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 61, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 62 to 69, inclusive, answered orally.

Security Industry.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

70 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the matters discussed at his meeting with representatives of the security industry on 31 March 2005; the reason he has opted to give the security industry four months to improve security rather than implementing the powers to set standards under the Private Security Services Act 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10771/05]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

91 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will introduce regulations governing the transport of cash by security companies on behalf of banks, which would include mandatory GPS tracking of vehicles, explosive pellet, money marking devices; his views on whether the practice of Garda and Army back up security to banking institutions should be self financing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10411/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 and 91 together.

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Priority Questions Nos. 62 and 63 of today's date.

In brief, on 31 March last, I met with representatives of the main banks, An Post, the Central Bank and the major cash-in-transit service providers. I convened this meeting in the immediate aftermath of the armed robbery of a security van at Artane early the previous day, with a getaway haul of approximately €1.9 million.

I indicated to the companies involved that my preference would now be agreement on a voluntary code of conduct that would see the industry operating to the highest international standards. This would include using the latest technology available to ensure the safety of the cash, the security employees and the general public alike.

I informed the industry representatives that they had 120 days to reach agreement and to implement a voluntary code. If such an agreement cannot be reached, I indicated that I will legislate to ensure that standards are raised.

It is also important to point out that the newly established Private Security Authority has a statutory responsibility to licence companies operating in the cash-in-transit sector of the security industry. The authority has decided to commence work on the development of a national standard in parallel with the voluntary programme being carried out by the main banks and service providers. This national standard will form the basis of statutory licensing of cash-in-transit companies. As I have already said, the authority is independent and it is not for me to prejudge its deliberations on this matter. However, I would hope that if the voluntary code of practice is of a sufficiently high standard and concluded within the time frame of the authority's work, it could form the basis of the national standard that would be required for the issuance of a licence.

In relation to the recoupment of costs associated with the provision of armed escorts by the Garda Síochána, following consultations, my Department secured the agreement of the banks to increase their contribution to these costs to €3 million per annum, up from a mere €952,000 in previous years. This €3 million per annum contribution meets, on average, approximately 85% of the costs incurred by the Garda Síochána in providing armed escorts. Further negotiations are being conducted by my Department with the banks with a view to increasing this proportion still further in future years.

With regard to costs incurred by the Defence Forces, although this is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Defence, I understand that his Department is also in negotiations with the banks to secure a proper recoupment of costs.

Illegal Immigrants.

Phil Hogan

Question:

71 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of migrant workers he estimates are working here illegally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6210/05]

I assume that the Deputy's question refers to work which in itself is lawful — in other words, work which an Irish citizen, a citizen of an EEA country or a citizen of Switzerland is entitled generally, as of right, to undertake in this jurisdiction.

There were approximately 88,000 non-EEA or non-Swiss nationals registered with the Garda Síochána as authorised to engage in employment of one sort or another in the first two months of 2005. Consequently, the following analysis covers persons other than those referred to above. Illegal working and illegal immigration are two sides of the same coin and the issue raised by the Deputy covers a spectrum of practical possibilities. This is because persons engaged in illegal employment are either persons who never had permission to remain in the State; persons who had such permission but whose permission has expired; persons who have current permission but who are in breach of a condition of that permission which prohibits employment; persons who have current permission but who are in breach of a condition which only authorises employment of a particular type, for example, for a designated employer with an employment permit; or students who have current permission but who are in breach of a condition which only authorises part-time employment.

All countries such as ours which have experienced significant economic growth have great difficulty in sizing both their illegal immigrant populations and the extent to which non-nationals engage in employment unlawfully. This is because such persons do not manifest their identities to the immigration authorities or, in the alternative, the entire circumstances of their presence in the State — for obvious reasons.

As a result any attempt on my part to put a figure on the number of persons in question would be purely speculative. However, I intend to commission research on the complex topic of illegal migration in the near future.

Garda Recruitment.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

72 Ms O’Sullivan 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. [10778/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of the Garda Síochána as at 8 April 2005 was 12,209, all ranks.

The House will be aware that in October 2004, the Government approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, in line with the An Agreed Programme for Government commitment in this regard. This is a key commitment in 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 in November 2004.

It is proposed to induct 1,100 Garda recruits to the Garda college in 2005, consisting of four intakes of 275 recruits. The first of these four intakes, 275, commenced training on the week commencing 7 February 2005. The remaining three intakes of 275 recruits are scheduled to commence training on 3 May 2005, 2 August 2005 and 7 November 2005.

It is estimated that 523 Garda trainees will become attested members of the force in 2005. Current projections indicated that the total strength of the Garda Síochána as at the 31 of December 2005 will be 12,299, all ranks. 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.

Garda Deployment.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

73 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the figures and locations for the deployment of Garda mountain bike units; his views on their efficiency to date; and the plans for their future expansion. [10863/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda mountain bike unit was introduced on a pilot basis, on 5 June 2001, in the Tallaght and Raheny Garda districts of the Dublin metropolitan region, DMR. In February 2002, a review conducted by the Garda authorities found that the deployment of Garda personnel on mountain bikes was proven to be successful in tackling and responding to certain types of crimes and offences. Their mobility and versatility is recognised as a method of high visibility crime prevention.

Since that time the Garda mountain bike unit has been expanded both inside and outside the Dublin metropolitan region. The total number of mountain bikes available to the Garda Síochána is 85, of which 55 are allocated to districts within the DMR and 30 are allocated to districts outside the DMR.

I am also informed that the Garda Commissioner has approved the further expansion of the Garda mountain bike unit to Letterkenny Garda station, which will take place later on this month. Further expansion of the mountain bike unit will also take place at other locations, nationally, throughout 2005.

Mountain bike units have been very successful in tackling anti-social disorderly behaviour in local parks and estates and work well in conjunction with other units. Overall, the units have proven to be very successful to date due to their commitment, ability to respond quickly and effectively and capacity to provide a high visibility presence.

Mountain bike units have made a significant and positive contribution to a proactive approach in tackling crime. Garda management has received very positive feedback from the community in relation to the work of these units.

Youth Services.

David Stanton

Question:

74 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of young persons currently involved in Garda youth diversion programmes; the success of these programmes in reducing crime in these communities; the plans he has to expand these programmes to other areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10887/05]

As the Deputy is aware, there are currently 64 Garda youth diversion projects operating in both urban and rural areas. Approximately 3,150 participants are currently involved in the Garda youth diversion projects.

The Garda youth diversion projects are a crime prevention measure which seek to divert young persons from becoming involved, or further involved, in anti-social and-or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development, promote civic responsibility and improve long-term employability prospects of participants. The type of crime that the projects were set up to address has diminished significantly in their respective areas, as reflected in crime data relating to the areas where the projects are located. There is also evidence of a reduction in anti-social behaviour and an improved quality of life for people in the catchment areas of projects. While this reduction cannot be ascribed entirely to the work of the projects, they have contributed to it. The success of each project is achieved through a close match between local problems and tailored solutions. An evaluation of the projects by the Children's Research Centre TCD, published in 2000 as The Impact and Effectiveness of the Garda Special Projects, indicated a positive experience by the young people involved and concluded that the positive impact of the projects overall justifies their retention.

Proposals made by the Garda Síochána to my Department on establishing additional projects are examined within the context of available resources.

Garda Recruitment.

Jack Wall

Question:

75 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons who applied in the recent Garda recruitment drive; the breakdown of applications by gender; the number that sat the examination and the number that passed it; the number that were interviewed; the final number of applicants that were accepted; the number that are now in training in Templemore; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10796/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that recruitment to the Garda Síochána is carried out by the Public Appointments Service. However, the Garda authorities have informed me that the total number of applications lodged in respect of the recent Garda recruitment competition was 10,601. In addition, 6,989 applicants sat the exam and 3,761 applicants passed the exam. To date, a total of 765 persons have been called for interview. The Garda authorities have not been provided with details of the gender breakdown of applicants for the competition.

The total number of applicants who will be recruited to the Garda Síochána from the current competition will not be known for some time. Recruitment from this and future competitions will proceed in a manner and at sufficient pace to ensure that the Government target of 14,000 members will be achieved within the timescale I have already outlined.

I am further informed that the total number of student gardaí in training under Phase I, II and III of the student-probationer training programme as at 8 April 2005 was 689.

Deportation Orders.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

76 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the basis upon which he has the power to delegate to his officials the power to adjudicate on an application for leave to remain which is made to him; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10890/05]

There is a solid basis in legislation and case law for the delegation to officials of authority to adjudicate on applications for leave to remain. On the other hand, the power to make a deportation order is never in practice delegated to officials. In every case deportation orders are made by the Minister.

Perhaps this distinction is best illustrated by the case of P.L and Bv. the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform [2002] 1 ILRM 16, where the Supreme Court characterised the position of failed asylum seekers as persons who “lacked any entitlement to remain in the country save that deriving from the procedure they were operating i.e. a right to await a decision not to be deported”. In other words, while a person who does not have permission to remain in the State does not have a right to remain here, he or she may submit to those administrative procedures which are necessary before a deportation order can be made.

In the case of Tangv. the Minister for Justice [1996] 2 ILRM 46, a question arose in relation to the propriety of decisions taken by civil servants in the name of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform under the provisions of immigration law. In that case the Supreme Court stated that the Aliens Act 1935 and orders made thereunder, conferred extensive powers on the Minister for Justice to make orders in relation to non-nationals. The court found, in line with the Carltona principle, that it could not be supposed that it was the intention of the legislature that the Minister should personally exercise these powers. The court upheld the decision of an assistant principal officer in the Department of Justice to refuse to extend permission to remain but impugned a purported decision by that same officer to order the applicant to leave the State.

In the case of Kanayav. the Minister for Justice [2000] 2 ILRM 503, the High Court held that the delegation of power to an immigration officer by the Minister to refuse leave to land was not ultra vires the power of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

In the year 2004 there were approximately 133,000 persons who had permission to remain in the State at any time during that year. The main body of such persons dealt with on a given day are persons seeking an extension in permission to remain. It is clear that I could not possibly personally intervene in all these cases. The statutory provision now governing such extensions — section 4(7) of the Immigration Act 2004 — specifically acknowledges that such decisions are made by immigration officers on behalf of the Minister.

Section 17(6) of the Refugee Act 1996 empowers the Minister, at his discretion, to grant permission to remain to a failed asylum seeker. This provision came into force in November 2000. It has been the practice in the vast majority of cases that such decisions are made by officials of my Department acting on my behalf. In fact the legislative provision itself did no more than give specific statutory expression to the reality as enunciated in the aforementioned Tang case which was heard in 1994.

A decision to refuse permission to remain or a decision not to extend permission to remain is not the same as a decision to make a deportation order. Every such order, as I have already pointed out, is signed by the Minister himself.

It has always been the case that decisions to grant or refuse leave to remain are made by officials of my Department. This practice has been repeatedly upheld by the superior courts in accordance with the Carltona principle. However, in every case where the ultimate step, that of deportation, is undertaken this is only with the express authority of the Minister in the form of a signed deportation order.

Garda Investigations.

Liz McManus

Question:

77 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made with regard to the Garda investigation into the major money laundering operation uncovered earlier in 2005; if a file has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10773/05]

Bernard Allen

Question:

120 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has held discussions with his Bulgarian counterpart with regard to recent reports that an illegal organisation here was attempting to use Bulgaria as a destination for money laundering or other illegal activities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7627/05]

Bernard Allen

Question:

744 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the recent contacts he has had with his counterpart in Bulgaria; if his counterpart has expressed concerns regarding companies or persons from this country setting up business in Bulgaria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7708/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 77, 120 and 744 together.

The Deputies will be aware that, commencing on 16 February last, a number of searches were conducted at various locations in furtherance of a criminal investigation into suspected PIRA-related money laundering activities. These searches led to the seizure of significant sums of money and the arrest of a number of persons.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that this Garda investigation, which involves personnel from the southern Garda region, the Garda bureau of fraud investigation and the Criminal Assets Bureau, remains ongoing and active. In due course, files seeking directions will be submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

I am further informed that all possible avenues of information that might assist in furthering the case are being explored, and a key focus is the links between the money seized and the robbery of the Northern Bank last December.

Moreover, on 25 February last, officials of my Department met, on a confidential basis, a representative of the Bulgarian authorities to consider media reports allegedly linking the suspected money laundering operation to Bulgaria and Bulgarian nationals. The Bulgarian representative expressed concern at these reports and committed the full co-operation of the Bulgarian authorities to the Garda Síochána in the latter's ongoing investigations.

As the Garda investigation remains ongoing, I do not consider that further, detailed comment on the matter would be appropriate.

Immigrant Services.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

78 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for the establishment of a new one-stop shop for dealing with all immigration matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10769/05]

In March 2005 the Government approved the establishment on a non-statutory basis of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, INIS, as an executive office within the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It is intended to provide a one stop shop approach to services relating to the admission of migrants. This decision provides a platform for the establishment of the service. It is expected to take up to a year for the new arrangements and structures to be put in place.

The service will incorporate the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform's asylum, immigration and citizenship functions and structures. The visa section of the Department of Foreign Affairs will transfer to the service in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Responsibility for the provision of visa services at diplomatic and consular missions abroad will remain with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The service will aim to develop a cohesive system for the issuing of work permits and visas through a virtual link between the work permit system in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the INIS. The overall effectiveness of these arrangements will be reviewed within two years. The economic migration policy function will remain with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

The service will include a new immigrant integration unit to promote and co-ordinate social and organisational measures across the whole spectrum of Government, for the acceptance of lawful immigrants into Irish economic and cultural life.

The proposed new structure will have significant benefits from the point of view of customer service and the strengthening of the effectiveness and integrity of the State's immigration system, specifically a single contact point or one stop shop for applications for entry to the State combining the current work permit and visa application processes; a clearer system involving more streamlined processes; improved sharing of information in linked systems to simplify decision making; improved service times as applications do not have to be submitted to a number of organisations; and improved control and enforcement mechanisms.

Commission on Policing and Crime.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

79 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has completed his consideration of 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. [10781/05]

I have now had an opportunity to consider the recommendations of the Lord Mayor's Commission on Crime and Policing. The Lord Mayor and the city council are to be complimented on a very useful report, which makes a wide range of recommendations, a number of which fall within the city council's area of responsibility. I have already made a comprehensive response to the Lord Mayor.

The Garda Síochána Bill, which I have introduced and which is currently being considered by the Dáil, addresses many of the commission's recommendations on policing. The Bill proposes arrangements which will have general application in all local authority areas throughout the State but at the same time have the capacity to adapt to the particular needs and circumstances prevailing in the areas concerned. Furthermore, changes already made to the Bill in the other House go some considerable way towards meeting the commission's proposals. These include changes to how the joint policing committees will be structured, their membership and how they will be chaired, the application of qualified privilege, the attendance of bodies and persons before the committee and the circumstances in which meetings of the committee may be held other than in public. For the most part the committees will now comprise public representatives and senior members of the Garda Síochána.

These changes address the commission's desire to enhance the democratic mandate for policing by ensuring that policing matters are driven by elected representatives. The commission's proposals in relation to local policing structures are not significantly different from the provisions contained in the Bill and, in terms of the outputs to be achieved, I believe the provisions in the Bill will deliver on the commission's recommendations.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is accountable to Dáil Éireann and through it to the electorate and therefore would exercise democratically the powers which the Bill proposes be conferred on him or her. I am therefore not convinced that a national Garda board, which the commission proposes, would enhance democratic policing more than the arrangements proposed in the Bill.

The joint policing committees, their sub-committees and the local policing fora provided for will be involved in everything that the commission proposes for the community, safety and policing teams, the area committees and the community safety fora, although there are some differences between the Bill's provisions and the commission's proposals in so far as demarcation of responsibilities is concerned. Provision is made in the Bill for drawing up guidelines relating to the establishment of the joint policing committees and subcommittees. The commission's proposals are helpful and will be further considered in the context of the preparation of these regulations when the Bill is enacted.

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 which I would see the joint policing committees dealing with. Addressing these issues will require a partnership approach. 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.

I am in favour of the commission's recommendation that in areas with distinctive policing needs, community safety fora are set up, with as wide a membership as necessary, to develop and implement local crime reduction strategies. I have provided in the Garda Síochána Bill for the establishment by a joint policing committee within specific neighbourhoods of local policing fora to discuss and make recommendations to the committee as they affect those neighbourhoods.

Some of the commission's recommendations, such as the development of community policing fora, the extension of the pilot drug court and the integration of the Government's policy on drugs and alcohol, are being examined in the context of the mid-term review of the Government's national drugs strategy 2001-2008.

With regard to the commission's recommendation that community safety personnel with powers appropriate for dealing with low-level disorder be established, provision is made in the Garda Bill for the recruitment of volunteer reserve Garda members who will have the same powers, immunities, privileges and duties as members of the rank of Garda. Furthermore, on foot of the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government to examine the potential of the community warden service to enforce new and existing functions so as to release gardaí to operational duties, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government established wardens in five pilot areas. The pilot will be in place until the beginning of next year, so as to allow for negotiations on how to integrate the service into the outdoor activities of local authorities and for best practice in the pilot areas to be shared among all local authorities.

The issue of community policing is central to the development of co-operation between the Garda Síochána, local authorities and local communities. With regard to the commission's recommendations regarding community policing, the Deputy will be aware that the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights recently invited written submissions on community policing from interested parties and held hearings, and I look forward to its report with interest.

The commission recommends that a problem-solving court in the Dublin District Courts to deal with low-level crime be piloted. The concept of community courts, to which this recommendation is similar, is receiving ongoing consideration in my Department. Officials have met the director of the New York based Centre for Court Innovation, the body responsible for the development of the Midtown Community Court referred to in the report. As the report recognises, the concept has some similarities with the pilot drug court programme which was launched in the Dublin District Court in 2001. Dublin's north inner city was chosen as the location from which to operate the pilot drug court. The project has been evaluated by consultants, who recommended that the pilot project be extended and the catchment area be widened. I welcomed the recommendations of the consultancy report and support the extension of the drug court to the catchment area proposed. Further evaluation of the operation of the court in the extended area will be carried out by the Courts Service shortly, after which a decision can be taken in relation to its further expansion.

The commission recommends the extension of the use of the temporary closure order against premises found guilty of offences under the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2000. That Act and the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 provide for a compulsory temporary closure order in the case of convictions for the supply of intoxicating liquor to under-age persons and for a range of behaviour, including permitting drunkenness and disorderly conduct. I am not at present convinced that an extension of these strong provisions is necessary to combat public disorder, but if it does become necessary I will do so.

The commission makes a number of recommendations on the control of liquor licenses. Matters regarding the availability of liquor licences and procedures for obtaining them will be dealt with in the liquor licensing codification Bill which I will present later this year. The Bill will make a number of proposals as regards planning and consequently the role of the local authorities. I would urge local authorities to support and implement these proposals.

As regards the current role of local authorities, I would point out that section 11 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 already gives local authorities a new role in relation to the duration of special exemption orders. It allows them to adopt a resolution, following consultation with relevant interests, regarding the duration of such orders in their areas and the District Court is then required to have regard to any such resolution in relation to applications for special exemption orders in the area concerned. However, despite the frequently expressed concerns of local authorities regarding public disorder and other issues, it appears that no local authority has actually availed of this provision to date.

The commission recommends a public information campaign directed against anti-social behaviour. I share the concern about incidences of anti-social behaviour in society. I therefore have in mind to provide for anti-social behaviour orders in the current Criminal Justice Bill. The gardaí could be able to apply to the courts by way of civil procedure for an anti-social behaviour order which would prohibit any person from the age of ten years upwards from behaving in the offending way. Such an order could last for up to two years, but it could be altered or discharged on application to the court. Although the order would be a civil order, breach of the order would be a criminal offence punishable by a fine or imprisonment or both. There would be provision for an appeal against the making of an order.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

80 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he proposes to take in view of the growing level of alcohol abuse among young people and the links between this and assaults and murders here; if a comprehensive programme in which co-operation between his Department and other Departments such as the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism will actively work together to reduce the central role given to alcohol in socialising by young people in particular. [10151/05]

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

130 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans he has to implement new strategies on a cross-departmental level to address the issue of under age drinking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10248/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 and 130 together.

The position is that while I have general responsibility for the liquor licensing system in my capacity as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, several other Ministers, and their respective Departments, have responsibilities in relation to particular aspects. For example, the Minister for Health and Children has responsibility for public health policies, while road safety legislation comes within the ambit of the Minister for Transport.

The intoxicating liquor legislation for which I have overall responsibility is essentially concerned with the number and nature of licensed outlets and the persons who may hold licences, as well as the times at which, and the persons to whom, intoxicating liquor may be supplied.

As regards consultation and co-operation with other Ministers and their Departments, the position is that I and my Department have worked with the relevant Ministers and their Departments as part of the process of preparing proposals to amend and reform the licensing laws. Extensive consultations took place, for example, during the preparation and drafting of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 which contains measures aimed at combating drunkenness and disorderly conduct and tackling the problem of under-age and binge drinking.

The provisions in the 2003 Act, which gave effect to certain recommendations of the commission on liquor licensing and the strategic task force on alcohol, include a strengthening of the provisions prohibiting the sale or delivery of alcohol to persons under the age of 18; restrictions on the presence of persons under the age of 18 in bars of licensed premises, and a new requirement that persons aged 18 to 20 must carry an ‘age document' in order to be in the bar of licensed premises after 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. during the period from 1 May to 30 September.

I should add that the Government legislation programme makes provision for the publication of an Intoxicating Liquor Bill later this year. It will repeal the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2004 as well as liquor licensing provisions in other statutes — about 100 statutes in total — and replace them with updated provisions geared to modern conditions. During the process of preparing this Bill, my Department has been consulting widely with other relevant Departments and statutory bodies. I have also consulted with the other Ministers who have responsibilities in this area. Subject to the approval of the Government for its drafting, I intend to publish shortly details of the proposals which will be included in the Bill.

In relation to murder and manslaughter, I would inform the Deputy that there were 45 such incidents in 2004, the lowest recorded number in ten years. I would further inform the Deputy that Ireland has one of the lowest rates of murder in Europe.

In relation to assault causing harm, I would advise the Deputy that there was a reduction of 21% in assault causing harm in 2003 compared to 2002 and a reduction of 1% in assault causing harm in 2004 compared with 2003. This trend has continued in 2005 with a 15% reduction in assaults causing harm in the first quarter compared to the same period last year.

Coroners Service.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

81 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the outcome of two recent inquests relating to the deaths of two persons; if he will make urgent changes to the Coroners Act in view of the case of a person (details supplied); his views on whether the Coroners Act is adequate to deal with the proper evaluation of the situation; his further views on whether urgent reform of the Coroners Act is necessary to address this situation before there are further fatalities; the steps being taken to address the serious risk to public health which exists from such deficiencies in the Act; and the progress being made towards reform of the Act. [10894/05]

Mary Upton

Question:

96 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress which has been made in implementing the report of the working group on the coroner service published in December 2000; if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties created for coroners by the lack of appropriate penalties for those who refuse to attend when summonsed to attend inquests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10795/05]

Damien English

Question:

137 Mr. English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the delay in implementing the recommendations of the report of the working group on the coroner service, published in 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10891/05]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

743 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether €6.35 is a grossly inadequate penalty for persons who refuse to attend a coroner’s court when summonsed to do so; his further views on whether there is a need for urgent reform of the Coroners Act; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10759/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 81, 96, 137 and 743 together.

I take this opportunity to express my condolences to the family of the deceased person referred to in these questions.

The report of the coroners review group published in December 2000 recommended a comprehensive overhaul and modernisation of the coroners service in Ireland, with regard to the legislation governing the work of coroners, the support services available to coroners and the structural organisation of the coroner service.

In keeping with the commitment in the Government legislation programme, it is my intention to shortly bring to Government detailed proposals providing for that comprehensive reform. The proposed new coroners Bill will seek to address all of the issues highlighted by the review as well as taking account of any significant developments since then. Necessary consultations, including consultations with the Coroners Society of Ireland, are ongoing. I can confirm that increased sanctions for those who refuse to co-operate with an inquest, the ending of the restriction on the number of medical and other witnesses and a more coherent statement of the scope of the provisions for mandatory inquests will form part of my proposals for a Bill.

However, regulation generally of medical practice and persons engaged in para-medical activities does not come within the area of responsibility of my Department and is not a subject for coroners legislation.

Crime Prevention.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

82 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he intends to take to deal with vandalism and anti-social behaviour which is causing major problems in many communities with families harassed and property vandalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10794/05]

I can assure the Deputy that strong provisions have already been put in place to combat the causes of public disorder and anti-social behaviour countrywide. Reductions in violence and public order offences have followed the enactment, during 2003, of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act and the Intoxicating Liquor Act, which give significant additional powers to the gardaí to deal with public order and street crime.

One of the main strategic goals of the Garda Síochána is ensuring public safety by reducing the incidence of public disorder and anti-social behaviour.

I am pleased to note a reduction of 21% in assault causing harm in 2003 compared to 2002 and a reduction of 1% in assault causing harm in 2004 compared with 2003. This trend has continued in 2005 with a 15% reduction in assaults causing harm in the first quarter compared to the same period last year. The reduction in the number of offences in this category reflects an improving public order situation and a curbing of some of the excesses in the abuse of alcohol. An improving public order situation is to be welcomed by all those concerned with the preservation and maintenance of law and order.

However, I am taking a number of initiatives to strengthen the powers available to the Garda Síochána to combat anti-social behaviour. I have proposed a fixed charge procedure in relation to certain public order offences in the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 which is currently awaiting Second Stage in the Dáil. Section 29 of the Bill amends the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 to provide for a fixed penalty procedure in relation to certain public order offences under that Act. The procedure will apply to an offence under section 4 — intoxication in public place — and section 5 — disorderly conduct in a public place. It is intended that the fixed penalty procedure will be an alternative to criminal proceedings being taken in the first instance.

In general, section 29 provides that a member of the Garda Síochána who has reasonable grounds for believing that a person who is not less than 18 years old is committing, or has committed, an offence under section 4 or section 5 of the 1994 Act may serve on the person personally or by post a fixed charge notice. In default of payment the person will be prosecuted for the offence.

I am concerned that people, particularly the elderly, feel threatened by forms of harassment which of themselves may not be criminal offences but which may cause distress. I intend to include in the Criminal Justice Bill a provision which will empower the gardaí to apply to the courts, by way of civil procedure, for an anti-social behaviour order which would expand the court to deal with the matter as it sees fit.

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

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

As the Deputy will be aware, this year I succeeded in securing an all-time historic high level of funding for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and its associated agencies. The gardaí, the courts and the prisons, together with the Department itself, have never been better resourced or equipped. This funding will enable a number of key public policy initiatives to go ahead next year. Included in these are the recruitment of additional gardaí to increase the strength of the force by 2000 within two years bringing its total complement to 14,000.

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 law enforcement duties. I have already promised that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties but will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing.

This Government is strongly committed to the reduction and prevention of crime through strong and effective crime prevention methods. However, I cannot stress enough that while legislative measures can help to curtail the problem of anti-social behaviour, they cannot be viewed as the only solution. In reality it falls on all those with an interest in this area to play their role in helping to address the problem of anti-social behaviour.

Garda Investigations.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

83 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has raised or will raise the issue of the strong evidence of British security forces collusion in the murder of Donegal County Councillor Eddie Fullerton. [10852/05]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

101 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will raise with the British authorities the lack of full co-operation from the PSNI in relation to the reinvestigation of the murder of Donegal County Councillor Eddie Fullerton. [10850/05]

Martin Ferris

Question:

106 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether the murder of an Irish elected representative, Donegal County Councillor Mr. Eddie Fullerton, demands a full public inquiry. [10851/05]

Seán Crowe

Question:

109 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the questions regarding the Garda investigation into the murder of Donegal County Councillor Mr. Eddie Fullerton arising out of the TG4 documentary, Fullerton; including the failure to question suspects and a key witness. [10849/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

110 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received a report from the Garda Síochána regarding the re-examination of the Garda investigation into the murder of Donegal County Councillor Eddie Fullerton which was completed in 2004; if not, the reason for the delay; if so, when he intends to publish its contents. [10853/05]

Finian McGrath

Question:

757 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the opinion of the British Labour MP and former spokesperson on Northern Ireland, Kevin McNamara, that the matter of the murder of Mr. Eddie Fullerton should be vigorously pursued by both the RUC and the gardaí and not left to gather dust, in view of the claim made in a TG4 documentary that the Garda Síochána’s attention had not been drawn to the existence of a key witness until recently, and that even after having completed their re-examination, the gardaí still do not know the identity of the garda whom the witness claimed he met; and the steps he plans to take in this regard. [10908/05]

Finian McGrath

Question:

758 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he received a report from the Garda Síochána in relation to the re-examination carried out by the gardaí at his behest into the Garda original investigation of the murder of Donegal County Councillor Eddie Fullerton; and if so, when he intends to publish its contents. [10909/05]

Finian McGrath

Question:

759 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has not received a report on the matter of the murder of Mr. Eddie Fullerton, considering the recently aired TG4 documentary on the matter stated that the Fullerton family had been informed last year that the gardaí had completed their re-examination; and the reason for this delay. [10910/05]

Finian McGrath

Question:

760 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the claim made by a documentary by TG4 that Garda sources had informed it that the gardaí were not receiving full co-operation from the PSNI in relation to the inquiry into the case of Mr. Eddie Fullerton; and when he will raise this matter with the British authorities. [10911/05]

Finian McGrath

Question:

761 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he intends to raise the case of Mr. Eddie Fullerton with the British Government. [10912/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83, 101, 106, 109, 110 and 757 to 761, inclusive, together.

I would first like to state unequivocally my abhorrence at the murder of Mr. Eddie Fullerton, then Sinn Féin councillor on Donegal County Council, on the morning of 25 May 1991. The attack was callous and cold-blooded, and it also involved the taking hostage of another family in Buncrana. The so-called Ulster Freedom Fighters subsequently claimed responsibility for the murder. Unfortunately, to date, no person has been made amenable for this appalling crime.

In June 2003, solicitors acting on behalf of the family of the late Mr. Fullerton submitted to me what was described as a ‘preliminary memorandum' setting out the concerns of the family in relation to the murder and the ensuing investigations and calling for an inquiry into the matter. These concerns had, to some extent, already been raised directly with the Garda Síochána in April 2002.

In any event, I referred the submitted memorandum to the Garda Commissioner. In response, the Commissioner directed the establishment of a review team led by a chief superintendent to conduct a thorough and concise investigation into all matters of concern raised,inter alia, either directly with the Garda authorities or as part of the memorandum submitted by the Fullerton family’s solicitors.

The Garda review is drawing to a conclusion. Outstanding matters relate to the awaited results of a mutual assistance request to the British authorities and certain police-to-police inquiries with the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

I am recently in receipt of a report from the Garda authorities on the current, incomplete status of the review. However, no final conclusions can be drawn until such time as replies from the British and Northern Ireland authorities are received, evaluated and acted upon, as appropriate, by the Garda Síochána. Nevertheless, I can state that the Garda review itself was extensive, involving the taking of more than 150 statements and the interview of more than 120 people, including a person characterised by the Fullerton family's solicitors as being a new, key witness.

I do not intend to publish the Garda report which I recently received. However, as soon as all outstanding matters are clarified by the Garda Síochána upon the receipt of responses from the British and Northern Ireland authorities, I have already undertaken to contact the Fullerton family's solicitors with a full response to their concerns, including any action that I deem appropriate or necessary by way of further investigation or inquiry.

I should add that I have no reason to believe — nor have I received any indication — that either the British or Northern Ireland authorities have failed or will fail to co-operate with the requests made of them.

It should be noted that the Garda chief superintendent in charge of the review met the Fullerton family and their solicitors last December to provide them with an up-to-date briefing on developments with the review.

Garda Deployment.

Seán Ryan

Question:

84 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has plans to review the practice of providing members of the Garda Síochána as full-time drivers for Government Ministers, former Ministers and judicial figures in view of the significant commitment of Garda personnel required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10785/05]

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

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who 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.

These drivers are tasked with providing close personal protection to Government Ministers and other designated protected VIP's, in addition to their driving duties. There are currently no plans to replace them with civilian drivers.

Omagh Bombing Civil Actions.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

85 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the assistance the Government intends to offer the survivors and relatives of the Omagh bombing in pursuit of justice through the civil courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10791/05]

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, in accordance with law.

In particular, I have agreed that the costs associated with accommodation and security in relation to the taking of evidence on commission in this jurisdiction will be met by the Irish Government. The details will be worked out between the Courts Service and the relevant court in Northern Ireland.

In so far as the funding of the civil action is concerned, I would remind the Deputy that this civil action has been initiated in another jurisdiction and is already being substantially funded by the British Government. I believe it would be inappropriate for additional funding to be made available from this jurisdiction.

Victim Support.

Liz McManus

Question:

86 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the main functions of the new Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime; the budget and staffing arrangement for the new commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10774/05]

The new Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime has as its terms of reference to: (a) devise an appropriate support framework for victims of crime into the future; and (b) disburse funding for victim support measures.

The commission's term of office will be for three years and its members are: Mr. Jim Mc Hugh, retired Assistant Commissioner, the Gárda Síochána — chairman; Ms Nora Owen, former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Mr. Sean Lowry, former head of the probation and welfare service; Mr. Michael Whelan, Gemini Consulting; and Ms Marian Finucane, broadcaster.

The commission's remit includes the examination of all aspects of the provision of services for victims of crime. These services are currently set out in the Victims' Charter, published in 1999, and the commission will undertake a review of the charter. The commission will also have regard in the course of its work to the EU framework decision on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings (2001), and other international advances in relation to provision of services for victims of crime.

In addition, the commission will supervise the disbursement of funds to community and other voluntary groups providing victim services, with a particular emphasis on the funding of activities on the ground that provide direct supports for victims of crime. An applications process has been initiated in respect of this funding, and almost 100 expressions of interest have been received after a public advertisement in March.

The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform will provide administrative support for the commission. Its budget will be of the order of €0.75 million in 2005.

Asylum Applications.

Joan Burton

Question:

87 Ms Burton 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 approved 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. [10761/05]

The information requested is contained in tabular format set out below.

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

1,259

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

893

345

430

94

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

** As at 31/03/05

*** 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

5,015

4,810

1,138

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

1,099

832

708

143

* as at 31/03/05.

** 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**

440**

No. of Deportation Orders effected**

521

590

599***

74***

* as at 31/03/05.

** In addition to the 2,915 deportation orders signed in 2004 and the 440 deportation orders signed in 2005, there were also 238 Dublin II Regulation Transfer Orders signed in 2004 and 92 Dublin II Regulation Transfer Orders signed in 2005*.

*** In addition to the 599 deportation orders effected in 2004 and the 74 deportation orders effected in 2005, there were also 65 Dublin II Regulation Transfers effected in 2004 and 26 Dublin II Regulation Transfers effected in 2005.

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**

73**

* as at 31/03/05

** 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

30

Dependent of EU Citizen

138

77

112

25

Other Grounds

158

86

175

15

Total

3,495

467

431

70

* as at 31/03/05.

** 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*

17,648

No. of Applications for permission to remain granted**

3,663

* as at 31/03/05.

** as at 8/4/05.

Child Care Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

88 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plan of action to tackle the crisis in child care services. [5536/05]

I reject the Deputy's assertion that there is a crisis in child care services. As the Deputy will be aware, there have been significant improvements in the provision of supports for the development of child care over the last number of years as the Government took steps to develop a child care infrastructure in Ireland by assisting the voluntary community sector and the private sector to develop capacity in the child care area. This Government has brought investment in child care in Ireland from a benchmark of approximately €1 million per annum to €499 million for a seven year strategy.

Child care was identified as an investment priority under the National Development Plan 2000-2006. This was in direct response to the recommendations of the expert working group on child care established under Partnership 2000 to develop a strategy for the development and delivery of child care to support parents in employment, education and training.

My Department has been designated as the lead Department with respect to the development of child care to meet the needs of parents in employment, education and training. The programme for Government, and the progress of my Department's equal opportunities childcare programme, are confirmation of the Government's commitment to developing child care services and to remaining focused on child care issues.

The current seven year equal opportunities child care programme, EOCP, has an equal opportunities and social inclusion perspective and facilitates the further development and expansion of child care facilities to address the needs of parents, in reconciling their child care needs with their participation in employment, education and training. The EOCP 2000-2006 aims to increase the supply of centre based child care places by 55%, some 31,372 places, by programme end. It also aims to provide support and assistance to the many childminders who are providing a childcare service across the country. The programme also encompasses many quality issues which were identified in the childcare strategy, and aims to ensure that there is co-ordination in the delivery of child care services nationwide.

Since its inception in 2000, the funding for the programme has increased from €318 million to €499.3 million or by 57%, the most recent increase being €50 million in budget 2005. The multi-annual capital envelopes announced on budget day include increases that will give an increase of €50 million in the availability of capital under the 2000-06 phase and also the injection of a further €40 million in additional capital funding into child care between 2006 and 2009.

Total funding committed under the EOCP in the period to the end of March 2005 amounts to €347.8 million, of which €292.2 million has been allocated to child care facilities and €54.7 million to quality improvement measures. It is projected that this will create some 36,000 new child care places, and will support over 30,200 existing places. By the end of 2004 over 24,600 of these new child care places were already in place. A significant part of the remaining funding will be required for continuing support to existing projects and for the provision of capital grant assistance for the development of child care facilities in areas where there are gaps in service provision.

The above measures relate to the supply of quality child care, but I would also like to draw the Deputy's attention to Government policy in the area of child benefit which aims to provide assistance to parents in paying for child care in whatever care options their parents choose for them. In the 2005 budget, this benefit was increased by €10 to €141.60 per month, per child, for the first two children and by €12 to €177.30 per month for the third and each subsequent child, from April 2005. Effectively since 1997, child benefit has almost quadrupled. This clearly indicates the Government's commitment to assisting all parents in relation to the care of their children irrespective of income and employment status.

Law on Defamation.

Joe Costello

Question:

89 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding his consideration of the recommendations of the legal advisory group on the defamation law, particularly in regard to the proposals for the establishment of a statutory press council; when he intends to bring proposals on this matter to Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10760/05]

I intend to bring forward proposals for the reform of the law on defamation to the Government in the near future on completion of the extensive consultations in which I have engaged on the matter.

Immigration Policy.

Bernard Allen

Question:

90 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the unilateral decision of the Spanish Government to validate over 500,000 illegal immigrants in Spain; if any consultation took place with the Irish Government before the decision was taken; his views on whether there is a need for a unified EU approach to immigration policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8062/05]

In January of this year the Spanish Government announced a regularisation programme for illegal migrants living in Spain. The programme which began on 7 February 2005 will run for three months to 7 May. While it is expected that there will be significant numbers involved it is not possible to obtain final numbers as the programme is still ongoing.

The Irish Government was not consulted prior to the announcement of this decision and I am not aware of any prior consultation with other EU members.

In recent times there have been discussions at EU level concerning the setting up of a system of mutual information and early warning on important decisions to be taken in member states between those responsible for migration and asylum policies. It is expected that the Justice and Home Affairs Council will shortly adopt conclusions on such a system for the future.

My views on whether there is a need for a unified EU approach to immigration policy is that we should be wary of harmonisation for its own sake. Member states are at different stages of migration development and the economic situations are diverse. For example, the unemployment rates vary widely between member states.

While Article III — 267 of the draft constitutional treaty states that "the Union shall develop a common immigration policy aimed at ensuring, at all stages, the efficient management of migration flows and fair treatment of third country nationals residing legally in Member States", it also adds that this "shall not affect the right of member states to determine volumes of admission of third-country nationals coming from third countries to their territory in order to seek work, whether employed or self employed".

Question No. 91 answered with QuestionNo. 70.

Reintegration of Prisoners.

Seán Ryan

Question:

92 Mr. S. Ryan 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. [10786/05]

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 Government 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 inreach 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. Under the Children Act 2001 the probation and welfare service also convenes family conferences which are directed by the court where it considers that the preparation of an action plan would be desirable in an individual case.

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 will be published shortly, will make a valuable contribution to the planning and provision of services in this area.

The Irish Prison Service have 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.

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.

Garda Liaison.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

93 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the promised Garda liaison officer to go through investigation files with the families of car-bombing and shooting victims in the State has been appointed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10776/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Assistant Commissioner Martin Callinan, Garda national support services, has been appointed by the Garda Commissioner to be the liaison officer to the families.

North-South Policing Protocol.

Mary Upton

Question:

94 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the recent decision of the AGSI to withdraw co-operation from the North-South policing protocol that allows for members of the Garda Síochána to be seconded to the PSNI and vice versa; if, in view of the implications of the decision, he intends to have discussions with the AGSI on the decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10793/05]

I am pleased to have this opportunity to inform the Deputy that the Garda Commissioner and the Chief Constable of the PSNI recently signed protocols which provide for the implementation of a programme of personnel exchanges and secondments between the Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The signing of these protocols is clear evidence of the continued commitment of both Irish and British Governments to the successful implementation of the intergovernmental agreement on police co-operation and, in turn, to the implementation of the recommendations of the Patten commission.

Secondments will enable members of each police service to be seconded with full police powers to the other police service for periods not exceeding three years. Legislation is already in place in both jurisdictions to enable these secondments to now proceed.

Personnel exchanges will result in a programme of placements to enable the transfer of experience and expertise, particularly in the area of training.

The implementation of these protocols will take co-operation between the two police forces to a new level and will bring benefits to both jurisdictions in the form of improved effectiveness in crime prevention and detection. In addition, the implementation of these protocols will provide a two-way flow of experience and expertise which will enhance policing standards in both organisations.

The payment of allowances to members of the Garda Síochána who participate in personnel exchanges or secondments is the subject of ongoing discussions at the Garda Síochána Conciliation Council. For the record, I should say that I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors has not informed them that they will refuse to co-operate with the implementation of the above protocols.

Immigration Policy.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

95 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on his reported statement that the immigration system could not be run on arbitrary sentimentality; his policy in ensuring that the immigration policy, especially in regard to deportation, is informed by a humane and compassionate approach; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10766/05]

Under the law as set out in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, I am obliged to take humanitarian considerations into account in determining whether or not a deportation order should be made. The question of disregarding such considerations, therefore, does not arise.

I am also obliged to take into account a range of other factors, including the common good. As the Supreme Court has stated the common good may have a bearing on an individual case even though there is nothing known or relied on which reflects badly on the individual concerned. Specifically, the Minister is entitled to have regard to the State's general policy in relation to immigrants and asylum seekers; the jurisprudence on the same subject as it evolves; the volume of persons seeking asylum and the social and economic demands which this imposes; changing patterns in this volume; the matters he is required by statute to consider; the constitutional rights of all persons concerned; and the requirement of a coherent and efficient immigration and asylum system and to our international obligations.

Thus, while humanitarian considerations, which arise in almost all cases, must be taken into account, they are not the only considerations.

Question No. 96 answered with QuestionNo. 81.

Child Care Services.

David Stanton

Question:

97 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of projects in the equal opportunities childcare programme which have progressed to sustainability since the beginning of the programme; the number of projects expected to progress to sustainability after the initial three year staffing grant; the number expected to require ongoing support; the number of projects which are delivering their agreed targets of child care service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10888/05]

The current seven year Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme, EOCP, 2000-2006 has an equal opportunities and social inclusion perspective and facilitates the further development and expansion of child care facilities to address the needs of parents, in reconciling their child care needs with their participation in employment, education and training.

The EOCP aims to increase the supply of centre based child care places by 55%, some 31,372 places, by programme end. It also aims to provide support and assistance to the many childminders who are providing a child care service across the country. In addition, the programme encompasses many quality issues which were identified in the child care strategy, and aims to ensure that there is co-ordination in the delivery of child care services nationwide.

Total funding committed under the EOCP in the period to the end of March 2005 amounts to €347.8 million, of which €292.2 million has been allocated to child care facilities and €54.7 million to quality improvement measures. It is projected that this will create some 36,000 new child care places, and will support over 30,200 existing places. By the end of 2004 over 24,600 of these new child care places were already in place. A significant part of the remaining funding will be required for continuing support to existing projects and for the provision of capital grant assistance for the development of child care facilities in areas where there are gaps in service provision.

Staffing funding under the EOCP is only made available to help support the staffing costs of those community based-not for profit projects which can demonstrate that they are providing child care in areas of significant disadvantage and that they are supporting disadvantaged parents to access employment, education or training. It is not intended that EOCP funding will meet the full costs of running a service.

Over 800 community based not for profit groups receive ongoing staffing grant assistance, with over €30 million of EU and Exchequer funding going to this measure each year. It was originally envisaged that some groups would receive such funding for a period of three years, as they move towards sustainability which would normally be achievable when the service is operating at full capacity and with an appropriate fee structure.

In a number of services, the levels of disadvantage among parents are such that the families would be unable to pay economic fees and therefore those services are likely to require ongoing State support towards their staffing costs. Supporting such services is particularly important in assisting families to break the cycle of disadvantage.

The Deputy may be aware that I have approved the existing levels of staffing grant assistance until 31 August 2005, for all groups whose first three year funding had elapsed. These groups have been informed of my decision and that this funding is subject to maintaining their forecast levels of service and implementing any conditions associated with the development of the service in relation to previous grant approvals. The amounts awarded are deemed sufficient to enable the groups to maintain their approved level of service.

My Department is currently reviewing arrangements for the ongoing support of services in cases where they will have received staffing grant assistance for three or more years at any date prior to 31 August 2005. Included in the review will be an analysis of the number of services expected to require ongoing support; the number of projects which are delivering on their agreed targets; and the progress made by groups towards sustainability. When this review is completed, I expect to be in a position to take firm decisions regarding future funding arrangements. Information regarding the introduction of these new arrangements will be forwarded to the relevant groups as soon as it is available.

Garda Stations.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

98 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to having the replacement of Buncrana Garda station advanced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10249/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to her parliamentary question — ref. 8943/05 — on 22 March 2005 when I specified the various proposals being considered by the Garda authorities in relation to this station. I am advised by the Garda authorities that these proposals are still under consideration.

Electronic Monitoring.

Willie Penrose

Question:

99 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for electronic tagging for 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 electronic monitoring had no effect on recidivism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10780/05]

As I indicated in my reply to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 107 and 222 of 16 February 2005, 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 legislative provision to allow me to introduce electronic tagging in appropriate cases when the technology has advanced sufficiently. It is my intention to bring forward this proposal by way of an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill which is currently on Second Stage in the Dáil. Details of the proposal will be announced in the normal way.

Deportation Orders.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

100 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons in respect of whom deportation orders have been signed but who have not yet been deported; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10764/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

712 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of deportation orders issued since June 2002; the number of deportations carried out; the number of deportation orders which have failed to be executed; and the number of deportations pending. [10517/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 712 together.

A total of 11,270 deportation orders have been made under the Immigration Act 1999 since its commencement in November 1999. Of these, 2,268 deportation orders have been effected to date — 1,546 in the period 1 June 2002 to 31 March 2005 — and approximately 100 cases are with the Garda national immigration bureau for arrangements to be made for their removal from the State. The majority of these have been carried out using scheduled commercial flights on numerous dates throughout the period in question.

The balance of the orders have not been effected for various reasons. Approximately 6,000 persons are evading deportation. It is not known how many of these are still in the State but it is believed by the Garda national immigration bureau that a large number of these have already left of their own accord.

The remaining orders have not been effected because, variously: they have been revoked or have not been acted upon because of changed personal or legal circumstances, for example, the persons may have married an Irish national; they may have acquired residency rights by virtue of being a parent of an Irish born child; they may have been nationals of the ten states which joined the EU in May 2004; they may have initiated judicial review proceedings challenging the deportation orders; or the return of the persons concerned may have to be negotiated with their country of origin.

Question No. 101 answered with QuestionNo. 83.

Garda Stations.

Willie Penrose

Question:

102 Mr. Penrose 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. [10782/05]

I have no plans to reduce opening hours or close any Garda station.

The use of Garda stations was considered as part of the major review of the Garda organisation structures under the strategic management initiative 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 and from the Government Publications Office, does not refer to the closure of any specific Garda station but rather makes recommendations to assist policy making in respect of 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.

Human Rights Issues.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

103 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps which are taken by this country to meet the commitment contained in the readmission agreement between Ireland and Nigeria regarding deportations to safeguard the human rights and dignity of those returned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10768/05]

The agreement between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on immigration matters, which was signed at Abuja on 29 August 2001 provides,inter alia, for a mechanism for the repatriation of persons between the two states. Article 20 of the agreement provides that nationals of the contracting states shall not be subject to inhuman or degrading treatment in relation to repatriations carried out under the agreement. The agreement also provides guarantees in relation to access by embassy officials of the receiving state to the intended deportees in order, inter alia, to verify the identity of the persons concerned.

While procedures to give effect to the agreement have been completed in Ireland the process of ratification is still ongoing on the Nigerian side. Nonetheless, the Nigerian authorities are operating the spirit of the agreement. I am satisfied that all deportation operations to Nigeria fully respect the human rights of the persons involved and that the agreement is being honoured in every way.

It should be further noted that the making of a deportation order is subject to section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, which absolutely forbids the sending of a person "in any manner whatsoever" to a place where the life or freedom of the person would be threatened on account of that person's race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. This overarching principle is the bedrock of Ireland's repatriation framework and exists independently of the provisions of any repatriation agreement to which the State becomes a party.

Deportation Orders.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

104 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to serious concerns expressed by teacher unions at a number of recent reported cases in which members of the Garda were reported to have entered schools in an attempt to execute deportation orders in respect of children attending such schools; if he intends to ensure that this practice is halted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10767/05]

Finian McGrath

Question:

733 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the persons who ordered Garda snatch squads into classrooms to remove non-national children from schools for later deportation; and if this barbaric practice will end immediately. [10712/05]

Willie Penrose

Question:

772 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to correspondence (details supplied), if he will take steps to ensure that the situation is never repeated again, whereby gardaí enter schools to secure deportations, particularly when there is a self-evident need for sensitivity around the issue and when there are other children involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11010/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 104, 733 and 772 together.

I am in receipt of correspondence concerning this matter from a number of sources, including the vice-principal of the school concerned and the joint managerial body of the Association of Management of Catholic Secondary Schools.

I should first point out that Garda Síochána is tasked with the execution of deportation orders. In enforcing these orders, it is a priority, as far as operationally possible, that family units which are the subject of such orders are not broken up in the process. All persons subject to such orders are required to present at Garda stations for the purpose of their removal from the State. It is only where there is a failure to comply with such orders that the Garda Síochána is obliged to take measures to enforce same. I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that, in the circumstances which gave rise to these questions, members were obliged to call to school properties to enforce deportation orders because of a failure by the parents concerned to comply with a lawful request to present the family unit to the Garda.

A complaint has been made to the Garda Complaints Board in respect of this matter which precludes me for commenting further at this time.

Asylum Applications.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

105 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will re-examine, in a careful and compassionate manner his policy of refusing leave to remain to the majority of young non-Irish applicants who are integrated into Ireland but who are being deported once they reach 18 years of age, with a view to allowing more of these individuals to remain in the State. [10867/05]

It is assumed that this question refers to unaccompanied minors who arrive in the State seeking asylum, whose claims for refugee status are refused following consideration of their cases by two independent bodies — the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal — and who subsequently reach the age of majority.

In such circumstances, the person is served with a notice of intent to deport under section 3(3)(a) of the Immigration Act 1999. A person served with such a notice of intent is afforded three options, namely, to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of the deportation order, or to make representations in writing within 15 working days setting out reasons a deportation order should not be made and why temporary leave to remain in the State be granted instead.

Under section 3(6) of the Act, the Minister, in determining whether to make a deportation order, shall have regard to 11 specified considerations, one of which is the duration of residence in the State. Further, the Minister must have regard to section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 — prohibition ofrefoulement— which forbids the sending of a person in any manner whatsoever to a place where the life or freedom of the person would be threatened on account of that persons race, religion, nationality, membership of a social group or political opinion. This refoulement provision does not mean that persons may not be returned to countries which would have inferior welfare, educational and health services to ours. This is not in itself a basis for allowing them to remain here. It is not the case that there is a policy not to grant leave to remain to persons in the circumstances cited above. All applications are dealt with on a case by case basis, taking account of the Minister’s obligations under the law.

Question No. 106 answered with QuestionNo. 83.

Road Traffic Offences.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

107 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prosecutions for speeding that may be deemed invalid following the High Court judgment that the laser guns used by gardaí to monitor speed were in breach of the requirements of the Road Traffic Act 2002; if any such prosecution will remain valid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9698/05]

The Garda authorities inform me that advice has been received from the law officers on the implications of the recent decision of the High Court on section 21 of the Road Traffic Act 2002 and on the taking of prosecutions utilising section 21 of the Road Traffic Act 2002, as amended by section 15 of the Road Traffic Act 2004.

The Garda authorities further inform me that the information requested on the number of prosecutions that cannot be proceeded with in the light of the recent High Court decision is not readily available and could only be obtained by the expenditure of a disproportionate use of staff time and resources.

Youth Services.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

108 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of juvenile liaison officers in the Garda Síochána at the latest date for which figures are available; if he has plans to extend the scheme given its proven success in dealing with juvenile offenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10783/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that as of 8 April 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 provides a statutory basis for the operation of the Garda juvenile diversion programme. Included in that Act is the introduction into the criminal justice system of the concept of restorative justice and family conferencing, which provisions are being put into effect by the Garda Síochána. The Garda authorities estimate that in the year 2004, the Garda juvenile office received between 17,000 and 20,000 referrals under the juvenile diversion programme. 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. Details of the areas in which the programme is in existence is set out in the attached table. Resource implications are constantly under review and applications for additional resources are made on a case by case basis when and where necessary.

Juvenile Liaison Officers by Division

Division

Garda

Sergeant

Total

Dublin (South Central)

4

1

5

Dublin South

7

1

8

Dublin West

7

1

8

Dublin North

9

1

10

Dublin (North Central)

3

1

4

Dublin East

6

1

7

Louth/Meath

5

5

Longford/Westmeath

3

3

Laois/ Offaly

2

2

Kildare/ Carlow

3

3

Wexford/ Wicklow

3

3

Waterford/ Kilkenny

5

5

Tipperary

2

2

Cork City

6

1

7

Cork North

2

2

Cork West

2

2

Kerry

2

2

Limerick

2

1

3

Clare

1

1

Roscommon/ Galway East

2

2

Galway West

2

2

Mayo

2

2

Sligo/ Leitrim

1

1

Donegal

3

3

Cavan/ Monaghan

2

2

TOTAL

86

8

94

* The sergeant in Cork city division also has responsibility for the Cork north and Cork south divisions.

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

Questions Nos. 109 and 110 answered with Question No. 83.

Proposed Legislation.

Jack Wall

Question:

111 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects that the long promised judicial conduct and ethics Bill will be published; if he has brought proposals to Government on the matter; if the heads of a Bill have been approved by Cabinet; the general approach he intends to adopt; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10789/05]

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 ethicschaired 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.

Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Dan Boyle

Question:

112 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the criteria used for the appointment of members to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10859/05]

The Refugee Appeals Tribunal is an independent body established under the Refugee Act 1996. The tribunal comprises a chairperson and, at present, 35 ordinary members appointed by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The criteria used in making appointments to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal are set out in the Second Schedule to the 1996 Act. Ordinary members of the tribunal, who are part-time, hold office for a term of three years and, as in the case of the chairperson, are required to have had not less than five years' experience as practising barristers or practising solicitors before appointment.

The tribunal continues to play a vital part in the Government's overall asylum strategy, with a huge volume of appeals processed and dealt with in a timely, fair and effective manner in line with the State's international obligations.

The existing arrangements are working well and there are no plans to review procedures for appointing ordinary members of the tribunal.

Garda Operations.

John Gormley

Question:

113 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Garda uses caller identification when receiving emergency and other telephone calls; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10864/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Síochána does not as a matter of routine receive caller identification from the emergency services operator. For all other calls, caller identification is received only if the caller has enabled the facility on their telephone.

Prison Committals.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

114 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons committed to prisons during 2004 for alleged breaches of immigration laws without having been charged with a specific offence; if his attention has been drawn to concerns expressed by the Irish Refugee Council that in some cases such persons were being held for weeks or months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10765/05]

It is not clear if the Deputy is referring to a specific area of immigration law. There is a wide range of offences created within the overall legislative framework dealing with immigration and asylum. Data on the number of persons in detention for breaches of those laws are not maintained in a manner to enable me provide the information sought by the Deputy.

I am aware that particular concerns have been expressed by the Irish Refugee Council and other organisations about the detention of persons under section 9(8) of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended. That Act sets out very specific safeguards in relation to the use of that provision. For example, detentions under section 9(8) are made by judicial authority and are subject to regular review for periods not exceeding 21 days and are made for specific reasons as set out in the said statute.

It should also be pointed out that persons in detention, for whatever reason, have remedies open to them to challenge their detention including, in particular, an application for an inquiry by the High Court in accordance with Article 40.4.2 of the Constitution.

This State, like every other sovereign state, has immigration laws to ensure that there is some degree of control over who enters our country and for what purposes. Our courts have reviewed various aspects of immigration laws over the years, including the power to detain persons for breaches of those laws, and it is beyond doubt that this State is entitled to and is obliged to take responsibility for the control of immigration. In certain circumstances that will involve detaining a person.

The European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 requires every organ of the State to perform its functions in a manner compatible with the State's obligations under the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. That convention protects the liberty of every person but acknowledges that there may be a lawful arrest and detention of a person in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law to prevent his effecting an unauthorised entry into the country or of a person against whom action is being taken with a view to deportation or extradition.

Asylum Applications.

Joan Burton

Question:

115 Ms Burton 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. [10762/05]

The closing date for receipt of applications for the IBC/05 scheme was 31 March 2005. Some 18,000 applications were received. Of this number, some 3,600 applicants have been granted temporary permission to remain and 13 applicants have been refused temporary permission to remain. It should be noted that a number of incomplete applications are currently under examination or are being held pending the submission of documents.

With regard 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 scheme will not have any other right of residence. Where an applicant 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 he/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 ofrefoulement— of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended.

Firearms Offences.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

116 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the alarming growth in gun crime; his views on the need to take immediate legislative or other steps to ensure stiffer prison sentences for those found in possession of, or proven to have used firearms in the pursuit of crime; if his attention has further been drawn to the significance of the increased use of sawn-off shotguns and automatic assault weapons; his plans to address this increasingly serious threat to the lives and property of the citizens of the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10818/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

776 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gun crime incidents so far recorded in the past six months; if the type and nature of the weapons used is of particular significance; the action he plans to take to address this most serious issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11224/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

777 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he proposes to take to address the increasingly serious situation regarding the use of guns for criminal purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11225/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 116, 776 and 777 together.

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. I am conscious of the recent increase in violent crime involving firearms and the particular overriding necessity to ensure that public safety and security are given priority in any review of policy and legislation in respect of firearms. With this in mind, I have decided to bring forward at an early stage certain proposals for inclusion in the Criminal Justice Bill 2004. The Bill as published contains one of those proposals, namely, to provide for the secure custody of firearms. Other provisions will be brought forward in the form of amendments to the Bill on Committee Stage. The Bill is currently on Second Stage in the Dáil. These amendments will deal with better controls on the type of firearms which may be certified. They will further specify certain additional requirements which will have to be met by applicants for certificates and allow for the imposition of conditions on the granting of a certificate. They will include a provision allowing the deeming by order of firearms which may not be certified. I am considering increasing the sentences for the more serious range of such offences, including the possibility of mandatory minimum sentences in some cases, as well as new offences of illegally modifying a firearm, for example, sawing off a shotgun, and the imposition of severe penalties for this offence.

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.

The following table gives figures for the number of headline offences recorded and detected. With regard to the weapons involved, 40% are recorded as shotguns and 37% as pistols.

Headline Offences Recorded and Detected with a Firearm Involved 2004/2005*

Year

October

November

December

Recorded

Detected

Recorded

Detected

Recorded

Detected

2004

49

16

46

16

59

12

January

February

March

Recorded

Detected

Recorded

Detected

Recorded

Detected

2005

53

33

39

7

47

13

* Statistics provided are provisional, operational and liable to change.

Deportation Orders.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

117 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will consider the immediate suspension of mass deportations to allow for an audit of the policy by the Human Rights Commission. [10854/05]

I cannot agree to the suspension of our deportation process on the basis outlined by the Deputy. Deportations take place within the provisions of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and after each case has been fully considered by me with regard to the 11 considerations contained in section 3(6) of that Act and section 5 — prohibition ofrefoulement— of the Refugee Act 1996. I cannot accept the term “mass deportations” in this context, as each case is individually considered on the basis of its own facts and circumstances before a decision to deport is made.

A deportation process, after a person's case has been dealt with fairly, is central to the proper functioning of any immigration and asylum system. This fact is recognised universally by bodies such as the UNHCR. I am not aware of any country which does not have at its disposal the final sanction of deportation. Our asylum and repatriation system compares favourably with the best in the world in terms of fairness, decision-making and determination structures.

The deportation process is also subject to the scrutiny of the courts. It is open to a person to challenge a deportation order, by way of application for judicial review to the High Court, within 14 days of the notification of the making of the deportation order.

Security Industry.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

118 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress which has been made in the Garda investigation into two robberies of security vans in Dublin during March 2005 in which more than €4 million was taken; the total amount taken in raids on security vans during 2004 and to date in 2005; the number of such cases in which charges have been laid; if he is satisfied that the gardaí have sufficient resources to deal with this plague of robberies and to bring those responsible to justice. [10770/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 62 of today.

Asylum Applications.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

119 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons granted leave to remain in the State in each of the past three years; the number granted leave to date in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10861/05]

I presume the Deputy is referring to applications for leave to remain made pursuant to section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended.

Leave to remain in these circumstances arise where a non-national is served with a notice of intent to deport under section 3(3)(a) of the Immigration Act 1999. A person served with such a notice of intent is afforded three options, namely, to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of the deportation order, or to make representations in writing within 15 working days setting out reasons a deportation order should not be made and why temporary leave to remain in the State be granted instead.

Under section 3(6) of the Act the Minister, in determining whether to make a deportation order, shall have regard to 11 specified considerations, one of which is any representation made by or on behalf of the person. The determination as to whether a deportation order is made or whether leave to remain is granted is not dependent on whether, in fact, the person has made representations for leave to remain. Thus, statistics are not maintained to distinguish between cases where representations have been made for leave to remain from those where no such representations were made.

The relevant statistics for the past three years are as follows:

Year

2002

2003

2004

2005 (until 31 March)

Temporary leave to remain granted under the Immigration Act 1999

158

86

175

15

In my reply to Question No. 94 on Wednesday, 16 February 2005, I gave the number of such temporary leave to remain as 140 for 2004. The correct figure should have been 175, as indicated above. I apologise for this incorrect information which was due to an incomplete transfer of data from an old database to a new management information system in my Department. I wrote to the Deputy concerned and to the Editor of Dáil Debates to correct the record of the House.

Question No. 120 answered with QuestionNo. 77.

Garda Deployment.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

121 Mr. Stagg 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. [10792/05]

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 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 level of approximately 530 to 1,200 by 2008. The assignment of gardaí to the traffic corps will be done on a phased basis in tandem with the recruitment of almost 1,100 recruits in each of the next three years.

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 position of assistant commissioner, traffic was filled on 22 February 2005. The Commissioner has tasked the assistant commissioner with implementing the recommendations contained in the strategic review in line with the implementation plan contained in the report.

Garda Recruitment.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

122 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of extra gardaí which will be provided in the year 2005 that will be additional to those who retire or take early retirement; if he is satisfied that there is a sufficient number of gardaí on the beat in view of the ongoing robberies and general violent activity in the Border area; if he will take further steps to utilise civilian personnel for office duty to make sure that all possible gardaí are available for what they are best trained for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10424/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel that the personnel, strength of the Garda Síochána as of 7 April 2005 was 12,209 — all ranks.

It is anticipated that a total of 411 recruits will be attested to the Garda Síochána during the remainder of 2005. It is also planned that a total of 1,100 recruits will be inducted to the Garda college during 2005. The first intake of 275 recruits to the Garda college commenced training in the week beginning 7 February 2005.

It is projected that approximately 321 members — all ranks — of the Garda Síochána will leave the organisation between 7 April 2005 and 31 December 2005. This figure includes a total of 20 gardaí— all ranks — who are due to retire from the force on compulsory grounds between 7 April 2005 and 31 December 2005.

Current projections indicate that the total strength of the Garda Síochána as at 31 December 2005 will be 12,299 — all ranks. 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. I am further informed that local management is satisfied with current resource levels in the Border divisions, which are regularly reviewed.

As regards civilianisation, which is but one aspect of making more gardaí available on the streets, my Department is reviewing the position with the Department of Finance and Garda management as to how it will proceed further with the civilianisation programme in the context of the overall constraints of civil and public service numbers. The purpose of the review is to enable to the greatest extent possible the redeployment of desk-bound gardaí from administrative and technical functions to operational duties. This is in keeping with the general policy that civilianisation allows certain jobs to be done at a more economic cost and allows gardaí to focus on work more suited to their training and skills, thereby increasing overall operational capacity within the Garda Síochána.

Human Rights Issues.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

123 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the concerns raised by a company (details supplied) in the human rights audit report on the operations of the Garda Síochána; his plans for addressing same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10857/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 68, tabled by Deputy Breeda Moynihan-Cronin for today, in the above regard.

Security Industry.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

124 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position with regard to the operation of the Private Security Authority; the number of staff recruited by the authority; the services it is offering; the powers under the Private Security Services Act 2004 that it is implementing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10772/05]

The Private Security Authority was established in October 2004 and is located in Tipperary town. The authority currently has a staff complement of five persons. It is envisaged that staffing levels will be increased appropriately over the coming weeks and months.

Since its establishment, the Private Security Authority has been formulating strategies for the implementation of the Private Security Services Act 2004. In particular, the authority intends to commence the licensing in October 2005 of companies where a nationally recognised standard for such companies already exists. The sectors concerned are security guarding, door security and event security. The licensing of these sectors will also facilitate future planning as it will generate high level statistics on the numbers of people involved in the various sectors of the industry. The authority is paying particular attention to issues arising in the context of cash escorts following my recent meeting with representatives of the security companies and financial institutions.

Licensing of companies in other sectors will be commenced on a phased basis as appropriate standards to support the relevant sectors are developed jointly by the PSA and the National Standards Authority of Ireland.

The provisions of the Private Security Services Act 2004 that have been commenced are detailed in S.I. 685 of 2004. These are: (a) Part 1; (b) sections 6 to 12, inclusive, 17 to 20, inclusive; and (c) Schedule 1.

Prison Reports.

Damien English

Question:

125 Mr. English asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which the reports which have been submitted to him by Mr. Justice Kinlen have been implemented by him in an effective and speedy manner; the reasons for the delay in implementing them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10892/05]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

751 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Parliamentary Question No. 488 of 22 March 2005, the recommendations in the Kinlen reports published to date which he has implemented; and the timescale for the implementation of the other recommendations made in the reports. [10902/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 125 and 751 together.

The Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention has made a considerable number of recommendations in his reports aimed at improving prison services and conditions. The position as of end-2003 in regard to implementation of the inspector's earlier recommendations is set out in detail in the Irish Prison Service Annual Report 2003, which was published last year. A copy of that report is in the Oireachtas Library. The status of implementation of the inspector's more recent recommendations will be similarly addressed in the service's 2004 annual report which will be published in the coming months.

Overall, I am satisfied that the inspector's recommendations are being implemented on an ongoing basis as circumstances and resources allow. This is particularly the case in respect of the more straightforward recommendations such as appointment of additional psychologists, improvements to prison accommodation, provision of additional safety and other equipment, improvements in record-keeping and measures to frustrate the efforts of people who seek to make illicit drugs available to prisoners. Progress towards implementation of other more complex recommendations such as the replacement of Mountjoy and Portlaoise prisons and the provision of new library, medical and other facilities at Limerick Prison is ongoing. Construction of the new accommodation at Limerick Prison is under way and tenders are under consideration for provision of new prisoner accommodation at Portlaoise Prison as part of the next phase of redevelopment there. A contract was recently concluded for purchase of a site for a new prison complex to replace the existing prisons on the Mountjoy campus.

Prison Drug Treatment Services.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

126 Mr. Sherlock 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; if he intends to proceed with plans to introduce mandatory drug testing in prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10787/05]

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.

Deportation Orders.

Dan Boyle

Question:

127 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the company which was contracted to undertake charter flights for deportees out of Ireland prior to the appointment of a company (details supplied) in March 2005; the number of flights since May 2002; the costs for the charter of aeroplanes and the number of deportees; the breakdown by nationality of those deported; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10860/05]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

131 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of occasions since June 2002 on which aircraft have been chartered to facilitate the deportation of persons from this country; the total cost involved in such charters; the total number of persons deported in this way and the number who were children; the overall costs involved, including Garda man hours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10763/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

711 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of deportations which have occurred since June 2002; the date of each such deportation flight; the destination of same; the number of deportees; the number of gardaí on each flight; the number of other security personnel on each flight; and the total cost of each flight. [10516/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127, 131 and 711 together.

From January 2002 to date, 13 charter flights have been engaged for the purpose of deportation of persons illegally residing in the State. A total of 376 persons were deported in this way at a total cost of €1,628,201. Details of these charter flights, that is, dates, destinations, numbers deported — broken down into adults and minors, in so far as this information is available — and individual costs are as shown in the table supplied at the end of this answer.

The above costs include Garda expenses associated with these removal operations. I am advised by the Garda Commissioner that, given the wide range of immigration duties performed by the Garda Siochána and the Garda National Immigration Bureau in particular, it is not possible to identify the particular pay and overtime costs incurred by the Garda in relation to these charter flights. However, the Commissioner informs me that charter flights involve a lower ratio of Garda escorts to deportees than is the case using conventional schedule flights, resulting in savings to the Garda budget.

The number of escorting gardaí on each flight varies as it is dependent on a prior risk assessment of each removal operation carried out by the Garda National Immigration Bureau and on the policy of the particular airline. Given the large number of removal operations, it would involve a disproportionate use of Garda time and resources to provide details of the exact escort numbers used in each case. However, it is usual for two escorts to accompany a single deportee with a lower ratio used where more than one person is being removed to the same destination and on board charter flights.

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

The use of charter flights, including joint charters shared by two or more countries, are accepted and used widely across the European Union as an effective and efficient means of returning persons illegally present on the territories of member states following individual consideration of their cases. The European Council of Ministers adopted a decision in April 2004 facilitating the greater use of joint repatriation flights as a means of demonstrating solidarity among member states, increasing the rate of returns and making more effective use of resources.

Ireland has carried out two such joint operations with the Netherlands on 28 November 2003 to Romania and Bulgaria and with the UK to Romania and Moldova on 18 November 2003 — details of which are provided in the table set out below.

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

Two companies were involved in the provision of suitable aircraft for the removal of deportees by charter flights prior to the appointment of Air Partner Plc as approved service providers in February 2005. These companies were Fly Ireland and Swiftair Aviation Limited. The companies were contracted individually for each charter flight.

No. of non-nationals deported

Date

Destination

Adults

Minors

Total

Cost

9 January 2002

Algeria

2

Nil

2

29,833

28 March 2002

Nigeria

6

Nil

6

241,250

14 November 2002

Nigeria

N/A

N/A

12*

191,730

18 November 2003

Romania and Moldova

N/A

N/A

24*

92,490

28 November 2003

Romania and Bulgaria

N/A

N/A

20*

31,989

12 February 2004

Romania

N/A

N/A

62*

93,609

20 February 2004

Gambia

1

Nil

1

50,200

31 March 2004

Romania

49

4

53

71,590

6 April 2004

Nigeria

26

3

29

146,500

26 August 2004

Nigeria

24

1

25

248,610

17 November 2004

Romania and Moldova

56

10

66

82,700

15 December 2004

Romania and Moldova

39

2

41

82,700

15 March, 2005

Nigeria

26

9

35

265,000

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

Security Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

128 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the discussions he has had with the Garda authorities following the spate of well organised robberies in the past four months; if he has identified countermeasures to be taken; if he has intimated any such views to the Garda authorities or other security agents or agencies; if he has had discussions with any such bodies in the aftermath of the Brinks Allied heist; the reason this event was not anticipated and preventative measures put in place in view of the obvious growth of organised crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10817/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

778 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he took action arising from the first major robbery in this jurisdiction this year with particular reference to payroll transport, bank and post office security; if he issued any instructions directly to the Garda or other authorities regarding the need to step up security in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11226/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 128 and 778 together.

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 62 of today.

International Terrorism.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

129 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on the most recent advice given to him by Garda authorities regarding the current level of threat to Ireland from international terrorists; the way in which the level of threat to Ireland compares to the level of threat to Europe in general; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6707/05]

Billy Timmins

Question:

135 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps being taken to protect the State from terrorist attack; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6743/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 129 and 135 together.

I take it both questions relate to threats arising in relation to international terrorism rather than from indigenous terrorist groupings. Responsibility for internal national security is a matter for the Garda Síochána, with the support of the Defence Forces, as appropriate. The Garda authorities maintain an up-to-date assessment of the threat of attack from national and international terrorist groupings through analysis of intelligence gathered from domestic and international sources.

The Garda involvement for many years in fora within the European Union and further afield has ensured that excellent lines of communication and co-operation have been developed and fostered with police and security services worldwide. This facilitates the ongoing sharing of intelligence concerning terrorist groupings and enables a rapid operational response to be put in place where circumstances dictate.

Security threat assessments on the risk level to Ireland of terrorist attack are furnished by the Garda authorities at regular intervals to the Government and me. Although it is not the practice, and it would be contrary to the public interest to reveal the content of these threat assessments, the Deputy will appreciate that it is vital that the resources of the State are fully used to combat the real, ongoing threat posed by both national and international terrorism.

Question No. 130 answered with QuestionNo. 80.
Question No. 131 answered with QuestionNo. 127.

Garda Investigations.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

132 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received the detailed report from the Garda Síochána into the Garda investigation of the murder of two women in Grangegorman, Dublin 7, in March 1997 which led to the wrongful charging of Dean Lyons; when he will be in a position to make a decision on the further investigation which may be required; if he will consider using the range of powers available to him under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10788/05]

Tony Gregory

Question:

731 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of reports he has sought since his appointment as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform from the Garda to date regarding the Grangegorman murders and the specific details sought on each occasion. [10694/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 731 together.

I, and the officials of my Department on my behalf, have been in regular communication over a significant period with the Garda authorities in relation to issues arising from the investigation of the double murder in the Grangegorman area on 6-7 March 1997.

Each such communication could be regarded as a request for a report. In view of the volume of written and oral contacts which have taken place, it is not possible to provide the Deputies with the number of requests for reports, however defined, or any specific details requested on the occasion of such contacts.

Garda Strength.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

133 Ms O’Sullivan 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. [10779/05]

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. The figure refers to those who have successfully completed the student-probationer education and training programme.

I am further informed that a total of 1,235 members, all ranks, have resigned, retired or otherwise left the Garda Síochána since 6 June 2002. A total of 1,679 recruits have been attested to the Garda Síochána in the same period. The figure of 1,421 who have graduated from the Garda College are those members who have successfully completed the student-probationer education-training programme.

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 444 members since June 2002.

Prison Reports.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

134 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reports which have been submitted to him by Mr. Justice Kinlen; the reports which have been published; the longest period of time which has elapsed between the date a report was submitted to him and the date it was published; the reasons for the delay involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10889/05]

The formal reports received by my Department from the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention, since his appointment, are as follows: First Annual Report of the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention; Report of the Inspection of Cloverhill Prison; Report of the Inspection of Mountjoy Prison and the Dóchas Centre; Report of the Inspection of Portlaoise Prison; Report of the Inspection of Limerick Prison; Report of the Inspection of Wheatfield Prison; Report of the Inspection of Fort Mitchel, Place of Detention; Report of the Inspection of Loughan House, Place of Detention; Report of the Inspection of Arbour Hill Prison; Report of the revisit Inspection of Cloverhill Prison; Report of the revisit Inspection of Limerick Prison; Report of the revisit Inspection of Portlaoise Prison; Report of the Inspection of Castlerea Prison; Report of the Inspection of St. Patrick's Institution; Report of the revisit Inspection of Mountjoy Prison and the Dóchas Centre; Report of the Inspection of Cork Prison; and Second Annual Report of the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention.

All of these reports, with the exception of the last two, have been published and are available on my Department's website,www.justice.ie. The longest period of time which has elapsed between the date a report was submitted to my Department and the date it was published was approximately six months. It is necessary to have all reports submitted by the inspector and examined before publication and this sometimes involves a number of bodies. However, I have directed that such examinations should be completed as quickly as possible to prevent delays of this type occurring in the future.

Question No. 135 answered with QuestionNo. 129.

Garda Complaints.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

136 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount paid out either in respect of court awards or out of court settlements for claims taken against members of the Garda Síochána in respect of assault, unlawful arrest or other breach of a citizen’s right in respect of 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and to date in 2005; 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. [10784/05]

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 in 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 the year 2004, 127 actions were initiated-received. They included 40 cases of alleged assault and 26 cases of alleged unlawful arrest. In the year 2005 to date, 35 actions have been initiated-received. They include 12 cases of alleged assault and six 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) €649,286.35 as at 08/04/05

Awards

250.00 (1)

Settlements

35,000 (1)

9,113.00 (2)

Costs

20,570 (1)

583,748.35(6)

605.00 (1)

Total

55,570.00

593,111.35

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.

Question No. 137 answered with QuestionNo. 81.

Prisons Building Programme.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

138 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the financial criteria and any other criteria used in the selection of a site for a new prison in the Dublin area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10855/05]

The criteria employed in the assessment of the site are set out in the minutes of the selection committee which have been published. I am satisfied that proper procedures were followed and I reject any suggestion to the contrary.

Crime Levels.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

139 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the low level of detections, prosecutions initiated and convictions secured in respect of rape cases; the steps he intends to take to achieve a higher level of detection and convictions in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10790/05]

I was pleased to note decreases in aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, rape of a female and unlawful carnal knowledge in the provisional headline crime figures for the quarter ending 31 March 2005 which I have just released. I was concerned, however, to see a recorded increase in the number of cases of rape section 4.

With regard to the number of detections, I can assure the Deputy that any incident of rape or sexual assault reported to the Garda Síochána is fully investigated, as much evidence as possible is gathered and, subsequently, a file is forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions for a direction as to whether a prosecution should proceed or not.

The Garda Síochána actively encourages people who are the victims of any crime to report the offence to the gardaí. In addition, a number of established initiatives underpin this policy, such as the Garda confidential telephone number, Crimestoppers and Crimecall.

I have outlined to the House on a number of occasions that 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.

My Department has approved joint funding for comprehensive research into attrition rates in rape cases. The research, which is entitled The Understanding of Attrition, Early Withdrawal, the Trial Process and Identifying Possible Changes to Support Complainants in Rape Cases, is being carried out by the Department of Law at the National University of Ireland, Galway and the Rape Crisis Network Ireland. It is being conducted over three years and is expected to be completed in 2007-08.

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. It is important to note that, with regard to conviction rates, the courts are independent in their function and it would therefore be inappropriate for me to comment on their decisions.

Following completion of this research, action will be taken, as appropriate, to resolve any issue that may arise.

Prison Visiting Committees.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

140 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the mileage claimed by members of jail visiting committees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10870/05]

The number of miles recorded on the financial management systems in my Department for members of the prison visiting committees for the period January to December 2004 is 282,629 at a cost of €295,432.69. As I have previously explained, a visiting committee is appointed to each prison under the Prisons (Visiting Committees) Act, 1925 and Prisons (Visiting Committees) Order, 1925.

Vouched expenses for travel and subsistence are paid, on the authorisation of the prison governor, in line with Civil Service rates. The Deputy will be aware that it is my policy to appoint all new members of prison visiting committees to a prison in their home county or a neighbouring county. In past years, each visiting committee has undertaken an annual visit to another prison institution for instructional purposes in order to compare facilities and conditions in other institutions against their own prison. I have instructed that such visits should now only take place where the majority of the members of the visiting committee have been newly appointed, thereby reducing travel and subsistence expenses.

These new policies have resulted in significant savings for the Irish Prison Service. The total travel and subsistence expenses paid to members of the prison visiting committees in 2004 amounted to €338,540.58 as compared to €656,435.53 in 2002, which represents a drop of 48%.

Garda Training.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

141 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the detailed breakdown of the staff numbers employed in training and other duties at the Garda College, Templemore currently and at end of 2002, 2003 and 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10868/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the detailed breakdown of staff numbers currently employed in training and other duties at the Garda College, Templemore, as sought by the Deputy is as set out hereunder:

Garda Training Staff

Rank

31/12/02

31/12/03

31/12/04

8/04/05

Chief Superintendent

1

1

1

1

Superintendent

6

5

5

5

Inspector

7

8

9

9

Sergeant

61

60

59

60

Garda

73

73

68

66

Total

148

147

142

141

Civilian Training Staff

Role

31/12/02

31/12/03

31/12/04

8/04/05

Head of T & D* Unit

1

1

1

1

Teachers

6

7

6

8

Video Officer

1

1

0

0

Total

8

9

7

9

* T & D Unit = Training and Development Unit
Clerical Staff

Role

31/12/02

31/12/03

31/12/04

8/04/05

Staff Officer

1

1

1

1

Librarian

0

0

1

1

Finance Officer

0

0

2

2

Clerical Officer

21

21

18

18

Telephonist

1

1

1

1

Total

23

23

23

23

General Operatives

Role

31/12/02

31/12/03

31/12/04

8/04/05

Tradesmen

2

2

2

2

Operatives

13

13

13

13

Total

15

15

15

15

Cleaning Staff — Full time

Role

31/12/02

31/12/03

31/12/04

8/04/05

Cleaners

24

24

24

24

Total

24

24

24

24

Restaurant Staff

Role

31/12/02

31/12/03

31/12/04

8/04/05

Restaurant Staff

19

19

19

19

Total

19

19

19

19

Shop Staff

Role

31/12/02

31/12/03

31/12/04

8/04/05

Shop Staff

2

2

2

2

Total

2

2

2

2

Deportation Orders.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

142 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will further examine the situation regarding the deportation of persons; if he will evaluate each such case directly before deportation orders are signed; if he will reconsider and allow those persons return who have already been deported without proper scrutiny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10423/05]

In relation to all files submitted to me containing recommendations for deportation, it is plainly necessary for officials to collate and summarise all relevant information and present it in a coherent and consistent format for me to consider. Almost without exception, this involves, first, a summary of all available information on each of the 11 factors in section 3(6) of the 1999 Act and, second, a consideration of therefoulement issues under section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended, and-or other significant issues relating to the case. A recommendation is then made to me by an officer at a grade not lower than assistant principal. The entire file is then submitted to me for a decision. I have before me both the summary submissions and all relevant supporting papers before deciding whether or not to sign the deportation order.

The procedures described above have been closely followed in each case where a deportation order has been made and the person deported. I cannot accept the inference in the Deputy's question that persons have been deported without full and proper scrutiny of their cases.

It should also be remembered that where deportation orders are made in regard to asylum seekers, their applications have already been considered and rejected within the independent asylum determination process comprising, the Refugee Applications Commissioner, ORAC, and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, RAT.

The details of the Deputy's question refers to persons who have been involved in the Irish education system for some time. I ask the Deputy to consider what the consequences would be of a policy not to deport persons involved in the education process and, by implication, their families. I draw attention to the fact that in 2003, of the 7,900 asylum applicants almost 1,100 were accompanied minors between the ages of four and 18. Similarly, in 2004, of the 4,766 asylum applicants, over 700 were accompanied minors between the ages of four and 18.

By adopting a policy of non-deportation in such circumstances, Ireland would be sending out a message to the world that it is assuming an obligation to provide education for those who, having been found not to be in need of international protection, have otherwise no right to be in the State.

Proceeds of Crime.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

143 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has explored the possibility of using money seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau for volunteer projects as a means of reinvesting in communities; if he has had further discussions either within his Department or with colleagues on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11401/05]

The Criminal Assets Bureau enforces the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 which provides statutory procedures of restraint. The effect of restraint orders made by the High Court is to freeze, for at least seven years, property deemed to be the proceeds of crime. After that period, a disposal order may be sought from the court to vest the property in the Minister for Finance. It is only where the court directs that such property be transferred that funds accrue to the Exchequer.

While I have raised the matter with my colleague, the Minister for Finance, the proposal that assets, which are determined by law to be the proceeds of crime, be committed directly towards volunteer projects as a means of reinvesting in communities would involve a significant departure from Government accounting principles. These provide that it is a matter for the Government, with the approval of the Oireachtas, to determine the optimum allocation of Exchequer receipts in accordance with agreed priorities. The position of the Department of Finance is that any departure from such principles could set a precedent which would be difficult to resist in those circumstances and which, no doubt, would reactivate long-standing demands for "ringfencing" receipts in other sectoral areas.

Ministerial Travel.

Bernard Allen

Question:

144 Mr. Allen asked the Taoiseach if he travelled abroad for the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations; the persons who travelled with him in his official party; the duration of the visit and the cost involved. [10171/05]

I travelled to the United States on 15 March for St Patrick's Day, returning on 18 March. My programme included visits to Syracuse, New York, Baltimore and Washington. The official party consisted of the Second Secretary General of my Department, the Director of Northern Ireland Division, Government press secretary, special adviser, private secretary, personal assistant, security officer and myself. The Minister for Foreign Affairs travelled separately to the US and joined me in Washington. He accompanied me on the return journey. The overall cost of the visit is not yet available.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

145 Mr. Naughten asked the Taoiseach the sections of his Department currently based outside Dublin which will be moved to other non-Dublin locations under the decentralisation programme; the location from and to which officials are being transferred; the numbers and sections involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10524/05]

There are no sections of my Department based outside Dublin and there are no proposals to decentralise any section of my Department or any of the bodies or agencies operating under its aegis. A significant part of the Central Statistics Office is already located in Cork.

Grant Payments.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

146 Mr. Broughan asked the Taoiseach the grants and other financial assistance awarded by his Department in each of the past three years to men’s organisations and groups or organisations providing services primarily for men including the name of the organisation or group; the amount paid; and the purpose for which it was paid. [10700/05]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

147 Mr. Broughan asked the Taoiseach the grants and other financial assistance awarded by his Department in each of the past three years to women’s organisations and groups or organisations providing services primarily for women including the name of the organisation or group; the amount paid; and the purpose for which it was paid. [10701/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 146 and 147 together.

My Department has not paid grants nor awarded financial assistance in the past three years to any groups such as those referred to in the Deputy's questions.

Departmental Records.

Dan Boyle

Question:

148 Mr. Boyle asked the Taoiseach the annual fees paid to each chairperson and director in each statutory board under the remit of his Department. [10872/05]

The annual stipend fee for the Chairperson of the National Statistics Board is €7,618.43. The other bodies under the aegis of my Department are non-statutory.

Lisbon Agenda.

Pat Breen

Question:

149 Mr. P. Breen asked the Taoiseach the coordination arrangements he proposes to put in place to implement the Lisbon Strategy as agreed at the recent European Council summit and if he will make a statement on the matter [10921/05]

The European Council agreed at its meeting on 22 to 23 March that each member state will draw up a national action programme to implement the Lisbon Agenda and that member states will enhance their internal co-ordination arrangements to support national implementation.

In the light of the European Council conclusions, I have been considering the co-ordination process which is in place here to progress the Lisbon Agenda. While responsibility for implementing individual elements of the Lisbon Agenda lies with relevant Ministers and Government Departments, my Department has an active role in co-ordinating and overseeing the overall implementation of the Lisbon Agenda. I consider that the current arrangements are appropriate to the needs of our administration and will enable us to deliver the Lisbon reforms effectively.

Consultations on our proposed national reform programme will be held with the stakeholders over the coming months.

Special Educational Needs.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

150 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the average waiting period for primary school children to receive speech and language therapy; her proposals to address this problem; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10658/05]

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 speech and language therapy. 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.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

151 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps being taken by her Department to ensure that sufficient resources are available to deal with the large number of pupils in primary schools in the Ballyfermot area who are presenting with speech difficulties. [11258/05]

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 services. This includes responsibility for speech and language therapy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

152 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for an orthodontic assessment. [9944/05]

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

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

153 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be issued on medical grounds to persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny who applied in February 2005 and are still awaiting a response. [9945/05]

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

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

154 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive will review the level of support being given in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow with a view to granting them twilight and night nursing; the assistance which is required; and if the public health nurse will interview this person to determine their requirements. [9946/05]

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. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's south eastern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

John McGuinness

Question:

155 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 281 of 26 January 2005 if orthodontic treatment will be arranged in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the fact that this person has been examined in the county clinic; the waiting list for this treatment; the exact timeframe relative to this case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9947/05]

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

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

156 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when funding approval will be made available for a neurologist to the Health Service Executive northern area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9948/05]

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

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

157 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position of the application for special housing aid for the elderly for a person (details supplied); when the application will be processed or works commence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9949/05]

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 the housing aid scheme for the elderly in Wexford, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's south eastern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Louth County Hospital.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

158 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has received a request from Dundalk Urban Council to meet her to discuss issues in relation to Louth County Hospital, Dundalk; the date this request was made and when the requested meeting will take place. [9988/05]

I have received a number of requests in recent months to meet a delegation representing Dundalk Town Council to discuss issues in relation to Louth County Hospital, Dundalk. In this regard, I have advised the council that I have agreed to a meeting which is scheduled to take place on 18 May 2005.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

159 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when two doors will be replaced for a person (detail supplied) in County Clare under the housing aid for the elderly scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9989/05]

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 the housing aid scheme for the elderly in Clare, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's mid western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

160 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the Government’s attitude to the entitlement of persons who hold medical cards and who are in need of nursing home services but who have had to avail of private nursing home services due to the lack of a public place in view of the recent Supreme Court judgment; the Government’s position in relation to paying for the cost of the private nursing home; the Government’s position in relation to meeting the various requirements for care, such as chiropody service and so on while the patient is in a private nursing home. [9990/05]

My Department is currently studying the Supreme Court judgement in detail and will take on board all the consequences for policy and law arising from the judgement. A special Cabinet sub-committee comprising the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance, the Attorney General and the Tánaiste has been established to consider the issue of repayment in light of the judgement.

Persons who were in publicly contracted beds in private nursing homes are covered by the terms of the Supreme Court judgment. The Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 regulates the private nursing home sector. Under the nursing home subvention regulations the HSE makes a financial contribution to an individual towards the cost of his/her private nursing home care provided they qualify on means and dependency grounds. The provisions of the Supreme Court judgment do not apply to individuals in private nursing homes who have entered these homes under the nursing home subvention scheme.

A medical card issued by a Health Service Executive, HSE, area enables the bearer to receive certain health services free of charge. Everyone over 70 years of age who is normally resident in Ireland, is entitled to a medical card regardless of means. A medical card granted to a person with full eligibility entitles them to free GP, family doctor, services; prescribed drugs and medicines, with some exceptions, under the GMS Scheme; inpatient public hospital services; outpatient services; dental, optical and aural services; medical appliances; maternity and infant care services; and a maternity cash grant. Where community-type services such as chiropody are concerned, there is no statutory obligation that automatically entitles a person to such services although some health boards do provide a level of these services. Under the Health Act 1970, determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive, HSE, which devises guidelines from time to time for the administration of the medical card scheme.

Hospitals Building Programme.

David Stanton

Question:

161 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when planning permission for the new development at Fermoy Community Hospital will be sought; when work will commence on the psychiatric hospital on the grounds of Fermoy Community Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9991/05]

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

As part of the executive's responsibility to prepare and submit an annual service plan for my approval, it is obliged under Section 31 of the Act to indicate any capital plans proposed by the executive. In this process the executive can be expected to have regard to the full range of potential capital developments, its own criteria in determining priorities, available resources and any other relevant factors.

The Health Service Executive's national capital plan is currently being examined by my Department.

Health Service Allowances.

Jackie Healy-Rae

Question:

162 Mr. Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the payment of a curam home care grant for a person (details supplied) after being assessed as maximum dependency and approved but due to allocation of funding for this scheme has been placed on a waiting list for payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9994/05]

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. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's southern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

163 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason orthodontic treatment has been refused in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who was identified as being in need of treatment eight years ago; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9995/05]

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

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

164 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if the card will be backdated to the original application submission date of January 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9996/05]

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

Hospital Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

165 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there are problems in respect of public patients at Temple Street Hospital; and if the consultants are carrying out their work on waiting lists in a professional and impartial manner. [10007/05]

Finian McGrath

Question:

167 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has satisfied herself that public patients in Temple Street Hospital are treated the same way as private patients; and if complaints have been received from parents on this issue. [10009/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 165 and 167 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. Services at the Children's University Hospital, Temple Street are provided under an arrangement with the executive. My Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's eastern regional area to examine the issues raised and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Hospital Staff.

Finian McGrath

Question:

166 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the dismissal of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if their case was handled in a professional and fair manner. [10008/05]

I wish to inform the Deputy that as the person in question was not an employee under the Health Service Executive or under the former Eastern Regional Health Authority or the former Area Health Boards this matter does not fall under my jurisdiction. However, the majority of employees of voluntary hospitals who have twelve months' continuous service are covered by the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977-2001. Should they be aggrieved by the process followed during a dismissal they are within their rights to seek redress via the statutory provisions of employment law.

Question No. 167 answered with QuestionNo. 165.

Hospital Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

168 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied that procedures at Temple Street Hospital, Dublin in relation to the national treatment purchase fund are being implemented in a fair manner. [10010/05]

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

Nursing Home Charges.

Bernard Allen

Question:

169 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of letters received by the East Coast Area Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that the nursing home charges were illegal. [10021/05]

Bernard Allen

Question:

170 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of letters received by the South Western Area Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal. [10022/05]

Bernard Allen

Question:

171 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of letters received by the Northern Area Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal. [10023/05]

Bernard Allen

Question:

172 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of letters received by the Midland Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal. [10024/05]

Bernard Allen

Question:

173 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of letters received by the Mid-Western Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal. [10025/05]

Bernard Allen

Question:

174 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of letters received by the North Eastern Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal. [10026/05]

Bernard Allen

Question:

175 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of letters received by the North Western Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal. [10027/05]

Bernard Allen

Question:

176 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of letters received by the South Eastern Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal. [10028/05]

Bernard Allen

Question:

177 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of letters received by the Western Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal. [10029/05]

Bernard Allen

Question:

179 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of letters received by the Southern Health Board between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal. [10031/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 169 to 177, inclusive, and 179 together.

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive which was established on 1 January 2005. Under this Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy outlining the number of letters received by each of the former health boards and the ERHA between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2004 from relatives or solicitors acting on their behalf claiming that nursing home charges were illegal.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Bernard Allen

Question:

178 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 173 of 1 March 2005, if it is reasonable to have this Deputy’s question referred to the chief executive officer of the southern area to investigate the matter and still have no response received by 21 March 2005. [10030/05]

Bernard Allen

Question:

315 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 84 of 8 December 2004, 179 of 26 January 2005 and 173 of 1 March 2005 and the failure of the chief officer for the Health Service Executive’s southern area to reply directly to this Deputy on the matter, the way in which the person (details supplied) in County Cork could receive an outpatient’s appointment within a matter of weeks and have surgery carried out within days of the outpatient’s appointment on the payment of €4,700; and if she will investigate the situation. [10984/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 178 and 315 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 services at Cork University Hospital. My Department has been advised that the executive's southern area has responded to the Deputy on this matter.

Question No. 179 answered with QuestionNo. 169.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

180 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when work will commence on the promised extension to Kanturk Community Hospital, County Cork. [10032/05]

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

As part of the executive's responsibility to prepare and submit an annual service plan for my approval, it is obliged under section 31 of the Act to indicate any capital plans proposed by the executive. In this process the executive can be expected to have regard to the full range of potential capital developments, its own criteria in determining priorities, available resources and any other relevant factors.

The Health Service Executive's national capital plan is being examined by my Department.

Health Services.

Michael Noonan

Question:

181 Mr. Noonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the funding and staffing recommendations of the Joe Wolfe report into St. Joseph’s foundation will be implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10064/05]

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

Children in Care.

Dan Neville

Question:

182 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of immigrant children who have gone missing while in the care of the State in 2004 and to date in 2005. [10067/05]

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 unaccompanied minors seeking asylum.

I have been informed by the Health Service Executive that the number of unaccompanied minors who have gone missing while in the care of the State in 2004 and 2005 is as follows:

Health Service Area

Children Missing 2004

Children Missing 2005 to date

Eastern Region Area

66

11

Midland Area

1

0

Mid-Western Area

0

0

North Eastern Area

0

0

North Western Area

0

0

Southern Area

1

1

South Eastern Area

0

0

Western Area

0

0

Total

68

12

I share the Deputy's concerns regarding the welfare of these children and the Deputy may be interested to know that I recently sought a meeting with representatives of the Health Service Executive to discuss this very issue. This meeting will take place in the very near future.

Health Services.

Mildred Fox

Question:

183 Ms Fox asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties being experienced by a group (details supplied) in the allocation of residential places and training programme places for 2005 due to the delay in the allocation of funding; if her attention has further been drawn to the effect this delay has on the families awaiting places; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10075/05]

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

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Dan Neville

Question:

184 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding work to be completed to house under special housing aid for the elderly scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [10076/05]

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 the housing aid scheme for the elderly in County Limerick, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

185 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to an invoice and application for funding for continued care from a person (details supplied); if payment will be made to the centre for their treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10078/05]

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. 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.

Mental Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

186 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to an application for funding for a company (details supplied); if in view of the number of people whose lives have been altered by this treatment funding will be put in place to allow this person to carry out their work and to train people to carry out their work effectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10079/05]

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 mental health services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the Health Service Executive's eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Question:

187 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for a hip replacement operation. [10086/05]

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 in question resides in County Mayo, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Mary Upton

Question:

188 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if long overdue funding will be allocated for Beaumont Hospital to provide Cochlear ear implant operations for adults; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10121/05]

I am aware of the work done by the Cochlear implant programme at Beaumont Hospital. I had the pleasure of visiting Beaumont Hospital recently and also met the director of the programme. The future development of the programme is under active consideration by the Health Service Executive.

Community Physiotherapy Service.

Michael Lowry

Question:

189 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the regulations, orders, and guidelines from her Department limiting the community physiotherapy service to adults under the age of 65 and children with a disability; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10128/05]

The Department of Health and Children has no regulations, orders or guidelines that pertain directly to eligibility for community physiotherapy services. However, eligibility for such a service may be accessed by those who are entitled to a medical card. Under the Health Act 1970 determination of eligibility for medical cards is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive, HSE, other than for persons aged 70 years and over, who are automatically eligible for a medical card.

Michael Lowry

Question:

190 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the health service executive regions that have a community physiotherapy service available; if a community physiotherapy service is available in the HSE mid western region; and if not, the reason therefor; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10129/05]

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 include the provision of physiotherapy services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Executive's national director for primary, community and continuing care to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Disabled Drivers.

Michael Lowry

Question:

191 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the regulations from her Department regarding the motorised transport grant; the reason this grant is limited to those aged between 17 and 65; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10130/05]

The motorised transport grant was introduced in 1968 by way of Circular 7/68. It is a grant which may be made payable by the Health Service Executive towards the purchase of a car and or adaptations to a car being purchased by a person with a severe disability who is 17 years or older and up to 65 years of age, where such a car is essential for him or her to obtain or retain employment. Self-employed persons who satisfy the criteria for eligibility may also be considered, subject to the above age limits. In cases where application is made on the basis of obtaining or retaining employment, the Health Service Executive must be satisfied that the applicant is capable of holding a job, has the physical capacity to drive the vehicle and is qualified to hold a drivers licence, full or provisional. The grant may also be considered in exceptional circumstances for a person with a severe disability, subject to the above age limits, who lives in a very remote location and whose disability impedes him or her from using public transport.

Migraine Treatment.

John Gormley

Question:

192 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether migraine is a disabling illness. [10137/05]

Migraine is a debilitating condition characterised by severe headache and a range of other physical symptoms. It is estimated that 10% of the UK population suffer from migraine, according to Bal and Hollingsworth in 2005. Migraine is three times more common in women than in men and is most commonly experienced between the ages of 15 to 55 years.

There are two types of migraine: migraine without an aura, common migraine, and migraine with aura, classical migraine. Common migraine consists of a severe throbbing headache usually located on one side with abdominal symptoms, including loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, dislike of food, constipation or diarrhoea. This affects about 80% of sufferers. Sufferers may also experience sensitivity to smell, light and noise which leads them to rest in a quiet, darkened room.

In classical migraine, the headache is preceded by visual disturbances such as flashing lights, zigzag lines and blind spots or tingling limbs. The average length of a migraine attack is 22 hours and sufferers generally feel washed out for another one or two days afterwards. The average number of attacks suffered is 13 per year.

The exact reason migraine occurs is unknown. However, research suggests that attacks are linked to chemical changes in the body, serotonin release, and that blood vessels and certain nerve endings within the brain are involved. Many factors can trigger migraine attacks such as stress; physical fatigue or lack of sleep; too much sleep; certain foods such as cheese or alcohol; extreme emotions; missed meals and hormonal factors. Avoidance of identifiable trigger factors reduce the number of headaches a patient may experience. Healthy lifestyles including regular exercise and avoidance of nicotine may also enhance migraine management. Non-pharmacological type interventions for control of migraine are helpful to some patients. These include biofeedback and counselling. These, as with most elements of migraine, need to be individualised to the patient.

Pharmacological control of migraine includes the use of analgesics, anti-inflammatory agents, ergotamine preparations and 5HT drugs such as sumatriptan. Due to the severity of the headache, some patients may also require a narcotic analgesic but if the patient is experiencing frequent migraine attacks, habituating analgesics should be avoided. If patients have frequent migraine attacks and if the attacks do not respond consistently to migraine specific acute treatments, or if the migraine specific medications are ineffective or contraindicated because of other medical problems, then preventive medication should be given to reduce the migraine frequency and improve the response to the acute migraine medicines. In summary, migraine is a common condition which in most cases can effectively be treated by conventional medication. However, in a small percentage of patients, migraine is a debilitating condition whose symptoms are very difficult to control.

Cancer Screening Programme.

John Gormley

Question:

193 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the date when the BreastCheck screening programme will be extended to the whole of Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10139/05]

Simon Coveney

Question:

216 Mr. Coveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of the BreastCheck service in the former Southern Health Board area; and when this new service is now expected to become operational. [10309/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 193 and 216 together.

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

A capital investment of approximately €21 million has been approved to construct and equip two static clinical units, one in Cork and the other in Galway. Design briefs in respect of the capital projects have been completed. It is anticipated that the advertisement for the appointment of a design team will be placed in the EU Journal shortly. I am confident that the target date of 2007 for the expansion of BreastCheck nationally will be met. Any woman, irrespective of her age or residence, who has immediate concerns or symptoms should consult her GP who, where appropriate, will refer her to the symptomatic services in her area.

John Gormley

Question:

194 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the European Parliament resolution on breast cancer 2003, the third edition of the European Code Against Cancer 2003 and the European Commission recommendation of 2003, adopted by the Council of Ministers, all calling for the extension of breast cancer screening to all women up to the age of at least 69; if her Department will be extending breast cancer screening to those over 65; and if so, the timescale involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10140/05]

I am aware of the recommendations on breast screening contained in the documents referred to by the Deputy. The national breast screening programme currently covers the eastern, north eastern, midland and parts of the south eastern areas of the country. Screening is being offered, free of charge, to all women in those areas in the target age group of 50 to 64 years of age. More than 60% of women diagnosed with breast cancer in this country are under the age of 65.

The current priority of BreastCheck and my Department is to progress the roll-out of breast screening to women in the target age group in the rest of the country. Following the national roll-out and when the programme is sufficiently developed and quality assured, consideration will be given to extending the upper age limit. Any woman, irrespective of her age or residence, who has immediate concerns or symptoms should contact her GP who, where appropriate, will refer her to the symptomatic services in her area.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

195 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if extra funding will be offered to Beaumont Hospital, Dublin to expand facilities for persons who suffer with epilepsy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10143/05]

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

Services at Beaumont Hospital are provided under an arrangement with the executive. My Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's eastern regional area to examine the issues raised and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

196 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be admitted to Beaumont Hospital, Dublin for further tests relating to their medical condition; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10144/05]

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 in question resides in Kildare, 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.

Medical Cards.

Dan Neville

Question:

197 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of a medical card for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [10162/05]

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

Dan Neville

Question:

198 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of a medical card for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [10163/05]

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

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Dan Neville

Question:

199 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding provision of work under special housing aid for the elderly for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [10164/05]

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 the housing aid scheme for the elderly in County Limerick on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Dan Neville

Question:

200 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when medical card renewal will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [10165/05]

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

Ministerial Travel.

Bernard Allen

Question:

201 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she travelled abroad for the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations; the persons who travelled with her in her official party; the duration of the visit and the cost involved. [10172/05]

I travelled to Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina to undertake a number of duties in relation to St. Patrick's Day. I travelled with my husband, Mr. Brian Geoghegan, the deputy Government press secretary, Mr. Iarla Mongey, and my acting private secretary, Mr. Michael Corban. The delegation left on Wednesday, 16 March and returned on Sunday, 20 March. The costs in relation to the trip are not yet available.

Hospital Staff.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

202 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when funding will be made available towards staffing of the high dependency unit in Letterkenny General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10187/05]

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

Occupational Therapy Service.

Jack Wall

Question:

203 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding an application by a person (details supplied) for occupational therapy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10195/05]

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 the responsibility for the provision of funding. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive's eastern regional area to investigate the matter and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Pat Carey

Question:

204 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the fact that no psychiatric service intervention has been made to persons (details supplied) in Dublin 11 if she will establish with the Health Service Executive the measures been taken to overcome the difficulty posed by the reluctance of these persons to meet their referring general practitioner; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10200/05]

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 mental health services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the Health Service Executive's eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

205 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a special bed and mattress for a person (details supplied) with terminal cancer approved in October 2004 have still not been delivered to them; if this is unacceptable treatment of a person; if the officials will provide the required special bed and mattress; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10206/05]

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 cancer services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive's eastern regional area to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

206 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there is a record of the use of valium and ativan used in psychiatric hospitals; the quantity of each product used at a hospital (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10216/05]

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 mental health services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the Health Service Executive's south eastern area to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Mental Health Tribunals.

Richard Bruton

Question:

207 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the mental health tribunals which were to be established under the 2002 Act will be established in order that persons who are aggrieved at their treatment would have a proper course of action for redress. [10238/05]

The main vehicle for the implementation of the Mental Health Act 2001 is the Mental Health Commission which was established with effect from 5 April 2002. The detailed work programme of the commission is a matter for the commission itself to determine, in accordance with its statutory functions under the Mental Health Act. However, the commission has indicated that one of its main priorities is to put in place the structures required for the operation of mental health tribunals. I understand that the commission is working closely with all stakeholders within the mental health services to ensure that the mental health tribunals are commenced as soon as possible.

Long-Term Illness Scheme.

John Gormley

Question:

208 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has plans to increase public information about inflammatory bowel disease; if she put inflammatory bowel disease on the long-term illness list; and if free medication or a medical card will be offered to adults and children who have been diagnosed with same. [10239/05]

Under the 1970 Health Act, the Health Service Executive may arrange for the supply, without charge, of drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances to people with a specified condition, for the treatment of that condition through the long term illness scheme, LTI. The conditions are: mental handicap, mental illness for people under 16 only, phenylketonuria, cystic fibrosis, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, haemophilia, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophies, parkinsonism, conditions arising from thalidomide and acute leukaemia. Parkinsonism, acute leukaemia, muscular dystrophies and multiple sclerosis were added to the scheme in 1975. The LTI does not cover GP fees or hospital co-payments. There are no plans to amend the list of eligible conditions.

Other schemes provide assistance towards the cost of approved drugs and medicines for people with significant ongoing medical expenses. People who cannot, without undue hardship, arrange for the provision of medical services for themselves and their dependants may be entitled to a medical card. Eligibility for a medical card is solely a matter for the chief officer of the relevant Health Service Executive area. In determining eligibility, the chief officer has regard to the applicant's financial circumstances. Income guidelines are used to assist in determining eligibility. However, where a person's income exceeds the guidelines, a medical card may be awarded if the chief officer considers that the person's medical needs or other circumstances would justify this. Medical cards may also be issued to individual family members on this basis.

Non-medical card holders, and people with conditions not covered under the LTI, can use the drugs payment scheme. Under this scheme, no individual or family unit pays more than €85 per calendar month towards the cost of approved prescribed medicines. My Department has established an editorial group to review,inter alia, the provision of health promotion information. I will ask the group to review the need for information referred to by the Deputy. It is a matter for the GP in consultation with the patient to decide on the most appropriate course of treatment.

Scientific Research.

John Gormley

Question:

209 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that none of the botox being safety tested on mice here with LD50 or other testing procedures will be used for anti-wrinkle treatments in this country or elsewhere. [10240/05]

The Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, as amended by the European Communities (Amendment of Cruelty to Animals Act 1876) Regulations 2002, provides the legislative framework for control of the use of live animals in scientific research and other experimental activity. Under the Act the Minister for Health and Children is designated as the "Authority" and has responsibility for granting licences to perform specified experiments on an animal of specified description in accordance with the restrictions imposed by the Act.

The Act, as amended, provides that an experiment shall not be performed except for one of the following purposes: the development, manufacture, quality, effectiveness and safety testing of drugs, foodstuffs and other substances or products for the avoidance, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of disease, ill-health or other abnormality or their effects in human beings, animals or plants, or the assessment, detection, regulation, or modification of physiological conditions in human beings, animals or plants; the protection of the natural environment in the interests of the health or welfare of human beings or animals or the illustration of lectures in medical schools, hospitals, colleges or elsewhere.

The Irish Medicines Board, IMB, has advised that botox is authorised as a prescription only medicine and is indicated for the management of a number of specified conditions. The IMB has also advised that the product information specifies "botox should only be given by physicians with appropriate qualifications, and documented expertise in the treatment and the use of the required equipment". The Deputy may wish to note that it is the practice in Ireland not to licence experiments for the testing of cosmetic products.

Health Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

210 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 115 of 22 March 2005, if she will answer the question posed; and when she intends to reply to the letter referred to. [10243/05]

In response to the Deputy's question of 22 March 2005, I advised that the Health Service Executive, HSE, has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services, including responsibility for health services for patients with cystic fibrosis. My Department has been in touch with the executive's eastern regional area and is advised that a detailed response is being prepared for issue by the HSE to the Deputy and the person concerned.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Paul McGrath

Question:

211 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the date it is expected that the national action plan for rehabilitation service, commissioned by her Department and referred to in a parliamentary question of 2 December 2004, will be delivered; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10252/05]

No date has been set for the completion of the rehabilitation action plan, which is being considered as part of my Department's overall review of services for people with disabilities.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

212 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the Dunne inquiry costs €20 million; her views on the lack of public sessions, the lack of a special adviser, and the lack of press media briefings by the chairperson had a negative part to play in the result in this jurisdiction of the Dunne report; if there are lessons to be learned as regards future inquiries such as this; the steps necessary to prevent a repeat of this fiasco; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10275/05]

To the end of December 2004, the total cost of the post mortem inquiry was approximately €20 million. Total legal and administrative costs were approximately €11 million. The remainder of the costs include establishment and office rental costs of €2.29 million, grants to the former eastern regional health authority of just over €5 million, grants to Parents for Justice, PFJ, organisation of €977,210 and legal fees to Kelly Noone, solicitors for PFJ, of €800,942. Subject to the terms of reference, the conduct of the inquiry was a matter for the chairman to determine. On 31 March last, I received the report of the inquiry in relation to paediatric hospitals. The report is being examined by my Department, in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

213 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm the dates within which a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny was a patient; the way in which their bank account was managed and by whom; the details of the balances at the date of death; if this person’s brother can claim under the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10306/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, HSE, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under this 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 issue raised by the Deputy and accordingly my Department has requested the chief officer of the HSE south-eastern area to investigate this matter and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

214 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the medical and financial circumstances of the person and their need for the card and if she will expedite a response. [10307/05]

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

Mental Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

215 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite a response to an application for funding submitted to the health office, Kilkenny, for treatment of alcoholism at Colliga House, Glen of Imaal, in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the fact that all other treatment has failed; if treatment of this kind is funded or has been funded before; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10308/05]

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 mental health services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the Health Service Executive's south-eastern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 216 answered with QuestionNo. 193.

Hospital Staff.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

217 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her response to the resignation of a consultant oncologist at Cork University Hospital recently; the steps she is taking to deal with the consequences for cancer patients in County Kerry. [10310/05]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

300 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if steps are being taken to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of a consultant oncologist at Cork University Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10936/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 217 and 300 together.

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

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

218 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the situation regarding an application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare under the housing aid for the elderly; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10311/05]

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 the housing aid scheme for the elderly in Clare on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

219 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of an application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare under the housing aid for the elderly scheme. [10312/05]

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 the housing aid scheme for the elderly in Clare on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

220 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when replacement windows will be installed under the housing aid for the elderly scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10313/05]

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 the housing aid scheme for the elderly in Clare on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

221 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 223 of 26 January 2005, if the application has been processed under the housing aid for the elderly scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10314/05]

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 the housing aid scheme for the elderly in Clare on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

222 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 80 of 8 December 2004, if the application has been processed; if the various reports have been completed for a person (details supplied) in County Clare for a replacement back door and the installation of a shower under the housing aid for the elderly scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10315/05]

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 the housing aid scheme for the elderly in Clare on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

223 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 246 of 19 October 2004, if the community welfare officer has carried out a report regarding the housing aid for the elderly scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10316/05]

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 the housing aid scheme for the elderly in Clare on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Pat Breen

Question:

224 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be assessed for a wheelchair; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10317/05]

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

Pat Breen

Question:

225 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 115 of 1 February 2005, when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will receive a full assessment of their needs in order for equipment to be issued from the Health Service Executive mid-western region, and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10318/05]

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 County Clare. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Charges.

Finian McGrath

Question:

226 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 is entitled to claim following the recent Supreme Court judgment on nursing home charges; and if she will give the maximum support and advice on this matter. [10339/05]

My Department is studying the Supreme Court judgment in detail and will take on board all the consequences for policy and law arising from the judgment. A special Cabinet sub-committee comprising the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance, the Attorney General and the Tánaiste has been established to consider the issue of repayment in light of the judgment. Persons who were in publicly contracted beds in private nursing homes are covered by the terms of the Supreme Court judgment.

The Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 regulates the private nursing home sector. Under the nursing home subvention regulations the HSE is empowered to make a financial contribution to an individual towards the cost of his or her private nursing home care provided they qualify on means and dependency grounds. In the case of private nursing home care the contract of care is between the individual and the private nursing home owner.

The provisions of the Supreme Court judgment do not apply to individuals in private nursing homes who have entered these homes under the nursing home subvention scheme. My Department has recently received counsel's advice on the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 and the regulations made thereunder, which is privileged and is being examined in consultation with the Attorney General's office.

Medical Cards.

Pat Breen

Question:

227 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when an application for the renewal of a medical card will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10378/05]

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

Liz McManus

Question:

228 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her response to the advice received by the IMO that the introduction of the yellow pack free GP cards are a change in the GPs contract; the way in which she intends to resolve this impasse; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10393/05]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

271 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the situation regarding the doctor-only medical cards in view of the IMOs attitude to their introduction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10689/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 228 and 271 together.

The necessary legislation to allow members of the public to apply for the new "doctor visit" cards has been enacted. Funding of €50 million required to introduce this development in 2005 has been made available to the Health Service Executive. The objective of this measure is to use resources to benefit as many people on low incomes as possible, in particular families, in order to take away any worries that parents may have about the cost of bringing their children to the doctor.

The services which general practitioners will provide to people who qualify for the "doctor visit" card will be the same as those provided to people who presently hold medical cards. Therefore, there will be no change in the provisions of the current general medical services general practitioner contract. The Health Service Executive has put in place the necessary administrative arrangements for this measure and has offered to meet with the Irish Medical Organisation on these arrangements on a number of occasions, and it remains available.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

229 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will consider the introduction of a disability card which will be issued to those deemed to be disabled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10395/05]

Jerry Cowley

Question:

230 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Government will bring into force a special blue card system similar to that in force in Great Britain and Northern Ireland whereby persons with disabilities over the age of 18 years of age are issued with a blue card; if she will consider the introduction of this scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10396/05]

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

I understand that the Deputy is referring to the need to minimise the degree to which people with disabilities are required to undergo repeated medical eligibility assessments. I would support measures to address this matter. I envisage that this matter will be considered in the context of the needs assessment process being developed under the Disability Bill.

Health Reports.

Dan Boyle

Question:

231 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if and when the report on the national expert group on domiciliary births will be published; and if she intends to act upon its recommendations. [10407/05]

The domiciliary births group was established by the health board chief executive officers in 2003 and the group's final report was presented to the CEOs in December 2004. The CEOs discussed the report at their January 2005 meeting and decided to recommend it to the Health Service Executive and to the Department of Health and Children. I understand that the report is being examined by the HSE corporate. Publication is a matter for the HSE.

The report was received by my Department early last month and it is being examined. The Department's views will be forwarded to the HSE once this examination is complete.

Child Care Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

232 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Child Care Act 1991 will be used to protect children against institutional neglect; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10420/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. The provision of services under the Child Care Act 1991 as amended by the Health Act 2004, including the provision of family support and child protection services, is a matter for the Health Service Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the executive's national director of primary, community and continuing care to investigate the matter and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Child Abuse.

David Stanton

Question:

233 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 140 of 15 December 2004 and further to her responses to this Deputy dated 23 March 2005, if the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Amendment) Bill 2005 will serve to deal with the fact that the High Court found that the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse Act 2000 (Additional Functions) Order 2001 was ultra vires; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10431/05]

Denis Naughten

Question:

234 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the Ryan commission will not process complaints by those subjected to vaccine trials without permission; the action she is taking to address this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10436/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 and 234 together.

A number of complex issues have had to be considered regarding this matter. These issues are now approaching finalisation and discussions have taken place with a number of involved parties. It is hoped to conclude all considerations in the short term in order for the matter to be finalised. It is not envisaged that the Child Abuse (Amendment) Bill 2005 will address the issue of the vaccine trials.

Departmental Schemes.

Denis Naughten

Question:

235 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 333 of 26 January 2005, the progress to date on the issue; if a detailed examination of the schemes has taken place; the reason for the delay in performing this examination; if it will be included in her Department’s business plan for 2005; when she intends to publish this plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10440/05]

A preliminary review of the vaccine damage compensation schemes in place in a number of other countries was undertaken by my Department in order to establish general details of schemes already in existence. My officials are now carrying out an investigation to identify the most relevant models from a clinical, administrative and fairness point of view. On completion of this investigation, I will be in a position to consider the available options. The completion of this work has been included in the Department's 2005 business plan, which was posted on the Department's website on 6 April 2005.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Denis Naughten

Question:

236 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress to date in the provision of residential services for people with a mental disability in the Athlone area of County Westmeath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10441/05]

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

Departmental Funding.

Michael Ring

Question:

237 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when capital funding will be given to the Irish Wheelchair Association. [10449/05]

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 services. This includes responsibility for the allocation of capital funding to voluntary agencies. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

238 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a CAT scanner will be provided for Louth County Hospital, Dundalk, County Louth. [10456/05]

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

Patient Statistics.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

239 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of patients in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, and Louth County Hospital, Dundalk, who have been on trolleys each week in each hospital since 1 September 2004. [10457/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of services at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda and Louth County Hospital, Dundalk. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's north-eastern area to examine the issues raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Incidence.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

240 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she intends to take following the findings of the national cancer registry report into cancer rates in County Louth which found that Drogheda has cancer rates in excess of the national average; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10458/05]

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 cancer services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's north-eastern area to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Suicide Prevention.

Dan Neville

Question:

241 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress of the national suicide review group in the implementation of the recommendations of the national task force on suicide; and if she will make a statement on the group’s contribution to suicide prevention. [10496/05]

Dan Neville

Question:

242 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the annual budget for each year since its inception of the national suicide review group. [10503/05]

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

In response to the recommendations of the report of the national task force on suicide, which was published in 1998, the national suicide review group was established by the chief executive officers of the health boards. Membership of the group includes experts in the areas of mental health, public health and research. The main responsibilities of the group are to review ongoing trends in suicide and parasuicide, to co-ordinate research into suicide and to make appropriate recommendations to the Health Service Executive. The group also liaises with the suicide resource officers in each region.

The annual report of the national suicide review group meets the requirement of the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2001 that the Minister for Health and Children will report annually on the measures taken by health boards to prevent suicides in the previous year. The report outlines the measures taken to help prevent suicide and reduce the impact of suicidal behaviour; facilitates the sharing of information regarding suicide prevention projects; and provides accurate and current information on the patterns of death by suicide in Ireland.

Additional revenue funding was provided by my Department to the national suicide review group since it was established as follows: 1999 —€63,000; 2000 —€127,000; 2002 —€63,000; and 2003 —€50,000.

Work is now under way on the preparation of a national strategy for action on suicide prevention, which will be published later this year.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

243 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the sections of her Department based outside Dublin which will be moved to other non-Dublin locations under the decentralisation programme; the location from and to which officials are being transferred; the numbers and sections involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10525/05]

The General Register Office in Roscommon is the only section of my Department based outside Dublin. This office will not be moved to another location under the decentralisation programme.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

244 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when orthodontic treatment will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10547/05]

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

John McGuinness

Question:

245 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 156 of 26 January 2005, the reason there is not a proactive follow-up by the consultants who examined the person (details supplied) in County Carlow; if a full programme of treatment and care for this person will be implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10548/05]

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

Child Care Services.

Tony Gregory

Question:

246 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the assistance her Department will give to the parent of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3. [10550/05]

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 child welfare issues. 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.

The Minister for Education and Science will reply to the Deputy on the education related issue.

International Trade.

Paul McGrath

Question:

247 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the campaign to have fair trade products widely available and used; her views on the objectives of this campaign; and if she will endeavour to have such fair trade approved products used in her Department. [10556/05]

I am aware of the campaign to have fair trade products widely available and used and of the benefits of such a campaign.

The purchase of any products by my Department would have to be in accordance with the procedures governing public procurement. Regarding services such as the restaurant in my Department or catering for events organised by my Department, it is a matter for the catering companies concerned to make their own decisions on purchasing supplies.

Child Abuse.

Finian McGrath

Question:

248 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the HSEW response to allegations of abuse between 1993 and 1995 at a school (details supplied); and the action which has been taken on this matter. [10575/05]

The Eastern Health Board was dissolved on the establishment of the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the area health boards and these bodies were in turn dissolved on the establishment of the Health Service Executive. 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 child welfare issues. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive's eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

249 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for orthodontic treatment. [10589/05]

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

National Drugs Strategy.

Damien English

Question:

250 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the review dealing with the treatment of those under 18 who are misusing drugs will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10603/05]

Action 49 of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 called for the development of a protocol for the treatment of those under 18 presenting to drug services with serious drug misuse problems. In response to this action a working group was established, which was chaired by an official from my Department and comprised members of the statutory and voluntary sectors.

To fulfil its remit, the group undertook a number of initiatives, including: an examination of the legal issues surrounding treatment; a literature review carried out by the Addiction Research Centre; a review of services and service gaps nationally; the establishment of focus groups of services misusers within and outside the eastern region; a review of the treatment issues raised in the focus groups by a consultant adolescent and child psychiatrist in substance abuse. The report of this group was finalised in 2004 and arrangements are in place for its publication in the coming weeks.

Damien English

Question:

251 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the measures in place and remain to be implemented to ensure that all drug misusers have immediate access to professional assessment and counselling by regional health services as promised under the national drugs strategy; if she will provide information on the existing waiting times for access to such services in each regional health office area; when she envisages that these waiting times will be eliminated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10604/05]

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 drug treatment services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the executive to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Damien English

Question:

252 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a pilot community pharmacy needle and syringe exchange programme in the ERHA area promised under the national drugs strategy has not been established to date; when she expects this facility will be in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10605/05]

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 drug treatment services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive's eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Suicide Prevention.

Damien English

Question:

253 Mr. English asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of suicide resource officers employed nationally; the regional health centres they are located in; the amount of funding allocated to this resource; the location of each regional health centre that does not have a suicide resource officer; the steps being taken to rectify this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10606/05]

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

Health Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

254 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo is unable to have an emergency amputation to treat rampant gangrene of the leg; her views on whether this is acceptable; the steps she will take to resolve the situation; if she will restore 3,000 beds taken out of the system in recent years; if she will provide the extra beds needed for the needs of 500,000 people; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10608/05]

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 in question resides in County Mayo, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

The health strategy contains a commitment that a total of 3,000 acute beds will be added to the system over ten years. In this context, funding has been provided for an additional 900 beds in acute hospitals throughout the country, 713 of which were in place at the end of the first quarter of 2005. It is envisaged that the remaining 187 beds will open before the end of 2005.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

255 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps that are being taken to improve capacity at the Mater Hospital, Dublin, in respect of cataract operations; and the reason the earliest date a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 can be offered an appointment is February 2006. [10609/05]

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. Services at the Mater Hospital are provided under an arrangement with the executive. My Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's eastern regional area to examine the issues raised and to reply to the Deputy directly.

Cases such as these would be advised to contact the national treatment purchase fund when the patient has already waited more than six months, or in some cases, more than three months, for a procedure.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

256 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the situation regarding an application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare under the housing aid for the elderly scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10617/05]

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 the housing aid scheme for the elderly in County Clare, on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

257 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the system of reporting made by individual consultants in respect of the mix of public and private patients receiving procedures in public hospitals to hospital chief executive officers and if this information is publicly accountable and monitored in Beaumont, the Mater Hospital and the Children’s Hospital, Temple Street. [10620/05]

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. Services at Beaumont Hospital, the Mater Hospital and Temple Street Children's Hospital are provided under an arrangement with the executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive's eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Child Care Services.

Paul McGrath

Question:

258 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the ratio of staff to child which is appropriate at the different stages of approved child care facilities. [10621/05]

The Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 1996 and Amendment Regulations 1997, which give effect to the provisions of Part VII of the Child Care Act 1991 provide for notification to, and inspection by, health boards of pre-school services. The regulations apply to pre-schools, playgroups, day nurseries, crèches, childminders looking after more than three children and other similar services which cater for children under six years of age.

Article 7 of the regulations provides that "A person carrying on a pre-school service shall ensure that a sufficient number of competent adults are supervising the pre-school children in the service at all times." The explanatory guide which provides guidance on the regulations recommends adult child ratios as follows:

Full Day Care

Sessional Services

Drop In Services

0-1 year1 : 31-3 years1 : 63-6 years1 : 8

0-6 years1 : 10

1-6 years1 : 8Under 12 months1 : 3

Medical Aids and Appliances.

John McGuinness

Question:

259 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a special chair will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if a decision will be expedited in the case. [10677/05]

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

Health and Safety Regulations.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

260 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of hospitals that have failed to co-operate with the request from the Health and Safety Authority to provide compulsory risk assessments of conditions in their accident and emergency units; the action that will be taken to ensure compliance with the requirements of the HSA; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10678/05]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

262 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of accident and emergency units visited by the Health and Safety Authority team of inspectors to examine safety levels; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10680/05]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

265 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of accident and emergency units in Cavan and Monaghan hospitals, respectively, examined by the HSA; the hospitals considered unsafe; the action proposed to ensure compliance with HSA regulations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10683/05]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

266 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of accident and emergency units in Louth and Meath hospitals, respectively, examined by the HSA; the hospitals considered unsafe; the action proposed to ensure compliance with HSA regulations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10684/05]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

267 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of accident and emergency units considered unsafe by the HSA, arising from the recent inspections; the action taken to enforce compliance with HSA requirements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10685/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 260, 262 and 265 to 267, inclusive, together.

In January of this year the Health and Safety Authority, HSA, asked hospitals to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of their accident and emergency units. The authority reported that it was satisfied with the level of response it received to its request. The HSA then decided to undertake a targeted programme of inspections in the following hospitals: Beaumont Hospital, James Connolly Memorial Hospital, Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Mater Hospital, Mercy University Hospital, Naas General Hospital, Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda, Sligo General Hospital, South Tipperary General Hospital, University College Hospital, Galway, and Wexford General Hospital. The authority's review is expected to inform priorities for action by the National Hospitals Office on health and safety issues.

Nursing Home Charges.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

261 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons who have applied for repayments in respect of charges which were illegally applied for publicly funded long-term residential care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10679/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive which was established on 1 January 2005. Under this Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy outlining the number of persons who have applied for repayment of charges for publicly funded long-term residential care.

Question No. 262 answered with QuestionNo. 260

Departmental Schemes.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

263 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans for the introduction of a no-fault compensation scheme for psychiatric service personnel; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10681/05]

The report of the task force on assaults on psychiatric nurses was completed in 2003. In addition to quantifying the level of assaults and making recommendations on prevention, the report contained proposals for a scheme of compensation for psychiatric nurses who have been seriously injured as a result of an assault by a patient in the workplace.

Government approval would be required for the introduction of any new State compensation scheme, which would be additional to the existing serious physical assaults scheme, last revised in 2001. This scheme provides enhanced sick pay arrangements for nurses assaulted at work. Medical expenses are also refunded. In circumstances where a nurse is certifed permanently unfit to resume duty he or she may be paid five sixths of full salary until retirement.

In 2003 a draft memorandum for Government was circulated and during the consultation process, complex legal and financial issues emerged regarding aspects of the scheme proposed by the task force and their implications for the health service and the wider public service.

In March 2004 the Psychiatric Nurses Association and SIPTU were advised that serious concerns that had been raised about the proposed scheme. Officials from my Department have been in ongoing consultation with the Department of Finance and the office of the Attorney General, with a view to addressing the issues raised. The issues involved are very complex and have far reaching implications for the health service. I am in the process of consulting with my colleagues in Government on this issue and I expect to be in a position to provide more definite information shortly.

Children in Care.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

264 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the decision of the Health Service Executive, north-eastern area, to take into permanent care a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10682/05]

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

While it would not be appropriate for me to comment on an individual case, I would like to state that under the Child Care Act 1991 as amended by the Health Act 2004 the Health Service Executive has a duty to act in relation to any child who requires care or protection. The national standards for foster care also require that the executive must put the interests of children in foster care before any other consideration.

Questions Nos. 265 to 267, inclusive, answered with Question No. 260.

Health Services.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

268 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of patients awaiting audiology services in the Health Service Executive north east area in Counties Cavan and Monaghan, respectively; the average waiting time in each county; her proposals to address the waiting lists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10686/05]

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

Paudge Connolly

Question:

269 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of patients awaiting speech and language therapy services in the Health Service Executive, north east area, in Counties Cavan and Monaghan, respectively; the average waiting time in each county; her proposals to address the waiting lists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10687/05]

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 services. This includes responsibility for speech therapy. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's north eastern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

270 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position on the provision of a CAT scanner for Monaghan General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10688/05]

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

Question No. 271 answered with QuestionNo. 228.

Departmental Funding.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

272 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the grants and other financial assistance awarded by her Department in each of the past three years to men’s organisations and groups or organisations providing services primarily for men, including the names of the organisations or groups; the amounts awarded; and the purposes for which they were awarded. [10690/05]

It is not possible in the time allowed to compile all of the information requested by the Deputy. The information is being collated in my Department and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

273 Mr. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the grants and other financial assistance awarded by her Department in each of the past three years to women’s organisations and groups or organisations providing services primarily for women, including the names of the organisations or groups; the amounts awarded; and the purposes for which they were awarded. [10691/05]

It is not possible in the time allowed to compile all of the information requested by the Deputy. The information is being collated in my Department and will be forwarded directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Billy Timmins

Question:

274 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position with regard to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow who is waiting for a hip operation; if they will be seen as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10731/05]

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 in question resides in County Wicklow, 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.

Billy Timmins

Question:

275 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position with regard to a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; if their appointment will be brought forward; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10732/05]

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

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

276 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if transport will be provided by the Health Service Executive western area to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [10740/05]

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

Hospital Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

277 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she is taking to provide a flexible system to meet the needs of patients with lifelong conditions who have to obtain emergency meetings their consultants when the need arises; if she has considered establishing a protocol for such situations in all public hospitals to force consultants or members of their teams to meet with patients in such a category as the need arises; the current waiting list for out patients to see consultants in respect of lifelong conditions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10798/05]

The management of chronic conditions is a matter for decision by the doctor or doctors treating the individual patient. With regard to the treatment arrangements and support services in place for persons with chronic conditions 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. My Department has therefore requested the director of the national hospitals office to reply directly to the Deputy on the matters raised.

Hospital Budgets.

Paul McGrath

Question:

278 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the annual budget allocated to Mullingar General Hospital, Tullamore General Hospital and Portlaoise General Hospital in each of the past five years. [10799/05]

My Department is advised that the Health Service Executive, which has responsibility for the funding of the hospitals concerned, responded on 11 April to the Deputy's Question of 22 March 2005.

Health Service Staff.

Richard Bruton

Question:

279 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the concerns regarding barriers to entry in the dental profession; her proposals to alter the arrangements under which a person may enter training to become a dentist or may be recognised as competent to provide dental services here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10800/05]

As the Deputy will be aware, responsibility for undergraduate training of dentists lies with my colleague the Minister for Education and Science. I have been informed that on access to dental education the Higher Education Authority has recommended that consideration be given to placing a range of health science courses on a graduate entry rather than undergraduate entry basis. This will potentially address the very high levels of competition among school leavers to access these courses and should provide more flexibility of access to non-traditional higher education students such as mature students and disadvantaged students. The Minister for Education and Science has asked the working group on undergraduate medical education to consider a graduate entry approach to medicine in the first instance. I understand that there are no plans at present to actively consider the extension of this approach to other courses.

Furthermore, I understand that the Competition Authority has announced its intention to consider issues of competition arising in a number of professions, including the dental profession. While a background paper has been published the Authority has not completed a formal study.

As the Deputy may be aware, in order to practise as a dentist it is necessary for an individual to register with the dental council, which was established under the Dentists Act 1985. I am informed by the dental council that under the terms of Directive 78/686/EEC and other relevant agreements that EEA nationals who hold a scheduled dental qualification are entitled to register and practise in Ireland. In 2004 the dental council registered 58 dentists from other member states of the EEA.

I have been informed that the dental council holds an annual examination in order to facilitate dentists from outside the EEA who wish to practise their profession in Ireland. Success in this examination confers entitlement to full registration in the register of dentists for Ireland. A total of 24 dentists from various countries such as the Philippines, India, Nigeria and Ukraine have been accepted for the 2005 examination which is being held this week.

Hospital Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

280 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with a bed in the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dún Laoghaire; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10801/05]

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 services. This includes responsibility for admissions to the National Rehabilitation Hospital. 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.

Hospital Staff.

David Stanton

Question:

281 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to fill a vacancy due to the imminent retirement of a person (details supplied) at the Mercy University Hospital, Cork in May 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10802/05]

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 cancer services and the recruitment and replacement of consultant staff. Accordingly my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive's southern area to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

282 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a new wing of St. Vincent’s Hospital, completed for the past 18 months, has not been opened for patients; the date on which patients will be allowed into the wing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10803/05]

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. Services at St. Vincent's University Hospital, Dublin are provided under an arrangement with the executive. Accordingly my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's eastern regional area to examine the issues raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Charges.

Seán Haughey

Question:

283 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children if he has sought legal advice regarding the possible entitlement of elderly persons to a refund in cases in which they had medical cards and were placed in private nursing homes due to the fact that no public places were available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10804/05]

My Department has received counsel's advice on the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 and regulations made thereunder. This advice, which is privileged, is currently being examined in consultation with the Attorney General's Office and it would be inappropriate at this stage to comment on the advice.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

284 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children if assistance will be offered to persons (details supplied) in County Kildare who have an autistic child; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10829/05]

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

Ambulance Service.

Michael Lowry

Question:

285 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when funding will be allocated to replace the existing ambulance base in Thurles. [10843/05]

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

Health Services.

Michael Lowry

Question:

286 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children if he will provide each carer of an elderly or terminally ill relative a minimum of four hours per week of respite care to allow him or her a break from caring duties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10845/05]

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. Home help, home care grant and other community services are a matter for the HSE, depending on the assessed circumstances of each individual case. There are no plans to introduce a general four hour per week respite break for carers.

I understand from my colleague the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, who has responsibility for carers allowances, that persons in receipt of carer's allowance receive an annual respite care grant in recognition of the importance of respite services to carers. This grant is also payable with carer's benefit. Provision was made in the 2005 budget for three improvements to the respite care grant scheme. These are: the extension of the respite care grant, which is currently paid only to those who qualify for carer's allowance and carer's benefit, to all carers who are providing full time care to a person who needs such care from June 2005; an increase in the amount of the respite care grant from €835 to €1,000; and a respite care grant in respect of each care recipient for those full time carers who provide care for three or more people whereas at present a double respite care grant is paid to those who are caring for two or more people.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

287 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called to Merlin Park Hospital. [10866/05]

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 in question resides in County Mayo, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

288 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be admitted to St. James’s Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10869/05]

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 in question resides in County Clare, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

289 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be admitted to the Rehabilitation Unit in Dún Laoghaire; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10871/05]

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 in question resides in County Clare, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's mid-western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Payments.

Dan Boyle

Question:

290 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the annual fees paid to each chairperson and director in each statutory board under the remit of her Department. [10873/05]

My Department is currently undertaking a review to confirm the current position on payments to members of all state boards under its aegis. I will revert to the Deputy on this matter as soon as the review has been completed.

Departmental Funding.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

291 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children if additional funding will be provided to a group (details supplied) for the provision of follow-on respite placements for autistic children over 12 years of age as the current level of funding will not adequately provide all the residential or part-time residential places required over the next few years and parents are very anxious about the uncertainty regarding future services after their children reach 12 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10896/05]

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

Finian McGrath

Question:

292 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children if the maximum support and assistance will be given to Down’s Syndrome Ireland with its national resource centre building project, including financial support. [10917/05]

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 the provision of funding for capital projects. Accordingly, my Department has requested the executive's national director for primary, community and continuing care to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Michael Ring

Question:

293 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason transport is not being provided for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo with severe mental and physical disabilities; and if it will be arranged. [10919/05]

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 in question resides in County Mayo, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

294 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 371 of 5 October 2004, if funding will be made available to continue the programme of the inner ear cochlear department of Beaumont Hospital; if the proposed implant for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 will be carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10923/05]

I am aware of the work done by the cochlear implant programme at Beaumont Hospital. I had the pleasure of visiting Beaumont Hospital recently and also met with the director of the programme. I can assure the Deputy that the future development of the programme in under active consideration by the Health Service Executive. My Department is advised that the former Eastern Regional Health Authority wrote to the Deputy in November 2004 in response to his question of 5 October, advising him of the position at that time with regard to the programme.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

295 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the extension of the accident and emergency department of Kerry General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10931/05]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

298 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a day ward at Kerry General Hospital is lying idle and fully equipped due to the employment ceiling in the health service; the steps she will take to ensure that this day ward is opened and fully staffed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10934/05]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

301 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if consideration is being given to the provision of a medical assessment unit at the accident and emergency department at Kerry General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10937/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 295, 298 and 301 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 services at Kerry General Hospital. My Department has therefore requested the chief officer for the executive's southern area to reply directly to the Deputy on the matter raised.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

296 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children the position regarding the provision of a new community hospital in Tralee, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10932/05]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of a new community hospital in Tralee, County Kerry. At present the project is being processed through the detailed design stage and it is expected that this stage will be completed towards the end of this year.

Health Service Staff.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

297 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the way by which she reconciles the employment ceiling in the health services with the Government’s commitment to provide 850 new community nursing home beds; the number of these beds which have been provided; if the staff allocated have been provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10933/05]

Work has been under way in the Department of Health and Children on a proposal for a public private partnership investment scheme for 850 community nursing units. There have been discussions between my Department and the Department of Finance in the development of this PPP scheme. These are complex schemes and it is important to have a clear view of the benefits that will accrue given the complexity of the PPP contracting structure. The work that has been done so far has helped to clarify a number of issues.

I am very aware that additional long stay bed capacity is required to relieve pressure on the acute hospital and community care programme and I will be pursuing the need to deliver such capacity with the Minister for Finance as a matter of high priority. The provision of these additional long stay beds must be considered in the context of the capital investment programme and the employment ceiling.

Question No. 298 answered with QuestionNo. 295.

Health Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

299 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children the reason applicants for the curam home care grant are being advised that they have qualified for the grant but that there is insufficient money available to award to grant; if applicants who are awarded the grant will receive it immediately; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10935/05]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

308 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children the number of persons in County Kerry who have been approved for a curam home care grant and are still awaiting payment; the length of time an applicant has to wait from the time of approval to the actual payment date; the longest period of time an applicant has been waiting for payment; if approved applicants will be assured that payment will be backdated to the date of approval; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10977/05]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

309 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children the amount of funding provided to the Health Service Executive’s southern area for the provision of curam home care grants in 2004 and 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10978/05]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

310 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children the amount needed to issue payment immediately of curam home care grants to all approved applicants in the Kerry area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10979/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 299, 308, 309 and 310 together.

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1st 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 home care grant scheme in the southern area. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's southern area to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 300 answered with QuestionNo. 217.
Question No. 301 answered with QuestionNo. 295.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

302 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when it is intended to publish the capital funding programme for hospitals for 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10938/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, established on 1 January 2005, to manage and deliver or arrange to be delivered on its behalf health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for progressing the health capital programme for hospitals.

The HSE service plan for 2005 was recently approved by me and as required by relevant legislation laid before the House. The detailed capital funding programme for hospitals for 2005 is currently being finalised in the context of the capital investment framework for 2005 to 2009. This process will be concluded in the near future and the HSE will then be in a position to progress its capital programme in line with overall funding resources available for 2005 or beyond. While elements of the capital programme will of course be commercially sensitive, the question of publishing the details sought by the Deputy will be a matter for the HSE.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

303 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children the position regarding the provision of a new hospital for Dingle, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10939/05]

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

Departmental Correspondence.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

304 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children if she will meet with a group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10940/05]

A request to meet with this group was received in the Tánaiste's office and I understand that a letter has issued to arrange a meeting.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

305 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children the position regarding the extension of Kenmare Community Hospital in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10941/05]

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

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

306 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason an operation did not take place for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin. [10975/05]

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 in question resides in County Mayo, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

307 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children if he will meet the president and a delegation of members from Down’s Syndrome Ireland over the next few weeks and make this a priority issue. [10976/05]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that I have recently written to Down's Syndrome Ireland suggesting a possible date for a meeting with them.

Questions Nos. 308 to 310, inclusive, answered with Question No. 299.

Health Services.

Bernard Allen

Question:

311 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [10980/05]

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 Cork, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's southern area to reply directly to the Deputy on the matter raised.

Pat Breen

Question:

312 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of an application by a person (details supplied) in County Clare regarding a refund for bedroom furniture; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10981/05]

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

Travers Report.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

313 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the date on which the Travers report was submitted to her; the date on which the printed version of the Travers report became available for purchase in the Government publications sales office; if she will provide a full explanation for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10982/05]

I recieved the Travers report on Friday, 4 March 2005. Before being published it was considered by the Cabinet at its next meeting on Tuesday, 8 March 2005. Copies of the report were given to each Member of the Dáil on Wednesday, 9 March and the Dáil then referred it by resolution to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children. The committee published it subsequent to its meeting that day. It was available on the website www.oireachtas.ie also on 9 March 2005. The printed version was made available for purchase in the Government Publications sales office on 16 March 2005. There was, therefore, no inordinate delay in publishing the report.

Cancer Incidence.

Tony Gregory

Question:

314 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a copy of the full report of the study group regarding cancer in the Summerhill area of Dublin 1 will be made available to local public representatives; if a meeting will be arranged with local public representatives and representatives of the residents and the study group to clarify issues arising from that report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10983/05]

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

Question No. 315 answered with QuestionNo. 178.

Health Services.

Bernard Allen

Question:

316 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [10985/05]

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 Cork, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's southern area to reply directly to the Deputy on the matter raised.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

317 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the full complement of beds is in use in the Maynooth community care unit, Maynooth, County Kildare; if not, the number of beds in use; the reason for the delay in bringing the unit to full capacity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11110/05]

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 the Maynooth community care unit. 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.

Hospital Accommodation.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

318 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the continuing serious overcrowding in recent weeks in the accident and emergency unit at Naas General Hospital, Naas, County Kildare; the way in which she intends to improve matters at the hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11113/05]

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 services at Naas General Hospital. 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.

I have identified the delivery of accident and emergency services as a priority area for attention. I have announced a ten point action plan on accident and emergency services which is being financed with €70 million current funding and €10 million capital funding. My Department is liaising with the HSE to progress the implementation of the plan.

Health Services.

John Curran

Question:

319 Mr. Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the future plans for Brú Chaoimhin, Cork Street, Dublin 8. [11130/05]

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. 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.

Nursing Education.

John Curran

Question:

320 Mr. Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason entry to public health nursing has been changed; if she and An Bord Altranais have satisfied themselves that without general nursing, a public health nurse can deliver a quality service to a typical community population base. [11131/05]

The Commission on Nursing considered that registration as a midwife should no longer be a mandatory requirement for entry to the higher diploma in public health nursing or registration as a public health nurse, PHN, as follows:

. . . in light of the range of services offered by public health nurses and the ongoing development of nursing and midwifery services in the community, registration as a midwife should no longer be a mandatory requirement for entry to the higher diploma in public health nursing or registration as a public health nurse. An alternative education programme relating more closely to the core generic maternal and child care service requirements of public health nursing should replace the mandatory midwifery requirement. The Commission recommends that the Board establish a working party composed of PHNs, health service providers and nurse educators to determine the content and duration of a course in maternal and child health, as an alternative to the mandatory midwifery qualification.

In direct response to this specific recommendation of the commission, An Bord Altranais established a working group to devise the content and duration of a course in maternal and child health. It was proposed, as set out by the commission, that this course should be offered as an alternative to the mandatory midwifery qualification for PHN students. Those with midwifery registration would not be required to undertake the course. This course addresses the professional and practice issues as they relate to maternal and child health in a primary health care setting as a dimension of the role of the PHN. The course includes both theoretical and clinical requirements.

In November 2004, the board approved a number of changes to the nurses rules, including the following amended rule in relation to admission requirements for nurses wishing to train in public health nursing.

Before admission to the programme for education and training leading to registration in the Public Health Nurses Division of the Register, the name of the candidate for the registration must already be entered in the Register of Nurses and the candidate must have two years clinical experience in nursing. Unless the candidate's name is entered in the Midwives Division of the Register, the candidate must complete an An Bord Altranais approved module or unit of study on Maternal and Child Health as part of the programme.

My approval is required under section 26 of the Nurses Act 1985 and these rules were formally approved by me in December 2004 as soon as they were submitted by the board. Regulation of the nursing and midwifery professions, including the setting of requirements and standards in relation to the education programmes for registration in a division of the register of nurses maintained by An Bord Altranais, including the public health nurse division, is the statutory responsibility of the board itself. I understand that, at a recent meeting, the board decided to develop a consultation process on the implementation of the rule change.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

321 Mr. Ó Fearghail asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an enhanced nursing home subvention will be awarded in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [11132/05]

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 enhanced subvention. 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.

Hospital Staff.

Liz McManus

Question:

322 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if any senior staff of the HSE or health boards have been retained as consultants while on career breaks from their posts; if so, the positions or grades concerned; the rate of remuneration for any such persons retained and the way in which this compares with their original pay grades; the guidelines which govern such procedures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11133/05]

The Health Act 2004 provides 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 management of the executive's human resources.

My Department has, therefore, requested the acting national director of human resources in the HSE to investigate the matters raised by the Deputy on the retention of senior staff of the HSE and health areas as consultants while on career breaks and reply directly to her.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

323 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the continuing delay in providing the long promised extension to Bandon Community Hospital; and the further reason the request of September 2004 for approval to appoint a design team has not been granted. [11134/05]

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

As part of the executive's responsibility to prepare and submit an annual service plan for my approval, it is obliged under section 31 of the Act to indicate any capital plans proposed by the executive. In this process the executive can be expected to have regard to the full range of potential capital developments, its own criteria in determining priorities, available resources and any other relevant factors. The Health Service Executive's national capital plan is currently being examined by my Department.

Medical Cards.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

324 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether funding should be made available to the parents of a child from west Cork, with a medical card, to cover the cost of travel for regular visits for treatment in Dublin hospitals. [11135/05]

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.

A medical card holder with full eligibility is entitled to receive general practitioner services and a range of approved prescribed medication under the general medical services scheme from the local community pharmacist free of charge. Decisions in regard to any other funding which might be made available would be a matter for the chief officer of the Health Service Executive's local area to decide.

National Lottery Funding.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

325 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of lottery funding advanced to date on a yearly basis to projects outside this State; the number of such lottery grants on a yearly basis [11526/05]

Applications for funding from the health and children national lottery allocation are received primarily from individuals, groups and organisations with an involvement in the provision of health services to specific client groups, national groups providing information and support regarding disability and illness and groups with a specific interest. To date, national lottery funds have been allocated to organisations within the State.

Disabled Drivers.

John McGuinness

Question:

326 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance if an application for a primary medical certificate will be reconsidered in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the fact that the specific request made by their orthopaedic surgeon and their general practitioner that they be granted a certificate; if the Health Service Executive will examine their case to determine the support or grant assistance will be given should the certificate be refused; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10273/05]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the disabled drivers and disabled passengers — tax concessions — scheme. The medical criteria for the purposes of the tax concession under this scheme are set out in the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) regulations 1994. Six different types of disablement are listed under the regulations and a qualifying person must satisfy one or more of them.

The six types of disablement are as follows: persons who are wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs; persons who are wholly without the use of one of their legs and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that they are severely restricted as to movement of their lower limbs; persons without both hands or without both arms; persons without one or both legs; persons wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg; persons having the medical condition of dwarfism and who have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

It is a fundamental requirement for admission to the scheme that the applicant meets the specified medical criteria and is in possession of a primary medical certificate to that effect, issued by the appropriate senior area medical officer, who is an official of the local Health Service Executive. I have no function in deciding whether individual certificates are issued. Where the issue of the required certificate is refused, this can be appealed to the disabled drivers medical board of appeal, an independent body, whose decision is final.

Tax Code.

Michael Lowry

Question:

327 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance if he will offer tax incentives for companies (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10475/05]

The Government's taxation policy is designed at maximising the employment and economic benefits of industrial development by creating an attractive climate for investment. In this respect Ireland offers one of the most beneficial corporate tax environments in the EU with a corporation tax rate of 12.5% applying since 1 January 2003.

This is a general measure which applies across the board to companies located in all areas and regions in the State. As such, it does not conflict with EU state aid rules. A proposal to offer tax incentives to companies in a specific region or specific towns would be state aid and would have to be examined and approved by the European Commission.

School Remediation Works.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

328 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance when the asbestos remediation works to a school (details supplied) in County Kildare will be carried out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11105/05]

Planning is in hand for a scheme to replace the asbestos based roofs at the school in question. Works will commence as soon as possible following completion of this process and the necessary tendering and contractual procedures and subject to agreement on programming with the school authorities.

Garda Stations.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

329 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if he has approved the revised sketch scheme for the new Garda station for Leixlip, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11159/05]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

386 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if negotiations with Kildare County Council for the acquisition of a small portion of land to the front of the site for the new Garda station for Leixlip, County Kildare, have been concluded; if a revised sketch scheme has been submitted to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for approval; if approval has issued from this Department; when construction is likely to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11151/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 329 and 386 together.

Officials from the Office of Public Works met officials of Kildare County Council on 16 March 2005 to discuss directly the acquisition of an additional plot of land for this development. It is understood that Kildare County Council has agreed in principle to dispose of the plot of land in question to the OPW and has commenced the process to effect this disposal. When Kildare County Council has completed the process of disposal, a revised sketch scheme reflecting the expanded development site can be issued to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for approval.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

330 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the position in regard to the provision of the proposed new Garda station at Leixlip, County Kildare; if all the obstacles and difficulties in relation to the project have been resolved; if contracts have been signed; if a completion date has been set; if discussion has taken place regarding the number of gardaí likely to be assigned there after completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11238/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

387 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if all the issues relating to the provision of the proposed new Garda station at Leixlip, County Kildare have been finally resolved; when he expects the works to be completed and the station open; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11219/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 330 and 387 together.

Officials from the Office of Public Works met officials of Kildare County Council on 16 March 2005 to discuss the acquisition of an additional plot of land for this development. It is understood that Kildare County Council has agreed in principle to dispose of the plot of land in question to the OPW and has commenced the process to effect this disposal. When Kildare County Council has completed the process of disposal, a revised sketch scheme reflecting the expanded development site can be issued to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for approval. The Garda Commissioner is responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel.

Flood Relief.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

331 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the position in relation to negotiations between his Department and Kildare County Council regarding the permanent resolution of the flooding problems at Mill Lane, Leixlip, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11445/05]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

383 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if he has received a report from Kildare County Council in relation to flood alleviation measures in Leixlip, County Kildare; if funding is available from his Department to carry out the work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11108/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 331 and 383 together.

The Office of Public Works received a report from Kildare County Council in relation to flood alleviation measures in Leixlip, County Kildare, on 5 April 2005. The Commissioners of Public Works are considering this report.

Asylum Support Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

332 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance the details of the settlement reached regarding the lands at Dublin Road, Kilkenny which were leased by his Department to be used as an accommodation centre for asylum seekers; the legal costs to date; the amount paid to date to the land owner in question; if the agreement has been terminated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9950/05]

Proceedings in the case of Thomas Rothwell and Othersv. Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and another were withdrawn by the applicants on the following settlement conditions: the applicant to receive €25,000 plus VAT for costs; the current licence with the landlord, Mr. Alex Wilsdon, to be terminated; that advance notice be given to the applicants regarding any future intention of the respondents to enter into another licence agreement with the landlord with regard to the same site. The total rent paid for the duration of the licence, which was terminated with effect from 18 October 2004, was €490,643.52. The legal costs involved have not yet been determined.

Debt Relief.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

333 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Finance the progress which has been made following recent meetings in London to cancel the debt of the poorest countries in the world and as Ireland’s Governor of the IMF and World Bank, if there are proposals to sell IMF gold to fund the debt cancellation of these countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9965/05]

I assume the Deputy is referring to discussions within the G7. Ireland is not a member of the G7-G8 but I understand discussions are continuing there. I refer the Deputy to my reply to the House on this subject of debt on 8 March 2005 and subsequently.

Adequate financing for debt relief is essential to help reduce poverty in many parts of the world. It is important to adequately finance the relief of debts owed to the International Monetary Fund in order that the fund can continue to play a role in the poorest countries. The managing director has stated that he will, as requested, bring forward proposals at the spring meetings, covering the fund's gold and other resources. These resources are part of the assets of the IMF. These proposals are awaited and they will be assessed when available, not least from the need to ensure that the IMF has the resources necessary to carry out its critical functions in future. The sale of part of IMF gold reserves to cover the costs of additional debt relief has been proposed, in addition to a number of other mechanisms, to fund the relief of the debts of poor countries. Agreement on any such mechanisms may be problematic given possible opposition by certain states to gold sales.

Tax Code.

John McGuinness

Question:

334 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny is being assessed each year for income tax in view of the fact that their only source of income is a UK employment pension and an Irish old age pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9967/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer's income for the past few years has been below the exemption limits and that as a result he paid no tax. In view of this and of the increases in exemption limits in recent budgets the taxpayer is now being advised that he no longer needs to file an annual return of income.

Pat Carey

Question:

335 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance when a tax refund in respect of medical expenses will be made to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9987/05]

The medical expenses claim for 2004 has been processed by the Revenue Commissioners. A PAYE balancing statement for the year 2004 together with a cheque for the refund due issued to the taxpayer on 1 April 2005.

John Perry

Question:

336 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance if his Department has received the submission from Sligo County Council 2005 review of tax reliefs; if a decision has been made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10045/05]

In budget 2005, I announced that I had directed my Department, together with the Revenue Commissioners, to undertake a thorough evaluation of the effect of all relevant tax incentive reliefs. This review will evaluate the impact and operation of certain incentive schemes, including their economic and social benefits for the different locations and sectors involved and to the wider community. In addition, the review will examine the degree to which these schemes allow high income individuals to reduce their tax liabilities. The review will involve external consultancy work on the evaluation of various property tax incentive schemes, including the urban, town and rural renewal schemes.

In addition to the above, as well as examining relevant international approaches, the review includes a public consultation process seeking submissions on measures that could be introduced to limit the extent to which reliefs and exemptions can be used by high earners to reduce or eliminate their tax bill. The deadline for receipt of these submissions was 31 March 2005 and my Department has received a significant number of submissions, including one from Sligo County Council. As the Deputy will appreciate this review process has just begun. It is, however, expected that this process will be complete by September 2005 to enable the conclusions of the review to be considered in the context of next year's budget.

Debt Relief.

Michael Lowry

Question:

337 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider the views expressed in correspondence (details supplied) when he attends the IMF-World Bank spring meetings in April 2005; if he will build on previous work in 2002 and encourage the sale of IMF gold to fund debt cancellation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10092/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to the House on this subject on 8 March 2005 and to subsequent questions on the same subject. In those answers, I said that adequate financing for debt relief is essential to help reduce poverty in many parts of the world. It is important to adequately finance the relief of debts owed to the International Monetary Fund in order that the fund can continue to play a role in the poorest countries. The managing director has stated that he will, as requested, bring forward proposals at the spring meetings, covering the fund's gold and other resources. These resources are part of the assets of the IMF. These proposals are awaited and they will be assessed when available, not least from the need to ensure that the IMF has the resources necessary to carry out its critical functions in future.

The sale of part of IMF gold reserves to cover the costs of additional debt relief has been proposed, in addition to a number of other mechanisms, to fund the relief of the debts of poor countries. Agreement on any such mechanisms may be problematic given possible opposition by certain states to gold sales.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

338 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the number of beneficiaries for each year from 1997 to date in respect of exemption in relation to income from artistic activity exempted from tax; the number of such beneficiaries with annual earning from exempted artistic activity below €50,000; the number of beneficiaries with annual incomes above €50,000 in bands of €10,000 and the estimated cost to the Exchequer of the tax forgone for each income band. [10107/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the relevant available information relates to the exemption of certain earnings of writers, composers and artists as included in income tax returns filed for the four income tax years 1998-99 to the short tax year 2001, the latest year for which information is available.

It should be noted that as PAYE taxpayers were charged to tax on their earnings in the period from 6 April to 31 December 2001 and self-employed taxpayers were assessed to tax for the short year on 74% of the profits earned in a 12-month accounting period, data provided for the short tax year 2001 may not be directly comparable with those of earlier years.

The information requested is set out in the following tables. However, because of the Revenue Commissioners' obligation to observe confidentiality in relation to the taxation affairs of individual taxpayers and small groups of taxpayers, the precise breakdown by income bands requested by the Deputy is not provided in relation to exempt incomes exceeding €150,000 due to the small numbers of income earners with incomes in excess of that level.

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

INCOME TAX 1998/1999

Artists Exemption — distribution of claimants by range of exempted income.

Range of exempted Income

Totals

From

To

Number of cases

Estimated Tax Foregone

€m

50,000

749

1.21

50,000

60,000

14

0.22

60,000

70,000

15

0.24

70,000

80,000

9

0.18

80,000

90,000

7

0.18

90,000

100,000

7

0.20

100,000

110,000

8

0.29

110,000

120,000

5

0.20

120,000

130,000

4

0.16

130,000

140,000

3

0.13

140,000

150,000

5

0.24

150,000

170,000

4

0.22

170,000

200,000

5

0.32

200,000

250,000

8

0.61

250,000

300,000

4

0.38

300,000

400,000

7

0.86

400,000

500,000

4

0.66

500,000

1,000,000

6

1.50

Over

1,000,000

13

16.70

Totals

877

24.50

INCOME TAX 1999/2000

Artists Exemption — distribution of claimants by range of exempted income.

Range of exempted Income

Totals

From

To

Number of cases

Estimated Tax Foregone

€m

50,000

788

2.01

50,000

60,000

19

0.32

60,000

70,000

12

0.22

70,000

80,000

16

0.38

80,000

90,000

9

0.24

90,000

100,000

10

0.30

100,000

110,000

7

0.23

110,000

120,000

3

0.13

120,000

130,000

4

0.17

130,000

140,000

2

0.09

140,000

150,000

5

0.25

150,000

170,000

8

0.42

170,000

200,000

4

0.27

200,000

250,000

10

0.75

250,000

300,000

6

0.59

300,000

400,000

8

0.96

400,000

500,000

3

0.48

500,000

1,000,000

12

3.15

Over

1,000,000

15

18.95

Totals

941

29.90

INCOME TAX 2000/2001

Artists Exemption — distribution of claimants by range of exempted income.

Range of exempted Income

Totals

From

To

Number of cases

Estimated Tax Foregone

€m

50,000

1,029

2.23

50,000

60,000

25

0.37

60,000

70,000

19

0.34

70,000

80,000

11

0.24

80,000

90,000

14

0.32

90,000

100,000

10

0.26

110,000

120,000

7

0.23

120,000

130,000

3

0.11

130,000

140,000

6

0.23

140,000

150,000

2

0.08

150,000

170,000

10

0.51

170,000

200,000

15

0.88

200,000

250,000

6

0.43

250,000

300,000

7

0.62

300,000

400,000

11

1.29

400,000

500,000

6

0.85

500,000

1,000,000

4

0.85

Over

1,000,000

20

27.05

Totals

1,212

37.10

INCOME TAX 2001 (short "year")

Artists Exemption — distribution of claimants by range of exempted income.

Range of exempted Income

Totals

From

To

Number of cases

Estimated Tax Foregone

€m

50,000

1,150

2.24

50,000

60,000

19

0.28

60,000

70,000

17

0.29

70,000

80,000

17

0.34

80,000

90,000

9

0.21

90,000

100,000

13

0.36

100,000

110,000

8

0.26

110,000

120,000

4

0.13

120,000

130,000

5

0.19

130,000

140,000

4

0.15

140,000

150,000

9

0.39

150,000

170,000

4

0.19

170,000

200,000

5

0.28

200,000

250,000

8

0.55

250,000

300,000

7

0.60

300,000

400,000

8

0.83

400,000

500,000

8

1.18

500,000

1,000,000

14

2.83

Over

1,000,000

14

12.18

Totals

1,323

23.50

National Parks.

Joan Burton

Question:

339 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide as previously requested by the Deputy, a children’s playground at the Dublin 15 end of the Phoenix Park, particularly in the vicinity of Farmleigh, in order to make provision for the tens of thousands of children now in the catchment area for such a playground for whom there are almost no public playground facilities; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the playground at the Infirmary Road end of the park is not accessible by public transport from the Dublin 15 direction, except with great difficulty. [10108/05]

The principle governing the management of the Phoenix Park is its conservation and presentation as a national historic park. Within these parameters, the Office of Public Works in managing the Phoenix Park maintains a careful balance between competing interests for the optimum benefits for all users. In this context, it is considered that the existing playground in the People's Gardens, which was recently comprehensively upgraded, is adequate. The provision of further public playgrounds in the vicinity of the Phoenix Park is more properly the responsibility of the relevant local authority.

Joan Burton

Question:

340 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he has proposals to provide additional pedestrian crossings in the Phoenix Park given the speed of traffic through the park and the fact that, other than at roundabouts on the main road, there are no specific pedestrian crossing points. [10109/05]

Chesterfield Avenue was not originally constructed to deal with the current intense traffic volumes. As a result, it now needs both major repair works and the introduction of design features with a view to increasing safety and reducing the speed of traffic.

A fully integrated plan for the renovation of Chesterfield Avenue has accordingly been prepared by my office, and it is intended to submit the scheme for planning permission later this year. The safety of all park users has been paramount in the preparation of this plan, which has been developed in consultation with the Dublin Transportation Office, and will involve a variety of traffic calming measures, including pedestrian zones in the vicinity of the zoo, together with the construction of a roundabout at Mountjoy Cross. These features will be sensitive to the special ethos of this national historic park. It is proposed to implement the project on a phased basis in order to minimise disruption to park users and subject to the availability of funding.

Joan Burton

Question:

341 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the situation with respect to the proposed traffic calming measure to be introduced in the Phoenix Park; if there is a proposal to provide one way traffic systems at the Cabra and Ashtown Gates as previously advertised by the OPW; the reason for the cancellation of such works; if the works have now been abandoned or if they will proceed in the future; and the estimated cost of such works. [10110/05]

Chesterfield Avenue was not originally constructed to deal with the current intense traffic volumes. As a result, it now needs both major repair works and the introduction of design features with a view to increasing safety and reducing the speed of traffic.

As part of the proposed fully integrated plan for the renovation of Chesterfield Avenue, which was developed in consultation with the Dublin Transportation Office, a number of traffic calming design features are envisaged with a view to reducing traffic speeds and enhancing the safety of all users of the Phoenix Park, including a roundabout at Mountjoy Cross and a pedestrian zone in the vicinity of the zoo. These features will be sensitive to the special ethos of this national historic park. It is proposed to implement the project on a phased basis in order to minimise disruption to park users and subject to the availability of funding.

A number of ramps were installed recently on the back road in the Phoenix Park, between the zoo and the Ashtown Gate, a stretch of road particularly badly affected by speeding traffic. The proposal to implement a one-way system at the Ashtown and Cabra Gates of the Phoenix Park has been deferred pending further research into its likely impact on traffic flows outside the park, particularly at rush hour, and to facilitate consultation with Fingal and Dublin City Councils. Apart from staff time spent on planning for the new system, no major significant costs are associated with the implementation of the one-way system.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

342 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer, in terms of tax forgone, for each year from 1997 to date in respect of approved retirement funds, ARFs, for persons with incomes in excess of €100,000 in bands of €10,000, setting out the numbers of such beneficiaries in each income band and the cost of the tax forgone for each income band. [10111/05]

The Finance Act 1999 made a number of changes to the structure of pension arrangements by introducing additional options for the holders of personal pensions and certain holders of occupational pension schemes. Traditionally the types of benefits available on retirement for such persons comprised a lump sum, a pension for life and an annuity for dependants. Under the new arrangements such a pensioner can on retirement, subject to conditions, use his or her accumulated pension fund to purchase an annuity, have it paid directly to him or herself or have it placed in an approved retirement fund, ARF, or, in certain circumstances, into an approved minimum retirement fund, AMRF.

Funds placed in an ARF, or AMRF, can only come from an individual's approved pension arrangement. Thus, it is not possible to pay funds directly into an ARF. Tax relief is available for contributions made to an approved pension arrangement prior to retirement. Funds placed in an ARF have, therefore, already been tax relieved at the time the contributions to those pension products were made. In the same manner as for pension funds generally, income and gains arising in an ARF are exempt from income tax and capital gains tax so long as they are held within the ARF. Any withdrawals from the ARF are subject to tax at the person's marginal rate of income tax. The same rules apply to AMRFs except that the capital, as distinct from the income, may not be withdrawn from an AMRF until the individual reaches the age of 75.

As there is no requirement in law for qualifying fund managers in relation to ARFs to provide the Revenue Commissioners with details of the amount of funds held in such investment vehicles or of the income and gains arising on such funds, information along the lines requested by the Deputy is not available to the Revenue Commissioners.

Joan Burton

Question:

343 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the cost in terms of tax forgone for each year from 1997 to date in respect of pension fund expenditure by employers on behalf of their employees for people with incomes in excess of €100,000 in bands of €10,000 setting out the number of employees so benefiting in each income band and the cost to the State of the tax forgone for each income band. [10112/05]

Joan Burton

Question:

344 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the cost in terms of tax forgone for each year from 1997 to date of the provision of the various pension tax reliefs; the beneficiaries of such tax reliefs for persons with income in excess of €100,000 in bands of €10,000 setting out the numbers of employees so benefiting in each income band and the cost to the State of the tax forgone for each income band. [10113/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 343 and 344 together.

It is not possible to provide disaggregated figures in regard to the take-up of the tax relief for all pension contributions across different income categories because the relevant data in regard to contributions is not captured in such a way as to make this possible.

Disaggregated data is only available in respect of the tax relief for contributions to retirement annuity contracts, RACs. RACs are personal pensions used by the self-employed and by employees who are not in pensionable employment. The data are as follows:

Estimated Costs

1997/98

1998/99

1999/2000

2000/01

2001

‘Retirement Annuity Contracts’ available to the self-employed and to employees not in occupational pension schemes

€91.3m

€116.2m

€180.8m

€205m

€170m

Numbers

72,200

92,900

104,500

109,300

109,600

For the short income tax year of 2001 a distribution by income ranges of the claim amounts, amounts of tax relief and average deductions for tax relief for retirement annuity contracts is contained in the following table.

Income Tax 2001 (short "year")

Retirement Annuity — by range of Gross Income

Range of Gross Income

Totals

From

To

Number of cases

Amount of deduction

Reduction in tax

Average deduction

6,000

1,258

1,301,889

76,588

1,035

6,000

8,000

1,217

1,131,858

159,747

930

8,000

10,000

1,976

2,066,245

318,130

1,046

10,000

12,000

2,779

3,131,978

538,747

1,127

12,000

15,000

5,489

6,725,589

1,228,558

1,225

15,000

17,000

4,446

5,613,493

1,067,199

1,263

17,000

20,000

7,513

10,476,115

2,039,761

1,394

20,000

25,000

12,222

19,723,266

4,505,791

1,614

25,000

27,000

4,567

8,276,351

2,214,991

1,812

27,000

30,000

6,350

12,331,704

3,457,396

1,942

30,000

35,000

9,441

20,838,925

6,506,746

2,207

35,000

40,000

7,942

20,490,572

7,354,258

2,580

40,000

50,000

11,427

37,038,299

14,847,501

3,241

50,000

60,000

6,807

29,985,541

12,417,840

4,405

60,000

75,000

5,741

35,653,618

14,883,125

6,210

75,000

100,000

4,543

41,479,867

17,310,850

9,131

100,000

150,000

3,951

56,115,725

23,514,956

14,203

150,000

200,000

1,753

38,561,305

16,149,432

21,997

over

200,000

2,635

98,693,919

41,399,977

37,455

Totals

102,057

449,636,259

169,991,594

4,406

On the other hand, with regard to occupational pensions, that is, schemes set up by the employer, the figures in respect of employee and employer contributions are particularly tentative and are available only in aggregate form.

Tax relief for pension contributions by employees is normally given by way of a deduction from total income in arriving at income for tax purposes, that is, the income for tax purposes of employees is net of their pension contributions, the "net pay" arrangement. The employer's contributions are an allowable deduction from profits and are not specifically recorded in Revenue statistics. However, provisions were included in Finance Act 2004 with a view to improving data quality and transparency without overburdening taxpayers-employers. The Act includes provisions that require employers to provide data on superannuation contributions in the P35 form to be filed by employers in February 2006. The following table outlines the very tentative figures currently available to the Revenue Commissioners.

Income Tax Relief relating to Pension Contributions

Estimated Cost

Income Tax Relief

1997/98

1998/99

1999/2000

2000/01

2001

Contributions by employers*

€436m

€533m

€595m

€646m

€498m

Contributions by employees*

€257m

€329m

€421m

€472m

€389m

Numbers of employees contributing to approved superannuation schemes**

not available

not available

569,220

629,800

670,500

Exemption of Net Income of Approved Superannuation Funds (Contributions Plus Investment Income Less Outgoings)*

€823m

€967m

€1,226m

€1,292m

€938m

* These are tentative estimates.

** Calendar year figures sourced from annual reports of the Pensions Board 2001 was a "short" tax year from April to December. The latest data available is for years up to 2001. PRSAs were not introduced until 2002.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Joan Burton

Question:

345 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the conditions that accompany the maturing of SSIA accounts and the withdrawal by investors of the sums invested plus Government bonuses at maturity; if there are any conditions in regard to declarations and disclosures accompanying such accounts, as reported on a number of occasions recently in various media; and if he will publish all such conditions and disclosures for the benefit of investors well in advance of the maturity dates. [10114/05]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

373 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance the position in regard to disclosure declarations by SSIA depositions prior to the maturity of their accounts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10672/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 345 and 373 together.

Special savings incentive accounts, SSIAs, will mature between May 2006 and April 2007 depending on when the account was originally opened. For an account to be matured, the account holder will be required to make a maturity declaration to his or her financial institution at any time within a period of three months ending on the maturity date. Accordingly, no action by account holders is necessary until next year.

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that information regarding SSIA maturity is already published on the Revenue web site atwww.revenue.ie. Furthermore, Revenue has arranged for the form on which the declaration is made to be issued to each SSIA holder by the relevant financial institution in advance of the maturity date.

The form will simply require the saver to confirm that the conditions of the scheme were met from the date on which the SSIA started until the date the declaration is made, that is, they will be asked to confirm that they — were the beneficial owner of the assets in the SSIA, had only one SSIA, were resident or ordinarily resident in the State, subscribed to the SSIA from funds available to them or their spouse without recourse to borrowings, or the deferral of repayment, whether of capital or interest, of sums borrowed when the SSIA started, and did not assign or otherwise pledge SSIA assets as security for a loan.

The Revenue Commissioners are in discussion with the financial institutions to ensure that the maturity arrangements will be implemented in an efficient and practical manner.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joe Walsh

Question:

346 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Finance when the office of public works will provide office accommodation for the 180 people who have already volunteered to decentralise to Clonakilty under the central application facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10122/05]

The Office of Public Works has identified a particular site in Clonakilty and this land is now the agreed solution at this location. The Office of Public Works is proceeding with the acquisition of the land in question. The current indicative construction completion timeframe for the new office in Clonakilty is early 2007.

Official Engagements.

Bernard Allen

Question:

347 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Finance if he travelled abroad for the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations; the persons who travelled with him in his official party; the duration of the visit and the cost involved. [10173/05]

I visited Savannah and Atlanta, in the United States, for the St. Patrick's Day celebrations and to attend at a number of other events promoting Ireland abroad. My wife, Mary, and my special adviser, Mr. Gerry Steadman, travelled with me in my official party. The visit covered the period 13 March to 20 March. The overall cost of the visit is not yet available.

Appointments to State Boards.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

348 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Finance when an appeals officer will be reappointed to a board (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10188/05]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to the Medical Board of Appeal for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme. In this regard, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that significant progress has been made in the reconstitution of the Medical Board of Appeal for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme. It is expected that the board will resume its meetings very shortly. I appointed a new chairperson to the board on 14 March 2005 and I understand that a new secretary is being recruited and will be in place shortly.

In respect of the waiting list for an appeal, I understand that there are in excess of 600 appellants. The new chairperson of the board has been asked to address the backlog as a priority. To facilitate this, I brought in new regulations on 7 April which will allow for the appointment of an additional five medical practitioners to the board of appeal. I hope to make the necessary new appointments to the board over the coming weeks.

Site Acquisitions.

John McGuinness

Question:

349 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance if the transfer of a small parcel of land adjoining a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny from their ownership to the school for use as a playing field for the school and broader community will be considered; and if a decision in the case will be expedited. [10205/05]

The Commissioners of Public Works are dealing with legal aspects concerning this property. When these are completed the intention is to dispose of the property.

Vehicle Registration.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

350 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Finance the number of second-hand vehicles cleared in Bridgend, County Donegal, by revenue in the year 2004 compared to 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10215/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the numbers of second-hand vehicles registered in their Bridgend, County Donegal, office were as follows: 2003, 672; 2004, 1,190. The increase in registrations of second-hand vehicles in Bridgend in 2004 is generally in line with national trends.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Paul McGrath

Question:

351 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance when the SSIA accounts are due to mature; the average contribution which savers have made to the scheme; the minimum and maximum contributors will receive on maturation of the scheme; the costs incurred if you exit the scheme; the number of subscribers nationwide; the cost of the scheme to the Exchequer on a monthly basis; the number of maturing accounts on a monthly basis from May 2006 and the estimated cost to the Exchequer of the top-up payment. [10258/05]

The SSIA scheme opened on 1 May 2001 and entry to it closed on 30 April 2002. The accounts are due to mature between May 2006 and April 2007.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that all qualifying savings managers are furnishing their 2004 SSIA annual returns at present. The Revenue Commissioners are analysing these returns and it is expected that final details of this analysis will be available at the end of April 2005. However, all qualifying savings managers have, in advance of the annual return, provided a declaration indicating the number of active accounts held at 31 December 2004. Based on these 2004 declarations, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the total number of active accounts at 31 December 2004 was 1,094,188 and the average monthly subscription was €175 at that date. Revisions may be necessary if amendments are received at a later date.

The minimum monthly contribution that could be made to an SSIA on commencement was €12.50. An individual paying this amount over five years would contribute €750 together with the Exchequer tax credit payout of €187.50, that is, 25%. Where an individual saved the maximum monthly amount of €254.00 from the outset the total contribution over five years would be €15,240 as well as the Exchequer tax credit payout of €3,810. Only the profit earned on this investment will be subject to a once-off tax of 23% on maturity provided the individual saver complies with certain conditions laid down in the legislation governing the scheme. Where an individual fails to comply with the conditions of the scheme, or exits the scheme prematurely, all the money in the account is taxed at 23%.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the monthly tax credit pay-out, made in the month following the month of subscription, to investors in the special savings incentive accounts since the introduction of this savings scheme is as follows:

Month

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

€m

€m

€m

€m

€m

January

17.8

44.4

45.2

47.1

February

19.3

44.8

44.8

47.9

March

21.0

44.1

44.2

48.1

April

25.6

44.0

45.6

May

43.1

44.2

45.1

June

2.0

44.4

44.0

45.8

July

6.1

43.5

44.3

46.0

August

9.1

44.1

44.3

45.3

September

11.0

43.6

44.1

46.3

October

12.6

43.6

44.9

46.3

November

14.2

43.5

44.8

46.4

December

16.0

43.5

44.0

47.0

Total

71.0

433.0

531.9

548.0

143.1

I am also informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, based on the most recent information available, that is, the return for 2003, the number of SSIAs due to mature in the period May 2006 and April 2007 is as outlined in the table below. These numbers can be expected to reduce marginally between now and the respective maturity dates due to account closures in the interim.

Table: SSIA accounts maturing in 2006/2007 (Based on 2003 data)

Commencement Date

Maturity Date

No of SSIA accounts (000’s)

May-01

May-06

41.9

Jun-01

Jun-06

82.9

Jul-01

Jul-06

58.6

Aug-01

Aug-06

41.8

Sep-01

Sep-06

34.2

Oct-01

Oct-06

34.3

Nov-01

Nov-06

39.1

Dec-01

Dec-06

38.5

Jan-02

Jan-07

34.1

Feb-02

Feb-07

52.6

Mar-02

Mar-07

101.1

Apr-02

Apr-07

554.8

Total

1,113.9

As indicated in replies to previous questions, it is not possible to give a definitive answer as to the eventual cost of the scheme as it is subject to a number of variables such as participants dying, withdrawing from the scheme or varying their monthly contributions. The cost of the scheme to date is as outlined above. The estimated cost in 2005, based on the average tax credit payout in the first three months of 2005, is €572 million but this is not a conclusive figure, and the final figure may be different if account holders change their monthly contributions. The total gross cost over the period of the scheme will be reduced by the exit tax to be received at the end.

Paul McGrath

Question:

352 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he has plans or proposals for maturing SSIA account holders to reinvest their savings or to encourage citizens to continue to save after the expiration of the SSIA. [10259/05]

The SSIA scheme opened on 1 May 2001 and entry to it closed on 30 April 2002. The accounts are due to mature between May 2006 and April 2007. A total of 1.17 million accounts were opened during the period outlined.

The specific goal of the SSIA scheme was to encourage people to save over a period of at least five years. Its effect has been to stimulate such savings over varying income ranges which is evident in the extensive take-up by many low income earners. The scheme has been a success in those terms. The scheme has a specific duration. Any proposals for tax-based incentives for the reinvestment of SSIA savings or continuation of savings would be considered as part of the normal annual budgetary process taking account of public policy objectives and Exchequer cost implications. The use to which the moneys arising on maturity of the SSIAs are put is ultimately a matter for the individual account holder.

Debt Relief.

Jack Wall

Question:

353 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance his views in regard to a submission (details supplied); the plans he has to deal with the matter at the forthcoming meeting of the IMF-World Bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10276/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to the House on this subject on 8 March 2005.

Adequate financing for debt relief is essential to help reduce poverty in many parts of the world. It is important to adequately finance the relief of debts owed to the International Monetary Fund so that the fund can continue to play a role in the poorest countries. The managing director has stated that he will, as requested, bring forward proposals at the spring meetings, covering the fund's gold and other resources. It will be for the board of the IMF and the IMFC initially to decide what action to take. These resources are part of the assets of the IMF. These proposals are awaited and they will be assessed when available, not least for the need to ensure that the IMF has the resources necessary to carry out its critical functions in future. The sale or revaluation of part of IMF gold reserves to cover the costs of additional debt relief has been proposed, in addition to a number of other mechanisms, to fund the relief of the debts of poor countries. Agreement on any such mechanisms may be problematic given possible opposition by certain states to gold sales.

Disabled Drivers.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

354 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Finance when the medical board of appeal for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers scheme will be reconstituted; when staffing and administrative charges will be put in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10302/05]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

355 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. [10303/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 354 and 355 together.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that significant progress has been made in the reconstitution of the medical board of appeal for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme. It is expected that the board will resume its meetings very shortly. I appointed a new chairperson to the board on 14 March 2005 and I understand that a new secretary is being recruited and will be in place shortly.

In respect of the waiting list for an appeal, I understand that there are in excess of 600 appellants. The new chairperson of the board has been asked to address the backlog as a priority. To facilitate this, I brought in new regulations on 7 April which will allow for the appointment of an additional five medical practitioners to the board of appeal. I hope to make the necessary new appointments to the board over the coming weeks.

Tax Code.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

356 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if a person’s (details supplied) tax credit will be amended to include a widow’s tax credit; and if he will back-date this person with the allowance to 1999 when they were widowed. [10338/05]

It is a matter for individual taxpayers to ensure that they claim the relevant tax credits to which they may be entitled. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the appropriate tax credit for a widowed person has now been granted to the person concerned for the current tax year. Following the granting of the credit for each of the tax years 1999-2000 to 2004 inclusive, overpayments of tax have arisen for each of those years. A refund of these overpayments will issue to the person shortly.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Seán Ryan

Question:

357 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the number of SSIA’s due to mature at the end of each month from 31 May 2006 to 30 April 2007. [10368/05]

Special savings incentive accounts, SSIAs, will mature between May 2006 and April 2007 depending on when the account was opened. Based on the most recent information available to the Revenue Commissioners, that is, the returns for 2003, the number of SSIAs due to mature in that period is as outlined in the table below. These numbers can be expected to reduce marginally between now and the respective maturity dates due to account closures in the interim.

Table: SSIA accounts maturing in 2006-07 — based on 2003 data

Commencement Date

Maturity Date

No. of SSIA accounts (000’s)

May-01

May-06

41.9

Jun-01

Jun-06

82.9

Jul-01

Jul-06

58.6

Aug-01

Aug-06

41.8

Sep-01

Sep-06

34.2

Oct-01

Oct-06

34.3

Nov-01

Nov-06

39.1

Dec-01

Dec-06

38.5

Jan-02

Jan-07

34.1

Feb-02

Feb-07

52.6

Mar-02

Mar-07

101.1

Apr-02

Apr-07

554.8

Total

1,113.9

Services for People with Disabilities.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

358 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance his views on whether the €900 million promised for disabilities will only amount to the equivalent of €250 million after staff and administration charges have been deducted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10390/05]

As part of budget 2005, I announced a special disability multi-annual funding package with a total value of close to €900 million over the years 2006-09. While this package includes guaranteed additional current spending of almost €600 million, it also includes capital spending of €300 million.

The bulk of the new funding package will go to the health sector where it will be invested in services for persons with an intellectual disability and those with autism, services for persons with physical or sensory disabilities and mental health services. It will focus, in particular, on the provision of extra residential, respite and day places, extra home support and personal assistance, and extra places in community based mental health facilities.

The balance of the disability funding package is being allocated between the Departments of Education and Science, Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Office of Public Works where the funding will be used to enhance education services for adults with disabilities and expand pre-school provision; support projects which demonstrate an innovative and cost-effective approach to service provision and improve accessibility to public buildings and amenities.

Services in the disability area are particularly labour intensive, relying on highly trained and skilled staff for their effective provision. It is only to be expected, therefore, that a high proportion of the current expenditure involved will relate to staffing. It will be a matter for the service providers to ensure that the programmes are implemented in a manner which will ensure effectiveness, efficiency and value for money.

Tax Code.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

359 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance if the Government will consider offering employers tax incentives to employ persons with disabilities as applies in Great Britain and Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10392/05]

There are no proposals at present to introduce new tax incentives for employers who employ persons with disabilities. Persons returning to employment after being unemployed, including persons in receipt of certain disability payments, can claim the Revenue job assist allowance where certain conditions are satisfied. The Revenue job assist scheme provides an incentive to the long-term unemployed to take up employment and employers to employ the long-term unemployed.

The scheme is available to persons who have been continuously unemployed for the immediate period of 52 weeks prior to taking up a qualifying job and in receipt of an unemployment payment, unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance, the one-parent family payment, the blind persons allowance or the disability allowance.

Under the scheme, a qualifying employee may, in addition to his or her normal tax credits, claim an additional tax deduction at the marginal rate of tax for three years after taking up a qualifying employment. The allowance in the first year of employment is €3,810 plus €1,270 for each qualifying child, reducing to two thirds of these amounts in year two and one third in year three. The second part of the scheme provides a double wages deduction and a double PRSI deduction for employers who employ the long-term unemployed.

Apart from the Revenue job assist scheme, my colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, continues to develop policy for vocational training and employment of people with disabilities on a three dimensional basis by developing the skills of people with disabilities to enable them to access employment; stimulating awareness amongst employers of the contribution which people with disabilities can make to their businesses and encouraging companies to more actively consider recruiting people with disabilities; and providing specific employment supports for people with disabilities and employers.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has a commitment under Sustaining Progress to ". . . develop actions and a policy framework aimed at enhancing the potential of sheltered employment to provide better employment opportunities for people with disabilities". The Department sought to address this commitment through a more mainstreamed approach by developing a new full-time employment support scheme, FTESS, which would also be applicable to sheltered employment enterprises. The underlying objective of the scheme is to increase the numbers of persons with a disability in employment by creating, as far as practicable, a level playing field for them in seeking out or remaining in employment. The mechanism proposed is the payment of a wage subsidy to the employer to compensate for the reduced productivity of the disabled worker. A budget line of €10 million has been established for the scheme for 2005 — this figure includes the current years provision of approximately €5 million for the combined employment support scheme and the pilot programme for the employment of people with disabilties, PEP. FÁS has been requested to implement the proposed scheme as early as possible this year. It is hoped that the new scheme might be launched by the end of June.

Disabled Drivers.

Pat Breen

Question:

360 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 182 of 9 March 2005 regarding an appeal for the disabled drivers allowance for a person (details supplied) in County Clare, when the new secretary of the board will make contact with this person. [10405/05]

Significant progress has been made in the reconstitution of the medical board of appeal for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme. It is expected that the board will resume its meetings very shortly. I appointed a new chairperson to the board on 14 March 2005 and I understand that a new secretary is being recruited and will be in place shortly. As indicated in my reply to the Deputy on 9 March, I will arrange for the new secretary to the board, when in place, to contact the individual concerned in regard to his appeal.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

361 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the circumstances in which an SSIA holder would be liable for 23% of the entire moneys in the scheme due to recourse to borrowings by a person to fund any part of the investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10406/05]

The SSIA scheme introduced by the Government in 2001 contains conditions which each SSIA account holder must comply with when opening, maintaining, ceasing or maturing their accounts. These conditions are contained in Part 38A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 as inserted by section 33 of the Finance Act 2001.

One of these conditions is that the subscriptions made to the SSIA by the SSIA holder must be funded from funds available to the holder or both the holder and the spouse of the holder without recourse to borrowing. Where this condition is not complied with, the SSIA is treated as ceasing and the account thereafter shall not be an SSIA and the value of all assets in the account is liable to tax at 23%.

Tax Code.

Finian McGrath

Question:

362 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if he will work with the Department of Finance in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and if this person will qualify for VAT exemption or any other assistance. [10410/05]

The disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions scheme is open to people with disabilities who meet the specified criteria and have obtained a primary medical certificate to that effect. The senior area medical officer attached to the relevant local health area is responsible for both the medical assessment and the issue of the medical certificate.

The medical criteria for the purposes of the tax concessions under this scheme are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. Six different types of disablement are listed under the regulations and a qualifying person must satisfy one or more of them. The six types of disablement are as follows: persons who are wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs; persons who are wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs; persons without both hands or without both arms; persons without one or both legs; persons wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg; and persons having the medical condition of dwarfism and who have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

An individual who qualifies under the medical criteria, as set out above, is issued with a primary medical certificate. Possession of a primary medical certificate qualifies the holder for remission or repayment of vehicle registration tax, VRT, a repayment of value added tax on the purchase of the vehicle and a repayment of VAT on the cost of adaptation of the vehicle. Repayment of the excise duty on fuel used in the motor vehicle and exemption from annual road tax to local authorities are also allowed.

Pat Carey

Question:

363 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance when a tax rebate will be paid to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11 in respect of emergency tax and medical expenses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10425/05]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the spouse of the person in question changed employment in November 2004. Revenue was not informed and as a result a tax credit certificate was not sent to the new employer. The employer was, therefore, obliged to operate the emergency basis of tax.

The liability of the person and his spouse has now been reviewed for 2004 taking into account the emergency tax suffered and a claim for medical expenses. A PAYE balancing statement together with a cheque for the refund of tax due issued to the taxpayer on 8 April 2005.

Amended tax credit certificates for 2005 issued in respect of the person and his spouse on 21 March and 17 February respectively. Any tax which has been over-deducted for the year 2005 has been, or will be, refunded by their respective employers.

Flood Relief.

John Gormley

Question:

364 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance the money his Department will give to Dublin City Council to provide essential flood defences as outlined in the Dublin coastal flooding protection study; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10429/05]

The Dublin coastal protection study, which is being carried out by Dublin City Council and part funded by OPW, is a study which is examining the causes and impacts of flooding from Portmarnock to Booterstown. A draft report has been received by OPW in the past few weeks and is being considered.

OPW met officials from Dublin City Council recently and the council highlighted some of the recommendations contained in the draft report, which they propose to prioritise. OPW has agreed in principle to consider more detailed proposals, which the council will submit in due course. The flood defence proposals contained in the draft report are estimated to cost over €100 million. Requests for funding from the OPW will have to be carefully considered in the context of OPW's annual budget for flood relief projects, the large number of flood alleviation projects currently being advanced by OPW and the urgency attaching to the various measures recommended in the report.

Houses of the Oireachtas.

John Gormley

Question:

365 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance when the temporary carpark on Leinster lawn will be removed and when the lawn will be reinstated. [10430/05]

Restoration of Leinster Lawn has been contingent on the completion of the refurbishment of Kildare House for the Houses of the Oireachtas. As this project is nearing completion, consultations with the Houses of the Oireachtas have commenced regarding a landscaping scheme to effect the reinstatement of Leinster Lawn and the scheduling of associated works. Works to the lawn could be carried out during this year's summer recess.

Decentralisation Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

366 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the sections of his Department currently based outside Dublin which will be moved to other non-Dublin locations under the decentralisation programme; the location from and to which officials are being transferred; the numbers and sections involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10526/05]

There are no sections of my Department based outside Dublin.

Fairtrade Products.

Paul McGrath

Question:

367 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the campaign to have fair trade products widely available and used; his views on the objectives of this campaign; and if he will endeavour to have such fair trade approved products used in his Department. [10557/05]

I am aware of the fair trade campaign and its positive objective of raising consumer awareness regarding the purchase of products from less developed countries and in making such products more widely available.

Any decision by my Department to use Fairtrade products would have to comply with normal public procurement rules. In regard to the supply of services such as cafeteria services in my Department, it is a matter for the companies providing such services to make their own commercial decision in sourcing their supplies.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joe Walsh

Question:

368 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide and update on the progress made in implementing the 2003 decentralisation programme; the locations at which facilities have been provided by the OPW to accommodate the persons who have volunteered under the CAF; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10641/05]

The two reports of the decentralisation implementation group, DIG, dated 31 March 2004 and 30 July 2004 provide detailed accounts of the progress made in implementing the decentralisation programme announced in December 2003. An analysis of the applications registered with the Central Applications Facility by 7 September 2004 has also been published. All of these reports can be accessed atwww.decentralisation.gov.ie.

In addition the DIG report published on 24 November, 2004 contains proposals on those organisations-locations which, in the group's view, should be included in the first phase of moves and the DIG will report to me again in the spring of 2005 about progress in relation to implementation of the programme. The group will also deal in that report with the locations and organisations not covered in the November 2004 report.

Each organisation produced a first iteration of its implementation plans by end May 2004. The implementation group rated the plans overall as good. Updated versions of the plans are being submitted at various dates in early 2005. Overall, I am pleased with the progress which has been made in driving forward implementation of the programme.

The Office of Public Works has been given primary responsibility for delivering the property aspects of the decentralisation programme. Following the requests for property proposals, the Office of Public Works received in excess of 700 proposed property solutions in regard to the various locations around the country. Detailed evaluation of these proposals was undertaken and the Office of Public Works has made significant progress in sourcing possible sites at the locations concerned.

To date 15 property solutions have been agreed in principle and a further 20 plus locations are at an advanced stage in the acquisition process. I can also confirm that the balance of the sites for the remaining locations in the programme are being pursued by the OPW.

The locations where solutions have been identified are as follows: Athlone, Birr, Carlow, Clonakilty, the Curragh, Donegal, Dundalk, Furbo, Killarney, Knock, Longford, Newcastle West, Portarlington, Sligo, and Thurles. Sites in Longford and Newcastle West have been acquired. The Chief State Solicitor is processing a number of contract documents in respect of sites and it is expected that the associated acquisition phase will be completed as quickly as possible.

State-owned land will accommodate the decentralised buildings scheduled for Athlone, the Curragh, and Sligo, while the proposed location of the Dundalk building will be on land at the Dundalk Institute of Technology. It is proposed to locate the staff relating to Furbo in an extension to an existing building.

Financial Services Regulation.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

369 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the steps he has taken to warn and protect citizens who purchased endowment insurance mortgage products; the actions, including financial restitution, he is contemplating against companies which sold these products and misled the public; and if he will seek the appointment of inspectors to carry out an inquiry into this scandal. [10668/05]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

370 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the number and value of endowment insurance mortgage products which exist; and the estimate of likely shortfalls in mortgage repayments facing the holders of these products over coming years. [10669/05]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

371 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the position with regard to legislation on and the regulation of endowment insurance mortgage products. [10670/05]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

372 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on any investigation or inquiry which his Department carried out in relation to endowment insurance mortgage products over the past 25 years, especially since June 1997. [10671/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 369 to 372, inclusive, together.

The Consumer Director of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, the financial regulator, is encouraging people to complain in the first instance to the company from whom they bought the policy if they are concerned about the possibility of having been missold an endowment mortgage. The recently appointed Financial Services Ombudsman, whose office was established by the 2004 Act, is statutorily independent and is empowered to deal with complaints from customers of financial service providers. The ombudsman can deal with complaints related to conduct occurring up to six years before the complaint was made.

The financial regulator is studying the situation with regard to endowment loan shortfalls, having commenced a survey last year, to determine whether and to what extent there will be difficulties for customers. It would be inappropriate to reach any conclusions on this issue in advance of IFSRA's consideration of the outcome of the survey.

There is no definitive information available to my Department on the overall numbers of cases where a shortfall may arise. Endowment loan approvals in the past five years represented just 3% of the overall mortgage market, although it has been considerably higher in the past. Since 1989, a total of 90,000 endowment loans were approved, comprising 10% approximately of total loan approvals.

As regards the legal framework, there is a substantial volume of legislation in place relating to these financial products. Following the enactment of the Insurance Act 1989, a code of conduct for insurance intermediaries and guidelines were drawn up by the industry in consultation with the then Department of Industry and Commerce. Key requirements of the code were that the intermediary should know the client and give best advice.

The Consumer Credit Act 1995, which commenced in May 1996, contains specific provisions in regard to endowment loans and in particular prescribes certain information which must be included in any application form or information document issued to consumers applying for such loans. For example, since the commencement of the Act all endowment loan application forms must contain a prominent notice to the effect that: "There is no guarantee that the proceeds of the insurance policy will be sufficient to repay the loan in full when it becomes due for payment".

The Act also obliges that in instances where the borrower may be required to increase premium payments on the insurance policy during the lifetime of the loan, any document approving the loan must contain a prominent statement of this possibility. Similarly, obligations apply where a policy is surrendered early resulting in a net loss to the consumer.

The Act also places an obligation upon insurers underwriting policies relating to endowment loans to issue a statement to the consumer every five years setting out not only the value of the policy at the time of issue but also a comparison of this valuation to the valuation at such date projected at the time the policy was first written and a revised estimate of the valuation at maturity.

In addition to the provisions of the Consumer Credit Act, the Life Assurance (Provision of Information) Regulations, which came into being in 2001, oblige insurers to provide policy holders, including holders of policies relating to endowment mortgages, with an annual written statement containinginter alia information on the current surrender or maturity value of the policy.

More recently, the Government has already considerably enhanced the regulatory and supervisory regime governing the financial services industry, primarily through the enactment of the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2003, which established the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority.

The Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2004 complements the Act passed in 2003 and further enhances the financial regulator's powers and strengthens the regulatory environment. This Act provides for an enhanced structure for dealing with consumers who have complaints about financial institutions and also provides consumer and industry consultative panels for the financial regulator. The consumer panel will have an important role in ensuring that the regulator is correctly reflecting the interests of consumers in its protective — issue of codes of conduct — and educational — information pamphlets and so on — roles. These provisions will help the financial regulator to ensure that consumers have all necessary information to allow them to make considered and informed choices between different financial products including in relation to mortgages.

Question No. 373 answered with QuestionNo. 345.

Grant Payments.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

374 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the grants and other financial assistance awarded by his Department in each of the past three years to men’s organisations and groups or organisations providing services primarily for men, including the names of the organisations or groups; the amounts awarded; and the purposes for which they were awarded. [10673/05]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

375 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance the grants and other financial assistance awarded by his Department in each of the past three years to women’s organisations and groups or organisations providing services primarily for women, including the names of the organisations or groups; the amounts awarded; and the purposes for which they were awarded. [10674/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 374 and 375 together.

The Deputy will appreciate that given its functions, my Department has not awarded grants or other financial assistance to organisations or groups of the type mentioned in any of the past three years.

Tax Code.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

376 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance the total VAT charged on the sales of the Band Aid DVDs and CDs launched at the end of 2004; and the way in which this compares to the money donated to the Band Aid Foundation by the Government. [10751/05]

As I set out in my answer of 30 November 2004, an amount equivalent to the VAT paid on sales of the Band Aid CD and Live Aid DVD is to be paid from the Vote for International Co-operation to the Band Aid Trust.

Because the VAT collected from the sale of such goods is accounted for by retailers based on the totality of their sales over a taxable period, it is not possible for the Revenue Commissioners to specifically quantify the VAT in respect of an individual CD or DVD. However, I understand from the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is the accounting authority for the Vote for International Co-operation, that it is awaiting certified sales figures from the distributors before payment of the VAT content of the sales is made to the Band Aid Trust.

Tax Collection.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

377 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when a P21 will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare for year ending 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10828/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that this person's tax affairs are currently dealt with in the Kildare, Meath and Wicklow customer services district in Grattan House, Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2, telephone number 01-6474000, and tax details are held there.

A form P21 balancing statement would normally issue to a taxpayer who is subject to PAYE on submission of a return of income. The records of the Revenue Commissioners show that the taxpayer commenced self-employment in September 2002. A return of income for 2003 was received on 18 March 2005. A notice of assessment issued for this year on 6 April 2005. On submission of a return of income for 2004, a statement of liability can then be issued for the year 2004.

Departmental Bodies.

Dan Boyle

Question:

378 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Finance the annual fees paid to each chairperson and director in each statutory board under the remit of his Department. [10874/05]

The following table sets out the fees payable, where appropriate, to the chairperson and directors-members of each statutory board operating under the aegis of my Department. Fees are not paid to civil servants, and normally not to other public servants, as directors-members of such boards.

Name of Body

Chairperson’s fee

Director’s-Member’s fee

Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland

Nil

12,697.38

Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority

19,046.07

12,697.38

Financial Services Ombudsman Council

15,236.86

10,157.90

Credit Union Advisory Committee

1,904.60

1,269.72

National Treasury Management Agency Advisory Committee

25,394.76

12,697.38

National Development Finance Agency

Nil

10,000

National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission

57,138.21

38,092.14

State Claims Agency Policy Committee

15,236.86

10,157.90

Ordnance Survey Ireland

10,157.90

6,348.69

An Post National Lottery Company

Nil

10,157.90

Public Appointments Service

10,157.90

6,348.69

Interim Board of the Civil Service Childcare Agency

Nil

5,078.95

Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal

Nil*

159.19 per session

*The chairperson of the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal is a salaried medical consultant attached to the National Rehabilitation Hospital.

Money Laundering.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

379 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has contemplated any legislative changes with a view to preventing money laundering; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7145/05]

Irish legislation on money laundering is set out in the Criminal Justice Act 1994, as amended. Primary responsibility for legislation in the area of money laundering rests with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

In regard to regulation of the financial sector the role of the Minister for Finance is to bring forward legislative proposals under which the financial regulator, the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority can adequately supervise and regulate financial service firms including their compliance with their obligations under the anti-money laundering provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1994. The financial regulator is independent in the exercise of its powers.

It is clearly important that the effectiveness of the existing regulatory framework for the financial sector in combating money laundering is kept under review on an ongoing basis.

The Deputy may also be aware that a third money laundering directive is under consideration within the EU. It received political agreement from Finance Ministers last December and is currently before the European Parliament. If agreed it will require amendments to our domestic legislation in relation to money laundering.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

380 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement in respect of reports of parents of children at a primary school (details supplied) in Dublin 4 having been asked for voluntary contributions of €1000 per term; and if such contributions qualify for tax relief as charitable donations. [10964/05]

Without commenting on the individual tax affairs of the school concerned, the general position is that the scheme of tax relief for donations to approved bodies is governed by section 848A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. Approved bodies include primary schools where their programmes are approved by the Minister for Education and Science. A voluntary contribution to an approved body qualifies for tax relief under the scheme provided it meets the conditions set out in section 848A. One such condition is that neither the donor nor any person connected with the donor receives a benefit, either directly or indirectly, as a consequence of making the donation. Accordingly, a voluntary contribution in exchange for education being provided to the donor's child would not be regarded as genuinely voluntary and would not qualify for tax relief.

Joan Burton

Question:

381 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the Exchequer for each year from 2000 to date of tax relief on charitable donations; if contributions to entities such as private schools, golf clubs and other sporting organisations qualify for such relief; the circumstances in which they so qualify; and the cost of such relief in respect of such bodies. [10965/05]

The original scheme for tax relief on donations made to charities was governed by section 8, Finance Act 1995, and applied only to certain designated Third World charities. The current scheme for tax relief on donations to approved bodies, which includes donations made to charities, is governed by section 848A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. The scheme was introduced in Finance Act 2001 and claims under the scheme arose from 2002 onwards.

A separate donation scheme is provided for under section 847A in relation to donations to approved sports bodies for the funding of certain approved projects. This scheme was introduced in Finance Act 2002 and claims under the scheme arose from 2003 onwards. Private schools qualify as approved bodies under the section 848A scheme, once the programme of education being provided is approved by the Minister for Education and Science. Golf clubs and other sporting organisations are likely to qualify in the context of the section 847A scheme once the project (for which the donations are sought) has been approved by the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism.

As provided for in the relevant legislation, different tax relief arrangements apply in relation to donors paying tax under PAYE and those paying tax under the self assessment system. In the case of PAYE donors, the charity, approved body or sporting body recovers the tax associated with the donation on a grossed-up basis from Revenue. Donors who pay tax on a self-assessment basis claim the relief in their own tax returns.

The following figures of the cost to the Exchequer for the years 2000-01 to 2004 inclusive are in respect of the original charities donation scheme, Finance Act 1995, and of the current scheme for donations to approved bodies, Finance Act 2001.

Cost to the Exchequer of tax relief on donations made to Third World charities under section 8 of Finance Act 1995 and on donations to approved bodies under section 848A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997

2000/01

2001

2002

2003

2004

PAYE

€1.2m

€1.8m

€11.2m

€21.4m

€14.8m

Self Employed

Not available

Not available

€3.8m

Not yet available

Not yet available

The basis for compiling the figures in respect of donations made by PAYE taxpayers under the 2001 scheme was changed from a tax year basis to a calendar year basis for 2002 and later years and an unavoidable result of this transition is that the bulk of a cost of €13.3 million which was initially attributed to the income tax year 2001 has been reclassified under calendar year 2002 and later years.

The cost to the Exchequer of tax relief on donations by self-employed taxpayers to approved sports bodies within the meaning of section 847A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 is estimated to be of the order of €0.1million for income tax year 2002, the latest year for which an estimate is available. Figures for corresponding donations by PAYE taxpayers are not readily available and could not be obtained without conducting a protracted examination of the Revenue Commissioners' records; however, on the basis of some limited indicative figures available, the cost to the Exchequer of these donations is unlikely to exceed €0.1 million for income tax year 2002 and may be less.

As figures of donations made by companies are not captured in corporate tax returns there is, therefore, no basis on which an estimate of the associated cost to the Exchequer can be compiled.

Garda Stations.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

382 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a member of the Garda Síochána and their family are waiting to occupy the living quarters of a Garda station (details supplied) in County Wexford and that works have to be carried out on the residence first; the stage of these works; when they will be fully completed; when the residence will be ready for living in; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10995/05]

I am advised by the Commissioners of Public Works that the OPW Waterford regional office is currently preparing a report, with costings for the necessary works to make the married quarters habitable. This report would be available by the end of this month when it will be forwarded to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for their direction.

Question No. 383 answered with QuestionNo. 331.

Public Private Partnerships.

Enda Kenny

Question:

384 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the number of times the public private informal advisory group has met from 2002 to date; the work programme and recommendations made by the group; the number of times the group has met officials from his Department and with the members of the inter-departmental group on PPPs from 2002 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11147/05]

The public private informal advisory group on public-private partnerships, which is chaired by the Department of Finance, has met on 17 occasions since 1 January 2002. The membership includes representatives from the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Construction Industry Federation, the members of the interdepartmental group on PPPs and officials of the Department of Finance.

The framework for public private partnerships, November 2001, developed under the terms of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness and via the informal advisory group, sets out a statement of principles for the development of PPPs in Ireland. The advisory group has been very helpful in developing the PPP process in Ireland and it provides a forum for relevant officials and social partners to meet. The role outlined for the informal advisory group in the 2001 framework is to help to develop partnership arrangements with the private sector by reflecting the interests of the relevant social partners in the area of PPPs and to facilitating the parties involved to exchange views and information.

The work programme of the group from 2002 to date has focused on consultation in regard to the programme of technical guidance brought forward by the central PPP unit in the Department of Finance, on the exchange of views in regard to issues affecting the development of the PPP process to date and in providing clarifications as necessary in regard to progress on individual PPP projects. To date, the guidelines issued following consultation with the informal advisory group and the inter-departmental group on PPPs include:- interim guidelines on the procedures for the assessment, approval, audit and procurement of PPP projects; Revenue guidelines on the corporation tax treatment of PPP agreements; guidelines on the role and function of the process auditor; guidelines on stakeholder consultation for employees and their representatives.

Enda Kenny

Question:

385 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if his Department remains committed to advancing PPP projects in information communication technology, the tourism and leisure sector, urban development and renewal and public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11148/05]

The Government is committed to developing the PPP process as a viable procurement option for appropriate projects within the overall context of public investment in infrastructure and public services. PPPs are one procurement tool to be used alongside traditional approaches. I believe that the PPP approach has benefits when applied to projects of the right scale, risk and operational profile.

In support of Government policy, the role of my Department is to facilitate the PPP process, to develop the general policy framework within which PPPs operate and to provide central guidance to Departments and other State authorities in that context. Within a particular sector, a decision on the suitability of any individual project for the PPP approach is a matter for the relevant Minister or State authority in the first instance.

Question No. 386 answered with QuestionNo. 329.
Question No. 387 answered with QuestionNo. 330.

National Lottery Funding.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

388 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance the amount of lottery funding advanced to date on a yearly basis to projects outside this State; the number of such lottery grants on a yearly basis [11524/05]

The Deputy will be aware that funding from the national lottery is disbursed by a number of Departments, including my Department. The only national lottery funds which are disbursed directly by my Department are payments to the promoters of certain charitable lotteries, whose revenue-earning capacity has been adversely affected by the national lottery, to supplement their charitable income with funding from the national lottery surplus. Funds are not allocated to the promoters of such charitable lotteries in respect of specifc projects and all such charities are required to be registered in the State in order to be eligible for funding.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Denis Naughten

Question:

389 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on direct grant aid to meet capital start-up costs for bioenergy producer groups, as is the case in other EU states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10945/05]

The only capital grant support is that provided by Sustainable Energy Ireland through its renewable energy research, development and demonstration programme. It is open to a wide range of research, development, and demonstration projects under the support mechanism categories proposed in the Green Paper on sustainable energy, including shared cost demonstration — projects demonstrating particular renewable energy technologies or applications which although at or near commercial viability and having potential for replication, currently face market barriers due to lack of expertise, knowledge or market confidence; shared cost research and development — research and development into innovative technologies, systems or marketing approaches which support the commercial exploitation of renewable energies; commissioned public good activities — activities directed at increasing the value and impact of the programme results, which will ultimately be used to inform policy. To date the programme has committed approximately €7 million in grant support, with bioenergy accounting for the majority of the spending.

I am advised by my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, that her Department introduced an energy crops scheme in March 2004 in accordance with the provisions of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1782/2003. Under this scheme, aid of €45 per hectare is granted for areas sown under energy crops and used for the production of products considered biofuels and electric and thermal energy produced from biomass. Any agricultural raw material, with the exception of sugar beet, may be grown under the energy crops scheme. From 1 January 2005, farmers may claim the energy crop payment in addition to their entitlement under the single farm payment scheme. In addition to this scheme, set-aside land can be used for a variety of non-food uses, including growing of crops for energy purposes, and will therefore qualify to activate set-aside entitlements under the single payment scheme.

Salmon Fishing Licences.