. As I have indicated previously, I expect the project team to report to me before the summer.

Prisoner Reintegration.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

75 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date towards implementing the recommendations of the report of the NESF, published in 2002, on the reintegration of prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4938/05]

As the Deputy may be aware, the NESF itself has, in November 2004, presented a report to the Taoiseach entitled, Fourth Periodic Report on the Work of the NESF, which the forum had prepared for the purpose of reviewing implementation and follow through, mainly by Departments and State agencies, on several particular reports it had undertaken and submitted over the period 2001-03 and including its January 2002 forum report on the re-integration of prisoners. In compiling this periodic report the NESF had available to it a detailed and comprehensive update on progress in implementing the various recommendations in the 2002 report, as advanced by my Department, the Irish Prison Service, the probation and welfare service, and other agencies in the criminal justice sphere.

In setting its conclusions in its fourth periodic report, the NESF welcomed the progress made in implementing the main thrust of its 2002 report. The NESF had, in particular noted a number of encouraging steps including the establishment of the Irish Prison Service's regimes directorate with a dedicated director of regimes as an important first step in rebalancing the custodial and care-rehabilitations functions of the service and the establishment in prisons, in partnership with the probation and welfare service, of initiatives in outreach and in-reach services to improve prisoner reintegration. These initiatives have included in-reach initiatives providing advice, referral and support to prisoners on housing, including local authority, private rented and transitional, training and employment, income maintenance, and general social welfare. In the particular context of social welfare, the probation and welfare service has contributed to the information booklet, What Now?, published by the Department of Social and Community Affairs and is continuing to develop information and resources to assist prisoners on release from custody through its network of 74 funded community and voluntary projects and initiatives throughout Ireland.

The probation and welfare service has, in conjunction with local communities, funded and fostered the two significant restorative justice initiatives for offenders before courts — restorative justice services in Tallaght, County Dublin, and Nenagh reparation project in County Tipperary. Probation and welfare officers also manage court based family conferencing and the current restorative orders under the Children Act 2001 and will implement further orders provided for in the Children Act 2001 as they are brought into operation.

The NESF Fourth Periodic Report also recognises the establishment of HOST, homeless offenders strategy team, as a notable contribution to the development of the necessary implementation and supportive structure. HOST is a probation and welfare service-led multi-agency unit established to address homelessness among offenders. A senior official from Dublin City Council is seconded to HOST, with the support of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Since its establishment in 2002 on foot of the homeless preventative strategy, HOST works at a national level to prevent and minimise homelessness among offenders and to improve access to accommodation by offenders. The work of HOST is informed by Government strategy on adult and youth homelessness.

Among other positive advances noted by the NESF were the inclusion of prisoner integration in future prison business plans and the inclusion of prisoners in social inclusion strategies, such as the national anti-poverty strategy, and developments in relation to meeting the accommodation needs of prisoners on release.

The probation and welfare service has funded and commissioned major research on prisoner homelessness. This research, carried out by the centre for social and educational research at the Dublin Institute of Technology, tracked the progression of a sample of offenders in Dublin through the courts and prison, with particular reference to accommodation issues facing them. The research, which is currently being printed, will make a valuable contribution to the planning and provision of services in this area.

The Irish Prison Service has taken on board the suggestion made in the Fourth Periodic Report that the option for a pilot positive sentence management project be explored and this approach is being actively reviewed at present in the Irish Prison Service.

In summation, I welcome the NESF's broad conclusion that the essential foundation work is nearing completion, in consequence of which the pace of progress will increase and positive sentence management will become a reality. My Department will continue to advance the relevant recommendations of the NESF Report No. 22 regarding the effective reintegration of prisoners, in partnership with the Irish Prison Service, the probation and welfare service and other services, agencies and community groups.

Crime Victimisation Survey.

Liz McManus

Question:

76 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the promised new national crime victimisation survey will commence; the person by whom it will be carried out; the frequency with which it will be undertaken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4934/05]

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

The expert group on crime statistics, which I established and the report of which I published in July 2004, recommended the establishment of a central crime statistics unit, which would, inter alia, examine the collation of information relating to crimes reported to and recorded by the gardaí, examine the collation of information relating to other crimes where the Garda Síochána is not the prosecuting authority, identify the needs of key stakeholders within the criminal justice system and the wider research community and publish criminal justice statistics, based initially on the Garda Síochána PULSE data. I accepted the recommendation that such a unit be established and work is under way on establishing it within the Central Statistics Office.

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

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

I also understand that the Central Statistics Office intends to develop these surveys in a way that will maximise their utility and their coherence with other administrative data available in the criminal justice system. It is important to note that the data that will result from these surveys will not be directly comparable to the crime statistics based on data recorded by the Garda Síochána as there will be fundamental differences in sources, definitions and classification methodology.

Air Pollution.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

77 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the latest figures for the prosecution of persons driving vehicles that are exceeding the proscribed air pollution limits. [5095/05]

Legislation governing road traffic law is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Transport, and I have been informed by his Department that there is no legislation in place governing air pollution limits for vehicles. However, I have been further informed by the Department of Transport that the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963, SI 190 of 1963, requires vehicles to be constructed so as to prevent, as far as reasonably possible, the emission of smoke, visible vapour, noxious gases or offensive odours.

I have made inquiries with the Garda authorities and I understand that since 1 January 2002, there have been 30 prosecutions for smoking exhausts contrary to Article 34(2), Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963, as amended.

Review of Garda Structures.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

78 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date with regard to the recommendations contained in the report of the implementation steering group on the review of Garda Síochána structures; if he is considering proposals for the full closure of some stations and the closure of others during night hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4928/05]

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

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

Garda Strength.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

79 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which the extra 2000 gardaí promised have been achieved to date; his future plans on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5057/05]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

92 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí in active service at the latest date for which figures are available. [5105/05]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

99 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members of the Garda Síochána at the latest date for which figures are available; the number expected to be recruited during 2005; the anticipated membership at the end of 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4922/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

235 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the 2,000 extra gardaí promised will be on the streets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5275/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 79, 92, 99 and 235 together.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the attested personnel strength of the Garda Síochána as of 11 February 2005 was 12,151, all ranks. The anticipated attested strength at end 2005 is 12,280, all ranks.

The House will be aware that the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, in line with the 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.

As a basis for implementing this commitment the commissioner has drawn up a project plan which has three key elements: the recruitment of sufficient additional Garda trainees to achieve the target strength; relocating the in-service training facilities from the Garda college so that the college can concentrate on training recruits; and expanding the facilities at the Garda college.

A new recruitment campaign for the Garda Síochána was launched on Thursday, 25 November 2004 and over 10,600 applications were received. This high level of applications was no doubt aided by the increase in the maximum recruitment age from 26 to 35, as approved by the Government in November 2004 on foot of a recommendation by the commissioner.

For the period 2005 to 2007, around 275 recruits will be taken into the college every quarter. The intake of this first tranche of 275 students to the Garda college took place on the week commencing Monday, 7 February 2005 and arrangements are in place for the current recruitment competition to be progressed further so as to provide for the second intake of 275 students on 3 May this year. It is estimated that 526 Garda trainees will become attested members of the force in 2005.

Taking into account the projected number of retirements, the new recruitment drive will lead to a combined organisational strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 as early as end 2006. The commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources. Clearly, of course, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies in particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences, but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to very significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda traffic corps. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing. They will have a real impact.

Victim Support.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

80 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the significant disquiet on the part of victims’ families at their treatment and exclusion from the legal process in criminal cases such as that of a person (details supplied); and his plans to ensure that victims’ families are better treated in the judicial process. [5099/05]

In many European jurisdictions, victims have the status of a party to the proceedings and there is a much closer relationship between the civil and the criminal law. This jurisdiction, however, has a common law system, where the victim is a witness to, but not directly a party in, criminal proceedings.

Provision for victims is made by a number of Government agencies as well as non-governmental organisations. The rights and entitlements of victims of crime in Ireland are set out in the victims charter, published by my Department in 1999, following extensive consultations with all relevant agencies, including the courts, the Garda Síochána, the Irish Prison Service, the probation and welfare service, the State Prosecution Service and the Victim Support organisation. Victim Support provides support to victims of crime and their families through a network of volunteers nationwide. My Department has provided funding for its administrative and staff costs amounting to €5.3 million in the five years up to the end of 2004.

The charter makes specific provision for particularly vulnerable victims such as victims of sexual offences, domestic violence, elderly victims, victims with disabilities, and children. It also contains specific provisions in relation to keeping victims informed of the outcome of their complaints, the progress of any criminal proceedings, and the outcome of these proceedings.

Similarly, procedures put in place by the Garda authorities in relation to the victims of crime, which are set out in the Garda charter for victims of crime, provide that the gardaí will inform victims, where a suspect is charged, of the time, date and location of the court hearing of the charges against the accused.

It is my intention to arrange for a review of the provisions of the victims charter in the near future, in order to ensure its continuing relevance and effectiveness in providing for crime victims. As well as administrative and other provisions, the review will critically examine the deployment of resources to ensure that they continue to deliver maximum effectiveness as well as value for money.

The review will also have regard to the EU framework decision of 15 March 2001 on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings, which sets out to harmonise the treatment of victims of crime across the EU, to ensure that Ireland continues to meet its commitments in that regard.

In relation to the case which the Deputy supplied details of, I have had inquiries made into this case on several occasions and I have been informed that the Garda authorities are satisfied that this case was the subject of a full and proper investigation which resulted in a person being charged on the directions of the Director of Public Prosecutions and subsequently dealt with by the courts.

As the Deputy will be aware, the courts are subject only to the Constitution and the law and are independent in the exercise of their judicial functions. I have no function in relation to verdicts of the courts, nor is it open to me to intervene in court proceedings of this kind. I have been informed that the defendant in this case was acquitted on all charges by the jury who returned a verdict of not guilty.

I have also been informed by the Garda authorities that local gardaí have met the parents of the deceased on a number of occasions before, during and after the trial to explain the various legal procedures involved in the case and to assist them generally in any way they can incoming to terms with their son's death. Officials of my Department have also met the parents to explain the legal issues involved. I have no plans to change the law at present in relation to the legal process in criminal cases.

Missing Persons.

John Gormley

Question:

81 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if adequate resources are put into locating missing Irish children and other children that are reported missing in the State; the resources which are available in this area; and the procedure that is followed once a minor is reported missing. [5102/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the same level of investigation is undertaken in respect of all children who are reported missing in the State, regardless of nationality.

When a person is reported missing the local Garda superintendent takes direct responsibility for the investigation and appoints an investigation team to include any specialised unit deemed necessary, for example, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation or the technical bureau. The Garda authorities have assured me that every effort is made to locate all missing persons and that they consider the current procedures for dealing with missing persons to be adequate. The procedures are kept under constant review.

The Garda Síochána participates fully with all the media outlets, print, radio and television, in highlighting cases involving missing persons, as appropriate. All cases of persons reported missing in suspicious circumstances are subject to ongoing review and investigation. The services of other external agencies such as Interpol and Europol are also available to assist in the investigation. In addition, every Garda district has a specially trained search team that is familiar with the locality.

The missing persons bureau in Garda headquarters is responsible for maintaining data relating to missing persons. All files on missing persons remain open and under continuous review until the person is located or in the case of a missing person who is presumed drowned, a verdict to that effect is pronounced by the coroner. Thankfully, the majority of missing children cases reported to the Garda authorities are successfully resolved.

In September last year, I launched the missing children's website, www.missingkids.ie. This is a joint initiative between the Garda Síochána and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. This website enables the Garda Síochána to circulate instantaneously and internationally written details and high quality photographs of children reported missing to other police forces. The Deputy will be aware of the missing persons helpline, which has been operating since October 2002. This is a dedicated helpline which is operated by Victim Support as a counselling and referral service and serves as a primary point of contact for the families of missing persons. The helpline provides advice and psychological support for families of missing persons as well as structured liaison with the Garda Síochána.

I am satisfied that the Garda Síochána gives the highest priority to missing persons cases and that current procedures are in line with international best practice.

Documentation Costs.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

82 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to reports that an embassy (details supplied) is charging its citizens exorbitant rates to apply for a passport or national identity card, which documents are required by all non- national parents of Irish born children who wish to apply for residency here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4957/05]

I wish to advise the Deputy that I have been made aware of reports that certain embassies may be charging particular amounts for the issue of passports to their nationals. However, the amount to be charged by a foreign embassy in this regard is not a matter for my Department, or for the Government, to determine.

All applicants for permission to remain in the State on the basis of parentage of an Irish born child under the new arrangements announced last month are required to provide adequate proof of their identity by way of a passport or national identity card. Establishing the true identity of an applicant under the revised arrangements is a basic obligation, both on the State and the applicant. In this context, the requirement that an applicant produces an identity document from his or her country of origin cannot be waived.

Garda Deployment.

Seán Crowe

Question:

83 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to make more gardaí available on the streets through civilianisation of Garda posts. [5085/05]

The position is that the Government increased the strength of the Garda Síochána from under 10,800 in 1997 to 11,750 by June 2002. We have since increased the strength of the force to an historical high of over 12,200. As regards civilianisation, which is but one aspect of making more gardaí available on the streets, the Department is currently, as a matter of priority, reviewing the position with both the Department of Finance and Garda management as to how it will proceed further with Garda civilianisation in the context of the overall constraints on civil and public service numbers.

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

A new recruitment campaign for the Garda Síochána was launched on Thursday, 25 November 2004 and over 10,500 applications were received. For the period 2005 to 2007, around 274 recruits will be taken into the college every quarter. The intake of this first tranche of 274 students to the Garda college took place on 7 February 2005 and arrangements are in place for the current recruitment competition to be progressed further so as to provide for the second intake of 274 students on 3 May this year. It is estimated that 523 Garda trainees will become attested members of the force in 2005. Taking into account the projected number of retirements, the new recruitment drive will lead to a combined organisational strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 as early as end 2006.

The commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources. Clearly, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies, in particular, areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences, but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to very significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda traffic corps. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing. They will have a real impact.

Sexual Offences.

Seán Ryan

Question:

84 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the huge difference between the number of rapes recorded in annual Garda reports on crime and the number of cases coming before the Central Criminal Court; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that between 1993 and 2003 an average of 355 cases were reported to the gardaí each year while the average number coming before the Central Criminal Court in the same period was just 93; if he has satisfied himself with the rate of prosecutions arising from reported rapes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4949/05]

The tables below show the statistics in relation to rape offences from 2000 to 2004. The statistics for 2004 are provisional and are, therefore, subject to change. Comparable statistics for the years before 2000, which would show the current conviction rate, are unavailable and could not be obtained without the expenditure of a disproportionate amount of Garda time and resources.

The provisional headline crime statistics for 2004 show sexual offences generally decreased by 17% or 329 cases when compared to 2003. I was also glad to note a decrease of 28% or 403 cases in sexual assaults. I was of course concerned to note an increase in the number of cases of rape of a female and rape section 4.

As I have outlined to the House on a number of occasions, there is a high attrition rate in rape cases in Ireland, and a large number of cases reported to the gardaí do not reach prosecution stage for a variety of reasons. As the Deputy is aware, the Director of Public Prosecutions is statutorily independent in the performance of his function and it would, therefore, be inappropriate for me to comment on his decisions.

As I have also outlined, my Department has approved joint funding for comprehensive research into attrition rates in rape cases. This 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 the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, and I expect it to be completed in 2006.

This research should provide a greater understanding as to why some victims choose not to report cases to the gardaí, 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. Following this, I will have no hesitation in taking any action, as appropriate, to resolve any issue which may arise.

Rape offences recorded in 2000.

Offence type

Reported

Detected

Proceedings

Convictions

Rape section 4

53

42

15

6

Rape of a female

229

181

63

27

Rape offences recorded in 2001.

Offence type

Reported

Detected

Proceedings

Convictions

Rape section 4

65

49

36

12

Rape of a female

317

197

78

23

Rape offences recorded in 2002.

Offence type

Reported

Detected

Proceedings

Convictions

Rape section 4

84

55

24

12

Rape of a female

407

209

47

44

Rape offences recorded in 2003.

Offence type

Reported

Detected

Proceedings

Convictions

Offence type

Reported

Detected

Proceedings

Convictions

Rape section 4

56

31

16

3

Rape of a female

312

154

66

16

Rape offences recorded in 2004.

Offence type

Reported

Detected

Proceedings

Convictions

Rape section 4

65

21

9

3

Rape of a female

383

110

42

2

Garda Deployment.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

85 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason no Garda car was available to deal with incidents in Ballyfermot on the afternoon of 9 February 2005. [5087/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that on the afternoon of 9 February 2005, there was a uniformed patrol car and an unmarked detective patrol car in Ballyfermot available to deal with incidents.

Garda Strength.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

86 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of recruits who have graduated from the Garda training college as full Garda members since 6 June 2002; the number of gardaí who have retired, resigned or otherwise left the force since 6 June 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4923/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that 1,421 recruits have graduated from the Garda college since 6 June 2002. This figure refers to those members who have successfully completed the student-probationer-education and training programme.

I am further informed that a total of 1,177 members, all ranks, have resigned, retired or otherwise left the Garda Síochána since 6 June 2002. A total of 1,566 recruits have been attested to the Garda Síochána in the same period.

Garda trainees are attested to the force on successful completion of phase three of their training. On attestation, Garda trainees become serving members of the force. Thus the serving strength of the force at any given time includes those who have been attested following completion of phase 3 of their training but have not yet formally graduated — formal graduation takes place following the completion of the fifth and final phase of training. The strength of the force has therefore increased by 389 members since June 2002.

The interim target of increasing the strength of the Garda Síochána to 12,200 was met and exceeded by the end of November 2004 and a recruitment campaign is now well underway to further increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members, in line with the An Agreed Programme for Government commitment in this regard. This is a key commitment in the programme for Government, and its implementation will significantly strengthen the operational capacity of the force.

Omagh Bombing.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

87 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is now intended to publish the report of the Nally group on the Omagh bombing in the light of the acquittal of a person (details supplied) on a number of charges at Letterkenny Circuit Court on 18 January 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4950/05]

As outlined to Dáil Éireann on February 2004, the situation remains that I hope to be in a position to publish an edited version of the Nally report in the future. However, as I also indicated in the Dáil, this could not be done while criminal proceedings were outstanding against the person who made allegations to the Nally group.

Notwithstanding the court outcome to which the Deputy refers, it is understood that other criminal proceedings remain outstanding against the person in question and, accordingly, publication of the Nally report in an edited version does not arise until those proceedings are disposed of.

Witness Security Programme.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

88 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made to date in the review of the witness protection programme; if he will consider additional measures to support witnesses who may be giving evidence in court cases involving serious charges, but who may not wish to enter the protection programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4944/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the review of the witness security programme, which operates under the direct control and administration of the Garda Commissioner, is at an advanced stage. The review includes consideration of, inter alia: the measures to support witnesses in court cases who may not wish to enter the programme; and current international best practice. I assure the Deputy that, when received, the recommendations of the review will be given full and careful consideration.

Garda Stations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

89 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if steps are being taken to address the sub-standard accommodation and facilities in many Garda stations that have in the case of Finglas Garda station led to a threat of a walk-out by members; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4926/05]

Seán Crowe

Question:

108 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the actions he is taking to ensure that Finglas Garda station is brought to an adequate condition and level of staffing to tackle the serious levels of anti-social and violent crime in the area; and if this will be addressed as a matter of urgency. [5082/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 108 together.

In the case of Finglas Garda station, immediate priority is being given to build a new Garda station there and to that end I understand that the Office of Public Works has identified a suitable site at Mellowes Road, Finglas. I also understand that negotiations to agree terms for the purchase are being progressed by the Office of Public Works with due urgency.

Accordingly, while I cannot at this point state a precise date when construction of the new station will commence, I assure the Deputies that there will be no avoidable delay, and the project will be progressed as quickly as the availability of financial and other resources allow. In the interim period, the Office of Public Works is negotiating a short term lease in Finglas village for additional space to alleviate the accommodation problems at the existing station.

As to the level of staffing, I am informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of Finglas Garda station as at 11 February 2005 was 82, all ranks. Finglas is part of the Dublin metropolitan west division and it is the responsibility of the divisional officer to allocate personnel within his-her division to ensure the optimum use is made of resources within the division.

Site Acquisitions.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

90 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the process that has been followed in the selection of a site to replace the Mountjoy Prison complex; if he will further report on the weighting given to the issues of sustainability and cost; and the status of the detailed plans drawn up by the Office of Public Works for the refurbishment and renewal of the Mountjoy complex. [5104/05]

The information on the process followed in the selection of the site to replace the Mountjoy Prison complex is available from the minutes of the committee which examined potential sites and which have been posted on my Department's website www.justice.ie.

I have been advised that while the committee initially attributed a weighting to cost, it was decided at a later stage that this approach was not sustainable. The majority of interested parties provided indicative costings but these did not necessarily reflect the actual price sought when negotiations were commenced and therefore could not be relied upon for objective comparisons. The approach taken therefore was to identify the most suitable sites and only afterwards establish by negotiation the actual price being sought for those particular sites.

As regards the refurbishment of Mountjoy, in late 1999, my predecessor approved the establishment of the Mountjoy complex redevelopment group as a consultative body to plan for the development of the complex and custodial regimes in a redeveloped prison. The group consisted of a multi-disciplinary team and was chaired by the governor, John Lonergan.

The group's second report, which was published in February 2001, contained a number of specific proposals and recommendations for the future development and use of the Mountjoy complex. The proposed development would have provided a maximum of 723 places in addition to the female prison. An estimate, prepared by a firm of surveyors on behalf of the OPW in June 2001 of the capital cost of construction of the proposed development came to a total of €336 million. I have been advised that the current estimate is that it would now cost over €400 million and take seven years to complete the development of Mountjoy as envisaged by that group — a significant multiple of the cost for the development of a prison on a greenfield site.

This level of expenditure was not deemed to be justifiable and in the circumstances, following advice and further consultations, I decided to pursue the option of the relocation of the entire complex to a new greenfield site.

Crime Levels.

Joan Burton

Question:

91 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the provisional crime figures for 2004; the steps he proposes to take to deal with the continuing high level of sexual offences and gun crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4924/05]

I was pleased to note a decrease of 4% in the number of headline offences in the provisional crime statistics for 2004. The statistics show a decrease for the second year in a row. The year on year statistics also show decreases in some of the most serious offence categories. The 2004 figures show that, despite more precise and accurate recordings of crime by the Garda PULSE system, the crime rate has fallen from 28.4 crimes per 100,000 of the population in 1995 to 24.4 crimes per 100,000 of the population in 2004. Despite our population increasing by 400,000 since 1995 we have one of the lowest crime rates in the western world.

The number of violent deaths — murder and manslaughter — recorded in 2004 is down on the number for 2003 by a total of seven, from 52 to 45 and is the lowest number recorded in ten years. The number of violent deaths has therefore declined from 59 in 2002 to 52 in 2003 to 45 in 2004. Parallel with this, the annual number of murders has also been in decline for these three years — from 52 in 2002 to 45 in 2003 to 36 in 2004.

Sexual offences generally show a decrease of 17% — 329 cases. I am glad to note a drop of 28%, 403 cases, in sexual assaults, the largest category of sexual crime, compared with 2003. However, I am concerned about the increase of reported cases of the rape of a female — 65 cases — and rape section 4 — 12 cases. I have previously pointed out on a number of occasions that the nature of the relationship between the number of sexual crimes reported — particularly the most serious ones of rape — and the number of incidents remains a complex one. This is reflected in these figures. This is an area where careful examination of the facts is essential. Ongoing research supported by my Department will help clarify the issues concerned and action will, where appropriate, be taken to resolve any difficulties.

I also noted that the number of assaults causing harm shows a reduction of 1% in 2004 compared with 2003. Thefts from the person are down 14% and thefts from shops down 6%. Overall, thefts are down 4%. Both burglary and aggravated burglary are down, by 3% and 14% respectively. Robbery from the person is down by 14%.

While the number of cases of possession of firearms has decreased, it is a matter of concern to note a further increase in cases of discharge of firearms. However, I am confident that recent initiatives being undertaken by the Garda Síochána in this area together with the legislative changes I am bringing forward in the Criminal Justice Bill will have a positive impact.

I am very conscious of the overriding necessity to ensure that public safety and security are given priority in any review of policy and legislation in relation to firearms. With this in mind I have decided to bring forward on Committee Stage of the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 certain proposals.

Second Stage of the Bill commenced in the House this week and I am examining a number of proposals, including more severe penalties for firearms offences, set minimum sentences for the most serious offences, the introduction of a new offence of modification of a firearm, for example, the sawing off of a shotgun, and a statutory basis for a period during which firearms may be surrendered to the Garda Síochána.

I understand the commissioner and his senior management team are currently developing divisional plans to identify, profile and target individuals and gangs suspected of organised crime, drug related crime, sexual crime and other criminal activity. The commissioner's plan is to build on his strategy of high visibility policing in locations of identified difficulty. The Garda authorities will continue to use the crime statistics as the foundation for targeted strategies and operational plans designed to reduce the number of crimes, with particular attention being paid to those showing significant increases.

I would like to draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that the figures are provisional and thus subject to change in the ongoing validation process which has not yet been finalised. Once this process is completed, the Garda Commissioner's annual report for 2004 will be published.

Question No. 92 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Garda Disciplinary Proceedings.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

93 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the Garda will issue its promised apology arising from the wrongful charging of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7; the nature of the apology to be issued; the state of the Garda investigation into the crime; if he will publish the results of the internal Garda investigation into the arrest and charging of this person; if he will establish an inquiry into the whole affair; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4945/05]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

201 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to hold an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the wrongful arrest of a person (details supplied) for murders committed close to Grangegorman Hospital on 6 March 1997. [5450/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 93 and 201.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Síochána is currently engaged in discussions with the legal representatives of the family of the person referred to by the Deputies with a view to resolving the concerns of the family regarding the charging of the person. It would therefore be inappropriate for me to comment further at this stage.

As the criminal investigation into the murders is still ongoing and no person has to date been convicted in connection with them, the release of the report of any examination of the conduct of the investigation would be inappropriate at this stage.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that a forensic review is currently being conducted by staff at the forensic science laboratory on exhibits and samples taken from the scene of the murders at Grangegorman.

I sought and have received advice from the Attorney General regarding requests which were made to establish a public inquiry into this case. Following consideration of the matter, I am not at present satisfied that a public inquiry is required and I have been in direct contact with solicitors involved, inviting them to specify which aspects of the Garda investigation of the murders they consider to have failed to meet the required standard and on what basis they consider they have failed to meet the required standard.

Asylum Applications.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

94 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications for asylum received during 2002, 2003, 2004 and to date in 2005; the number of applications upheld by the refugee appeals commission; the number of appeals submitted to the refugee appeals tribunal and the number of such appeals upheld; the number of applications for leave to remain and the number of such applications granted; the number of deportation orders made and the number of such deportations carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4941/05]

The information requested is contained in the following tables.

Table 1: Number of applications for asylum received and the number of recommendations by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner to grant Refugee status, at first instance, in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005*.

2002

2003

2004

2005*

No. of applications received

11,634

7,900

4,766

393

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

893

345

430

41

*as at 31/01/05.

**It is assumed that the reference in the Deputy's question to Refugee Appeals Commission refers to the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner.

***These recommendations refer to the year in which the recommendations were made and not the year in which the applications were lodged.

Table 2: Number of appeals submitted to the refugee appeals tribunal and the number upheld, at appeal stage, in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005*.

2002

2003

2004

2005*

No. of appeals received**

5,157

5,014

4,815

314

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

1,099

833

702

45

* as at 31/01/05.

** Substantive and accelerated cases.

Table 3: Number of deportation orders signed and number effected in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005*.

2002

2003

2004

2005*

No. of deportation orders signed

2,430

2,411

2,915**

146

No. of deportation orders effected**

521

590

599***

19

*as at 31/01/05

**In addition to the 2,915 deportation orders signed, there were also 237 Dublin II regulation transfer orders signed in 2004.

***In addition to the 599 deportation orders effected, there were also 65 Dublin II regulation transfers effected in 2004.

Table 4: Number of applications for leave to remain received from current or former asylum applicants.

2002

2003

2004

2005*

No. of applications received

6,887

1,272

269**

19**

*as at 31/01/05.

**In the context of proposed deportation orders under the Immigration Act 1999, the issue of leave to remain on humanitarian grounds is considered, irrespective of whether an application is made or not. Thus, no statistics are kept as to the number of such applications made.

Table 5: Number of applications granted for leave to remain.

2002

2003

2004

2005*

Parentage of Irish born child

3,113

172

0

**

Marriage to an Irish national

86

132

144

7

Dependent of EU citizen

138

77

112

4

Other grounds

158

86

140

8

Total

3,495

467

396

19

*as at 31/01/05.

**See Table 6.

Table 6: Number of applications for permission to remain made by the non-national parents of Irish born children born before 1 January 2005 and the number of such applications granted permission to remain.

2005*

No. of applications for permission to remain made by the non-national parents of Irish born children born before 1 January 2005

2,489

No. of applications for permission to remain granted

305

* as at 31/01/05.

Driving Tests.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

95 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí authorised to drive Garda vehicles; the number of such gardaí who have passed the official Garda driving test; his views on the number of crashes involving Garda vehicles; the steps being taken to reduce such crashes having regard not only to the death and injury that can be caused to members but also to personal injury claims that can arise from such crashes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4932/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that members of the Garda Síochána are allowed to drive official vehicles in two circumstances: they hold at least a class B driving licence and have been authorised to drive by the chief superintendent or they have completed an official driving course.

The number of gardaí who have passed the official driving course is 5,386. This figure represents those members of the force who have completed the standard car driver course and the standard motorcycle driving course under the guidance and supervision of trained Garda instructors. In addition, the number of Garda personnel who may be authorised to drive by a chief superintendent is 2,094. There were 439, 423 and 397 accidents involving Garda vehicles in 2002, 2003 and 2004, respectively.

Garda management is fully aware of the safety issues surrounding vehicles for members of the force. There has been substantial improvements to vehicles, both in their design and construction, in recent years. All vehicles purchased are now required to have a minimum of four stars in the ENCAP system. These vehicles are specified with safety features such as ABS braking, driver and passenger airbags, power steering, central locking, electric windows and anti-shatter film to all glass which minimises the injury risk to occupants from shattered glass in the event of a collision. These items are specified for all vehicles and can contribute greatly to increased safety.

The steps being taken to ensure the provision of improvements in Garda vehicles are twofold: continuously review the vehicle specifications to ensure that they reflect the needs of the Garda force both in terms of safety and the duties to which they will be assigned. The Garda Commissioner has established a working group, which includes representatives of the GRA and AGSI, to report on the issue of the safety of Garda vehicles, the terms of which are as follows: examine and make recommendations taking into account cost factors and value for money, on the most suitable vehicle(s) for use in the force particularly as patrol cars, including the feasibility of obtaining purpose built or modified vehicles; having regard to the safety of Garda drivers and observers, including others being conveyed in Garda vehicles and also other road users; and in so far as possible incorporate the recommendations of the above working group in vehicle specifications and implement where possible any other recommendations which might contribute to vehicle improvement and safety.

I have been informed that the working group is now due to report to the commissioner and I look forward to its findings.

Disability Issues.

David Stanton

Question:

96 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when his Minister of State with responsibility for equality issues last met the disability legislation consultation group; if and when he intends to respond to its letter sent to him in October 2004 detailing the ten key concerns of the consultation group with reference to the Disability Bill 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5058/05]

David Stanton

Question:

105 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when and if he intends to meet the disability legislation consultation group to discuss with it its concerns with reference to the Disability Bill 2004; if he will report on its ten key concerns that were communicated to him; his views on same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5055/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 and 105 together.

My colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, with special responsibility for equality in my Department, met the disability legislation consultation group, DLCG, on 27 October last, following publication of the Disability Bill 2004. It later forwarded a written submission on the Bill which included ten key concerns. He wrote to the group on 9 December to confirm that its submission was under examination and that he hoped to meet it again before Committee Stage. The group was advised that copies of the submission had been circulated to other relevant Departments for consideration and that if necessary, the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, would revert to the Cabinet Sub-committee on Social Inclusion. The Minister of State wrote again to the group on 11 January 2005 offering a meeting to update it on progress in relation to its submission. The group replied on 13 January 2005 indicating that the next meeting should be about the Government's comprehensive response to its ten key concerns.

As the Deputy may be aware, the Government referred oversight of preparation of the Disability Bill and other elements of the national disability strategy to the Cabinet Sub-committee on Social Inclusion because of the complex and cross-cutting nature of the issues involved. The Cabinet sub-committee has invested time in making sure that the measures reflect an integrated approach by Government to the range of important policy issues involved and will continue to do so as the various elements of the strategy are put in place.

The process of considering amendments in the context of the Bill is one that requires consultation with relevant Departments and the Attorney General. The process is ongoing. In the meantime, the Bill is still on Second Stage in the House having been debated over a period of several days since early November 2004. Second Stage debate on the principles of the Bill is expected to conclude within the next few weeks. I understand that the Minister of State wrote recently to the DLCG informing it accordingly and indicating that when Government authority for any Committee Stage amendments to the Bill has been obtained, he would be in a better position to discuss the group's ten key issues of concern. He said that he hoped to arrange, as requested, a further meeting with the group in the near future now that Second Stage of the Bill is nearing completion and Committee Stage, which will involve debate on amendments, will follow soon afterwards.

Omagh Bombing.

Jack Wall

Question:

97 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will offer the support of the Government to the survivors and relatives of the Omagh bombing in pursuit of justice through the civil courts; if he will use the powers available to him to transfer public court records from the Special Criminal Court, which are being sought by the families to pursue a civil case in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4956/05]

I would advise the Deputy that neither I nor my Department can procure the court records the Deputy refers to. However, I can assure the Deputy that the Government and I remain willing to assist the survivors and relatives of the Omagh bombing with their civil action to the greatest extent possible allowed by law.

Section 8(7) of the National Archives Act 1986 provides for the transfer of departmental records to the National Archives which are less than 30 years old. However, section 8(7) also stipulates that any records so transferred shall not be made available for public inspection except in accordance with the Act. It would appear, therefore, that, even with early transfer, the records in question could not be made available for public inspection until and if they are so authorised when they are 30 years old.

In any event, as the Taoiseach outlined in this House recently, the matter is the subject of awaited legal advices from the Attorney General. My preliminary understanding is that jurisdiction in this matter is vested in the High Court.

Garda Districts.

Billy Timmins

Question:

98 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to change the geographical boundaries of the Garda districts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4831/05]

The final report of the Garda SMI implementation steering group made a number of recommendations in relation to the regional-divisional-district structure currently in place in the Garda Síochána. 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, might be developed by the commissioner in this context.

A preliminary study group under the chairmanship of assistant commissioner, northern region, has recently been established to examine various issues associated with possible new boundary alignments.

Question No. 99 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

100 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which racketeering, protection and money laundering activities have been identified by his Department; the action taken arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5056/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

247 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to racketeering, protection or extortion on an organised basis; the action he has taken or proposes to take in response; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5287/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

248 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which his Department is tackling money laundering activities; the success of such actions in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5288/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100, 247 and 248 together.

Ireland has extensive legislation in place to tackle money laundering activities with the main provisions in Irish law relating to money laundering being set out in section 31 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994, as amended by section 21 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001, sections 32 and 57 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994, and section 23 of the Criminal Justice Theft and Fraud Offences Act 2001.

This legislation defines an offence of money laundering and its provisions include, inter alia, placing an obligation on designated bodies and persons to report to the Garda Síochána any suspicion that a money laundering offence has been or is being committed in relation to their business. Furthermore, designated bodies must adopt identified appropriate measures to prevent and detect the commission of a money laundering offence and a money laundering steering committee under the chairmanship of the Department of Finance oversees this aspect of the legislation.

Pursuant to section 57 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994, the money laundering investigation unit of the Garda Síochána receive suspicious transaction reports, STRs, from designated bodies. I am informed by the Garda authorities that all STRs are investigated in full in an attempt to link the subject or funds to any form of criminal activity. In conjunction with this, a number of suitable or appropriate STR investigations are referred to the Criminal Assets Bureau.

I understand that two persons were convicted for money laundering offences during 2004 and that a number of cases are still presently before the courts. In 1999 Ireland's laws and procedures on money laundering were the subject of a favourable review by the financial action task force, FATF, which is an OECD inter-governmental body whose purpose is the development and promotion of policies both at national and international level to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. Later this year the FATF will conduct a new evaluation of Ireland's anti-money laundering processes. In this regard, Ireland is currently preparing information to facilitate the evaluation.

In relation to the other matters raised, I am informed by the Garda authorities that, over the past 18 months, in excess of €6 million worth of counterfeit products have been seized and a number of arrests made. Members of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation continue to investigate all matters concerning counterfeit and intellectual property crime.

Furthermore, a number of the cases pursued by the Criminal Assets Bureau through the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 and the various Taxes Acts arise from money laundering and forms of organised crime, which includes protection and racketeering.

With regard to legislative proposals to strengthen the State's overall response in tackling organised criminal activity, the Deputy may wish to note that I am considering bringing forward a number of amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 which is currently before the Houses. These include a proposal to provide for criminal offences in relation to participation in a criminal organisation.

Site Acquisitions.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

101 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the contract price agreed for the new prison site at Thorntown, County Dublin represents good value and best use of taxpayers’ money; his plans for the existing facilities at Mountjoy; the details of the feasibility of constructing a new prison at Mountjoy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5081/05]

The contract signed for the purchase of the 150 acre site at Thornton Hall, The Ward, County Dublin, for the replacement of Mountjoy Prison cost €29.9 million, or just under €200,000 per acre. Land owners were invited by public advertisement to put forward suitable sites for sale in the greater Dublin area. The average asking price of land owners who responded to that advertisement was above €200,000 per acre and some owners sought as much as €500,000 per acre.

Although more than 30 sites were examined only about five were deemed to be suitable for consideration as a site for the new prison facility. Although price was not the sole determining factor, the purchase price of the site finally selected was lower than the asking price for any of the other suitable sites.

I have no indication from the Office of Public Works or CB Richard Ellis Gunne, who were involved in the process, that the price paid could be regarded as exorbitant. I am satisfied that the price was reasonable and represents an excellent long-term investment for the taxpayer.

The Mountjoy complex will be kept in operation until the new complex has been completed. After it has been emptied, it is my intention that the entire Mountjoy site would be put on the market for redevelopment. It is not operationally or economically feasible to construct a full scale new prison on the Mountjoy site and in any event the range of facilities that could be provided for prisoners on such a small site is extremely limited. A large number of prisoners would have to be transferred to other prisons during the construction work but there is no spare capacity in the system to allow this.

The issue of redeveloping Mountjoy was looked at by a group established by my predecessor and chaired by governor John Lonergan. Its report published in February 2001 contained a number of specific proposals and recommendations for the future development and use of the Mountjoy complex. The proposed development would have provided a maximum of 723 places in addition to the female prison. An estimate, prepared by a firm of surveyors on behalf of the OPW in June 2001, of the capital cost of construction of the proposed development came to a total of €336 million.

I have been advised that the current estimate is that it would now cost over €400 million and take seven years to complete the development of Mountjoy as envisaged by that group — a significant multiple of the cost for the development of a prison on a greenfield site. This level of expenditure on redeveloping Mountjoy cannot be justified.

Defamation Law.

Joe Costello

Question:

102 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding his consideration of the recommendations of the legal advisory group on the defamation law, in regard to the proposals for the establishment of a statutory press council; when he intends to bring proposals on this matter to Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4921/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

203 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends introducing privacy rules or legislation in relation to the electronic or print media; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3663/05]

I propose take Questions Nos. 102 and 203 together.

I refer the Deputies to the details of my answer to Question No. 407 of 8 February 2005. I have nothing further to add to that reply other than to say that I intend to bring proposals with regard to the reform of the law on defamation to Government in the near future.

Garda Strength.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

103 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the Garda numbers attached to the Carrick and Glencolmcille Garda Stations; and if there are plans to increase the number of gardaí to be stationed in same in the future. [5107/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of Carrick Garda station as at 11 February 2005 was one Garda. I am also informed that the personnel strength of Glencolmcille Garda station as at 11 February 2005 was one Garda.

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

The commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources. In this context, the needs of Carrick and Glencolmcille Garda stations will be fully considered within the context of the needs of Garda stations throughout the country. Clearly, of course, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies in particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences, but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to very significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda traffic corps. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing. They will have a real impact.

Garda Investigations.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

104 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has completed his consideration of the report of the senior Garda officer who has been requested by the commissioner to examine all matters featured in a television programme (details supplied) of 8 January 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4933/05]

I have previously made clear to the House that allegations of serious wrongdoing by members of the Garda Síochána, such as those broadcast on the "Prime Time" programme, are of serious concern to me. Some of the cases featured in the television programme of 8 January 2004 were previously reported and in the public domain. A number of the cases have been dealt with in the courts or by the existing complaints and disciplinary mechanisms. Civil proceedings have been initiated in certain cases, and there may yet be other civil actions, so the House will appreciate that, in the circumstances, I am limited in what I can say on the specific details of individual cases.

On 1 November 2004, I received a report from the commissioner in respect of all matters featured in the broadcast in question. In his report the commissioner reviews the investigation of each case highlighted in the programme, and proposes a number of specific measures with regard to the systems, practices and procedures which operate within the Garda Síochána to ensure the existence of adequate safeguard mechanisms for the mutual benefit of members of the public and the force. In particular, the commissioner has proposed to carry out a pilot project for the installation of digital CCTV recording systems inside Garda stations, which will strengthen the safeguards for members of the Garda Síochána and the community alike. In that regard let me say that very recently my Department obtained Department of Finance sanction to carry out this pilot in two Garda stations, Pearse Street and Store Street, and work will now commence on resolving the various technical, legal and industrial relations issues in order to bring about the pilot without undue delay.

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

Question No. 105 answered with QuestionNo. 96.

Racism Issues.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

106 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the significant increase in the number of complaints regarding racism reported to the Equality Authority and to the finding in the report of Alliance that Government policies were fuelling racism; the steps the Government is taking to combat racism in society here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4951/05]

In respect of the report of the NGO Alliance and the steps being taken to combat racism I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 734 of 26 January 2005.

The Deputy will also be aware that on 27 January last the Government launched the national action plan against racism. The plan provides strategic direction to combat racism and to promote the development of a more inclusive, intercultural society in Ireland. The plan's development included a lengthy consultation process involving a wide range of stakeholders, including Government, the social partners and civil society.

The Equality Authority, whose function it is to combat discrimination and promote equality, reports that in 2003 — the latest date for which full year figures are available — the authority had, under the race ground, 166 case files active arising from enquiries under the Employment Equality Act and 80 arising from inquiries under the Equal Status Act. The equivalent figures for 2002 are 107 and 66, respectively. While the figures for 2003 indicate a rise in the number of cases reported under the race ground, it is important to remember that the cases require investigation before outcomes can be determined and any conclusions drawn. The authority has further informed me that the main types of cases under employment legislation involved working conditions, dismissal and access to employment. The equivalents for equal status legislation involved licensed premises, educational establishments and accommodation.

The Deputy will also be interested to note that the number of criminal incidents with a racial motive reported to the Garda Síochána has fallen from 102 incidents in 2002 to 48 incidents in 2004.

Electronic Tagging.

Joan Burton

Question:

107 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for the electronic tagging of certain offences; the research his Department has done to establish the effectiveness of such a procedure; if his attention has been drawn to a report of the system in Canada that found that the electronic monitoring had no effect on recidivism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4925/05]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

222 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the role which electronic tagging may have to play in monitoring persons on the register of sex offenders who are deemed to be at high risk of re-offending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5237/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 and 222 together.

The use of electronic tagging systems to monitor offenders in other jurisdictions is an issue which my Department has kept under review for some time. My Department has looked at the experience of a number of countries in the operation of these systems. These include the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Sweden and Australia. In addition, my Department is aware of the experience in Canada as outlined in the report referred to by the Deputy. As I have explained in my previous replies to the House on this matter, difficulties have been encountered in other jurisdictions in developing fully effective electronic tagging systems, but recent developments in technology may provide solutions to these. These developments are now being considered by my Department, in consultation with the prison and probation and welfare services, with a view to drawing up an enabling provision in the Criminal Justice Bill which will allow me to introduce electronic tagging in appropriate cases when the technology has advanced sufficiently. Details of the provision will be announced in the normal way. I can say at this stage that it will address the use of electronic monitoring as an alternative to custody in certain circumstances as well as the monitoring of suitable offenders released from prison before completion of their full sentences.

Question No. 108 answered with QuestionNo. 89.

Garda Stations.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

109 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether the station accommodation provided to gardaí is sufficient in all cases to accommodate gardaí who are working under considerable pressure; if the stations are in all cases adequate in size and in optimum condition; his plans to rebuild, rehouse or refurbish deficient Garda stations; his further views on whether there has been an abandonment of the needs of the gardaí in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5080/05]

I have already acknowledged that not all Garda accommodation is of an acceptable standard. That said, however, one of my priorities as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is to ensure, as far as is practicable, that fully adequate accommodation is available for the Garda Síochána. While this is a difficult task, in view of the large number of stations involved and the fact that some of them were built before the foundation of the State, every effort is being made, and will continue to be made, to ensure a high standard of Garda premises throughout the country.

In that context, I can assure the Deputy that all Garda accommodation is continually under review to ensure that it meets the operational requirements of the Garda Síochána. Where it does not, then the required refurbishment or construction works are completed by the Office of Public Works with all due urgency, and in accordance with overall priorities within the Garda building programme and the availability of financial and other resources.

This year alone, as in previous years, a considerable investment is being made in improving existing Garda accommodation. Of the order of €10 million is expected to be spent by the Office of Public Works for capital works to Garda properties. This provision does not include one off capital works, such as those recently commenced in Templemore Garda College to ensure that the facilities there are adequate to meet the demands of an expanded force of up to 14,000 over the coming three years.

Finally, in excess of €7 million has been allocated in the Garda Vote for 2005 for necessary maintenance works to Garda premises. As I have outlined previously, I have secured sanction from the Government for a core budget of €1 million per annum for each year of the life of the national action plan against racism 2005-08. This money will be used to further the goals of the plan and in particular to: make strategic interventions in the implementation of the plan; pursue specific research or consultancy projects in particular sectors; undertake public awareness-information initiatives, and grant schemes.

The strategic monitoring group set up to oversee implementation of the plan will have a role in the allocation of this money. I draw the Deputy's attention to section 10.4 of the national action plan against racism where a three pronged funding strategy is identified, in particular, refocusing of existing resources through the development of an intercultural dimension to mainstream public policy; identification of specific resources within the annual budget process for the implementation of the plan; and the commitment to realise aspects of the plan as resources become available.

Within this strategy, Departments and agencies will factor into their budgets the necessary allocations consistent with fulfilling agreed commitments under the plan. I would also point that the Government under the Know Racism programme has already invested considerable resources in raising awareness of racism issues to effectively prepare the ground for the strategic approaches set out in the plan. Under the three years of the programme — 2001-03 — some €4.75 million was spent including a total of €1.3 million in grants allocated to 450 successful projects in all 26 counties for the development of local anti-racism initiatives or projects.

In addition, a grant scheme in the sum of €250,000 was announced in October last with the aim of supporting projects to underpin the objectives of the plan. The moneys have now been allocated to 44 projects countrywide.

Child Care Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

110 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the reported finding of the NESC that people here pay almost twice as much for child care as the European average; the steps he is taking to ensure the provision of affordable child care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4952/05]

I understand that the NESC report referred to by the Deputy has not yet been published and therefore I am not in a position to comment on any findings it might contain until such time as it is published and available to me for consideration.

My Department has responsibility for the development of child care to meet the needs of working parents and those in education and training preparatory to labour market participation through the equal opportunities child care programme, EOCP.

In relation to the costs of child care, it is my view that an international comparison of the costs of child care can only be undertaken by looking at the full package of taxation, both central and local, and other supports, direct and indirect, made available to child care providers in each country together with a review of the structure and disposable income of family units in each country and I am not aware of the existence of any thorough and up to date study which shows a valid comparison of the costs of child care in Ireland and in other countries.

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

The Government is making considerable progress in increasing the supply of centre based child care places and in enhancing the awareness of quality issues among childminders while affording financial support towards the costs of child rearing through child benefit which has increased very significantly over the past seven years. To date the Government has favoured the use of child benefit for this purpose as it is income neutral and affords parents choices with regard to the arrangements they choose to make in relation to the care of their children.

The Deputy will be aware that there have been significant improvements in the provision of supports for the development of child care over the last number of years. Child care was identified as an investment priority under the National Development Plan 2000-06. This was a direct response to the recommendations of the expert working group on child care established under Partnership 2000 to develop a strategy for the development and delivery of child care to support parents in employment, education and training.

The equal opportunities child care programme, EOCP, has an equal opportunities and social inclusion perspective and facilitates the further development and expansion of child care facilities to address the needs of parents, in reconciling their child care needs with their participation in employment, education and training and aims to increase the supply of centre based child care places by 55% by programme end.

The programme also has a focus on many of the quality issues which were identified in the child care strategy and aims to ensure that there is a co-ordinated approach to the delivery of child care services throughout the country. Since it was launched in 2000, the funding for the programme for the 2000-06 period has increased from €317 million to €499.3 million or by 57%, the most recent increase being €50 million in budget 2005. The multi-annual capital envelopes announced that day include the injection of a further €40 million in additional capital funding into the EOCP between the programme end and 2009.

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

Total funding committed under the EOCP to date will create 33,254 new child care places, and will support 28,839 existing places. Of these, 20,500 new child care places were already in place by June 2004, an increase of 36% in the supply of child care places in four short years. These new places offer parents greater access to child care throughout Ireland as they meet their work and family needs. The EOCP also contributes towards the staffing costs of child care services which support parents who are disadvantaged to enable those services to offer differential fee scales.

The above measures relate to the supply of quality child care. I would also like to draw the Deputy's attention to the recommendations of the expert working group in relation to the demand side of child care. Government policy in the area of child support aims to provide assistance which will offer real choice to parents and which will benefit all children whatever care options their parents choose for them. As I mentioned previously, child benefit is the main fiscal instrument through which support is provided to parents with dependent children, and it provides support to all parents irrespective of income and employment status. In his 2005 Budget Statement, the Minister for Finance announced further increases of €10 per month to €141.60 per month for the first two children and €12 per month to €177.30 per month for third and subsequent child from April 2005. This means that over the period since 1997, monthly child benefit supports have been increased by more than 380%. This level of increase is unprecedented and delivers on the Government's objective of providing support for children generally while offering real choice to all parents in relation to the care of their children.

Further measures on child care are being provided by the Government in a range of different ways and I have outlined a number of examples for the Deputy's information. In 2001, the Department of Finance allocated €12.7 million capital expenditure for the provision of up to 15 Civil Service creches for the children of Government employees. Five creches are in operation and a further creche opened in January 2005. Proposals for additional creches are being considered. In March 2001, the IDA launched a scheme to provide for the creation of high quality, workplace child care facilities in IDA Ireland business parks around the country. Four of these have opened, with another under construction and a sixth at contract stage.

Since the start of 2002, the city and county enterprise boards have approved funding of over €1.6 million to 153 child care centres across the country. This funding comprises mainly of staffing grants, with a small number of capital grants available. Capital allowances for capital expenditure on the construction, extension and refurbishment of a building, which is used for the purpose of providing a pre-school service or similar service. There is also an exemption on the usual benefit-in-kind provisions for employees who enjoy free or subsidised child care facilities provided by their employers. In such circumstances, the employer must be wholly or partly responsible for both financing and managing the child care facility.

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

Prisoner Releases.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

111 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received a report from the parole board on an application for early release from persons (details supplied); if he has made a decision on the application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4947/05]

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

Victim Support.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

112 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has plans to reduce victims and victims’ families alienation from the legal process regarding prosecution of criminal cases through a reform of that process. [5100/05]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

202 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has plans to reduce victims and victims’ families alienation from the legal process regarding prosecution of criminal cases through a reform of that process. [5307/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112 and 202 together.

In many European jurisdictions victims have the status of a party to the proceedings and there is a much closer relationship between the civil and the criminal law. This jurisdiction, however, has a common law system, where the victim is a witness to, but not directly a party in, criminal proceedings.

Provision for victims is made by a number of Government agencies as well as non-governmental organisations. The rights and entitlements of victims of crime in Ireland are set out in the victims charter, published by my Department in 1999, following extensive consultations with all relevant agencies including the courts, Garda Síochána, the Irish Prison Service, the probation and welfare service, the State Prosecution Service and the Victim Support organisation. Victim Support provides support to victims of crime and their families through a network of volunteers nationwide. My Department has provided funding for its administrative and staff costs amounting to €5.3 million in the five years up to the end of 2004.

The charter makes specific provision for particularly vulnerable victims such as victims of sexual offences, domestic violence, elderly victims, victims with disabilities, and children. It also contains specific provisions in relation to keeping victims informed of the outcome of their complaints, the progress of any criminal proceedings, and the outcome of these proceedings.

Similarly, procedures put in place by the Garda authorities in relation to the victims of crime, which are set out in the Garda charter for victims of crime, provide that the gardaí will inform victims, where a suspect is charged, of the time, date and location of the court hearing of the charges against the accused.

It is my intention to arrange for a review of the provisions of the victims charter in the near future, in order to ensure its continuing relevance and effectiveness in providing for crime victims. As well as administrative and other provisions, the review will critically examine the deployment of resources to ensure that they continue to deliver maximum effectiveness as well as value for money.

The review will also have regard to the EU framework decision of 15 March 2001 on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings, which sets out to harmonise the treatment of victims of crime across the EU, to ensure that Ireland continues to meet its commitments in that regard. I have no plans to change the law at present in relation to the legal process in criminal cases.

NESF Report.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

113 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received the fourth periodic report of the NESF; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34085/04]

I have received a copy of the report which has been circulated within my Department. I welcome the report and am pleased to note that considerable progress has been made in recent years concerning many of the areas covered by the report such as equality issues, child care and reintegration of prisoners. In the case of other matters referred to in the report, these are being examined by my Department.

Citizenship Applications.

Willie Penrose

Question:

114 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications to remain in the State received to date from non-national parents of Irish born children; the number of such applications that have been determined to date, giving those granted and those refused; if there is an appeals process in respect of applications turned down; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4942/05]

Up to and including Friday, 11 February 2005, a total of 5,843 applications had been received for permission to remain under the revised arrangements for the consideration of applications for permission to remain made by the non-national parents of Irish born children born before 1 January 2005. Of this number, 1,191 applicants have been granted temporary permission to remain. To date no application has been refused but it should be noted that a number of incomplete applications are currently under examination or are being held pending the submission of documents. The top five nationalities of those applying for permission and of those granted permission up to 11 February 2005 are as follows:

Nationality of applicants under the revised arrangements

Number of Applications

Nigeria

1,492

Romania

635

China

200

Philippines

178

Pakistan

165

Nationality of applicants granted permission to stay under revised arrangements

Number of applicants granted permission to remain

Nigeria

321

Romania

236

Moldova

62

China

59

Ukraine

58

In relation to the issue of appeals, it is anticipated that some of those who may not be successful under this scheme will otherwise have a right to remain in the State, for example, they may be here on work permits or on study visas. However, it is anticipated that most applying under the under the scheme will not have any other right of residence. In a circumstance where such a person has his or her application refused, he or she will be informed by letter, as applies to all persons who have no right to be in the State, of a proposal to make a deportation order in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended.

The person will be given the option at that stage of making representations setting out the reasons why he or she should be granted permission to remain temporarily in the State. The person's case file, including all representations submitted, will be considered under the various criteria set out in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and under section 5 — prohibition of refoulement — of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended.

Racism Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

115 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the resources that will be provided to implement the national action plan against racism. [5086/05]

As I have outlined previously, I have secured sanction from the Government for a core budget of €1 million per annum for each year of the life of the national action plan against racism 2005-08. This money will be used to further the goals of the plan and in particular to: make strategic interventions in the implementation of the plan; pursue specific research or consultancy projects in particular sectors; undertake public awareness-information initiatives, and grant schemes.

The strategic monitoring group set up to oversee implementation of the plan will have a role in the allocation of this money. I draw the Deputy's attention to section 10.4 of the national action plan against racism where a three pronged funding strategy is identified, in particular, refocusing of existing resources through the development of an intercultural dimension to mainstream public policy; identification of specific resources within the annual budget process for the implementation of the plan; and the commitment to realise aspects of the plan as resources become available.

Within this strategy, Departments and agencies will factor into their budgets the necessary allocations consistent with fulfilling agreed commitments under the plan. I would also point that the Government under the Know Racism programme has already invested considerable resources in raising awareness of racism issues to effectively prepare the ground for the strategic approaches set out in the plan. Under the three years of the programme — 2001-03 — some €4.75 million was spent including a total of €1.3 million in grants allocated to 450 successful projects in all 26 counties for the development of local anti-racism initiatives or projects.

In addition, a grant scheme in the sum of €250,000 was announced in October last with the aim of supporting projects to underpin the objectives of the plan. The moneys have now been allocated to 44 projects countrywide.

Departmental Assistance.

Mary Upton

Question:

116 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will circulate an inquiry line to enable Oireachtas Members to access the services available in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4958/05]

There are already inquiry lines in place in relation to some of the services available from my Department involving large volume of transactions, such as the Land Registry and immigration, citizenship and visa applications. My Department's website also contains details of the functions of my Department. I have no plans to provide further inquiry lines at this stage. However, I can inform the Deputy that there are plans to improve the Department's website shortly.

Search Warrants.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

117 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received the advice he requested on the possible invalidity of a number of search warrants following a recent Supreme Court ruling; the action he is taking to ensure that all search warrants are issued in accordance with all legal requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4953/05]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Dylan Creaven, Silicon Technologies (Europe) Limited & Anor v. CAB & Anor. This case concerned the validity of a number of search warrants issued by the District Court. The Supreme Court found inter alia that where a district judge issues a search warrant he or she should be sitting within the District Court district to which he or she has been assigned. The Supreme Court went on to find that in this case warrants issued by a District Court judge were not valid because they were issued by the judge sitting outside the District Court districts to which he had been temporarily assigned.

I sought and have received the advice of the Attorney General on this matter. On the basis of that advice I have decided to deal with the particular issue in question by way of a legislative proposal which I will bring forward as an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill. My proposals in this respect will be announced in the usual way.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

118 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that fewer than one in six recorded murders since 1998 in which firearms were used has resulted in court convictions; if he has satisfied himself that the gardaí have adequate resources to deal with the problem of gun crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4929/05]

The number of violent deaths, murder and manslaughter, recorded in 2004 is 45, the lowest number recorded in ten years, despite our population increasing by 400,000 during the same period. I am informed by the Garda authorities that murders involving the use of firearms tend to have lower conviction rates than other murders. This is not unique to Ireland. The worldwide experience of murders linked to organised criminal activity is that it is exceptionally difficult to bring the perpetrators to justice. However, all murders and violent crime are subject to detailed investigation regardless of the circumstances of how they occurred. Firearms are also often involved where offenders take their own lives subsequent to the commission of a murder. In this regard it should be noted that since 1998 the detection rate where a firearm was used in a murder is 53%.

I have decided to bring forward, on Committee Stage of the Criminal Justice Bill 2004, certain proposals. Second Stage of the Bill commenced in the House this week. In this context, I am looking at a number of proposals, including more severe penalties for firearms offences, set minimum sentences for the most serious offences, the introduction of a new offence of modification of a firearm, for example, the sawing off of a shotgun, and a statutory basis for a period during which firearms may be surrendered to the Garda Síochána.

I am satisfied that the necessary resources are being directed towards the containment and detection of such serious criminal activity. Investigations are undertaken by divisional and district Garda officers at local level. All the necessary national support services are available to supplement these investigations, such as the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Prison Accommodation.

Dan Neville

Question:

119 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason no mental health professional was included as a member of the implementation committee to establish observation cells in prison. [4832/05]

I have been advised that the Irish Prison Service steering committee which oversaw the development of the special cells referred to by the Deputy had access to the expertise considered necessary for the task assigned to them. The design of these cells was finalised following a thorough examination of all requirements and issues involved.

Property Disposal.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

120 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when his attention was drawn to the fact that the Government is precluded from selling the former Shanganagh open prison due to a restrictive covenant. [5083/05]

I have been advised by the Irish Prison Service that there is no such covenant in existence.

Sexual Offences.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

121 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons serving custodial sentences for sexual offences; the number of such offenders who have been offered a place in training programmes designed to prevent re-offending; the number who took up such courses; if he has satisfied himself at the very low rate of take-up; the plans he has to encourage greater take up; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4937/05]

As of 15 February 2005, there were 267 prisoners serving sentences for sexual offences. There are three forms of direct therapeutic intervention for sex offenders currently operating within the Irish prison system. These are as follows: individual counselling from the Irish Prison Service's psychology service and from the probation and welfare service; the sex offender programme which has been in operation since 1994; one to one interventions by visiting psychiatrists who provide support to prisoners.

Every effort is made to assist sex offenders in custody who are willing to participate at any level in their personal rehabilitation and relapse prevention. While it is not possible to quantify with absolute accuracy participation in all forms of rehabilitation, many of those in custody for sex offences have availed of one or more of the forms of intervention referred to above.

A total of 106 sex offenders have completed the sex offender programme to date. A further eight men are currently undertaking the programme in Arbour Hill Prison. The total number of places available on the programme at present is eight. While there were 37 applicants for the programme, only eight were assessed as suitably motivated for participation on the programme. The reasons applicants for the programme might be considered unsuitable include: currently on remand, appeal pending, current serious mental health problems, not sufficiently prepared for the intensity of the programme, denial of offence, etc. Consequently, there is no waiting list in operation in respect of participation on the programme. The programme is voluntary and the practice is to invite all eligible sex offenders to apply for a place on the programme when a new group programme is being set up.

The number of offenders undergoing one to one counselling in relation to their sexual offending is difficult to define because of the varied nature of individual counselling provided to sex offenders in prison. Some individuals engage with the therapeutic services initially to seek assistance in adjusting to imprisonment or to address their mental health needs. Following such interventions, the offender is often more open to looking at his sexual offending and a concentrated period of motivational work is conducted to help sex offenders address their offending behaviour. In response to such counselling many offenders, who initially might deny responsibility for their crime or deny any need for treatment, are motivated towards some process of change. For some offenders this results in them undertaking the sex offender programme, for others it results in sustained individual therapy around their offending or engagement in some other programme available in the prison system.

The number of suitably motivated offenders applying for participation on the sex offenders programme has declined in recent years and this is a matter of concern. The Irish Prison Service is currently examining this situation to determine what measures may be taken to increase the number of offenders participating on the programme. A number of additional psychologists have recently been appointed to the Irish Prison Service and further appointments are due to be made over the coming months. These new psychologists will play an important role in working with offenders to address their offending behaviour, including work with sex offenders aimed at enhancing their preparedness for possible participation on the sex offender programme.

Metrology Service.

Dan Boyle

Question:

122 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to extend the metrification of distances to the Garda carriage office. [5098/05]

Taxi meters are currently being modified to reflect distance in kilometres. The legal metrology service checks and verifies the meters are operating correctly after modification. The legal metrology service is a statutory body with the National Standards Authority of Ireland which is under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and is therefore outside the remit of my Department.

Drugs in Prisons.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

123 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress which has been made with regard to the implementation of the commitment contained in An Agreed Programme for Government to end all heroin use in prisons here; if he will proceed with plans to introduce mandatory drug testing in prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4940/05]

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

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

Central to supporting future supply and demand reduction will be the introduction of mandatory drug testing as envisaged in the programme for Government. Already, prisoners accommodated in the training unit, the open centres at Shelton Abbey and Loughan House, and in the designated drug free areas of Wheatfield Prison and St. Patrick's Institution in the Mountjoy complex are required to undergo frequent drug tests to confirm their drug free status. Mandatory drug testing will, however, soon operate all across the prison system. It will enable identification and referral of drug abusers to treatment programmes, enable enhanced focusing of resources and act as a deterrent to drug misuse. The new prison rules, which are almost finalised in my Department, will include specific provision for mandatory drug testing, and, in this context, it is intended that later in the year, the Irish Prison Service will commence implementation of a new strategy of mandatory drug testing, addiction counselling and treatment, and increased measures to prevent drug usage to provide a more complete system of rehabilitation.

Garda Investigations.

Billy Timmins

Question:

124 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the situation with respect to the investigation into the murder of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1389/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, in the immediate aftermath of the incident in question, a full Garda murder investigation was launched and a large number of persons were arrested for questioning. Although no person has, to date, been made amenable for the murder, I am further informed that the Garda investigation remains open.

Land Registry Office.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

125 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason there are such long delays in processing cases through the Land Registry office; if he has plans to expedite the process (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5051/05]

The Land Registry processes a range of application types and provides a wide variety of services to its customers. The Deputy will be aware that in recent years the volume of demand for these services, consistent with the buoyancy in the economy, has grown considerably. The Deputy will be interested to note that, in the case of the vast majority of services provided by the Land Registry, no delays are encountered.

In relation to Land Registry dealings, the length of time taken by the Land Registry to complete cases is dependent on a number of factors, including the complexity of the case, the requirement for the investigation of title, the completeness of the documentation submitted, the volume of business being transacted, the level of resources available at any particular time and any mapping requirements. The availability of the Land Registry's records in electronic format would also have a bearing on the length of time taken. Where a case is urgent and this is brought to the attention of the Land Registry office, in accordance with its customer service policy, the matter is dealt with expeditiously.

In relation to improvements in the Land Registry, I am sure the Deputy will be aware of the investment that has been made in recent years by the Government in the development of the integrated title registration information system, ITRIS, the electronic access service, EAS, the document imaging project and most recently, the digital mapping project, which is currently at tender stage.

In addition, as part of its business planning and customer service strategies, surveys to ascertain the priorities of customers were undertaken in 2001 and again in 2004. The results of these surveys informed and continue to assist the Land Registry in improving the delivery of services.

In the survey undertaken in 2001 customers identified the ready availability of folios and filed plan maps for inspection and the availability of certified copies of these documents as their main priority. At that time difficulties were being encountered in providing these services. Considerable efforts were focused on meeting this identified demand and now, with the success of the new systems, all folios and filed plan maps together with the appropriate names indices are available for inspection on-line and no delays are encountered. By way of example: 769,058 electronic services were availed of by customers during 2004 — 86% of these were provided instantly; 219,537 certified copy folios and filed plans were issued to customers — of these more than 80% issued within 24 hours of the application being received; and 116,712 land certificates, certificates of charge and official map searches were issued. The vast majority were issued within three days of receipt of the application.

The other major category of case handled by the Land Registry is the area of registrations. This is the most demanding in terms of resources and has been directly affected by the increased volumes in recent years. Nevertheless considerable progress has also been made in this area. During 2004 significant progress was made in increasing outputs to match intake and, despite the ever increasing intake of work, the registry achieved even higher increases in output. The following table outlines the increases in intake and output in recent years that the Land Registry has encountered.

Year

Intake

Output

2000

162,650

105,309

2001

156,379

146,554

2002

152,898

151,717

2003

184,585

171,601

2004

197,534

201,308

The output figures have shown a constant upward trend and 2004 was the first year during this period where a surplus of output over intake was achieved. During January 2005 a record level of output for the month was achieved and a surplus of 3,044 cases were completed which augurs very well for the year ahead.

In 2003 a facility to make an application for registration on-line was introduced and this was further enhanced during 2004. Where this option is availed of faster turnaround times are achieved than by applying through the traditional methods. During January 2005 over 22% of applications for registration were lodged using this facility.

Property Disposal.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

126 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he plans to reopen Shanganagh prison; and his other plans for the site. [5084/05]

I have no plans to reopen Shanganagh Castle Prison. Part of the property has been disposed of and I plan to place the remainder on the market later this year.

Work-Life Balance.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

127 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether the introduction of paid parental leave would be a significant step forward in attempts to create work-life balance for workers. [33558/04]

The introduction of paid parental leave would obviously be attractive to employees who are parents of young children. In considering enhanced work-life balance measures for employees it is also necessary to consider the wider implications for employment and competitiveness.

The question of introducing paid parental leave was considered by the working group on the review of the Parental Leave Act 1998 in 2001 which was convened under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness social partnership agreement. However, the working group, which comprised representatives from the relevant Departments and the social partners, did not reach agreement on the principle of paid parental leave. In the course of the working group's deliberations, some members of the group expressed concerns in relation to the adoption of any new measures which would result in increased costs for employers, particularly small employers and the need to maintain international competitiveness. In subsequent negotiations on the Sustaining Progress partnership agreement, no agreement was made by the social partners on paid parental leave and the Government does not propose to introduce legislative change which one side of social partnership cannot accept. Consequently, the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2004 makes no provision for paid parental leave.

Garda Traffic Corps.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

128 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he still proposes to have 1,000 gardaí on duty as part of his promised traffic corps; when he proposes to set up this corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4960/05]

As the Deputy is aware, I announced the establishment within the Garda Síochána of the traffic corps on 23 November 2004. The Deputy will also be aware that the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis in line with the commitment in the An Agreed Programme for Government. As each cycle of recruit training is completed, the Garda Commissioner will assign these new members to the areas of greatest need with particular regard to certain priorities, which include the traffic corps.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of gardaí assigned to the traffic corps will increase from the current approved level of approximately 530 to 1,200 by 2008. The assignment of gardaí to the traffic corps will be done on the following phased basis in tandem with the recruitment of almost 1,100 recruits in each of the next three years:

2005

563

2006

805

2007

1,030

2008

1,200.

I also published a strategic review of traffic policing on 23 November 1994, which is a blueprint for a transformation in the enforcement of road traffic law. A key recommendation of the strategic review is that a new position of assistant commissioner in charge of all aspects of road traffic law should be created. The Government yesterday approved the appointment of Eddie Rock as assistant commissioner and the commissioner has appointed him to take charge of the traffic corps.

Never before has the enforcement of road traffic law been given this level of priority within the force. The new assistant commissioner is a member of the top management team in the force and he will bring authority and visible leadership to the traffic corps from the outset.

Commission on Policing and Crime.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

129 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the report of the Dublin Lord Mayor’s commission on policing and crime; if he intends to act on the recommendations contained in the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4927/05]

I am currently considering the report and its recommendations, and I will be responding to the Lord Mayor in the near future. The Garda Síochána can operate effectively only if the support and assistance of the community they are policing are forthcoming. Proactive local authorities are vital in bringing this about.

A number of the report's recommendations, such as those relating to the need for more gardaí on patrol, echo my own priorities for the additional gardaí who will become available over the next three years, following the increase in the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000. These additional gardaí will be put into frontline, operational, high visibility policing targeted at the areas of greatest need. The Garda Commissioner has ordered increased local foot patrolling in recent months, and this has been facilitated by the 140,000 additional overtime hours I made available in November last. I am determined to build on this initiative and to build up the status and effectiveness of community policing which is one of the success stories of law enforcement in recent years.

The report discusses how co-operation between the Garda Síochána and local authorities might be enhanced. The Garda Síochána Bill, currently being debated in the House, aims to enhance the accountability of the Garda Síochána, not only through the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to Dáil Éireann, but also by way of a direct formal linkage with local government and its institutions. The provisions in the Bill for joint policing committees, where local representatives and the Garda will be able to work together to address local policing and issues within the responsibility of the local authority, address many of the report's recommendations. The committees will be a significant innovation in local democracy which can only strengthen policing at the local level. A number of the commission's proposals are now incorporated in the Bill after it was amended in the other House, and the changes enhance the democratic mandate urged by the commission.

The Garda Síochána Bill confers significant powers on the Minister. It can do this because the Minister is accountable to Dáil Éireann and through it to the people and will exercise these powers democratically. For these reasons I am not convinced of the argument for a national Garda board, as the commission recommends.

A number of issues which the commission raises, such as the lack of a policing presence, problems of police numbers, responsive policing, embedding policing within the community and supplementing the gardaí are the sort of issues I would see the joint policing committees dealing with. I believe in maximising the input of local authorities in matters which impact on crime and anti-social behaviour such as by-laws, design of housing, public spaces, public lighting, estate management and getting the balance right in mixing social and affordable housing and avoiding ghettoisation in communities.

The commission is rightly concerned about the abuse of alcohol and its contribution to public order offending. I have long since shared these concerns and brought forward tough new provisions to deal with alcohol abuse and its effect on public order in the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003. The commission advocates the increased use of temporary closure orders. The provisions currently in the legislation in this regard are strong. The Act also gave local authorities a new role in relation to the duration of special exemption orders, allowing them to adopt a resolution regarding the duration of such orders in their areas, which the District Court is then required to have regard to in relation to applications for special exemption orders in the area concerned.

Garda Deployment.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

130 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to resolve the potential conflict of interest that arises for Garda ethnic minority liaison officers who are also members of the Garda National Immigration Bureau. [5103/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the Garda Commissioner authorised the appointment of liaison officers to ethnic minorities in divisions where the need was identified. The divisional officer assessed the ethnic issue in each division and, in consultation with the district officers, appointed liaison officers according to the need identified. Garda liaison officers were appointed in almost every Garda district.

The role of the ethnic liaison officers is to: liaise with the leaders of ethnic communities; inform and assure the ethnic communities of Garda services and protection. Some of the gardaí appointed as ethnic liaison officers also act as immigration officers. This work is in conjunction with other roles and tasks assigned by district and divisional officers and the Garda authorities do not consider that a conflict of interest arises where gardaí appointed as ethnic liaison officers also act as immigration officers.

Training was provided for 60 ethnic liaison officers during 2004. Seminars on the role of ethnic liaison officers took place throughout the country at regional level. The Garda personnel attending both training and seminars included those on immigration duties.

Garda Training.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

131 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the proposed volunteer members of the Garda Síochána will receive full training before they commence their duties. [5106/05]

Section 14 of the Garda Síochána Bill, providing for the appointment of volunteer members of the Garda Síochána, is an enabling provision only. Such officers provide valuable assistance to the police in other common law jurisdictions. No decision to appoint such members here has been taken by the Government. The Bill has two conditions which must be fulfilled before such members can be appointed. First, the Garda Commissioner must submit proposals for the training of such persons to the Minister of the day. Second, regulations must have been made concerning their recruitment, training and terms and conditions of appointment.

Employment Levels.

Finian McGrath

Question:

132 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Taoiseach the number of persons employed in the arts in Ireland. [5301/05]

An estimated 42,800 persons are engaged in cultural employment in Ireland in 2002. Cultural employment covers both cultural occupations, such as librarians, writers, etc., irrespective of the main activity of the employer, and all employment in cultural activities irrespective of the person's occupation, such as artistic, administrative, etc. The estimate is based on an analysis of the Central Statistics Office quarterly national household survey using a methodology developed by the European Union Statistical Office.

Seachtain na Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

133 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Taoiseach an mbeidh a Roinn ag comóradh Seachtain na Gaeilge i mbliana agus cad iad na himeachtaí Gaeilge a bheidh ar siúl sa Roinn i rith na seachtaine. [5199/05]

Tá an Rialtas, faoi mo stiúir, an-ghníomhach ag cur na Gaeilge chun cinn. Titeann freagracht laethúil cur chun cinn na Gaeilge ar an Roinn Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta. Tá gach tacaíocht tugtha agam don Roinn sin ina gcuid oibre ar son na Gaeilge. Tá Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003 achtaithe anois, chomh maith le iarratas déanta ar stádas oifigiúla oibre don Ghaeilge san Aontas Eorpach.

Maidir le mo Roinn féin, roghnaíodh Roinn an Taoisigh mar cheann de na chéad Rannaí Stáit a bhfuil de dhualgas orthu scéim a réiteach faoi Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003. Tá an plean sin á réiteach faoi láthair na huaire, agus faoin bplean seo déanfar soláthar le freastal a dhéanamh ar an bpobal trí mheán na Gaeilge.

Beidh Seachtain na Gaeilge á chur ar aghaidh taobh istigh den Roinn, agus beidh spreagadh á thabhairt d'fhoireann na Roinne páirt a ghlacadh ann. Tuigtear dom freisin go bhfuil plé ar bun ag an Príomh-Aoire maidir le díospóireacht Gaeilge a bheith sa Dáil le comóradh a dhéanamh ar Sheachtain na Gaeilge.

Health Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

134 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason speech and language therapy for a person (details supplied) in County Offaly has been halved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5222/05]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

135 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason speech and language therapy for a person (details supplied) in County Offaly has been halved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5223/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 134 and 135 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 speech and language therapy, for people with a physical and-or sensory disability. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive's midland area to investigate the matters raised and reply to the Deputy.

Inter-Country Adoptions.

John Perry

Question:

136 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the avenues open to a person (details supplied) in County Sligo to adopt children from countries affected by the tsunami disaster; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5297/05]

Inter-country adoption is governed by the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Inter-country Adoption, which Ireland has signed. Anyone who wishes to adopt abroad is required to go through an assessment process to determine their eligibility and suitability to adopt. This assessment is carried out by the Health Service Executive, and persons who wish to consider adopting abroad should contact the local office.

As regards children affected by the tsunami disaster, the urgent priority in the countries affected will be to address the children's trauma and to meet their immediate psychological and physical needs. It will then be necessary to identify whether children separated from their families are in fact orphans. If that is the case, the first choice would be to place the children with their extended families or to find appropriate fostering or adoption placements in their native countries. Only after all of these possibilities have been exhausted would the authorities consider inter-country adoption. In the circumstances, it will be many months before the countries affected identify whether, and to what extent, there is a need to place children abroad.

Hospital Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

137 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of acute psychiatric units that are not attached to an acute hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5187/05]

In line with the recommendations of the 1984 report, Planning for the Future, health service providers have developed, and continue to develop, a comprehensive, community-oriented mental health service as an alternative to institutional care for persons with mental illness. In recent years significant capital funding has been provided towards the development of acute psychiatric units linked to general hospitals as a replacement of services previously provided in psychiatric hospitals. There are now 22 such units in place and two more units are expected to open in the near future at Blanchardstown and St. Vincent's Hospital, Elm Park.

A total of 13 stand-alone psychiatric hospitals continue to accept acute admissions. When the two units at Blanchardstown and St. Vincent's, Elm Park open, St. Brendan's Hospital andVergemount Clinic will cease to admit acute psychiatric inpatients, leaving a total of 11 psychiatric hospitals continuing to do so. In line with Government policy, plans for the replacement of these hospitals are in place and at various stages of development.

Health Services.

Martin Ferris

Question:

138 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in Co. Kerry will be allowed to see a rheumatologist. [5188/05]

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 Kerry, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive's southern area to investigate the matters raised and reply to the Deputy.

Martin Ferris

Question:

139 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will receive a hip replacement. [5189/05]

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 Kerry, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive's southern area to investigate the matters raised and reply to the Deputy.

Finian McGrath

Question:

140 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the level of care will be increased for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and if she will give the maximum support and advice. [5190/05]

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 9. 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.

Health Reform Programme.

Michael Lowry

Question:

141 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the outcome of a meeting (details supplied); the implications on the health service in Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5191/05]

I had a constructive meeting with Mr. David Hanly, chairperson of the national task force on medical staffing, on 7 February 2005. We reviewed the difficulties that have hindered the progressing of the task force's proposals due to the refusal of hospital consultants to participate in the process. While the acute hospitals review group will not now proceed, Mr. Hanly has agreed to continue to be available to advise on the reform process.

The report of the national task force on medical staffing is a significant contribution to the development of acute hospital services. I have asked the National Hospitals Office to progress its recommendations accordingly. The Government is committed to the development of acute hospital services, including those at Nenagh General Hospital. I intend to continue with the planned investment in new hospital facilities, new consultant posts in a team-based system and the organisation of services around hospital networks.

Seachtain na Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

142 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Tánaiste agus Aire Sláinte agus Leanaí an mbeidh a Roinn ag comóradh Sheachtain na Gaeilge i mbliana agus cad iad na himeachtaí Gaeilge a bheidh ar siúl sa Roinn i rith na seachtaine. [5200/05]

Scaipfear eolas faoi Sheachtain na Gaeilge thar timpeall na Roinne. Freisin, le linn 2005, tá sé ar intinn agam scéim a ullmhú de réir Acht na dTeanga Oifigiúla 2003, chun tuairisc a thabhairt ar na seirbhísí a chuirfear ar fáil trí Gaeilge. Mar chuid den ár ullmhúchán chun an scéim seo a dhréachtú, beimid ag cur cúrsaí teanga gaeilge chun cinn i rith Seachtain na Gaeilge agus i rith na bliana ar fad.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

143 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the complaint and appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare against the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5217/05]

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 dealing with complaints. 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.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

144 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of beds required to end the crisis at the accident and emergency departments in hospitals. [5294/05]

The delivery of accident and emergency services has been identified as a priority area for attention. Many of the difficulties and delays experienced in accident and emergency departments reflect systemwide issues. It is, therefore, necessary to take a whole system approach, involving primary care, acute care, sub-acute and community care in tackling the problems in accident and emergency departments.

I announced a ten point action plan for accident and emergency services on the publication of the 2005 Estimates. A sum of €70 million is available to the Health Service Executive this year for these initiatives. I have met senior management of the Health Service Executive and my Department is working closely with the Health Service Executive to ensure early implementation of these initiatives.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

145 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the proposed new wing at the Orthopaedic Hospital in Clontarf, Dublin 3. [5300/05]

This project is at design stage and is expected to be completed in the coming months. Progressing the project beyond design stage 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 the year. I expect this plan to be presented to me soon.

Medical Cards.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

146 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) qualifies for a medical card; if not, if this person will qualify for a doctor only medical card; and if their savings in any way will affect their entitlement to rent allowance. [5302/05]

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 director of primary community and continuing care to investigate the matters raised and reply to the Deputy.

The income guidelines for the full eligibility medical cards and an indication of the income guidelines to be used for the assessment of eligibility for a doctor visit card are contained in the following table.

Medical Cards

Doctor Visit Cards

2005 Weekly

2005 Weekly

Single person living alone (under 66)

153.50

191.87

Single person living alone (66-69 years)

168

210

Single person living with family (under 66)

136.50

170.63

Single person living with family (66-69 years)

144.50

180.63

Married couple (under 66)

222.00

277.50

Married couple (66-69 years)

248.50

310.63

Married couple (70-79 years)

497

621.25

Married couple (80 and over )

522.50

653.13

Allowance for first 2 children under 16 financially dependent on applicant

31.50

39.38

Allowance for third and subsequent children under 16 financially dependent on applicant

34

42.50

Allowance for first 2 children over 16 years financially dependent on applicant

32.50

40.63

Allowance for third and subsequent children over 16 yrs. financially dependent on applicant

35.50

44.38

Allowance for a dependent over 16 years who is in full time third level education and not grant aided

65

81.25

Out-goings on house: rent/mortgage in excess of

26

32.50

Reasonable expenses necessarily incurred in travelling to work (in excess of)

23

28.75

The person in question should ideally make inquiries at the local Health Service Executive office where all aspects of their entitlement to a medical card can be assessed.

Garda Stations.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

147 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the reason for the delay in the purchase of a site for a new Garda station in Wexford town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5244/05]

The Commissioners of Public Works have agreed terms for the purchase of a suitable site in Wexford town. A wayleave to connect to water services is to be secured by the vendor as part of the agreement. The acquisition of the site will be concluded when the wayleave is secured.

Revenue Statistics.

Finian McGrath

Question:

148 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount of revenue generated by people in the arts field. [5301/05]

An estimated 42,800 persons are engaged in cultural employment in Ireland in 2002. Cultural employment covers both cultural occupations, such as librarians, writers, etc., irrespective of the main activity of the employer, and all employment in cultural activities irrespective of the person's occupation, such as artistic, administrative, etc. The estimate is based on an analysis of the Central Statistics Office quarterly national household survey using a methodology developed by the European Union Statistical Office.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Billy Timmins

Question:

149 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the position of the case of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5340/05]

While I have no direct function in the issuing of publican licences, I have been informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a publican ordinary licence was issued to the person concerned on 25 November 2002. This licence expired on 30 September 2003. Under legislation, publican ordinary licences expire annually on 30 September. Although the person was issued a renewal notice, and three reminders including one verbal reminder before the end of the licensing year 2003-04, the person concerned did not submit an application for the renewal of the licence for that year. This being the case, the licence was deemed to have lapsed and a new licence is required to issue.

The Revenue Commissioners are precluded from issuing a new licence without the benefit of a court certificate in such instances. Section 24 of the Courts (Supplementary Provisions) Act 1961, confers jurisdiction on the Circuit Court in all applications for a new licence. A new licence cannot issue to an applicant until the County Registrar's certificate is received by the Revenue Commissioners. The Revenue Commissioners received applications from the person concerned on 30 November 2004 and 28 January 2005 for the issue of a licence for the year commencing, 1 October 2004. Both of these applications were returned to the person concerned requesting a County Registrar's certificate.

Garda Stations.

Pat Carey

Question:

150 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance if agreement has been reached between his Department, the Office of Public Works and Dublin City Council regarding the acquisition of a site for the new Garda station in Finglas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5343/05]

A suitable site has been identified at Mellowes Road, Finglas. Negotiations between the Commissioners of Public Works and Dublin City Council to acquire a site for a new Garda station in Finglas are at an early stage.

Disabled Drivers.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

151 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons on the waiting list for assessment by the medical board of appeal under the disabled drivers’ (tax concessions) scheme 1994; the average length of time that persons have to wait to be assessed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5185/05]

While I have no direct function in the operation of the medical board of appeal for the disabled drivers' and disabled passengers' (tax concessions) scheme, there are approximately 600 persons waiting for an appeal, as of October 2004. The board of appeal is being reconstituted and, therefore, I am unable to determine the average length of time that persons have to wait for an appeal. However, progress is being made on the reconstitution of the board. Under the previous board of appeal, there was a waiting period for appellants in excess of two years.

An interdepartmental review group was established to examine the operation of the scheme and the group's report was published in early July. Following on from the report's recommendations concerning the appeals process, amendments to the regulations governing the disabled drivers' and disabled passengers' (tax concessions) scheme were drafted to improve the operation of the medical appeals board. These were signed by the former Minister for Finance, Mr. McCreevy, on 23 July 2004.

The amendments provide for changes to the existing regulations as follows by expanding the panel of medical practitioners serving on the medical board of appeal from three to five. They also provide for amending the appeals process by introducing a six month waiting period between an appeal and a subsequent application and 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.

A panel of five doctors should allow for the board to meet more regularly and reduce the backlog of appeals. A further factor in the backlog is that a number of those who are seen by the board, and are dissatisfied with its decision, are re-appealing immediately, causing a build up of appeals. This change should free up the new appeals board, when in place, to deal with existing appeals in the system and subsequent appeals where a change in an individual's circumstance requires a reassessment.

Seachtain na Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

152 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Airgeadais an mbeidh a Roinn ag comóradh Sheachtain na Gaeilge i mbliana agus cad iad na himeachtaí Gaeilge a bheidh ar siúl sa Roinn i rith na seachtaine. [5201/05]

Tá Gaeleagras na Seirbhísí Poiblí mar chuid de mo Roinn. Thug siad tacaíocht araimh anall do Sheachtain na Gaeilge ina n-ionad oibre, ina gcúrsaí oiliúna agus mar áis chomhloireachta do Ranna atá ag iarraidh imeachtaí a reáchtáil i rith na seachtaine seo. I mbliana ina bhfoirgneamh féin tá sé beartaithe ag Gaeleagras trí réamhfhógraíocht don bhaill foirne lá ar leith a roghnú i rith na seachtaine mar lá na Gaeilge. Ar an lá sin eagrófar ‘Caife Gaelach'; cuirfear bia chlár an lae ar fáil as Gaeilge; déanfar timpeallacht Gaelach a chóthú le fograí agus Áisitheoirí le daoine a spreagadh pé Gaeilge atá acu a úsáid.

Cuirfear gluais de théarmaíúsáideacha ar fáil mar áis de chomhráite theileafóin, de theachtaireachtaí ríomhphoist agus do chomhfhreagras. I rith an lae ina n-ionad ‘buail isteach' i dTeach Lansdúin cuirfear taispeántas de áiseanna foghlamtha, idir CD, fístéipeanna agus téipeanna ar fáil mar aon le foclóirí, urscéalta do dhaoine fásta agus beidh gearrscannán a thaispeáint.

Communications Masts.

Tony Gregory

Question:

153 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance if it is policy that the Office of Public Works should engage in commercial activities with mobile phone companies; if a mobile phone mast has been approved by the Office of Public Works at the water tower in the Botanic Gardens complex; if there are homes within seven metres of the tower and a child care centre within 25 metres; and if this decision will be reviewed in view of recent expert reports recommending that such masts should not be located close to schools and child care centres. [5252/05]

In August 2003 the Commissioners of Public Works appointed telecommunications consultants, to assess the suitability of the State property portfolio for use in the mobile telecommunications sector. Since then, a standard agreement setting out the terms and conditions under which operators will be allowed to install equipment on State owned properties has been finalised. Any mobile telephone operator that is granted such a licence will be required to strictly comply with all relevant Health and Safety Acts and will operate within EU standards and regulations and adhere to the guidelines on exposure limits to emissions, issued by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. Telecommunications consultants will be carrying out checks on an ongoing basis to ensure that this compliance is continuous. Licensees will also be required to fully comply with normal planning regulations. This compliance with health and safety legislation, etc., is required under the licence agreement and applies to any future relevant legislation regulations and International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection guidelines.

In the case of the Botanic Gardens, antennae are being erected not masts, which are exempted developments. It was within this strict framework that a licence was granted to a mobile telephone operator for the installation of antennae on the water tower beside the Office of Public Works depot in Glasnevin.

State Property.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

154 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the sites or undeveloped lands within ten miles of the M50 which have been acquired within the past five years for the purpose of development, and which remain undeveloped; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5292/05]

No sites or undeveloped lands within ten miles of the M50 have been acquired within the past five years by the Commissioners of Public Works for the purpose of development and which remain undeveloped.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Billy Timmins

Question:

155 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the position on the special savings incentive scheme accounts of persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5341/05]

The question relates to a situation where a special savings incentive scheme saver dies before the end of the five year savings period. The special savings incentive scheme allows savers to subscribe to their special savings incentive scheme account on a monthly basis for a 60 month period and the Government provides a top-up of 25% of the value of subscriptions made in each month. When a special savings incentive scheme account matures, which is at the end of the five-year period under normal circumstances, the saver is entitled to the funds in the special savings incentive scheme account less tax at 23% on the profit made from the investment of both the saver's subscriptions and the Exchequer contribution, subject to compliance with the conditions of the scheme. For example, in the case of a special savings incentive scheme account that was a deposit account from which no withdrawals had been made, tax at 23% would only apply to the interest earned.

Where the saver dies before the 60 month period has elapsed, the special savings incentive scheme account is treated as maturing on the date of death. When this occurs, the top-up of 25% only applies to subscriptions made up to the date of death. Tax is then deducted at 23% on the profit made from the investment up to the date of death and the balance of the funds are then available for distribution to the beneficiaries of the deceased's estate.

Port Development.

Finian McGrath

Question:

156 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position regarding plans to in-fill 52 acres at Dublin Bay. [5299/05]

Consideration of the application made by the Dublin Port Company is ongoing and officials from the Department will be meeting with representatives of the Dublin Port Company in the near future to discuss this and other matters.

Communications Masts.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

157 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the plans he has to prevent the erection of telecommunication masts in residential areas; if his attention has been drawn to the widespread concern on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5176/05]

Issues relating to the physical siting of telecommunication masts are not a matter for me but for the relevant local authorities under the aegis of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Electricity Infrastructure.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

158 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will discuss with the ESB the possibility of the company moving their overhead cables in Tallaght underground; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5177/05]

The siting of infrastructure, including the placement of cables, is a day-to-day matter for the management of the ESB and Eirgrid and not one in which I have a function.

Seachtain na Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

159 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Cumarsáide, Mara agus Acmhainní Nádúrtha an mbeidh a Roinn ag comóradh Sheachtain naGaeilge i mbliana agus cad iad na himeachtaíGaeilge a bheidh ar siúl sa Roinn i rith na seachtaine. [5202/05]

My Department's partnership committee will meet next week and the agenda includes ways in which Seachtain na Gaeilge could be celebrated this year.

Beidh cruinniú de choiste pháirtíochta mo Roinne an tseachtain seo chugainn. Beidh bealaí chun Seachtain na Gaeilge do Gaeilge do cheiluíradh i mbliana ar chlár oibre na cruinníthe sin.

Harbour Authorities.

John Perry

Question:

160 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will address the various issues raised in correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5298/05]

The Harbours Act 1946 provides the legislative basis for the membership of harbour authorities. Section 7(2) provides that the membership of those harbour authorities which are outlined in Part II of the First Schedule, which includes Sligo Harbour Authority, shall consist of the following eleven members: four members appointed by the local authorities; two members appointed by the chamber of commerce, where mentioned in the third column; two members elected by the qualified electors; and three members nominated by the Minister. Section 11 provides that where the Minister is of the opinion that the number of electors will be so few in number as to render inappropriate the holding of the election, the election shall not be held and the Minister shall appoint two members who are in his opinion representative of payers of tonnage rates.

The Harbour Authorities (Non-Holding of Elections) Order S.I. No 472 of 2004, was made by the former Minister on 20 July 2004. The order provided for the non-holding of elections in the case of a number of harbour authorities, including Sligo Harbour Authority. On 28 September 2004, five warrants of appointment were signed by my predecessor, Deputy Browne, in respect of appointments to Sligo Harbour Commissioners.

Oifig na bPasanna.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

161 D’fhiafraigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha cén fáth ar diúltaíodh pas as Gaeilge a eisiúint do dhuine (sonraí tugtha) i gContae Dhún na nGall. [5259/05]

Fuair Oifig na bPasanna iarratas ar phas ón duine atá i gceist ar an 7 Nollaig 2004. Scríobh an Oifig ar ais ar an 12 Nollaig de bharr go raibh ant-iarratas neamh-iomlán. D'iarr an t-iarratasóir go n-eiseofaí an pas sa leagan Gaeilge dá hainm, ach níor chuir sí aon fhianaise ar fáil maidir le húsáid an ainm seo, faoi mar is cóir le hiarratas den chineál seo. Tuairiscíodh gur cailleadh an pas a bhí ag an iarratasóir cheana. Eisíodh an pas sin in ainm Béarla an iarratasóra.

I Mír a Dó den fhoirm iarratais, iarrtar ar an iarratasóir an t-ainm atá ar a theastas breithe a chur isteach, agus freisin an t-ainm is mian leis a bheith ar an bpas. Murab ionann an dá leagan seo, ní foláir don iarratasóir gníomhas aonpháirtí a sholáthar, nó fianaise go bhfuil an t-ainm atá i gceist in úsáid ar feadh dhá bhliain ar a laghad, e.g. cáipéis chánach, ráiteas bainc, ceadúnas tiomána, tuarascáil scoile, litir ó fhostóir, etc. Is gá dhá shampla ar a laghad a sholáthar. Is féidir pas a eisiúint freisin, mar shampla, in ainm pósta iarratasóra má chuirtear teastas pósta shibhialta ar fáil.

Chun ionracas an phróisis pasanna a chaomhnú, is soiléir go bhfuil sé tábhachtach go n-eiseofaí pasanna san ainm ar a bhfuil aithne ar dhuine de ghnáth. Sin é an fáth, nuair a iarrann duine pas i bhfoirm seachas an leagan atá ar a theastas breithe, go lorgaítear an fhianaise thuas. Más mian leis an iarratasóir dul ar aghaidh lena hiarratas, ba chóir di iarratas nua a chomhlánú a bheadh deimhnithe ag a stáisiún Garda áitiúil. Más mian léi go n-eiseofar pas di sa leaganGaeilge dá hainm, ba chóir di fianaise úsáide a thaispeáint. Chomh luath is a chuireann sí iarratas úr isteach, agus má bhíonn sé in ord, eiseofar an pas gan mhoill.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

162 D’fhiafraigh Aengus Ó Snodaigh den Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha cad é polasaí na Roinne i leith iarratas ar phasanna as Gaeilge; an fíor go bhfuil polasaí ann iarratais a dhiúltiú do shaoránaigh atá anois ag iarraidh casadh ar an leagan Gaeilge dá n-ainmneacha a úsáid. [5401/05]

Sé polasaí na Roinne pasanna a eisiúint san ainm ar a bhfuil aithne ar an iarratasóir de ghnáth. Déantar é seo, is cuma má lorgaítear an pas in ainm Gaeilge nó in ainm Béarla an duine. Tá seo uile leagtha amach sna nótaí a ghabhann leis an bhfoirm iarratais ar phas, agus freisin ar shuíomh gréasáin Oifig na bPasanna, http:// www.passport.ie.

I Mír a Dó den fhoirm iarratais, iarrtar ar an iarratasóir an t-ainm atá ar a theastas breithe a chur isteach, agus freisin an t-ainm is mian leis a bheith ar an bpas. Murab ionann an dá leagan seo, ní foláir don iarratasóir gníomhas aonpháirtí a sholáthar, nó fianaise go bhfuil an t-ainm atá i gceist in úsáid ar feadh dhá bhliain ar a laghad, e.g. cáipéis chánach, ráiteas bainc, ceadúnas tiomána, tuarascáil scoile, litir ó fhostóir, etc. Is gá dhá shampla ar a laghad a sholáthar. Is féidir pas a eisiúint freisin, mar shampla, in ainm pósta iarratasóra má chuirtear teastas pósta shibhialta ar fáil.

Chun ionracas an phróisis pasanna a chaomhnú, tá sé tábhachtach go n-eiseofaí pasanna san ainm ar a bhfuil aithne ar dhuine de ghnáth, agus go mbeadh cruthú againn ar seo. Dá n-eiseodh an oifig pasanna gan cruthúnas den chineál sin, b'fhéidir go mbeadh céannachtaí iolracha nó baol calaoise ann. Sin é an réasún go gcaithfimid an fhianaise thuas a fháil, cibé acu an leagan Gaeilge nó an leagan Béarla den ainm atá i gceist.

State Visits.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

163 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the plans he has to meet the new US Secretary of State to discuss her vision for the world; the diplomatic contacts with the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5131/05]

I look forward to meeting the US Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, in Brussels on 22 February 2005 when she meets with EU Foreign Ministers during the visit of President Bush. I also look forward to meeting the Secretary of State over the St. Patrick's Day period in Washington.

In recent days Dr. Rice has visited a number of our EU partners and the Middle East. I welcome the positive remarks she has made about the EU and the priority she has given to progressing the Middle East peace process.

During my visit to the United States last week, I had meetings with a wide range of senior figures in Congress and also with members of the Administration, including Asa Hutchinson, Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security, Andrew Natsios, Administrator of USAID and Dr. Mitchell Reiss, the US Special Envoy for Northern Ireland. These meetings provided an opportunity to update our contacts on a range of issues of mutual interest including recent developments in the peace process, immigration and the tsunami relief effort.

Overseas Development Aid.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

164 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the development aid initiatives which are in place in respect of Uganda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5132/05]

Ireland has had an aid programme in Uganda since 1995. According to the UN's 2004 human development index, Uganda remains a poor country where life expectancy is only 45.7 years, only 31% of adults are literate, 48% of the people do not have access to safe water and 44% of the population are below the poverty line.

The programme in Uganda is one of the larger Irish engagements in sub-Saharan Africa. The programme assists in the fields of education, especially primary education; basic health care; improving quality in the area of justice, law and order; assisting the development of three regions under the national plan for decentralisation; on agriculture and production; on the war against HIV/AIDS. The budget for the programme in 2004 was €30.6 million; €32 million has been provided for 2005.

Uganda has made progress in poverty reduction and economic management over the last 18 years. On the political front, the decision to move to a multiparty system and the recent registration of some political parties offer the possibility of greater democratic change in future. However, concerns still remain about some aspects of governance. On the economic front, macroeconomic stability and growth are being maintained, although, mainly resulting from the instability in the north, progress in reducing poverty has slowed and there is evidence that economic benefits are unevenly distributed.

The insecurity in the northern region of Uganda has caused widespread disruption and loss of life. The 17 year old civil conflict, caused by the brutal campaign of the Lord's Resistance Army involving atrocities against the civilian population and large-scale abduction of children, intensified in 2003, resulting in a humanitarian crisis with approximately 1.5 million people displaced. The ongoing conflict represents a major challenge to the Ugandan Government, but there are recent indications that it may be entering its final phase. The Ugandan Government has declared a ceasefire in a region in the north so as to allow an agreed intermediary scope to broker a complete cessation of violence and initiate engagement on a negotiated peace. The process is being assisted by a number of donor countries, including Ireland. There is some optimism that progress will be made.

A key incentive to progress is the recent peace agreement between the Government of Sudan, previously a supporter of the Lord's Resistance Army, and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement. It is assumed this will impact on the sustainability of the Lord's Resistance Army insurgency and will encourage a reconsideration of its campaign.

The humanitarian situation in northern Uganda remains fragile. In mid-September 2004 members of the donor community in Kampala, led by the Irish Embassy, visited northern Uganda to send a message of solidarity to the people on behalf of the international community and to stress the international community's support for the amnesty process and for dialogue and reconciliation as a way to bring finality to the conflict. The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs also visited northern Uganda in late September 2004. Ireland has provided assistance to both the UN world food programme and to Irish and local NGOs for the benefit of the displaced people in the north.

Emigrant Support Services.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

165 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on Irish abroad assistance being targeted on Brent in London which is twinned with South Dublin County Council based in Tallaght; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5133/05]

I share the Deputy's interest in Brent, which is home to a significant proportion of London's Irish community. During my visit to London in December 2004 I was pleased to include Brent in my itinerary and to meet with the staff and clients of the Cricklewood Homeless Concern.

The Government is committed to supporting organisations in Britain that assist those members of our community in London who may find themselves in marginalised circumstances. In 2004 the Government provided a grant of €215,560 to the Cricklewood Homeless Concern, as well as another grant of €120,000 to the Brent Irish Advisory Service. Government support for the provision of services to our emigrants in Britain continues to grow strongly. In 2004 grants amounting to €4.3 million were made from the Díon Fund, which represented an increase of two-thirds on 2003. Further substantial increases in funding for emigrant services in 2005 have been secured. This year the Díon Fund has been allocated an unprecedented amount of €7 million, a figure that is nine times greater than was allocated in 1997. We will continue to support the organisations in the voluntary sector engaged in critical work that benefits our vulnerable community in Brent and elsewhere in Britain.

Diplomatic Representation.

Michael Lowry

Question:

166 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of officials that represented the State at the UN General Assembly each year from 1997 to 2004; if a youth representative has been included in the delegation for the duration of the General Assembly; if so, the way in which the representative was selected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5186/05]

Ireland is represented in the plenary sessions, and on the various Committees, of the UN General Assembly by officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs assigned to the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations in New York. Occasionally, when necessary, representation is temporarily augmented by officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs or from other Departments with direct responsibility for the issues under discussion.

The total number of officials that represented the State at various points during the General Assembly in the years from 1997 to 2004 are, respectively, 30, 25, 37, 47, 40, 44, 47 and 42. These figures represent the total number of officials that were officially accredited at the commencement of the General Assembly session to represent Ireland in the plenary session and at various stages in the six main committees: disarmament and international security; economic and financial; social, humanitarian and cultural; special political and decolonisation; administrative and budgetary; and legal. Most of these officials were present only for short periods. The accredited list would typically also include a number of alternate official representatives to cover for such contingencies as the unavailability, through competing obligations, of the officials most directly involved. It is not the practice to include a youth representative in the delegation. I am not aware that this is a widely observed practice among other delegations.

Seachtain na Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

167 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha an mbeidh a Roinn ag comóradh Sheachtain na Gaeilge i mbliana agus cad iad na himeachtaí Gaeilge a bheidh ar siúl sa Roinn i rith na seachtaine. [5203/05]

Tá fochoiste bunaithe ag coiste pairtnéireachta na Roinne le haghaidh achan ghné d'Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla a mheas, agus an dóigh is fearr leis an seirbhís i nGaeilge sa Roinn a fheabhsú. Beidh an fochoiste fosta ag plé leis an dóigh is fearr le Seachtain na Gaeilge a úsáid chun aidhmeanna na hAchta a chur chun cinn sa Roinn.

Consular Assistance.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

168 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if a person (details supplied) will receive the full assistance of his Department for the cremation of their deceased child in London; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5303/05]

My Department has been aware of the case since early last week, when it received a telephone call from a member of the deceased man's immediate family. Following receipt of this call, it has sought to provide all possible consular assistance.

The Irish Embassy in London has informed me that the man's body was found on 16 November 2004. The embassy has contacted the deceased's local council to establish what efforts were made to establish next of kin. The council advised that it had searched his flat but were unable to find any documentation or identification which would enable it to do so. While it had found a diary containing three Christian names followed by six digit telephone numbers, they could not ascertain the nationality of the deceased man or the location of the three persons listed.

The embassy remains in contact with the council about this matter. The man's brother is now in direct contact with the council. The embassy has also contacted the British army's veterans' advice unit about the man's benefits and entitlements. It is investigating the matter and will respond as soon as possible. The embassy also contacted the coroner's office at Fulham and confirmed that an autopsy was performed. My Department will continue to provide consular assistance to the deceased man's family.

Grant Payments.

Phil Hogan

Question:

169 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a decision will be made in respect of an application for grant assistance for a club (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5173/05]

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, 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 press on 5 and 6 December 2004. The closing date for receipt of applications was 4 February 2005. All applications are being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, 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.

Film Industry Development.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

170 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the plans he has to assist in attracting film-makers to Ireland; his contacts in the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5174/05]

The most critical element of the Government's strategy for the attraction to Ireland of film-makers has been the extension to 2008 of the section 481 incentive for investment in film production, and the increase in the amount that can be raised from €10.48 million to €15 million from 1 January 2005. This incentive is of critical importance to international film-makers. The certainty that exists regarding the future of the scheme is also important, as long planning horizons apply to major international film productions. Not alone can producers be sure that the section 481 scheme is secure for at least several years to come, but the way in which our scheme operates, and its requirements, are already familiar to producers both in Ireland and abroad.

I have returned from a visit to the United States, during which I met the major film studios to make the case for choosing Ireland as a place to make films. While in the US, I floated the idea of basing a representative in Los Angeles to effectively communicate what Ireland can offer as a filming location. This can obviously be better achieved with the kind of relationships that can be built up through a permanent presence on the ground where decisions are made.

The Irish Film Board has responsibility for marketing Ireland as a filming location, and provides a comprehensive liaison with, and service to, prospective film-makers in Ireland. The board has received funding for 2005 that is an increase of over 20% on what was provided in 2004.

Community Games.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

171 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his contacts with the community games organisation regarding plans for the 2005 national games, particularly noting the restricted availability of Mosney holiday centre; if he will acknowledge the great work of the community games over the years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5179/05]

I have not received any submissions from the National Community Games relating to the 2005 national games. During 2004, I and officials of my Department had a number of meetings and contacts with representatives of the National Community Games to discuss issues relating to the costing of the annual community games finals in Mosney.

Those discussions led to a situation where my Department, the reception and integration agency of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, and the National Community Games confirmed their willingness to help ensure that the facilities in Mosney continue to be available to host the games.

The community games representatives expressed their satisfaction with the range and quality of the facilities and services available at Mosney and their suitability for future national events. They also confirmed that there is no other venue in Ireland with the scale and variety of facilities required for their national events as currently structured and also that any question of providing a special, dedicated venue on the scale required, which would be used only a few times a year, would be completely unrealistic.

I am pleased to say that the RIA has confirmed that for as long as the agency continues to use Mosney, the community games can avail of the facilities there. I can confirm that a new contract was signed between Mosney Irish Holidays Ltd and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on 18 November 2004.

Sports Capital Programme.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

172 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the schedule to be followed in respect of the 2005 sports capital grants and when an announcement will be made. [5180/05]

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 press on 5 and 6 December last. The closing date for receipt of applications was 4 February 2005. All applications are currently 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.

Seachtain na Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

173 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Ealaíon, Spóirt agus Turasóireachta an mbeidh a Roinn ag comóradh seachtain na Gaeilge i mbliana agus cad iad na himeachtaí Gaeilge a bheidh ar siúl sa Roinn i rith na seachtaine. [5204/05]

Níl aon phlean ar leith ag mo Roinn chun seachtain na Gaeilge a chomóradh. Tá mo Roinn, áfach, ag ullmhú dréacht-scéim faoi réir Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003.Léireoidh an scéim, a bheidh in éifeacht ar feadh tréimhse trí bliana, conas a dhéanfaidh mo Roinn forbairt ar a cuid seirbhísí Gaeilge. Tá sé i gceist go mbeidh sonraí na scéime ar fáil go poiblí thart ar Aibreán 2005, nuair a bheidh an scéim aontaithe agam le mo chomhghleacaí an tAire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta.

Job Creation.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

174 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the job creation needs of Tallaght; the concerns in Tallaght at recent job losses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5175/05]

I am very much aware of the jobs situation in Tallaght. The industrial development agencies are continuing to market the Tallaght area for new jobs and investment. Tallaght benefits from having a third level Institute — the Tallaght Institute of Technology — and excellent infrastructural facilities at City West and Grange Castle in Clondalkin.

Wyeth Biopharma has approximately 700 people employed in Clondalkin and this figure is expected to rise to 1,300 by the end of the year. The Japanese pharmaceuticals company, Takeda Chemical Industries, which will employ 60 people, has also begun construction in Clondalkin. At City West, project developments by SAP Support Services — 460 jobs — AOL Technologies Ireland Ltd. — 204 jobs — and Colgate-Palmolive Support Services — 80 jobs — are providing locally accessible employment opportunities.

Following an agreement last year, Enterprise Ireland is supporting the development of business incubation space at the institute of technology. This facility is expected to generate quality start up enterprises. The development agencies continue to work with existing companies to assist them to move up the value chain and increase employment potential. Companies who have availed of this process, with financial assistance from IDA Ireland, include Sage and Xilinx in City West.

Job losses and job gains have always been, and will continue to be, part of the economic landscape, but our overall unemployment rate is among the lowest in Europe. In the case of job losses, the full services of FÁS, particularly in relation to re-training and up-skilling, are made available to any workers who wish to avail of those services. In addition, FÁS provides a vocational guidance and referral service to all job seekers in the Tallaght area.

I am satisfied that the strong infrastructural support already in place, including the opening of the Luas, will continue to attract jobs to Tallaght and the surrounding area.

Seachtain na Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

175 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Fiontar, Trádála agus Fostaíochta an mbeidh a Roinn ag comóradh seachtain na Gaeilge i mbliana agus cad iad na himeachtaí Gaeilge a bheidh ar siúl sa Roinn i rith na seachtaine. [5205/05]

Cuirim fáilte roimh an scéim tábhachta seo seachtain na Gaeilge agus tuigim, chun an seachtain a comóradh, molann mo Roinn do gach duine sa foireann an Gaeilge a úsaid chómh mór agus is féidir agus is oiriúnach éí rith seachtain na Gaeilge.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Question:

176 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will have their claim for unemployment benefit processed. [5125/05]

The person concerned applied for unemployment benefit on 12 January 2005. One of the conditions for receipt of unemployment benefit is that a person must have sustained a substantial loss of employment and a reduction in earnings.

Information provided by the employer, in this case, indicates that although there has been a reduction in the average number of days per week worked by the person concerned, there has been no reduction in earnings. Accordingly, a deciding officer disallowed the unemployment benefit claim of the person concerned from 12 January 2005, on the grounds that he had not suffered a consequential loss of earnings.

It is open to the person concerned to appeal this decision and a form for this purpose may be obtained from his social welfare local office. Under social welfare legislation, decisions in relation to 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.

Official Engagements.

David Stanton

Question:

177 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the official functions undertaken by him since his appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5192/05]

The various functions undertaken by me since my appointment are outlined in the following appendix A.

Appendix A.

1.Meetings with the following organisations:

Pensions Board officials

Carers Association

National Association of People with an Intellectual Disability

Age Action Ireland

Accord

CORI

Disability Federation of Ireland

The British Ambassador

Children's Rights Alliance

ICTU

INOU

St. Vincent de Paul

Irish Senior Citizen's Parliament

Combat Poverty Agency

National Association of Widows in Ireland

Pavee Point

Threshold

One Family

Crosscare

Irish Countrywomen's Association

Irish Farmers Association

Comhairle

Parental Equality

Unmarried & Separated Fathers of Ireland

Department of Work and Pensions UK.

2.Attendance at the pre-budget Forum, the Presidential inauguration, a Family Support Agency board meeting and a Pensions Board meeting.

Attendance at a Formal EU Council meeting in Brussels and a conference (‘A Social Europe') in Rotterdam.

Attendance at the AGM of the Coalition of Immigrant Information Centres in New York. Attendance at the United Nations on the 10th Anniversary of the UN World Summit for Social Development and participation in round table discussions at same.

3.Opening of a conference for One Family, and the "Fathers at Christmas" conference.

4.Launch of the Family Support Agency's annual report 2003, the Pensions Board Trustee Handbook and information booklet, "Strengthening Families through Fathers" (Research Project under the Family Affairs Unit's Research Programme), The Office of Social Inclusion's Annual Report (NAPS 2003-2005) and Clondalkin Partnership's Training Publication.

5.Visits to Listowel, Tralee, Finglas, Galway, Coolock, Nutgrove, Carrick on Shannon social welfare local offices and Longford social welfare local and services offices.

6.Hosting of a farewell lunch for theAustrian Ambassador.

7.Address to Network Galway (women's group), the National Anti-Poverty Social Inclusion Forum and participation in plenary session and the YMCA ball (a fund-raising event).

8.Presentation of awards/certificates to the following; the Accord photographic competition winners, the Open Learning Centre in Colaiste Ide, Finglas, the travel writers awards, the graduation ceremony for Mohill Enterprise Centre and the Eircom FAI awards.

9.Photocall with the Special Olympics athletes for the family support guide.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Eoin Ryan

Question:

178 Mr. Eoin Ryan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he has put forward a proposal to extend the free travel pass Europe-wide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5196/05]

The free travel scheme is available to all people living in the State aged 66 years, or over. It is also available to carers and to people with disabilities who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments. It applies to travel within the State and cross-Border journeys between here and Northern Ireland.

A variety of travel concessions are granted by most EU member states to retired pensioners. The scope of these concession schemes and the reductions available vary widely from country to country.

In 1997 a report, Towards a Senior Euro Pass, was commissioned by the Social Affairs Directorate of the European Commission. This report recommended that EU states should move towards having a senior euro pass card which would entitle older people to concessions on various services, including travel, cultural and social activities.

My Department submitted observations on the report's recommendations at the time, as did other Departments and statutory and non-statutory bodies. The introduction of such an initiative would have to be developed at EU level.

However, the Government is committed to the introduction of a system of all-Ireland free travel for pensioners and other eligible category of social welfare customers, to enable pass holders to make onward journeys free of charge in each jurisdiction. Discussions are ongoing with the relevant authorities to progress this issue.

Education Schemes.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

179 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will reconsider an application for a person (details supplied) in County Cork under the back to education allowance. [5197/05]

The back to education allowance is a second chance education opportunities programme designed to encourage and facilitate people on certain social welfare payments to improve their skills and qualifications and, therefore, their prospects of returning to the active work force.

At present, to qualify for participation in the scheme an applicant must be, inter alia, in receipt of a relevant social welfare payment for at least six months if pursuing a second level course of study. The qualifying period for third level courses of study was increased from six months to 15 months for new applicants from September 2004.

The person concerned, started his course of study in September 2004 when the qualifying criteria was 15 months and does not, therefore, satisfy the eligibility criteria for participation in the scheme. It is not possible, in this case, to make a retrospective award of the allowance as the 12 month qualifying condition does not come into effect until September 2005.

Seachtain na Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

180 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Sóisialacha agus Teaghlaigh an mbeidh a Roinn ag comóradh seachtain na Gaeilge i mbliana agus cad iad na himeachtaí Gaeilge a bheidh ar siúl sa Roinn i rith na seachtaine. [5206/05]

Eagráitear seachtain na Gaeilge fé choimirce Chonraidh na Gaeilge; is é feidhm na seachtaine an ghaeilge a chur chun cinn trí imeacthaí agus ghníomhaíochtaí a reachtáil ar fud na tíre. I mbliana, mar a dheineadh cheanna, cuirfear seachtain na Gaeilge in iúl do baill fóirne mo Ranna i slite eagsúla. Foilseófar bailiúcháin suimiúil d'airteagail i nGaeilge, scríofa ag baill fóirne, in iris inmheanach na Ranna. Seolfar an iris seo do chuile dhuine sa Roinn roimh an teachtain chun aird na leitheoirí a spreagadh sna himeachtaí a bheidh ar siul i rith na seachtaine agus chun a chur in íul doibh conas teacht ar tuilleadh eolas ar imeachtaí na seachtaine ar fud na tíre. Comh maith le sin beidh póstaeir Chonraidh na Gaeilge ar imeachtaí na seachtaine á theaspáint in ionad-oibre éagsúla. Freisin tá grupaí neamhfhoirmiúla sa roinn a labhrann Gaeilge le chéile agus tá se ar intiin acu teacht le cheile i rith na seachtaine chun Gaeilge a labhairt.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Mary Upton

Question:

181 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the stipulations which private landlords must satisfy in order to be awarded rent allowance for the rent of their properties. [5243/05]

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.

Entitlement to rent supplement rests with the tenant, not the landlord. Payment is normally made to the tenant, although a person who is awarded rent supplement may nominate his or her landlord as being the person to whom the payment should issue.

In determining entitlement to rent supplement the executive generally seeks confirmation from the landlord regarding the address of the accommodation being rented, the number of proposed tenants and the level of rent being sought.

General responsibility for enforcing both housing standards and housing registration regulations relating to rented accommodation is a matter for the local authorities. However, the executive may consider that a property is not suited to an applicant's needs if the accommodation does not comply with legislative standards.

It is not a requirement of the rent supplement scheme that the landlord is registered with the relevant local authority. However, under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, landlords are obliged to register tenancies with the Private Residential Tenancies Board, PRTB. A wide-ranging information campaign was undertaken to promote the introduction of the new board and the requirement of landlords to register. It is a matter for the PRTB to ensure that landlords comply with the requirements of that Act.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

182 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the position regarding the receipt of the rent allowance by a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5253/05]

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 southern region of the Health Service Executive has advised that it has no record of an application for rent supplement from the person concerned. If he wishes to apply he should contact the community welfare officer at his local health centre for an assessment of his circumstances and eligibility.

Public Transport.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

183 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on his negotiations with Luas and Dublin Bus to create an integrated ticket system; the merits of such a development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5136/05]

In March 2002, the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, was given statutory responsibility under the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) Act 2001 (Additional Functions) (Integrated Ticketing) Order 2002 for the delivery of an integrated ticketing system. The contactless smartcard-based integrated ticketing system, which will enable a passenger to use a single ticket on one or more scheduled public transport services, by road and by rail, irrespective of the transport operator involved, is being developed by the RPA and will be introduced on a phased basis, initially in the Dublin area.

A first step was the launch in April 2004, in conjunction with the RPA, of smartcards by a private operator — Morton's Coaches — on its services. In addition, the RPA informed me that the launch of smartcards on Luas services is scheduled to take place within the next few weeks. The RPA project that Dublin Bus will follow, with smartcards on its services later this year.

By early 2006 passengers will be able to travel on both bus and Luas services in Dublin using one smartcard. Integration using smartcards with other operators is projected to follow shortly thereafter. In the interim, Dublin Bus and Luas already offer some combined bus-Luas tickets for passengers who wish to avail of both services.

Seachtain na Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

184 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Iompair an mbeidh a Roinn ag comóradh seachtain na Gaeilge i mbliana agus cad iad na himeachtaí Gaeilge a bheidh ar siúl sa Roinn i rith na seachtaine. [5207/05]

My Department is fully committed to the promotion of the Irish language. With regard to the Official Languages Act 2003 this Department is meeting all of its obligations under those parts of the Act commenced to date and will continue to do so. My officials will explore ways of celebrating seachtain na Gaeilge.

Legislative Programme.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

185 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the timescale envisaged for the implementation of the Air Navigation and Transport (Cape Town Convention) Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5213/05]

My Department has recently received a draft of the Air Navigation and Transport (Cape Town Convention) Bill 2005, from the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. It is my intention to secure Government approval for the text of the Bill and to introduce it in the Oireachtas very shortly.

The Cape Town Convention is intended to reduce the risks associated with financing aircraft and will make aircraft finance available at more attractive rates in the countries that have ratified the convention. I am very pleased that an Irish company, Aviareto, was successful in the competition to operate the international registry of financial interests that is a key element of the convention.

Rail Network.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

186 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Transport his views on the restoration of the western rail corridor; his further views on whether the restoration of the western rail corridor is vital as an aid to contribute towards the delivery of balanced regional development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5254/05]

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, Jury's Doyle Hotel Group. The group is comprised of 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 they may now be nearing the end of their 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.

Community Development.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

187 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will confirm his commitment and support to volunteerism; the funding being made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5135/05]

My Department supports the community and voluntary sector through a wide range of programmes and supports. Under the White Paper on supporting voluntary activity funding totalling €600,000 is provided in 2005 for training and support grants for community and voluntary organisations. In addition, estimated funding for 2005 of €1,827,000 will be provided this year to cover the administration and core costs of federations, networks and umbrella bodies in the community and voluntary sector.

My Department administers funding under the programme for support for national anti-poverty networks. Responsibility for this scheme transferred from the Combat Poverty Agency to my Department in 2004. Funding of the national anti-poverty networks for 2005 will total €1,392,908. My Department assumed responsibility from Comhairle in January 2004 for the provision of supports to Tallaght Volunteer Bureau, Volunteering Ireland and Focus Ireland in the sum of €91,339, €106,139 and €74, 520, respectively. I propose to extend this funding in 2005, with a 5% increase, bringing the total amount of funding to €286,314.

Annual once-off for grants for equipment and capital funding for community and voluntary organisations. The estimated funding for the annual once-off grants in 2005 totals €2.9 million.

The community development projects, partnership companies, community groups and LEADER companies which my Department funds provide a large range of indirect supports to the community and voluntary sector. This includes providing meeting facilities, resource centres and phone, fax or photocopying facilities for local community and voluntary organisations. They also involve large numbers of volunteers from their community in their project activities, such as running child care projects, homework clubs, youth clubs, adult learning or other community-based facilities.

Local drugs task forces, LDTFs, funded by my Department also provide indirect supports to the community and voluntary sector and also include volunteers from their communities in their LDTF projects.

As indicated in my reply to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 599 and 609 on 26 January 2005, I hope to be in a position over the coming period to announce a number of further initiatives in support of volunteering.

Irish Language.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

188 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad é an mhoill atá le foilsiú Thuarascáil Bhliantúil Fhoras na Gaeilge agus cén uair atá sé ag súil go mbeidh an Tuarascáil ar fáil. [5256/05]

Faoi mar is eol don Teachta, tá próiseas casta le comhlíonadh maidir le foilsiú chuntais agus thuarascálacha bhliantúla don bhForas Teanga, sa mhéid gur gá na cuntais/tuarascálacha don dááisínteacht — i.e., Foras na Gaeilge agus Tha Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch — a bheith iniúchta agus formheasta ar dtús, sular féidir iad a chomh-tháthú i gcomhréir leis na forálacha reachtúla agus cuntasaíochta atá leagtha síos. Is riachtanas sainiúil é seo a bhaineann leis an bhForas Teanga amháin i measc nan-institiúidí Thuaidh-Theas.

Faoi láthair, tá an próiseas comhairleach Thuaidh-Theas d'fhonn na cuntais chomh-tháite don bhForas Teanga don tréimhse dar críoch 31 Nollaig 2000 a ghlanadh ag druidim chun críche agus tá súil agam nach fada go mbeidh said réidh le foilsiú. Cuimseoidh na cuntais chomh-tháite sin na cuntais agus tuarascálacha bhliantúla don dááisínteacht.

Maidir le Foras na Gaeilge féin, tig liom a dhearbhú don Teachta go bhfuil na cuntais bhliantúla do na blianta 2001, 2002 agus 2003 curtha ar fáil ag an eagraíocht don Ard-Reachtaire Cuntas agus Ciste. Nuair a bheidh obair an Ard-Reachtaire ar na cuntais sin críochnaithe, beidh sé riachtanach iad a chomh-tháthú le cuntais Tha Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch le go bhféadfar iad a chur faoi bhráid mar chuntais an Fhoras Teanga.

De réir na nósanna imeachta atá leagtha síos, foilseofar tuarascálacha bliantúla na n-áisínteachtaí ag an am céanna leis na cuntais, sa bhfoirm chomh-tháite atá ceadaithe.

Decentralisation Programme.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

189 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cad é an dul chun cinn atá déanta ina Roinn go dtí seo maidir le cur i bhfeidhm pholasaí dí-lárnaithe an Rialtais. [5257/05]

Tuigfidh an Teachta, ar ndóigh, go bhfuil an próiséas díláraithe in aon Roinn Stáit ag brath ar an dul chun cinn atáá bhaint amach ag an nGrúpa Forfheidhmithe Lárnach.

Sa chomhthéacs sin, tá céimeanna éagsúla glactha ag mo Roinnse le tamall anuas. Ina measc: tá Aonad Díláraithe faoi leith bunaithe chun déileáil leis an gceist seo; tá Coiste Díláraithe Roinne curtha ar bun freisin ar a bhfuil ionadaíocht ó bhainistíocht shinsearach agus ó fhoireann mo Roinne; tá oifigeach faoi leith roghnaithe chun teagmháil a choimeád ar bhonn leanúnach leis an Roinn Airgeadais; tionóltar cruinnithe speisialta de Choiste Comhpháirtíochta mo Roinne agus baintear leas as na cruinnithe sin chun an fhoireann a choimeád ar an eolas maidir le gach gné den phróiseas díláraithe; bíonn mo Roinn i dteagmháil leis na ceardchumainn chomh maith agus tá an cheist pléite leo ag an gComhairle Rannúil; tá socrú curtha ar bun chun eolas faoin dílárú a eisiúint go rialta agus cuirtear gach doiciméad atá bainteach leis an bpróiseas díláraithe ar fáil don bhfoireann uile ar na fillteáin poiblí ar an gcóras ríomhphoist; tá mioneolas bailithe maidir le láthair atá i gceist don dílárúó thaobh mo Roinne de agus tá pacáistí eolais bunaithe ar an eolas sin scaipthe ar an bhfoireann uile; tá obair idir lámha maidir le córais a chur i bhfeidhm chun nósanna oibre sna rannáin éagsúla a chur ar thaifead agus chun múnlaí a fhorbairt d'fhonn aistriúéifeachtach fóirne a éascú amach anseo; tá Plean leasaithe um Fhorfheidhmiú an Díláraithe á ullmhú faoi láthair le cur faoi bhráid Choiste Forfheidhmithe an Díláraithe; tá iarratas ar dhílárú/spéis i leith dílárú go hAerfort Chnoc Mhuire curtha isteach nó curtha in iúl ag 159 státsheirbhíseach agus 9 seirbhíseach poiblí— Ina theannta seo, tá iarratas ar dhílárú/spéis i leith dílárú go dtí Na Forbacha curtha isteach nó curtha in iúl ag 7 státsheirbhíseach agus 5 sheirbhíseach poiblí; tá ainmneacha na mball foirne i seirbhís a bhéas ag aistriú le mo Roinnse go hAerfort Chnoc Mhuire mar aon leo siúd a roghnaigh aistriú go suímh díláraithe eile curtha ar fáil anois ag an tSeirbhís um Cheapacháin Phoiblí; tá mo Roinn i gcomhcheangal le hOifig na nOibreacha Poiblí maidir leis na socruithe i dtaobh tógáil foirgnimh cheanncheathrún ag Aerfort Chnoc Mhuire; agus tá socruithe maidir le síneadh ag Oifigí na Roinne sna Forbacha faoi lán tseoil freisin.

Tuigim go bhfuil struchtúir den chineál céanna chun an próiseas díláraithe a chur chun cinn curtha ar bun ag ADM; tógtar dílárú san áireamh sa pholasaí earcaíochta atá acu agus tá ADM i dteagbháil díreach leis an OPW maidir le cóiríocht ar an gClochán. Maidir le Foras na Gaeilge, tá dílárú sa chás sin faoi réir chomhaontú na Comhairle Aireachta Thuaidh-Theas agus tá plé ar siúl i gcónaí leis na húdaráis ó Thuaidh d'fhonn dul chun cinn a bhaint amach sa chomhthéacs sin.

Seachtain na Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

190 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an mbeidh seachtain na Gaeilge á comóradh i mbliana, cad iad na príomh imeachtaí a bheidh ar siúl, an mbeidh an Rialtas páirteach agus an ndeánfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [5258/05]

Is togra de chuid Chonradh na Gaeilge é seachtain na Gaeilge, a bhfuil maoiniúá chur ar fáil ina leith ag Foras naGaeilge. Tuigim ón bhForas go bhfuil deontas de €88,102 curtha ar fáil do Chonradh na Gaeilge chun seachtain na Gaeilge a eagrú i mbliana. Tá cóip den lámhleabhar atá curtha i dtoll a chéile ag Conradh na Gaeilge don ócáid seo seolta chuig an Teachta. Cé nach bhfuil freagracht dhíreach ná ról sonrach oifigiúil agam mar Aire i leith sheachtain na Gaeilge, tá cuireadh faighte agam agus glactha agam bheith páirteach in imeachtaí seachtain na Gaeilge.

Grant Payments.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

191 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo did not receive any headage payments in 2001. [5139/05]

The 2001 area aid application of the person named was fully processed with a forage area of 27.54 hectares of which 24.02 hectares was commonage. He did not meet the required minimum stocking density of 0.15 livestock units per hectare and was so informed by my Department in writing on 21 March 2002. He was given the opportunity to appeal the decision to the headage and premia appeals unit. The case was fully examined by the appeals unit, after which he was allowed payment on his private acreage of 3.52 hectares. He was disallowed payment on his commonage portion as it was destocked and could not be counted as forage area. He was notified of this by letter of 26 September 2002 and a payment of €357.56 in respect of the 3.52 hectares issued on 16 October 2002.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

192 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo received no headage for 2004. [5140/05]

The 2004 area aid application of the person named was fully processed with a forage area of 28.39 hectares. However, to be eligible for the 2004 area based compensatory allowance scheme, applicants must maintain a minimum stocking density of 0.15 livestock units per forage hectare for at least four continuous months of the year. My Department wrote to the person named on 14 February 2005 to establish the type of farming activity being pursued. A decision on entitlement to area based compensatory allowance for 2004 will be made on receipt of reply.

Seachtain na Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

193 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Talmhaíochta agus Bia an mbeidh a Roinn ag comóradh Sheachtain na Gaeilge i mbliana agus cad iad na himeachtaí Gaeilge a bheidh ar siúl sa Roinn i rith na seachtaine. [5208/05]

Níl aon phlean faoi leith ag mo Roinn chun imeachtaí Gaeilge a chur ar siúl chun Seachtain na Gaeilge a chomóradh.

Grant Payments.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

194 Mr. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding a reactor grant for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [5228/05]

The local district veterinary office will process the appropriate valuation payment with regard to the six reactor animals disclosed as soon as the necessary factory receipt and tax clearance certificate is received from the person concerned.

Sugar Beet Sector.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

195 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she has received details of the person who is in full ownership of the beet quota; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5248/05]

Under the EU sugar regime, 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 Ltd., which is the only sugar manufacturer in this country. Irish Sugar Ltd. places annual contracts with farmers to grow a specific tonnage of sugar beet sufficient to manufacture the sugar quota.

The EU regulations do not provide for the buying and selling of the quota for manufactured sugar. While the Commission has raised the possibility of cross-border quota mobility in the context of the proposed reform of the EU sugar regime, several member states, including Ireland are strongly opposed to this idea. However, I have asked the Attorney General to examine the issue of ownership of the quota in this context.

Food Industry.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

196 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the contact she has had with Greencore since the closure of the Carlow beet factory; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that farmers will have problems with beet transport; her plans for beet farmers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5249/05]

The decision regarding Carlow sugar factory was discussed in the course of a meeting I had recently with the company in question. I am aware of concerns about beet transport arrangements consequent on this decision. I have called on the company and the farming organisation representing the beet growers to engage in meaningful discussion on this issue at the appropriate decision-making level. I am confident that, on this basis, the company and the beet growers concerned will be able to work out satisfactory arrangements to deal with the new situation. The company has already announced plans for a new rail depot to be established in the Carlow region to assist beet growers make their deliveries.

Grant Payments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

197 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) did not receive full payment of area aid; if full payment will be made; if not, the reason therefor; if this decision will be changed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5250/05]

The 2004 area aid application of the person named was fully processed with a forage area of 35.15 hectares of which 13.36 hectares is located in the disadvantaged area. Therefore, he was only entitled to payment on the 13.36 hectares under the 2004 area based compensatory allowance scheme. Arrangements were made to have the 2004 area based compensatory allowance scheme payment lodged to the bank account of the person named on the 20 September 2004.

The person named also applied for arable aid and received payment for 4.84 hectares. The remaining hectares did not carry crops which were eligible for arable aid.

Departmental Staff.

John Perry

Question:

198 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a decision will be made on the transfer of a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5262/05]

The position is that vacancies that arise are filled, in general, in the first instance from the central transfer list. The central transfer list is maintained in order of seniority on a county by county basis. Vacancies are filled on the basis of that seniority.

The person named is on the technical agricultural officer central transfer list for the counties of Leitrim, Sligo, Cavan and Donegal. Should my Department be filling vacancies in any of those counties he will be considered for a transfer based on his seniority on the central transfer list.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

John Perry

Question:

199 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food further to Parliamentary Question No. 680 of 26 January 2005, if the person’s entitlements will take priority over any entitlements obtained by the transferee from the national reserve; if the transferee fails or refuses to activate this person’s entitlements, if a mechanism will be put in place to preserve and protect the entitlements to keep the farm viable into the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5263/05]

Except in the case of set-aside entitlements, no priority is afforded to any entitlements under the single payment scheme. It should be noted however, that entitlements allocated to an applicant from the national reserve must be used by that applicant each year for five years and may not be sold or leased out during the five years from date of allocation.

If the early retirement scheme transferee does not agree to lease the entitlements from the person named, then it is a matter between the two parties concerned and is not a matter for my Department. The Deputy will appreciate that a lease is a legal agreement between the transferor and transferee. If either party does not meet his or her commitments under the terms of the lease, it is open to the other party to take legal action to enforce the terms of the lease.

If there are difficulties between the two parties and the terms of their lease agreement are not honoured, the person may, if she-he so wishes and subject to approval by the early retirement section of my Department, obtain a replacement transferee. My Department endeavours to be as flexible as possible where difficulties arise for participants in sourcing a replacement transferee.

I should point out that a farmer may only consolidate entitlements on lands where the lease agreement has expired. This concession will not extend to farmers who terminate a lease before the agreed period.

There is no provision in the regulations governing the single payment scheme to preserve entitlements indefinitely. If entitlements are not activated in 2005, they will revert to the national reserve unless the case is treated as one of force majeure.

Forestry Sector.

John Perry

Question:

200 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food further to the EU Commission proposal for a Council regulation on support for rural development 2007-13, if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there are 16,000 persons directly employed in the forestry sector and a further 15,000 persons who own forest plantations; the steps she will take to redress the situation whereby planting grants will be reduced to 40% of eligible costs, farm forest premiums capped at €500 per hectare, a reduction of 31% on current levels, and the premium time span reduced from 20 to 10 years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5265/05]

The issues raised by the Deputy relate to the proposed new draft rural development regulation 2007-13, first published by the European Commission last summer.

The Deputy can be assured that I am well aware of the overall contribution of forestry to this country, including the number of people dependent on a thriving forestry sector for their livelihood. I am also conscious of the impact that the proposals, in their current format, would have on our forestry sector.

From the outset, the Irish position on the draft regulation has been clear and unequivocal. We have consistently made clear our opposition to the Commission's proposals, particularly those relating to the reduction in the planting grant rate, the reduction in the premium period and the reduction in the maximum premium payable.

Our position on the proposal has been articulated consistently and forcefully at every level from working group up to the agriculture council. More member states are adding their voices to the concerns we have expressed 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. Early on in the process, I established a liaison group, comprising representatives from all parts of the forestry sector, which meets regularly. Through this group, the sector is informed of developments and my Department is supported in its negotiations with the Commission.

At this stage, intense negotiations on the regulation are continuing and a final decision is not expected to be taken by Council of Ministers for several months.

Question No. 201 answered with QuestionNo. 93.
Question No. 202 answered with QuestionNo. 112.
Question No. 203 answered with QuestionNo. 102.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

204 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of occasions on which prosecutions were initiated and prosecutions secured in respect of failure to hold appropriate work permits against employers and employees in respect of each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33739/04]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that since the enactment of the Employment Permit Act 2003 on 10 April, 2003 there have been 47 prosecutions against employees and 21 prosecutions against employers. The majority of these cases are still before the courts and, as such, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on them. I understand that there are seven recorded convictions concerning employees and three concerning employers.

International Terrorism.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

205 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has taken action in regard to accusations from the US Government that a charity’s Dublin office was being used to help funnel massive financial support to terror groups linked to the network led by Osama bin Laden; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1505/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there is no evidence — nor has any been adduced — that any charity based in this jurisdiction is being used to facilitate the activities of terrorist groups.

Ireland remains fully committed to implementing its international obligations regarding terrorism and the financing of terrorism, as set out, inter alia, in a number of United Nations Security Council resolutions. In general, these resolutions require UN member states to criminalise the financing of terrorism; to freeze the funds, financial assets or economic resources of terrorists and terrorist entities; and to prohibit the provision of financial services to terrorists and terrorist entities.

Effect has been given to these UN resolutions within the European Union by means of implementing instruments which have direct application in all EU member states, including Ireland. These instruments provide for the drawing up of a list of groups and entities considered to be involved in terrorism and against which specific restrictive measures, principally the freezing of assets, can be applied. Additions may be made to the EU list on foot of proposals made by EU member states or third countries, including the United States of America.

Garda Equipment.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

206 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if all Garda speed detection equipment has been recalibrated to function on the basis of kilometres rather than miles per hour; the reason there was insufficient time for this task to be carried out prior to the introduction of the new metric speed limits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4759/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that as equipment calibrated to kilometres per hour could not be used for speed enforcement before 20 January 2005 the Garda Síochána implemented a plan to calibrate approximately half of the Garda speed detection equipment to kilometres per hour prior to the metrification of speed limits so as to ensure the availability of effective speed detection equipment at all times. As all equipment could not be recalibrated simultaneously, arrangements were put in place to carry out recalibration of the remaining equipment over a period. I understand that all the remaining equipment has now been recalibrated.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

207 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has investigated the situation with regard to the validity of hundreds of speeding summonses after it emerged that some of the forms used by gardaí failed to stipulate whether traffic offenders were driving in miles per hour, or kilometres per hour; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a number of cases were recently struck out of court on this basis; if the situation has been addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4785/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that all fixed charge notices issued by the Garda Síochána now indicate kilometres per hour. I am further informed that a small number of cases where the type of speed limit was not stipulated were dismissed in the courts. This situation should not arise in the future.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Liz McManus

Question:

208 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the circumstances and considerations that led to the pending trial of a person (details supplied) in a court in London for the murder of a person (details supplied) alleged to have been committed inWalkinstown, Dublin in May 2003; if this person’s extradition for this offence was sought by the authorities here; if not, the reason therefore the person by whom any relevant decision was made; if the exercise by the English courts of extra-territorial jurisdiction in respect of a murder allegedly committed in this State has any modern precedent; the nature and extent of any co-operation being provided to the English prosecution authorities in relation to the presentation of their case; if assistance will be provided to the family of the victim to meet the additional costs of attending the trial occasioned by the fact that it is taking place abroad; if consular or other assistance will be available to the family during the course of the trial; if he, the Government or the Garda Síochána will have observers or other representatives at the trial; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5127/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 448 of 15 February 2005 on the same topic.

Citizenship Applications.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

209 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for Irish citizenship by a person (detail supplied) in County Cork. [5145/05]

A declaration of acceptance of Irish citizenship as post nuptial citizenship was received in the citizenship section of my Department on 21 October 2004 from the person referred to in the Deputy's question.

The current processing time for such declarations is approximately ten months from the date of lodgement and it is likely that the processing of the declaration of the person will be finalised by the end of August 2005. I will advise the Deputy and the applicant when the matter has been concluded.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

210 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the naturalisation application of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [5146/05]

An application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person referred to by the Deputy was received in the citizenship section of my Department on 19 January 2004.

The average processing time for such applications is currently 24 months and it is likely that the application of the person concerned will be finalised around January 2006. I will inform both the applicant and the Deputy as soon as I have reached a decision.

Ministerial Responsibilities.

David Stanton

Question:

211 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the Ministers of State who are attached to his Department; the reason details of these Ministers of State and their roles and responsibilities are not clearly visible on his Department’s website; if he intends to make this information available on his website; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5148/05]

There are two Ministers of State attached to my Department. Deputy Fahey is Minister of State with responsibility for equality matters, particularly disability, and Deputy Brian Lenihan is Minister of State with special responsibility for children, a role which overlaps three Departments, the Department of Health and Children, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Department of Education and Science.

After the recent Government reshuffle the then Minister of State information was taken off my Department's website for updating. The respective details of both Ministers for State are now available on my Department's website.

Official Engagements.

David Stanton

Question:

212 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the official functions undertaken by his Minister for State for equality issues since his appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5149/05]

The official functions which my colleague, Deputy Fahey, Minister of State has attended from 29 September 2004, the day he took office, to 11 February, 2005 are as follows:

Date of Official Function

Function Attended

5 October, 2004

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre — Poster Exhibition — Ballymun

19 October, 2004

National Disability Authority Conference

11 November, 2004

Integration Policy Conference, The Netherlands

13 November, 2004

Launch of First Regional Men’s Network ‘Men Matter’

16 November, 2004

Launch of ESB Equal Policy

17 November, 2004

Brothers of Charity National Service Users Conference

26 November, 2004

Young Mothers in Education Launch ‘New Lives Real Choice’

27 November, 2004

Men Overcoming Violent Emotions Ireland AGM

6 December, 2004

Opening of Rape Crisis Network of Ireland/Garda Conference

8 December, 2004

National Disability Information Day

13 December, 2004

Comhdháil Náisiunta na Gaeilge launch of ‘First Steps-Early Development of Irish as a Primary Language’

13 January, 2005

Launch of Rape Crisis Network Ireland new website & logo.

27 January, 2005

Launch of National Action Plan against Racism

28 January, 2005

JHA Informal, Luxembourg

2 February, 2005

O2 Ability Awards

3/4 February, 2005

Beijing + 10 Conference and Meeting of Ministers, Luxembourg

10 February, 2005

Garda Graduation Ceremony

Disability Support Service.

David Stanton

Question:

213 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of the most recent Irish national information day on disability; his views on its success or otherwise; when and if the next such day will take place; the theme to be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5150/05]

The Irish national information day on disability has been held annually since 1997. It is part of an EU-wide annual programme of national information days in each member state, with the goal of raising disability awareness throughout the Union. Topics of the Irish national information day have included Progress Through Employment and Information Technology — Access for All.

The most recent national information day was held on 8 December 2004 in The Helix, Dublin. Its main focus was the awards ceremony for a nationwide primary school essay competition on the theme Someone like Me. The aim of the competition was to get younger children thinking about people with disabilities and the fact that people with disabilities are more like than unlike people without disabilities.

The awards ceremony was attended by the 26 children who were the county winners, their family members, teachers and friends. The prizes were awarded by the Minister of State with special responsibility for equality, Deputy Fahey. The national winner received €700 worth of vouchers and €12,000 vouchers for her school in Edenderry, County Offaly. The county winners each received €200 worth of vouchers for art supplies, books, audio and video equipment, and €2000 worth of vouchers for computer and audio-visual equipment for their schools. The overall prize fund was in excess of €60,000.

A booklet with the essays of the national and county winners and a DVD featuring an animated series of short stories on the theme of disability is being distributed to national schools around the country. This information is also being distributed to citizen information centres, libraries, various media organisations and local disability networks through People with Disabilities Ireland.

Informal feedback from schools, parents, and the children themselves was positive. It is expected that an evaluation of the event will be prepared for the Department shortly. Another national information day is planned for this year, the theme for which is under consideration.

Seachtain na Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

214 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Dlí agus Cirt, Comhionannais agus Athchóirithe Dlí an mbeidh a Roinn ag comóradh Seachtain na Gaeilge i mbliana agus cad iad na himeachtaí Gaeilge a bheidh ar siúl sa Roinn i rith na seachtaine. [5209/05]

Is féidir liom a chur in iúl don Teachta nach bhfuil aon imeachtaí ar leith beartaithe chun Seachtain na Gaeilge a chomóradh i mo Roinnse.

Mar a rinne siad blianta eile, áfach, déanfaidh an Garda Síochána aird a dhíriú ar an tseachtain trí fhaisnéis a chur ar taispeáint ar chlár taispeána agus soláthróidh sé leabhráin eolais faoi Seachtain na Gaeilge a bheidh ar fáil sa limistéar fáiltithe tosaigh i gColáiste na nGardaí. Déanfar Seachtain na Gaeilge a chur chun cinn, freisin, trí imeachtaí praiticiúla laethúla cuí i gColáiste na nGardaí.

Legal Aid Service.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

215 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the length of waiting lists for legal aid cases in each legal aid area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5219/05]

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

I should also mention to the Deputy that the allocation for the Legal Aid Board has been increased from €18.388 million in 2004 to €21.362 million in 2005, an increase of 16%. I expect that the increased allocation will improve the situation on waiting lists for legal aid cases. As per January 2005:

Law Centre

Maximum current waiting time in months

Athlone

2.00

Castlebar

4.50

Cavan

2.75

Cork — Popes Quay

3.00

Cork — South Mall

12.00

Dublin — Blanchardstown

8.25

Dublin — Clondalkin

1.50

Dublin — Finglas

15.50

Dublin — Gardiner Street

8.00

Dublin — Brunswick Street

3.00

Dublin — Ormond Quay

3.00

Dublin — Tallaght

4.00

Dundalk

4.25

Ennis

6.25

Galway

3.50

Kilkenny

7.75

Letterkenny

8.50

Limerick

3.00

Longford

0.00

Monaghan

3.50

Navan

10.25

Nenagh

7.00

Newbridge

16.00

Portlaoise

7.75

Sligo

2.75

Kerry

4.00

Tullamore

1.50

Waterford

3.00

Wexford

6.75

Wicklow

15.50

Sexual Offences.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

216 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons by county on the register of sex offenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5231/05]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

217 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons by county who have been placed on the register of sex offenders for ten years or more; the number remaining on it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5232/05]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

218 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the procedures for removing a person from the sex register; the reasons which give rise to such an action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5233/05]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

219 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons who have been added to the register of sex offenders in each of the years 2002, 2003 and 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5234/05]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

220 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will provide details on the body of persons with responsibility for maintaining and updating the register of sex offenders; if the system is available through PULSE or is otherwise computerised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5235/05]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

221 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the use which is made of the information and data stored in the form of the register of sex offenders; the extent to which active monitoring is employed; if persons on the register should be profiled periodically to assess risk; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5236/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 216 to 221, inclusive, together.

As the Deputy is aware, the Sex Offenders Act 2001, was enacted on the 27 September 2001, and I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are currently 755 persons subject to the Act. The information requested on a county and yearly basis is an operational matter for the Garda Síochána and is therefore not available.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that details of persons convicted for sex offences are recorded on the PULSE system and that the Garda Síochána maintains the information and data at the domestic violence and sexual assault investigation unit. The Garda Síochána monitors all sex offenders in accordance with the Sex Offenders Act 2001 and policing practice.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that persons are no longer subject to the requirements of the Sex Offenders Act 2001, after their period of notification requirement expires. Persons who are subject to the Act indefinitely can apply under the terms of the Act to the courts for removal from these requirements.

Question No. 222 answered with QuestionNo. 107.

Prisoner Releases.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

223 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the circumstances surrounding the imprisonment of a person (details supplied); the details of approaches made to him or known to him to have occurred regarding the person’s early release; if court proceedings have ensued; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5238/05]

The person referred to by the Deputy is serving concurrent five year prison sentences on foot of warrants issued at the Court of Criminal Appeal on 20 October 2003. His current remission date stands at 14 July 2006. I understand that the other issues raised by the Deputy are currently the subject of court proceedings and accordingly it would not be appropriate for me to comment further at this time.

Legal Aid Service.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

224 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends to sanction more staff to the Legal Aid Board to eliminate the waiting list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5240/05]

I can inform the Deputy that I have no request from the Legal Aid Board for additional staff. I can further inform the Deputy that the funding for the Legal Aid Board has been increased from €18.388 million in 2004 to €21.362 million in 2005, an increase of 16%. The board has informed me that the funding allocated will enable them to employ their full complement of solicitors and support staff and to provide cover for staff absences during the year.

The board has also informed me that the funding allocated has allowed the District Court private practitioners scheme to be expanded in November 2004 to enable the board to provide a service to a greater number of persons. In addition, the board is developing proposals for the use of solicitors in private practice in certain family law cases in the Circuit Court. The board hopes to introduce this scheme in the summer. The board considers that the net effect of these measures will mean that the board can continue to provide a priority service and also move to a position during 2005 to provide a timely service to all other applicants.

Registration of Title.

Michael Ring

Question:

225 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when will dealings be completed in the Land Registry Office for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [5242/05]

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that the applicants referred to by the Deputy have lodged two applications with the Land Registry: an application for transfer of part which was lodged on 15 May 2000; and an application for transfer of balance of folio and deed of exchange which was lodged on 3 April 2002. Dealing nos. D2000SM004552X and D2002SM003640P refer.

I am also informed that a query was raised with the lodging solicitor concerning dealing no. D2000SM004552X on 9 July 2003 and a reminder was sent on 23 September 2003. Dealing No. D2002SM003640P cannot be completed until this query has been satisfactorily resolved.

However, I can assure the Deputy that as soon as the outstanding query has been resolved the applications will be completed as soon as possible.

Garda Stations.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

226 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has given approval for the tender for the painting of the Garda station in Wexford town; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the tender has been sent out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5245/05]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

227 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the length of time the application for the building of a new Garda station in Wexford town has been in his Department; when the new building will be complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5246/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 226 and 227 together.

Regarding the painting of Wexford town Garda station, I am informed by the Garda authorities that tenders for this work are currently being processed with a view to the station being painted this year. Regarding the building of a new station in Wexford town, the need for which was identified by the Garda authorities some years ago, the Deputy will be aware from my reply to Question No. 318 of 2 February 2005 that it is first necessary for the Office of Public Works to source and secure a suitable site before construction of the station can start. That office is completing the purchase of a site in the town and when the purchase has been secured every consideration will be given to providing the new station without undue delay.

Character References.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

228 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there is any ruling within the Garda forces regarding the giving of character references; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5247/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that instructions regarding the issuing of police certificates are contained in the Garda Síochána code. Police certificates of character are issued from district headquarter stations on application.

Residency Permits.

John Perry

Question:

229 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made on the application by a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5264/05]

The person in question made an application for residency in the State as the spouse of an EU citizen exercising EU treaty rights in Ireland. The application was approved in September 2004 and notification of the decision was sent to her current address. Applications for residency in respect of her children have recently been approved.

Registration of Title.

Michael Ring

Question:

230 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a dealing for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be completed in the Land Registry Office. [5268/05]

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that this is an application for transmission of part which was lodged on 24 March 2004. Dealing no. D2004SM002579W refers.

I am further informed that a query issued to the lodging solicitor on 27 May 2004 and that a reminder issued on 11 February 2005. I can assure the Deputy that on receipt of a satisfactory reply to this query, the matter will receive further attention in the Land Registry.

Missing Persons.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

231 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the total recorded number of missing persons at present; the ongoing activity to identify their whereabouts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5271/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the total number of untraced missing persons from 1990 to 2003 is 292. The figures for 2004 are in the process of being validated and, are, therefore, not yet available.

When a person is reported missing, the local Garda superintendent takes direct responsibility for the investigation and appoints an investigation team to include any specialised unit deemed necessary, for example, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation or the technical bureau. The Garda authorities have assured me that every effort is made to locate all missing persons and that they consider the current procedures for dealing with missing persons to be adequate. The procedures are kept under constant review.

The Garda Síochána participates fully with all the media outlets, print, radio and television, in highlighting cases involving missing persons, as appropriate. All cases of persons reported missing in suspicious circumstances are subject to ongoing review and investigation. The services of other external agencies such as Interpol and Europol are also available to assist in the investigation. In addition, every Garda district has a specially trained search team that is familiar with the locality.

The missing persons bureau in Garda headquarters is responsible for maintaining data relating to missing persons. All files on missing persons remain open and under continuous review until the person is located, or, in the case of a missing person who is presumed drowned, a verdict to that effect is pronounced by the coroner. Thankfully, the majority of missing children cases reported to the Garda authorities are successfully resolved.

In September last year I launched the missing children website, www.missingkids.ie. This is a joint initiative between the Garda Síochána and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. This website enables the Garda Síochána to circulate instantaneously and internationally written details and high-quality photographs of children reported missing to other police forces. The Deputy will be aware of the missing persons helpline, which has been operating since October 2002. This is a dedicated helpline which is operated by Victim Support as a counselling and referral service and serves as a primary point of contact for the families of missing persons. The helpline provides advice and psychological support for families of missing persons as well as structured liaison with the Garda Síochána.

I am satisfied that the Garda Síochána does its utmost with regard to missing persons cases and that current procedures are in line with international best practice.

Prison Committals.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

232 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons in prison; the number on day or extended release on average; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5272/05]

There were 3,215 persons in prison custody on 15 February 2005. A further 178 persons were on temporary release of one day or more. The daily average number of persons on temporary release for the first six weeks of 2005, which has been calculated from figures taken each morning at unlock, was slightly less than 169 persons each day. That average number may of course fluctuate during the course of the year.

Garda Transport.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

233 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which the Garda motor fleet is equipped and sufficiently available to all stations throughout the country; the number of Garda cars on stand-by in the event of an emergency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5273/05]

While I am responsible for providing the money for investment in the Garda fleet, it is for Garda management to decide upon the allocation of the vehicles.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that they are satisfied that there is an adequate number of patrol cars available in each Garda division to meet requirements. The current profile of the Garda fleet is as follows.

Cars (incl. Ministerial Fleet)

Vans

Motor cycles

4 x 4 Vehicles

Other

Total

As at 15/02/05

1,725

250

256

103

68

2,402

Significant investment has taken place in the Garda fleet over the last few years, which has resulted in an increase in the size of the fleet from 1,898 vehicles at the end of 1997 to 2,402 vehicles at present, an increase of 12.7%.

In 2004 over €14 million has been spent on the purchase and delivery of Garda vehicles. Figures for earlier years are as follows.

Year

Total Expenditure

2003

€9.10 million

2002

€9.59 million

I am informed by the Garda authorities that transport resources are allocated by Garda management in a way that best meets operational requirements and the maintenance of law and order. Obviously, not every station is equipped with transport, but the objective of Garda management is to ensure that all have access to transport by strategic allocation or by sharing of those resources.

I am advised that the Garda Síochána does not operate with an official stand-by fleet but that delivery of new vehicles is phased in such a way that there should always be vehicles available to cater for emergencies. The objective of effective fleet management is to extract maximum usage with a minimum of downtime from the Garda fleet. There is always a certain amount of spare capacity built into allocations to key strategic locations. That effectively means that in the event of a national emergency the Garda Síochána will have sufficient vehicles available to meet that emergency.

Garda Communications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

234 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which up-to-date communications technology is available to the gardaí throughout the country; the areas deficient in this regard; his plans to deal with this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5274/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, with the exception of the Garda national radio network and the public access call-box system, all communications systems in place are relatively modern and up to date. The currency of those systems is reviewed yearly and, subject to the appropriate funding being available, they are upgraded or enhanced as necessary and appropriate to the operational demand prevailing.

With regard to the national radio system, a pilot digital radio system covering the Dublin north central division and traffic section, Dublin Castle, has been completed by the Garda Síochána. The Garda Síochána prepared a detailed business case for the extension of the system nationwide. Following discussions between officials of my Department, the Garda Síochána and the Department of Finance on the technical and implementation options in the business case, it has been agreed that the procurement model to be adopted in respect of Garda requirements will be based on an "outsourced service provision" model, which will involve the bulk of the infrastructure being provided by the private sector with detailed service level arrangements in place with the Garda Síochána. That approach allows scope for participation by the other emergency services in future. In addition, funding for the Garda elements of the project has also been secured. A procurement group chaired by the Department of Finance and with representation from the Garda Síochána and my Department is now actively progressing the project.

In addition, it is planned to commence a national replacement of the public access call-box system during 2005.

Question No. 235 answered with QuestionNo. 79.

Drug-Related Crime.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

236 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of known major drug dealers of Irish origin currently operating outside the country; the action taken to apprehend them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5276/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that they are aware of the identity of a number of Irish citizens who currently reside outside this jurisdiction and are believed to be involved in the sale and distribution of illicit drugs. Many of these individuals choose to reside abroad for a variety of reasons not least of which are the ongoing activities of the Garda Síochána in counteracting the sale and supply of illicit drugs within the State.

Although the individuals reside outside this jurisdiction, the Garda Síochána, along with law enforcement authorities in other jurisdictions, continues to target the activities of these individuals, both within and outside this jurisdiction.

The principal ways through which this is achieved is as follows: conducting targeted operations against individuals and organisations operating within this jurisdiction with known linkages to international drug traffickers, including Irish nationals residing abroad; exchanging strategic and operation intelligence with foreign law enforcement agencies, including Europol and Interpol, in accordance with legislation and operational protocols; collaboration with international law enforcement agencies conducting investigations within this jurisdiction, in accordance with legislation governing mutual assistance in criminal matters; and conducting investigations at the behest of international law enforcement agencies in accordance with international agreements governing mutual assistance in criminal matters.

In order to facilitate the exchange of information and intelligence on criminal matters including drug trafficking, the Garda Síochána has liaison officers posted in a number of locations, namely, the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Spain and France as well as Europol and Interpol.

In June 2004, the President signed into law the Criminal Justice (Joint Investigation Teams) Act 2004, which provides for the competent authorities of two or more member states to set up by mutual agreement teams to carry out criminal investigations with a cross-border dimension. This Act, which commenced on 1 October 2004, further enhances law enforcement agencies within member states to carry out international criminal investigations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

237 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Garda is receiving adequate co-operation from all other European and non-European police forces in the fight against drugs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5277/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that international co-operation between law enforcement agencies is achieved in a number of ways including: the exchange of strategic intelligence on the activities and modus operandi of criminal networks involved in the international trafficking of controlled drugs; the exchange of operational intelligence on the activities of criminal organisations involved in drug distribution; the conducting of investigations within the State at the request of foreign law enforcement agencies in accordance with legislation governing mutual assistance in criminal matters; and requesting the assistance of foreign jurisdictions in conducting investigations on behalf of the Irish State in accordance with international agreements governing mutual assistance in criminal matters.

In order to facilitate co-operation between law enforcement agencies, the Garda Síochána has assigned liaison officers in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Europol and Interpol. In addition, the Garda Síochána has conducted a number of EU funded programmes designed to enhance co-operation between law enforcement agencies throughout the European Union.

In June 2004, the President signed into law the Criminal Justice (Joint Investigation Teams) Act 2004, which provides for the competent authorities of two or more member states to set up, by mutual agreement, teams to carry out criminal investigations with a cross-border dimension. This Act, which commenced on 1 October 2004, further strengthens co-operation between the Garda Síochána and police forces from other jurisdictions.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that to date the co-operation they receive from other European and non-European police forces in the fight against drugs is both positive and beneficial.

Penalty Points System.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

238 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the monetary value accruing to the State through the imposition of penalty points in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5278/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

239 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the monetary value accruing to the State through the imposition of penalty points throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5279/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 238 and 239 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily available and could only be obtained by the expenditure of a disproportionate amount of staff time and resources.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

240 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of convictions arising from charges of anti-social behaviour in each of the past three years in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5280/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

241 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of convictions arising from charges of anti-social behaviour in each of the past three years throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5281/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 240 and 241 together.

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

Garda Deployment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

242 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which the number of gardaí in the various stations throughout County Kildare has fluctuated in the past three years; his plans to augment the numbers at each or any of the stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5282/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength — all ranks — of each Garda station in County Kildare as at 1 February 2002 and 1 February 2005, is as set out in the following table:

Station

February ‘02

February ‘05

Naas

77

77

Clane

6

6

Kill

3

3

Celbridge

19

19

Maynooth

14

16

Kildare

29

27

Newbridge

29

29

Robertstown

3

3

Kilcullen

3

3

Carbury

2

2

Monasterevin

3

3

Rathangan

2

3

Athy

18

16

Castledermot

1

2

Ballytore

1

1

Ballymore Eustace

1

1

Leixlip

18

26

Kilcock

6

5

Total

235

242

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

The commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources. In this context, the needs of the Kildare district will be fully considered within the context of the needs of Garda divisions throughout the country. Clearly, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies in particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda traffic corps. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing and will have a real impact.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

243 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations throughout County Kildare that are open all day, everyday; the number that are open on a part-time basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5283/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the number of hours each Garda station in County Kildare is open during a 24-hour period is as set out in the table hereunder:

Station

Hours

Naas

24

Celbridge

9

Clane

3

Maynooth

9

Kill

3

Kildare

24

Newbridge

24

Robertstown

3

Kilcullen

3

Carbury

3

Monasterevin

3

Rathangan

3

Athy

10

Castledermot

3

Ballytore

2

Ballymore Eustace

2

Kilcock

3

Leixlip

3

I have also been informed by local Garda management that resources are utilised to ensure that stations are opened for the periods outlined, in conjunction with ensuring that car patrols, foot patrols and all other areas of policing are also addressed.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

244 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of extra gardaí required in the Finglas, Ballymun, Glasnevin areas to bring policing levels up to international norms or best practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5284/05]

It is not clear what "international norms and best practice" the Deputy is referring to in this question.

The interim target of increasing the strength of the Garda Síochána to 12,200 was met and exceeded by the end of November 2004 and a recruitment campaign is now well under way to further increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members, in line the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government in this regard. This is a key commitment in the programme for Government, and its implementation will significantly strengthen the operational capacity of the force.

The commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources. In this context, the needs of the Finglas, Ballymun and Glasnevin areas will be considered within the context of the needs of policing needs throughout the country. Clearly, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies in particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to very significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda traffic corps. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing and will have a real impact.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

245 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which the number of gardaí in each division or sub-division in Dublin and the greater Dublin area has been increased in the past two and a half years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5285/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of each Garda district in each Garda division in the Dublin metropolitan region as at 1 July 2002 and 1 February 2005 is as set out in the following tables:

D.M.R. North

Station

2002

2005

Coolock

188

191

Raheny

160

175

Santry

213

229

Total

561

595

D.M.R. North Central.

Station

2002

2005

Bridewell

165

171

Fitzgibbon St.

187

204

Store St.

227

263

Total

579

638

D.M.R. South.

Station

2002

2005

Crumlin

138

152

Rathmines

145

160

Tallaght

232

242

Total

515

554

D.M.R. South Central.

Station

2002

2005

Donnybrook

167

179

Kevin St.

183

196

Pearse St.

289

324

Total

639

699

D.M.R. West.

Station

2002

2005

Ballyfermot

173

184

Blanchardstown

284

313

Lucan

162

178

Total

619

675

D.M.R. East.

Station

2002

2005

Blackrock

168

168

Bray

164

172

Dún Laoghaire

210

203

Total

542

543

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

The commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources. In this context, the needs of the Garda divisions in the DMR region will be fully considered within the context of the needs of Garda divisions throughout the country. Clearly, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies in particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to very significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda traffic corps. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing and will have a real impact.

Garda Operations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

246 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Criminal Assets Bureau has sufficient resources at its disposal to meet its workload; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5286/05]

The Criminal Assets Bureau keeps its resources under ongoing review in the light of its workload and any additional requirements, from time to time, are brought to the attention of the Garda Commissioner. The commissioner is responsible for the deployment of overall Garda resources.

The Deputy will be aware that the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 and the necessary recruitment to deliver this increase in strength is already underway. This will greatly assist the Garda Commissioner in allocating additional Garda resources to areas of greatest need.

Question No. 247 answered with QuestionNo. 100.
Question No. 248 answered with QuestionNo. 100.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

249 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the estimated amount taken in various robberies in this jurisdiction in the past 12 months; if the perpetrators have been apprehended; if such robberies were carried out by professionals or other groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5289/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the value of property stolen as a result of aggravated burglary, robbery from the person, robbery of cash or goods in transit and robbery of an establishment or institution in the past 12 months amounts to €6,665,864. Of the 2,901 offences reported, 33% were detected. An offence is recorded as detected when one or more persons are identified as offenders in respect of a recorded offence. Statistics for 2004 are provisional and are, therefore, subject to change.

I am further informed by the Garda authorities that the information as regards whether the offences listed above were committed by specific groups is not readily available and could only be obtained by a disproportionate expenditure of Garda time and resources.

Crime Prevention.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

250 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which action is being taken against criminal gangs; if an examination of their assets have been undertaken; if there are proposals to freeze any such assets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5290/05]

The use of specialist Garda units in the fight against organised crime, such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Garda national drug unit, all of which operate under the assistant commissioner in charge of national support services, has enabled the Garda Síochána to tackle organised crime, including drug trafficking, in an effective way. I am further informed by the Garda authorities that the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation has a unit dedicated to combating the growing threat posed by organised criminal gangs. A number of these gangs have been targeted and a complex picture of their activities collected.

A number of targeted operations conducted against such criminal gangs in recent times have been successful to date. Large amounts of controlled drugs and firearms have been recovered through these operations which resulted in substantial charges being preferred against major criminal figures.

Where assets belonging to suspects are identified during investigation the information is forwarded to the Criminal Assets Bureau for further examination and seizure. Since its establishment in 1996, the Criminal Assets Bureau has applied its statutory remit against the assets of persons who are directly or indirectly connected to criminal activity. Most CAB actions are taken against the assets of persons suspected to derive from drug trafficking, money laundering, prostitution, fraud, corruption, receiving stolen property and tax fraud. In some of these cases the conduct of the individuals against which the Bureau has acted may be said to be linked to an organised crime gang.

The Criminal Assets Bureau is internationally acclaimed for its success in this regard to date and detailed statistics as regards the moneys seized or collected since its establishment are set out in its annual reports.

The legislative package available to the law enforcement agencies in this country for tackling organised crime is already deemed to be one of the toughest in Europe. An Garda Síochána has available to it a broad range of legislation to facilitate the fight against serious or organised crime. However, to further enhance the State's overall response in tackling organised criminal activity, the Deputy may wish to note that I am considering bringing forward a number of amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 which is currently before the Houses. These include a proposal to provide for criminal offences as regards participation in a criminal organisation. I can assure the Deputy that efforts of the Garda Síochána and other relevant State agencies will continue to be rigorously brought to bear against those who would seek to profit from organised criminal activity.

Road Traffic Offences.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

251 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of motorists fined for driving while using their mobile phone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5291/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is not possible to give a breakdown of the number of motorists fined for driving whilst using their mobile phone. The use of a mobile phone may be a factor in the commission of an offence of dangerous driving, careless driving or driving without reasonable consideration. It is not possible to quantify the number of prosecutions for any of these offences which involve the use of a mobile phone.

Citizenship Applications.

John Curran

Question:

252 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made regarding an application for naturalisation by persons (details supplied) in County Dublin. [5305/05]

Applications for naturalisation from the persons referred to by the Deputy were received in the citizenship section of my Department in December 2002. The applications were submitted to me in January 2005 and I decided not to grant certificates of naturalisation at that time. The persons in question were informed in writing of my decision on 3 February 2005.

Higher Education Grants.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

253 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in County Galway is eligible for a special scholarship which was granted to them by the Song and Dance Academy; if EU law will allow such discrimination against citizens of other EU countries. [5215/05]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

264 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in County Galway is eligible for a special scholarship which was granted to them by the Song and Dance Academy; if EU law will allow such discrimination against citizens of other EU countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5214/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 253 and 264 together.

I am making inquiries into the matter raised by the Deputy and I will revert to him as soon as possible.

Schools Building Projects.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

254 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Education and Science when a school (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive an answer to its application for the provision of new school premises. [4817/05]

The school referred to by the Deputy opened in September 1998 with provisional recognition and was granted permanent recognition in 2002. The permanent accommodation needs of the school are being considered in the context of the schools building and modernisation programme and I recently announced the first phase of this programme, providing details of 122 major school building projects which will prepare tenders and move to construction during 2005. This is the first in a series of announcements I plan to make in the coming period that will include details of schools identified as suitable for construction under public private partnerships; an expansion of the number of schools that will be invited to deliver their building projects on the basis of devolved funding; details of schools with projects approved under the 2005 summer works scheme; schools whose projects will further progress through the design process and schools that will be authorised to commence architectural planning. The school authority will be kept apprised of developments regarding its application.

Special Educational Needs.

Pat Breen

Question:

255 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 213 of 24 November 2004 and 1070 of 26 January 2005, when a decision will be conveyed to the school regarding a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5126/05]

My officials are continuing to liaise with my Department's Inspectorate and the National Educational Psychological Service regarding the proposed enrolment of the person in question. A decision on the matter will be conveyed to the school at the earliest possible date.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

256 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary and secondary schools in each county, that have been assessed for the presence of radon gas; the number of times these inspections take place; the number of primary and secondary schools in each county that have not been assessed for the presence of radon gas; the reason such inspections have not been taken place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5128/05]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

257 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary and secondary schools in each county that have radon concentrations above 200 Bq/m3; if remedial action has been conducted in such schools; the amount of funding allocated by her Department in each of the past five years for such work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5129/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 256 and 257 together.

My Department commissioned the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, in 1998 to commence a survey of radon levels in all primary and post primary schools. Over the course of the survey, 4,072 schools were invited to participate and radon surveys were subsequently completed in the 3,444 schools that responded. Of these, 307 schools had radon concentrations above the workplace reference level of 400 Bq/m3 and 898 had radon concentrations greater than 200 Bq/m3. The schools which did not participate in the original survey were invited to participate in a further survey carried out by the RPII in 2004. The results of this study were made available to my Department in December 2004. Of the schools surveyed 22 schools had radon concentrations above 400 Bq/m3 and 65 schools had levels greater than 200 Bq/m3. The reasons for non-participation in the original survey included failure to respond to the invitation letter, loss of detectors during the measurement period or inability to participate due to structural repairs being carried out in the school at the time.

Approximately 100 schools have not as yet completed a radon survey. My Department has written to the authorities of these schools reminding them that the health and safety of staff and pupils is a matter for the school authorities in the first instance and stressing the importance of the survey and of the need for schools to participate. The RPII is conducting a survey of these schools and will forward the results to my Department in due course.

The radon reference set for the workplace in the Radiological Protection Act 1991, Ionising Radiation Order 2000, S.I. 125 of 2000, is 400 Bq/m3. Notwithstanding the fact that the radon reference for workplaces is 400 Bq/m3, my Department issues grants to schools for the installation of suitable vents in classrooms where radon levels are between 200 Bq/m3 and 400 Bq/m3. Schools with levels above 400 Bq/m3 are advised to secure the services of a suitably qualified consultant architect or engineer to carry out all necessary remedial works. Such works are funded by my Department. Following completion of remediation works, post remediation measurements are carried out by the RPII to determine if the remediation has been effective. This process is ongoing and the RPII continues to carry out post remediation testing in schools. Funding under the programme for each of the last five years is as follows:

Year

2005

10,398 to date,

2004

608,473

2003

1,163,538

2002

1,273,111

2001

539,862

2000

273,364

The breakdown by county sought by the Deputy will be forwarded as soon as possible.

School Transport.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

258 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if consideration will be given to amending a school bus route to include an area (details supplied) in County Cork. [5141/05]

My Department is currently considering the case referred to in the details supplied. The Deputy will be notified in writing of the position as soon as possible.

Teachers’ Remuneration.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

259 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science when payment of arrears will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Waterford. [5142/05]

The person referred to by the Deputy is seeking payment of arrears under the Part-Time Workers Act 2001. Arrears entitlements conferred on part-time and substitute teachers under the terms of the Act apply to qualified teachers only. A teacher in a voluntary secondary school is considered qualified if he or she can be registered as a secondary teacher. This means he or she must have a degree with teaching subjects and a higher diploma in education. During the period the person referred to by the Deputy carried out substitute teaching work, she was not a qualified teacher and therefore has no entitlement to arrears of pay.

School Staffing.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

260 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding an application for early retirement under strand three in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [5143/05]

My Department invited applications for retirement at the end of the 2004-2005 school year under the early retirement scheme for teachers by circular letter which issued to schools in October 2004. Strand 3 of the scheme relates to teachers who are in posts which are surplus to requirements. The closing date for receipt of applications under strand 3 was 20 January 2005. The circular letter also advised teachers that decisions on applications from post-primary teachers under strand 3 would be given towards the end of May 2005. All the applications received are currently being processed with a view to meeting this deadline. The person in question will be informed of the outcome of her application at that time.

Schools Building Projects.

Michael Lowry

Question:

261 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Education and Science if correspondence (details supplied) has been brought to her attention; if she will include the school which has been waiting since 1999 to build an extension in the small schools initiative in 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5144/05]

An extension project at the school to which the Deputy refers has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria, which was revised following consultation with the education partners and the project is being considered in the context of the school buildings and modernisation programme. The Deputy will be aware that I recently announced the first phase of the 2005 school building programme which provided details of 122 major school building projects countrywide which will prepare tenders and move to construction during 2005.

This announcement is the first in a series of announcements I plan to make in the coming period in regard to the schools building and modernisation programme that will include: details of schools identified as suitable for construction under public private partnerships; an expansion of the number of schools that will be invited to deliver their building projects on the basis of devolved funding; details of schools with projects approved under the 2005 summer works scheme; schools whose projects will further progress through the design process; and schools that will be authorised to commence architectural planning. The needs of the school referred to are being considered in this regard.

School Staffing.

Michael Lowry

Question:

262 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will conduct a review into the staffing levels in primary schools; her views on the fact that the current system where a one teacher school needs a minimum of seven pupils; a two teacher a minimum of 12; a three teacher a minimum of 50; a four teacher a minimum of 82 is grossly unbalanced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5181/05]

The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule which is finalised for a particular year following discussions with the education partners.

The staffing schedule is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to an average mainstream class size of 29 pupils. However, the needs of smaller schools are taken into account in deciding on the schedule to be applied to such schools.

Seachtain na Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

263 D'fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta an mbeidh a Roinn ag comóradh Seachtain na Gaeilge i mbliana agus cad iad na himeachtaí Gaeilge a bheidh ar siúl sa Roinn i rith na seachtaine. [5210/05]

Tá mo Roinnse ar cheann de 25 comhlacht poiblí atá ag dréachtadh a gcéad scéimeanna trí bliana de réir Alt 11 d'Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla. Leagfar amach sa scéim an chaoi a sílimid ár gcuid seirbhísí trí Ghaeilge a fheabhsú thar thréimhse trí bliana romhainn amach. Déanfar socruithe mar chuid den scéim chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn laistigh den Roinn agus cuirfear cúrsa oiliúna ar fáil do státseirbhísigh a thug le fios gur mian leo an Ghaeilge a fhoghlaim, nó feabhas a chur ar a gcuid Gaeilge. Cé go mbeimid ag cur Seachtain na Gaeilge chun cinn trí mheáin éagsúla laistigh den Roinn ní bheidh aon imeachtaí ar leith á reáchtáil againn i mbliana.

Question No. 264 answered with QuestionNo. 253.

School Staffing.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

265 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will consider the request from a school (details supplied) in County Longford for extra funding to pay for a secretary and a cleaner; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5225/05]

My Department provides funding towards the cost of secretarial and caretaking services in primary schools under two separate schemes. One scheme is the 1978-79 scheme for the employment of full-time secretaries and caretakers in primary schools, under which my Department meets the full cost of salary. This scheme is being phased out as posts become vacant and no new posts are being created. This scheme has been superseded by a more extensive grant scheme now referred to as the ancillary services grant.

The ancillary services grant provides additional funding for primary schools towards the cost of secretarial and caretaking services. The scheme, by its nature, is flexible and gives boards of management discretion as to the manner in which secretarial and caretaking services are provided.

The particular school referred to by the Deputy receives funding under this scheme. The standard rate of grant per pupil under the scheme, which was increased from €102 in 2002 to €127 in 2004, is being further increased to €133 this year. The amount of grant paid to an individual school is determined by the enrolment in the school subject to a minimum grant of €7,980 in the case of a school with 60 pupils or less and a maximum grant of €66,500 in the case of a school with 500 or more pupils, provided the school in question does not already have either caretaking or secretarial services under an existing Department scheme.

In addition, primary schools' running costs are met by my Department's scheme of capitation grants. These grants are intended to contribute towards the general operating costs of national schools which would include heating, lighting, cleaning, insurance, painting, teaching aids and other miscellaneous charges. The capitation grant has been increased substantially in recent years. Since 1997 the standard rate of capitation grant has been increased from £45, €57.14, per pupil to €133.58 with effect from 1 January, 2005, an increase of almost 134% in the period. I am committed to improving further the funding position of primary schools in the context of available resources.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

266 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the size of two classes at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 6; the reason the classes are so out of line with the average class size; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5226/05]

The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September in the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule and is finalised for a particular year following discussions with the education partners.

The mainstream staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy for the current school year is a principal and 13 mainstream class teachers based on the enrolment of 372 pupils on 30 September 2003. The school also has a learning support post, three resource posts and two temporary language support posts.

The staffing schedule is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to an average mainstream class size of 29 pupils, which is the case in this school. School authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and the smallest classes is kept to a minimum. I have requested my Department's inspectorate to monitor the deployment of staff and class sizes and, where necessary, to discuss with school authorities the basis on which school policy decisions in this regard have been made, and to report to my Department, where appropriate.

Special Educational Needs.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

267 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Offaly attending school is only receiving a special needs assistant until 2 p.m.; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the person has to leave the school at 2 p.m.; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5227/05]

My Department is currently considering the matter referred to by the Deputy. The school in question has applied to have two existing part-time special needs assistant, SNA, posts upgraded to full-time posts to cater for a number of pupils attending the special classes, including the pupil in question. A decision on this matter will be conveyed to the school at the earliest possible date.

I wish to clarify that a full primary school day comprises a period of not less than five hours, 40 minutes. Schools are permitted to reduce the school day by one hour for children in infants and first class.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

268 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; the plans there are for this person; if this person will receive home teaching; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5251/05]

I am advised that an application for resources for the pupil in question, who appears to have special educational needs, was made to the National Council for Special Education recently. If it transpires that the school in question is not suitable for this pupil's needs then the parents or guardians may apply to the special education section of my Department for a home tuition grant while a suitable placement is being sought.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

269 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason there has been a change in the resources given to a person (details supplied) in County Offaly in view of the recommendations made by their psychologist; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5261/05]

The special needs assistant, SNA, provision in the school in question was reviewed by my Department's inspectorate in September 2004. Following discussion with the pupil's teachers and observation in the school, it was concluded that the pupil is now able to complete all personal care functions age appropriately and no longer requires the level of SNA support originally sanctioned. My Department subsequently advised the school as to how it might deploy the SNA support available, in order that it may provide care support for all pupils in the school who qualify for such support.

Seachtain na Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

270 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Cosanta an mbeidh a Roinn ag comóradh Seachtain na Gaeilge i mbliana agus cad iad na himeachtaí Gaeilge a bheidh ar siúl sa Roinn i rith na seachtaine. [5211/05]

Níl sé ar intinn ag an Roinn seo aon imeachtaí a chur ar siúl i rith Seachtain na Gaeilge.

Housing Aid.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

271 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on his efforts to assist South Dublin County Council, based in Tallaght, deal with the problem of homelessness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5134/05]

The second Dublin homeless action plan, Making it Home, 2004-2006, which was published by the Homeless Agency in July 2004, sets out actions and objectives for the four Dublin local authorities for this period. The main elements of the south Dublin plan, drafted by the local authority and agreed by South Dublin County Council and its local homeless forum, are: the effective operation of the homeless forum; appropriate information, advice and referral and placement services; provision of additional units of accommodation for homeless households; appropriate allocation of local authority housing; and, adequate provision for health and welfare needs of homeless households.

Some 90% of the cost of funding the accommodation-related costs is recouped to the council by my Department. The recoupment of care-related costs is a matter for the Department of Health and Children.

The Government is committed to continuing to support local statutory and voluntary bodies in tackling the issue of homelessness. My Department's expenditure for the recoupment to local authorities of 90% of the cost of providing accommodation and related services for homeless persons in 2004 was €45.73 million. This brings to €185.88 million the total expenditure for this purpose since 2000. In the same period, €3.6 million was recouped to South Dublin County Council, including over €510,000 in 2004.

Details of the funding available for the recoupment of expenditure on accommodation and related homeless services will be published shortly in the revised Estimates for Public Services 2005.

Fire Stations.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

272 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the provision of funding for a project (details supplied) in County Cork. [5151/05]

In May 2004, my Department approved in principle a proposal by Cork County Council for the provision of an extension and the carrying out of refurbishment works to Youghal fire station. However, I understand that Cork County Council does not now intend to proceed with this proposal and is preparing a proposal for the provision of a new fire station. On receipt, this proposal will be considered having regard to the overall availability of resources and priorities under the capital programme.

Library Projects.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

273 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the provision of a new facility at a town (details supplied) in County Cork. [5152/05]

In February 2000, Cork County Council submitted an application for approval in principle for a branch library in Youghal. However, as this proposal did not form part of the already determined 1999-2002 public library capital expenditure programme, it could not be considered for funding. Given the rating afforded to the project in the council's submission of September 2001, it was not included in the 2002-04 public library capital expenditure programme.

In January 2004, local authorities were asked to review their capital programmes for library development and to submit a prioritised list of proposals which they wished to have considered by my Department in its current review of the programme. In its submission, Cork County Council has listed Youghal as fifth in order of priority. Details of the projects to be included for funding in an expenditure programme for 2005-07 will be announced shortly.

Motor Taxation.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

274 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the motor taxation concessions which are available to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [5153/05]

Under motor tax law, the basis of assessment of motor tax is governed by the construction and use of a vehicle. The level of motor tax determined relates to vehicles and not directly to the users or drivers of such vehicles.

Relevant concessions for disabled drivers, including exemption from motor tax, are contained in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994 made by the Minister for Finance and administered by the Revenue Commissioners.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Dan Neville

Question:

275 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will respond to submissions made by a group water scheme (details supplied) in County Limerick,. [5182/05]

I understand that the Glenroe scheme is one of 20 group water schemes in County Limerick for which new water treatment facilities are being procured under a single design-build-operate contract. A single contractor will design and construct the treatment facilities and operate them under contract to the participating groups for a 20 year period.

Under the rural water programme, which is funded by my Department through annual block grants to local authorities, a 100% grant is available to group schemes towards the cost of water treatment and disinfection facilities. Associated works, such as buildings and pipelines, are grant aided at up to 85% of cost, subject to a maximum cost of €7,618 per house. In addition, participating group schemes are eligible for an annual subsidy of up to €196 per house towards their operational costs.

While the level of group water scheme grants and subsidies is kept under continuing review in consultation with the national rural water monitoring committee and the national federation of group water schemes, there are no proposals for any increases at present.

Proposed Legislation.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

276 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if regulations under the Local Government Act 2001 will be established by order to allow town councils to be established; if he is agreeable to meet with a community council (details supplied) to discuss this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5183/05]

Part 17 of the Local Government Act 2001 provides that qualified electors of a town having a population of at least 7,500 as ascertained at the last preceding census and not having a town council may make a proposal for the establishment of such a council. Under the relevant provisions of the Act, a proposal to establish a town council is a matter for the local community in the first instance. Thereafter, a decision on such a proposal is a reserved function of the relevant county council, following a public consultation process. The proposal must then be submitted to the local government commission for preparation of a report and recommendations to the Minister. The establishment of a local government commission to enable the commencement of Part 17 is under consideration. I will be in touch shortly with the relevant community council in response to its request to meet.

State Bodies.

Mary Upton

Question:

277 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the rationale behind the role of an organisation (details supplied) in nominating representatives to state bodies. [5184/05]

The organisation named is one of the nominating bodies prescribed under the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 in regard to appointments to membership of An Bord Pleanála. The organisation is one of a number of bodies on the nominating panel which represents "voluntary bodies, bodies having charitable objects and bodies that, in the opinion of the Minister, have a special interest or expertise in matters relating to the promotion of the Irish language, the promotion of the arts and culture or that are representative of people with disability", as required under section 106(1)(f) of the Planning and Development Act 2000.

The same organisation is also prescribed in the Environmental Protection Agency (Advisory Committee) Regulations 2004 under one of five nominating panels for the purpose of selecting candidates for appointment to the advisory committee of the agency. Under section 27(5)(d) of the Environment Protection Agency Act 1992, organisations concerned with the promotion in the community of social, economic or general interests are entitled to submit the names of candidates for appointment to the committee and the organisation referred is one such body prescribed under this nominating panel.

In appointing members to the agency's advisory committee and to An Bord Pleanála, I strive to achieve wide and balanced representation and I am assisted in this by the range of interests and professions included in the nominating panels. I am satisfied the nature of the nominating body referred and the interests it represents makes it appropriate for inclusion in the respective nominating panels.

Seachtain na Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

278 D’fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Comhshaoil, Oidhreachta agus Rialtais Áitiúil an mbeidh a Roinn ag comóradh Seachtain na Gaeilge i mbliana agus cad iad na himeachtaí Gaeilge a bheidh ar siúl sa Roinn i rith na seachtaine. [5212/05]

I gcoitinne tá sé mar pholasaí ag mo Roinn seirbhís tré Ghaeilge a thairiscint dóibh siúd gur mian leo é sin a bheith acu. I rith Seachtain na Gaeilge beidh mo Roinn ag cur in iúl do bhaill fóirne na himeachtaí atáá n-eagrú timpeall na tíre. Freisin, beidh an Roinn ag spreagadh daoine an deis a thógáil an Ghaeilge a labhairt. Maidir leis seo cuirfear roinnt cáipéisí ar fail chun tacaíocht a thabhairt dóibh. Chomh maith le seo beidh taispeántas i gceannáras na Roinne de bhileoga eolais atá ar fáil.

Natural Heritage Areas.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

279 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when it is proposed to stop bog owners from cutting their own domestic turf supplied on a bog (details supplied) in County Galway; the position for owners of such bogs who will not accept the new increased compensation packages; if such owners will be allowed to keep on cutting their own domestic supplies after the expiry date passes; if his Department will provide alternative turbary plots within acceptable and sensible distances from the locations in which they live; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5216/05]

Save in exceptional circumstances, owners of bog or turbary in raised bogs designated for conservation are being allowed to continue domestic cutting on their plots for up to ten years. For bogs such asCarrownagoppul bog, which was statutorily proposed for designation prior to 1999, people will be allowed to continue to cut until 2008. My Department will then review whether there are particular circumstances in which domestic turf cutting can continue on raised bogs without damaging the bogs. All sales of bog or turbary to my Department are voluntary with a recourse to arbitration, if appropriate. The possibility of my Department providing alternative turbary plots on other bogs has been examined but this has not proved a practical proposition.

Local Authority Housing.

Mary Upton

Question:

280 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the plans he has to review the funding limits for the communal facilities grants for voluntary housing bodies; if his attention has been drawn to the current limits of €5,800 per unit are unrealistic, particularly in urban areas and especially in Dublin, due to current building costs; if he will indicate the capital funding which is to be made available to voluntary housing bodies in 2005; the number of units this would allow construction of and the way in which this would compare to 2004. [5296/05]

Grants for communal facilities are available in projects providing accommodation under the voluntary housing capital loans and subsidy scheme, or the capital assistance scheme. While there is no decision to review the rate of assistance payable under the voluntary housing communal facilities grant scheme, it will be included when the grant rates available under the capital loans and subsidy and capital assistance schemes are next considered.

Expenditure under the voluntary housing schemes amounted to more than €180 million in 2004 compared with €92 million in 2000. Provisional figures show that 1,600 units were completed in 2004. The capital provisions — Exchequer and non-Exchequer — for 2005 for the various social and affordable housing programmes, at €1.9 billion, will focus on achieving maximum output under all programmes and it is expected that some 1,900 units will be completed under the voluntary housing schemes.

Local authority action plans will ensure the significant investment available for these programmes and the benefits of the new multi-annual capital envelope approach should achieve the desired affect in the long term by tackling real need and breaking cycles of disadvantage and dependency. Local authorities were asked to take account of the role of the voluntary and co-operative housing sector in preparation of these plans, to ensure an integrated approach to meeting housing needs.