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 31, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 32 to 73, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 74 to 82, inclusive, answered orally.

Quigley Report.

Joe Costello

Question:

83 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made with regard to implementation of the recommendation made in the recent report by Mr. Dermot Quigley that his Department review and consolidate its internal advice on all aspects of procurement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16329/05]

Substantial progress has been made by my Department in implementing the recommendation regarding procurement contained in the Quigley report. Procurement guidelines and practices in the Department have been reviewed and a set of consolidated guidelines has been circulated to all staff. Revised procedures have been put in place to strengthen monitoring and control of procurement and a briefing session has been held for staff engaged in procurement with further briefings planned for the coming weeks. Reference material on procurement has been published on the Department's intranet and is readily available to all staff. Additional resources have also been allocated to the Department's internal audit unit and to its organisation unit which co-ordinates advice and monitoring in relation to the Department's procurement activities.

I am confident that these arrangements will enable my Department to achieve the improvement and consolidation of its procurement arrangements recommended by the Quigley report.

Radon Gas Levels.

Shane McEntee

Question:

84 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will introduce free testing for radon gas in areas of high radon (details supplied). [16460/05]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

177 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make available funding to the Radiological Protection Institute for the provision of free radiation monitoring in homes in high risk areas. [16509/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 84 and 177 together.

The Government, for many years, and largely through the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, has committed significant resources to assessing the extent of the radon problem throughout the country and to increasing public awareness of radon.

The RPII has consistently advised on the health risks of exposure to radon gas and has actively encouraged those householders residing in high radon areas to use radon measuring kits which can be obtained for approximately €40 to establish radon levels in their homes. It is not envisaged that this modestly costed service should be subsidised from public funds. Where measurements are found to exceed the national reference level, it is recommended that householders carry out any necessary remediation measures.

In addition, through press releases and radio and television interviews, and through its published reports on radon, the institute has been promoting public awareness of radon and highlighting the risks associated with exposure to it. It has been encouraging householders, particularly those in high radon areas, to have their homes tested for radon and to undertake radon remediation works where necessary.

For example, during the years 1992 to 1999, the institute carried out a nationwide survey of radon in domestic dwellings. The survey involved the measurement by the institute of radon for a 12 month period in a random selection of homes throughout the country. In all, over 11,000 houses were measured. The institute's website, www.rpii.ie, contains a comprehensive map of the high radon areas in Ireland identified as a result of the nationwide survey as well as the report of the survey. High radon areas are areas where the institute estimates that more than 10% of the houses surveyed in a particular area have radon concentrations levels above the national reference level.

Actions taken by my Department also contribute to the information available on radon. In February 2002, my Department published a booklet entitled Radon in Existing Buildings — Corrective Options advising designers, builders and home owners on remediation options for reducing radon in existing houses to, or below, the national reference level.

Recently, the RPII has undertaken several initiatives to further heighten public awareness of the radon issue. In November 2004, it hosted the third National Radon Forum in Dublin to raise awareness of radon as a health risk. That same month, it published a booklet entitled Understanding Radon — A Householder's Guide. That guide is directed at householders who have been informed that they have radon concentration levels above the national reference level in their homes. The aim of the guide is to assist such householders in interpreting their radon measurement results and in deciding how to deal with the problem. The institute also plans to distribute an information poster on radon for display in libraries, medical centres, etc., advising people to have their homes checked for radon. It has also just begun a new radon awareness campaign which will involve a series of nationwide public information seminars on the dangers of radon and which will be targeted at selected high radon areas. The fourth National Radon Forum will also be held in Tralee in October.

Both the RPII and my Department will continue to use all appropriate opportunities to raise public awareness on this issue. I urge householders who may be affected by this issue to make the small investment required, take the necessary steps to check their homes for radon concentrations, and carry out whatever work may be needed thereafter.

Election Management System.

Liz McManus

Question:

85 Ms McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount of public money spent to date on the storage of electronic voting equipment; if he is satisfied that appropriate guidelines are in place governing the allocation of contracts for the storage of such equipment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16338/05]

Liz McManus

Question:

110 Ms McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress of his consideration of the First Report of the Commission on Electronic Voting which was published on 15 December 2004; the plans he has for the use of the electronic voting system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16337/05]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

145 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he intends to use the electronic voting machines at the next general election; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16429/05]

Dan Boyle

Question:

158 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress and expenditure to date with regard to the electronic voting project; and the work which is currently under way on this issue. [16508/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

298 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the storage costs to date in respect of the electronic voting equipment; the likely costs of such storage in a full year in respect of all constituencies throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16711/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

299 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the likely costs in a single year in respect of storage of electronic voting equipment for all the Dublin constituencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16712/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

300 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the further costs likely to accrue in respect of further development, investigation or enhancement of the electronic voting process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16713/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

301 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if any further public relations, consultancy or other costs are likely to arise in respect of electronic voting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16714/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 85, 110, 145, 158 and 298 to 301, inclusive, together.

My Department is developing, in parallel with the continuing work of the Commission on Electronic Voting, a programme of further assessment, testing and validation which is intended to address the concerns raised in the commission's interim and first reports with regard to the secrecy and accuracy of the electronic voting and counting system. I am giving full consideration to the views of the commission as set out in its reports. I will ensure that its analysis will inform and guide the programme, and that all of the commission's recommendations for action will be appropriately addressed in the work ahead. The timing of the further use of the system is dependent on the progress made with this programme of work and the dates on which future polls may be held.

The total cost to date of the electronic voting and counting project is €51.65 million. Regarding storage costs, information provided by returning officers to my Department indicates that the total annual storage cost of the electronic voting and ancillary equipment is some €658,000; the annual storage cost relating to the Dublin constituencies is some €128,000. Actual claims by returning officers are being processed by the Department of Finance for payment from the central fund. I am satisfied that the guidelines provided to returning officers in regard to the storage of electronic voting equipment were appropriate in the context of their statutory responsibility for running elections and referenda and their long-standing jurisdiction in such matters in their respective constituencies.

Apart from annual storage costs, it is not possible at this stage to quantify additional costs that may arise in relation to the electronic voting and counting system. In any event, such costs are likely to be small relative to the capital investment already made.

Departmental Records.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

86 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, when he is asked for information relating to matters (details supplied) which under a European directive such as Directive 2003/4/EU he is obliged to provide, he will, in conformity with that directive and the obligation therein contained to provide information from public entities, provide all e-mails including those deleted but retained on his Department’s back-up e-mail system; and his views on providing deleted e-mails which remain in the archive of his Department’s computers in such circumstances. [16524/05]

The management of all records, electronic and paper, in my Department is governed by the requirements of the freedom of information legislation, the National Archive Acts and various EU directives. Corporate policy and practice is aimed at achieving compliance with the national legislation and EU directives in this area. Directive 2003/4 does not make specific reference to deleted e-mails or other deleted data.

In regard to electronic records, my Department's ICT strategy recognises the importance of having state of the art electronic storage and retrieval facilities in place. Consequently, the Department's ICT infrastructure has been upgraded to provide high capacity resilient data storage, archive and data back-up facilities. Back-up data is retained for, and is in general only useful in, a disaster recovery scenario as the material on the tape must be restored on to a computer system before it can be searched in a meaningful way.

My Department receives thousands of e-mails each day and to archive and hold indefinitely all e-mails received would require vast amounts of electronic storage. Industry sources estimate that as little as 20% of e-mails received by most businesses are business related and it would be my Department's experience that many e-mails have no business value. The practice in my Department is to retain e-mails which are considered to be part of our records. In some instances, such records are preserved electronically by archiving in electronic files and in other instances, where the paper file is the main record storage medium, the practice is to print electronically created documents and place them on the file. In either case the material is accessible when required. Other e-mails are deleted and no longer form part of the Department's record, although some may survive for a period as part of our storage and retrieval system.

A search for records in regard to the matter raised in the question would therefore encompass all relevant paper files and all relevant electronic files including e-mail archives but would not include deleted e-mails.

Radioactive Waste Disposal.

Dan Neville

Question:

87 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the way in which radioactive waste is disposed of here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16442/05]

Ireland's radioactive waste is generally low level and low volume, and derives in the main from hospital and certain industrial applications. It falls into two categories, unsealed sources, which are usually in liquid form, and sealed sources, which are enclosed in containers. Unsealed sources have a very short radioactive half-life. This type of waste is from hospitals and is normally discharged through public drainage systems and does not result in any residual contamination. Other unsealed radioactive solid waste is retained in designated storage under the terms of the licence granted by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII. Sealed radioactive sources are used in hospitals for radiotherapy, for example, and for various purposes in industry and education. Sealed sources are normally sent back to the manufacturer as part of the contract governing their purchase and importation in the first place, while waste that cannot be returned is also currently stored in hospitals and on industrial premises under licence from the RPII. The RPII inspects such premises regularly.

The RPII annual reports provide details of its licensing and enforcement functions, and the institute has for some time been addressing the establishment of a national repository for radioactive waste. This would be consistent with best international practice and our obligations under the International Atomic Energy Agency Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. While this option is to be preferred to storage on the premises of some 60 licensees, it does not entail that radioactive waste is being stored unsafely. Nor has the RPII identified any capacity problem in hospitals or industrial premises as regards storage.

A full specification for a national storage facility, having regard to the range of appropriate considerations involved, is under development in consultation between my Department and the RPII. No decisions have been taken in this regard as yet, and any proposal will be subject to extensive evaluation and normal planning procedures. It is my intention to move forward on this issue in an orderly manner in the interests of optimum safety at national level and the fullest adherence to existing and emerging international obligations.

Nuclear Plants.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

88 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the recent accident at Sellafield; the nature of the assurances made to his Department by the British Government; the number of such incidents that his Department has been informed of since 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16371/05]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

125 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the information which was supplied to his Department regarding the reported leak at the THORP reprocessing plant on 19 April 2005; if he is satisfied that the information supplied adequately reflected the seriousness of the leak; the steps he took to verify the information supplied to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16358/05]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

135 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement regarding the representations he has made to the British Government concerning the radioactive leak which occurred at the THORP plant at Sellafield on 18 April 2005. [16515/05]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

153 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied that the arrangements between Ireland and the UK on nuclear matters, announced by him in December 2004, are working adequately; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16359/05]

John Perry

Question:

165 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement on the recent spillage of highly radioactive material at Sellafield. [16454/05]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

169 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that through the ruptured pipe at the THORP plant in Cumbria, England on 22 April 2005, England had leaked 20 tonnes of uranium and plutonium into a stainless steel room from which there is currently no way of removing it; if so, the reason he did not make known this information; if not, when his attention was drawn to it; and when he planned to divulge it. [16505/05]

Dan Neville

Question:

174 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action he has taken as a result of the recent leak of highly radioactive material at Sellafield; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16441/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

187 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has made an official complaint to the British Government regarding the three day delay in notifying authorities here of the radioactive leak which occurred at the THORP plant at Sellafield on 18 April 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16523/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 88, 125, 135, 153, 165, 169, 174 and 187 together.

The Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant, THORP, at Sellafield reprocesses spent nuclear fuels from power stations in the UK and overseas. THORP is operated by British Nuclear Group Sellafield Limited, BNGSL.

At the end of each fuel reprocessing campaign the fuel stock is measured in each area of the plant for fissile material — plutonium and uranium — accountancy purposes. A discrepancy revealed a malfunction within the process in the THORP head end where the spent fuel is sheared and dissolved, and shearing was suspended on 18 April.

Camera inspections were subsequently carried out by the British Nuclear Group on 20 April to inspect the vessels and pipework in the feed clarification cell. This inspection identified a failure in the pipework system along with signs of liquor spillage on the side of the tank and some corrosion of the structural steelwork adjacent to the tank. A quantity of liquor was observed on the floor of the cell. As a precautionary measure, the front end of the plant's reprocessing operations was closed down on 21 April.

Subsequent inspections have identified that 83 cubic metres — 15,000 gallons — of liquor have been spilt. This liquid, which contains uranium, plutonium and fission products, is on the floor of a sealed cell with walls several feet thick. Consequently, there has been no abnormal activity in the air and no risk to employees, the local community or the environment. In particular, the incident has no immediate implications for Ireland.

Notification of the incident by the UK authorities to Ireland was made on 21 April and my Department was informed on 22 April. I immediately issued a press statement on the matter for the information of the public. Notification arrangements were in accordance with the established procedures for the exchange of information in relation to such incidents which were agreed between Ireland and the UK at a signing ceremony in Dublin in December 2004.

I am satisfied these notification arrangements worked well on this occasion. Given the need to examine, assess and evaluate the incident by the UK authorities to establish the circumstances involved, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland has confirmed that in its view the notification by the UK authorities was prompt and effective. Additional information is being made available to the institute by the UK authorities as the situation develops.

I understand that following detailed evaluation the incident has now been assigned as a class 3 incident under the international nuclear event scale, INES. There have been no other incidents classified at class 3 at Sellafield since 1997.

I also understand that some form of robotics will be needed to repair the damage to the leaking pipe and to retrieve the liquid from the floor of the cell. The British Nuclear Group is in the process of developing a safety case which it will present to the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate for approval. No repair work may be carried out until such approval is conveyed. Once the repair work is completed, the group will again require approval to restart the facility.

I am satisfied that the notification and exchange of information arrangements worked effectively and efficiently in this instance and that the Irish public was advised promptly of the incident. However, the incident provides further justification for Irish concerns regarding the threat posed by Sellafield. I remain firmly resolved to continue to pursue every diplomatic and legal route available to me to press for the safe closure of the plant.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Seán Crowe

Question:

89 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of social and affordable housing units delivered specifically through Part V of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2002; and if he is satisfied with the performance of the scheme. [16520/05]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

167 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that half of the country’s local authorities have failed to acquire any social or affordable houses under the terms of Part V of the Planning Act 2000; the steps he intends to take to ensure that all local authorities make full use of this facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16333/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 167 together.

Information on the number of housing units provided under Part V of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2004 in each local authority area is published in my Department's housing statistics bulletins, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library and also on the Department's website at www.environ.ie.

Part V of the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2004 is fully operational and all relevant residential planning applications are now subject to a Part V agreement. Apart from the provision of housing units to the local authority on or off-site, an agreement under Part V may provide for a range of other options. Notwithstanding the availability of these options, my Department's stated preference, which has been communicated to local authorities, is for the provision of housing units whether on-site or off-site.

Final figures for 2004 show that local authorities had acquired 800 social and affordable housing units by the end of 2004; 1,910 were in course of acquisition; and a further 2,885 were earmarked for acquisition on foot of Part V agreements with developers. In addition, 12 land transfers to local authorities have been completed involving 11.33 hectares; a further 156 sites have been transferred to local authorities; and some €11 million has been received in payments in lieu and under the withering levy. It is clear from the returns that there has been activity in all the city and county councils under at least one of the options available for complying with Part V.

It is envisaged that some 6,000 social and affordable units will be delivered under Part V between 2005 and 2007. Additionally, payments in lieu, which are ring-fenced for housing capital purposes only, together with land and sites accruing from the take-up of the alternative options will further supplement the overall provision of social and affordable housing. On this basis, I am satisfied that the provisions of Part V are being suitably progressed and are an effective response to housing needs, particularly for first-time buyers.

Service Charges.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

90 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made to date in regard to his discussions with the Department of Social and Family Affairs regarding difficulties faced by those on low incomes in paying service charges, especially in cases in which there is no waiver scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16335/05]

I refer to the reply to priority Question No. 75 of today's date.

Nuclear Safety.

Damien English

Question:

91 Mr. English asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the policies he is pursuing at the International Atomic Energy Agency to highlight the dangers of Sellafield; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16451/05]

Michael Ring

Question:

113 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the policies he is pursuing at the International Atomic Energy Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16450/05]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

121 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action which the Government has taken since assuming office to address the dangers from nuclear facilities overseas. [16513/05]

Damien English

Question:

148 Mr. English asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action he is taking at the International Atomic Energy Agency to highlight the threat of nuclear terrorism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16452/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 91, 113, 121 and 148 together.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, based in Vienna, is the principal organisation dealing with nuclear matters at the international level. The IAEA works to promote the safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology. Three main pillars, or areas of work, underpin the IAEA mission: safety and security; science and technology; and safeguards and verification.

The work of the IAEA sets the framework for co-operative efforts to build and strengthen an international safety and security regime. This framework includes advisory international standards, codes and guides; binding international conventions; international peer reviews to evaluate national operations, capabilities and infrastructures; and an international system of emergency preparedness and response. While this framework plays a vital role in setting appropriate standards of safety and security in the nuclear area, it is the contracting states that have the ultimate responsibility for ensuring the safety and security of nuclear installations and materials at national level. On this basis, the United Kingdom has primary responsibility for ensuring the operation of the Sellafield nuclear plant is safe and secure. Nevertheless, Ireland's concerns in regard to Sellafield are articulated clearly and consistently at all suitable opportunities in the IAEA and in bilateral contacts in regard to the work and mandate of the agency. I have reported to the House regularly on progress in regard to the international legal actions and diplomatic initiatives undertaken by the Government in regard to Sellafield.

The IAEA plays a vital role in setting safety standards and providing for the implementation and co-ordination of these in member states. Ireland actively engages with the IAEA on a range of issues with the primary objective of ensuring that the safety and security standards adopted by the IAEA reflect only the highest international standards. This, in turn, will assist in ensuring that nuclear installations in the United Kingdom and globally can be as safe and secure as possible.

One of the principal areas of engagement by Ireland at the IAEA in recent years has been on the issue of marine transports of radioactive waste. Coastal states, including Ireland, argue that, given the risk posed and public concerns in regard to such shipments, it is necessary for coastal states to be fully informed regarding such shipments to enable them to assess the risk and take appropriate measures in regard to emergency preparedness and response should they consider it necessary. The shipping states argue that these shipments utilise international waters, conform to the highest standards of safety set by the IAEA, are secure, and that notification and communication obligations would compromise the fundamental "right of innocent passage" for all high seas shipments enshrined in international law. Ireland has participated actively and constructively on this matter and has co-sponsored a resolution with like-minded states at the IAEA's general conference on this issue.

In relation to nuclear terrorism, the focus by the IAEA is on helping states prevent, detect and respond to terrorist or other malicious acts — such as illegal possession, use, transfer and trafficking — and to protect nuclear installations and transport against sabotage. This aspect of the IAEA's work was brought to the fore post 11 September and in March 2002 the board of governors approved, in principle, an action plan designed to upgrade worldwide protection against acts of terrorism involving nuclear and other radioactive materials.

In approving the plan, the board of governors recognised that the first line of defence against nuclear terrorism is the strong physical protection of nuclear facilities and materials and that the international physical protection regime needs to be strengthened. The board of governors called upon contracting states to contribute to the fund as a matter of urgency. I can confirm that Ireland welcomed this development, responded favourably to the request for funding and has contributed approximately €86,000 in respect of 2003 and 2004 with a further contribution of about €48,000 allocated for 2005.

An important recent, and positive, development in regard to nuclear terrorism was the adoption of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. After several years of negotiations, this convention was finally adopted, by consensus, by the General Assembly of the United Nations on Wednesday, 13 April 2005. Ireland participated fully in the negotiations of the new convention through the Department of Foreign Affairs and welcomes its adoption.

Ireland sees the IAEA as a vital element in dealing with nuclear matters at international level. We engage fully and constructively in its deliberations, especially in matters of particular relevance to Ireland, and will continue to participate in this manner and at every opportunity.

Waste Management.

John Deasy

Question:

92 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the representations he received regarding changes to guidelines on the acceptance of waste; the nature of such representations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16389/05]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

100 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the waste firms which have been in contact with him in relation to the relaxation of planning guidelines for waste facilities such as landfills and incinerators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16354/05]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

168 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason he has eased planning restrictions on major waste facilities such as landfills and incinerators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16433/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92, 100 and 168 together.

The most recent waste management policy statement, Taking Stock and Moving Forward, April 2004, recognised that the prohibition on all inter-regional movements of waste could be unduly restrictive in terms of securing the development of waste infrastructure and the objectives of waste management plans. It is the case that most waste facilities currently in place are not subject to conditions which limit the geographic area from which they can take waste. In fact the absence of such restrictions has traditionally allowed local authorities to manage capacity constraints by providing for inter-regional movement of waste. Accordingly, the policy statement provided for an examination of the issues arising in terms of the interrelationship between regional boundaries and waste facilities.

Concerns about the implications of such planning conditions were expressed to my Department by stakeholders from both the public and private sectors. Most notably, the Environmental Protection Agency in its 2001 Waste Database Report recommended that the inter-regional movement and treatment of waste should be provided for in appropriate circumstances.

Following legal advice, I recently issued guidance under section 60 of the Waste Management Act to clarify that the application of the proximity principle in the context of waste management does not entail interpreting administrative waste boundaries in such a manner as to inhibit the development of infrastructure which will support the attainment of national waste policy objectives.

Environmental Policy.

Bernard Allen

Question:

93 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of the proposed task force to deal with the non-implementation of EU regulations by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16390/05]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

99 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the proposed task force to address outstanding complaints against Ireland over the failure to fulfil environmental obligations will be operational; the terms of reference of the task force; the persons who will be members of the task force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16345/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 93 and 99 together.

The task force set up in my Department to establish strategies to address the range of environmental complaints against Ireland in a more comprehensive way is already operational. The task force comprises heads of division in the areas of environment, water and natural heritage and heritage and planning. This task force is carrying out a systematic analysis of each individual case that is the subject of infringement proceedings by the EU Commission with a view to accelerating Ireland's response to the proceedings and to bringing cases to the earliest possible conclusion. Following this analysis, which is being undertaken as a priority in my Department, and building on my contacts recently with the Commissioner and his officials, a high level team will have discussions in Brussels with Commission officials on the complete range of cases to hand and the issues arising.

In addition, with specific reference to the judgment of 26 April by the European Court of Justice in regard to waste disposal in Ireland, I have set up a high level group comprising representatives of my Department, other Departments, the EPA and local authorities. That group will carefully study the judgment with a view urgently to ensuring the adequacy of our control regime.

Nuclear Safety.

Denis Naughten

Question:

94 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the opinion of the European Commissioner for Energy (details supplied) that the European Union should be given control of the safety of nuclear installations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16444/05]

I assume that the question refers to a recent letter from the European Commissioner for Energy to all EU Energy Ministers regarding proposed changes to the European Commission's nuclear safeguards inspection system for controlling the use of nuclear materials. The new approach outlined by the Commissioner would appear to involve reduced frequency of inspections by the Commission and a greater reliance on qualitative rather quantitative analysis.

The European Commission's existing nuclear safeguards inspection regime, carried out under the EURATOM Treaty, has been a vital tool for preventing the diversion of nuclear materials away from their original intended use. I would be concerned, from the point of view of Ireland's interests, about any changes in this regime which could involve a reduced frequency of inspections.

Because of this, I have written to the Energy Commissioner, expressing serious concern about the Commission's new safeguards approach, on which I believe much detailed consultation with member states is necessary. I have asked the Commissioner to suspend any introduction of the new regime until such time as the member states have been consulted more fully about the effectiveness of any changes.

The EU Presidency has also written to the Commissioner conveying the reservations of a number of the member states about the introduction of any such new regime in the absence of any substantive consultation by the Commissioner with the member states. I understand that some other member states have also written individually to the Energy Commissioner on the same lines.

Local Authority Housing.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

95 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to address the issue of the long waiting list for local authority houses; if he has issued directions to the local authorities with a view to tackling this housing crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16472/05]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

111 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action he will take to increase the local authority social housing output; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16461/05]

Liam Twomey

Question:

139 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the housing need statistics will be published; the likely level of housing need it will depict; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16435/05]

Pat Breen

Question:

161 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures which have been put in place to ensure that the record increase of 19.3% in local authority housing plans will result in a commensurate increase in output; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16382/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

297 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of families on the local authority housing list; when it is expected that their needs will be met in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16710/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 95, 111, 139, 161 and 297 together.

The results of the statutory assessment of local authority housing need, which was undertaken by local authorities in March 2002, indicated that a total of 48,413 households were in need of housing. The latest triennial statutory assessment of need took place in March 2005 and I anticipate publishing the results in September this year. The deadline for the return of information by local authorities to my Department was fixed for early May and many returns are still outstanding; it is not yet feasible to anticipate the level of housing need which will arise from this year's assessment.

The Government has responded actively to this increased level of social housing need and by expanding social and affordable housing output. New multi-annual action plans have been prepared by local authorities for the provision of social and affordable housing over the period 2004 to 2008. These are designed to assist local authorities in identifying priority needs over the coming years and providing a coherent and co-ordinated response across all housing services, including delivery of housing by the voluntary and co-operative housing sector.

I have secured financial envelopes for the next five years to underpin the multi-annual approach in the action plans. Capital allocation of €841 million has been provided for the construction of local authority housing in 2005, an increase of €100 million on last year's allocation. This will support the commencement of the construction of 6,000 new units by local authorities and the achievement of some 5,500 completions. In addition, house completions by the voluntary and co-operative sector is expected to be some 1,800 units. Overall, in 2005, it is anticipated that total social housing provision, including new local authority housing, vacancies arising in existing houses and output under other social housing measures, will meet the needs of in excess of 13,000 households. In addition, it is anticipated that a number of households currently in private rented accommodation will transfer to the new rental accommodation scheme now being introduced. These households will continue to be mainly accommodated within the private rented sector.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Richard Bruton

Question:

96 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to centralise all tenant purchase, shared ownership and affordable housing schemes as recommended by the Committee of Public Accounts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16421/05]

I am not aware of any formal proposal from the Committee of Public Accounts on the lines indicated in the question. However, the National Economic and Social Council in its report Housing in Ireland: Performance and Policy has recommended the amalgamation of the shared ownership and affordable housing schemes into a single first home scheme.

My Department is addressing the issues raised in the NESC report and the merits of new measures that may be desirable in the short and more medium terms. These matters will be considered by Government shortly.

Housing Policy.

Joan Burton

Question:

97 Ms Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made by the Government in its consideration of the recent NESC report on housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16328/05]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

103 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement outlining his response to the recommendation in the recent NESC report on housing for the construction of the 73,000 units of social housing in net terms between 2005 and 2012. [16519/05]

Martin Ferris

Question:

129 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has completed his consideration of the NESC report published in December 2004, and the other recent reports which have a bearing on the housing sector; if he intends to bring forward proposals resulting from his consideration of these reports; if he has not completed his consideration of these reports, the reason for the delay in completing such consideration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16516/05]

Mary Upton

Question:

189 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action that has been taken or that he plans to take following the report of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution on the cost of building land; the measures that have been implemented arising from this report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16331/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 97, 103, 129 and 189 together.

The Government is giving detailed consideration to the findings of Report No. 112 of the National Economic and Social Council, Housing in Ireland: Performance and Policy as well as the Ninth Progress Report of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, concerning private property and a report by Goodbody Economic Consultants.

The NESC report, in particular, provides an important analysis of the Irish housing system and an agenda for the future development of policy. Importantly, the report recognises that the general thrust of existing policy is well directed. My Department is addressing the issues raised in these reports and the merits of new measures that may be desirable in the short and more medium terms. These matters will be considered by Government shortly.

Radon Gas Levels.

Seán Ryan

Question:

98 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of persons believed to have died here in each of the past five years as a result of exposure to radon gas; the steps he intends to take to protect persons from exposure to potentially lethal gas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16361/05]

Epidemiological studies have shown that naturally occurring radon gas concentrations add to the incidence of lung cancer. While there is evidence to suggest that long-term exposure to high levels of radon can be a contributory factor in increasing the risk of lung cancer and that the incidence is higher among smokers than non-smokers, it is not possible to ascribe any one cancer death solely to radon. The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, estimates that approximately 10% to 15% of all lung cancer deaths in Ireland, equivalent to 150 to 200 deaths, are linked to radon gas exposure and that the incidence is higher among smokers than non-smokers.

A recent report was published in the British Medical Journal of a study concerning radon and lung cancer which was funded by Cancer Research UK and the European Commission. This report was the result of a collaborative analysis of individual data from 13 case-control studies of residential radon and lung cancer in nine European countries, which did not include Ireland. The report concluded that radon in the home accounts for about 9% of deaths from lung cancer and about 2% of all deaths from cancer in Europe. It also concluded that the absolute risk to smokers and recent ex-smokers was 25 times greater than to lifelong non-smokers.

The Government, through the RPII, has over the years committed significant resources to assessing the extent of the radon problem throughout the country and to increasing public awareness of radon.

During the years 1992 to 1999, the RPII carried out a national survey of radon in domestic dwellings aimed at assessing the extent of the radon problem in homes. The RPII's website contains a comprehensive map of the high radon areas in Ireland as well as the report of its national survey of radon in homes.

In February 2002, my Department published a booklet entitled Radon in Existing Buildings — Corrective Options advising designers, builders and home owners on remediation options for reducing radon in existing houses to, or below, the national reference level.

Upgraded building regulations, introduced in June 1997, require all new houses which commenced construction on or after 1 July 1998 to incorporate radon protection measures. My Department has recently published an updated edition of the Technical Guidance Document C, TGD-C, on Part C of the Building Regulations, site preparation and resistance to moisture, incorporating enhanced radon prevention measures for new buildings commencing on or after 1 April 2005. This new guidance document is aimed at ensuring that the 1997 radon protection measures are carried out more effectively.

In recent months, the RPII has undertaken several initiatives to further heighten awareness of the radon issue in Ireland. In November 2004, the RPII hosted the third National Radon Forum in Dublin to raise awareness of radon as a health risk. Earlier this year, the RPII published a revised version of its booklet Radon in Homes and also published a booklet in October 2004, Understanding Radon Remediation, a Householders Guide. The RPII also plans to distribute an information poster on radon for display in libraries, medical centres, and other public areas advising people to have their homes checked for radon. The RPII has also just begun a new radon awareness campaign involving a series of nationwide information seminars, targeted at selected high radon areas, on the dangers of radon Both the RPII and my Department will continue to use all appropriate opportunities to raise public awareness of radon, to urge householders, particularly those in high radon areas, to have their homes tested for radon and to encourage householders with radon concentrations above the national reference level to undertake the appropriate remediation works.

Question No. 99 answered with QuestionNo. 93.
Question No. 100 answered with QuestionNo. 92.

Agricultural Schemes.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

101 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if analyses of soil samples resulting from the spreading of Biofert in County Carlow complied with all aspects of the biosolid recycling in agriculture scheme; if any excesses in heavy metals were noticed as a result of the spreading of Biofert and sludge cake; and if so, if farmers were informed of such findings. [14480/05]

The re-use of waste water sludge, including Biofert, in agriculture is subject to compliance with the Waste Management (Use of Sewage Sludge in Agriculture) Regulations 1998, as amended, which give full effect to Council Directive 86/278/EEC on the protection of the environment, and in particular of the soil when sewage sludge is used in agriculture.

The management, control and use of waste water sludge products, including Biofert, is a matter for individual sanitary authorities and producers and my Department has no direct function in regard to the use of such products in agriculture in individual cases.

I understand that in the case referred to, Biofert was spread on land with metal levels above the threshold of the regulations in a period from late 1999 through 2000. I also understand that this was discontinued in 2001 and no longer occurs. The issue arose from the spreading of Biofert on lands which had levels of metal above the prescribed threshold prior to the spreading of Biofert, rather than from any effect of the Biofert.

Individual farmers are required to be provided with copies of the certificate of analysis of the biosolids, the nutrient management plan, including soil testing details, and other monitoring data.

Waste Disposal.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

102 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress which has been made in dealing with the odour problem at the Ringsend waste water treatment plant; if the proposed extension to the plant will be delayed until such time as the odour problem is solved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16351/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

124 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action his Department is taking to remove the foul odours associated with the sewage treatment plant in Ringsend; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16457/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 124 together.

Odour incidents at Dublin City Council's Ringsend wastewater treatment plant, which is operated on the city council's behalf under a public private partnership contract, have originated from the on-site sludge treatment facility and not from the secondary treatment plant.

I understand that a programme of works had been implemented by the city council that had greatly improved the overall situation since summer 2004. Regrettably, the odour problem re-emerged for short periods earlier this year due to maintenance procedures and equipment failure in the sludge process that have since been dealt with. I am informed that the council is continuing to work closely with the consortium that operates the plant to achieve a resolution of any outstanding odour issues. In that context, the council has appointed international engineering consultants who have recently commenced a comprehensive review of all aspects of the plant, including the design and ongoing operation and management performance.

The environmental impact statement for the Ringsend treatment plant envisaged future upgrading to achieve extra capacity and specific provisions to facilitate increased throughput were included into the 1998 tender documents. Approval, in principle, was subsequently given to Dublin City Council by my Department to proceed with the planning of a wastewater treatment capacity increase at the plant in the Water Services Investment Programme 2004-2006, published in May 2004. Copies are available in the Oireachtas Library.

The proposed scheme had earlier been included in a list of priority water and sewerage schemes in the city council's Water Services Investment Programme Assessment of Needs 2007-2112 produced in September 2003. This assessment of needs was subject to public consultation at the time and was formally adopted by the elected members of the council. Additional treatment capacity is now proposed to cater for increases in demand that have become established since the original environmental impact statement for the plant in 1997 and to facilitate future development requirements in the Dublin region.

With regard to the scale of any capacity increase, this will be informed by the analysis of the Greater Dublin Strategic Drainage Study which I expect to be submitted to my Department shortly by the Dublin local authorities for consideration.

Question No. 103 answered with QuestionNo. 97.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

104 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will approve the County Kerry wastewater villages advanced study in order to allow Kerry County Council to appoint consultants to design the schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16259/05]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 386 of 17 May 2005.

Recycling Policy.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

105 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress to date on his discussions with the newspaper industry in relation to the recycling of newsprint; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16428/05]

Since 2001, my Department has been in discussion with the newsprint industry with a view to developing a producer responsibility initiative, PRI, for the recovery and recycling of newspapers and magazines. A joint industry taskforce, comprising the Regional Newspapers Association of Ireland, RNAI, Irish Retail Newsagents Association, IRNA, Newspread and Eason Wholesale Ltd, and co-ordinated by National Newspapers of Ireland, NNI, was established and is leading the negotiations with the Department.

It is hoped to conclude discussions on the issue of the recycling of unsold copies of newsprint shortly and negotiations will continue with regard to post-consumer waste.

Child Care Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

106 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied that planning authorities are complying with Childcare Facilities: Guidelines for Planning Authorities; if he will carry out an assessment of the effectiveness of these guidelines; and if his Department will collate and make available data regarding the number of child care places that have been delivered as a result of compliance with these guidelines. [16522/05]

Guidelines for Planning Authorities on Childcare Facilities were issued by my Department in July 2001 and were intended to ensure a consistency of approach throughout the country to the treatment of planning applications for child care facilities. The guidelines were issued as ministerial guidelines under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, and planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála are required to have regard to them in the performance of their functions. My Department does not have specific data on the number of planning applications for child care facilities.

Private Rented Accommodation.

Phil Hogan

Question:

107 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the numbers employed by the Private Residential Tenancies Board; its annual budget; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16367/05]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

188 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has audited or intends to audit the performance of the Private Residential Tenancies Board to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16370/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 and 188 together.

The total number of persons currently working in the Private Residential Tenancies Board, PRTB, is 33. Some 19 staff are provided to the PRTB by the Department and part of the work of the PRTB is contracted to a data entry company, which has assigned 14 staff to such tasks. The budget estimate for the board in 2005 is €4.210 million.

The PRTB is subject to a number of statutory requirements to report on and account for progress in the performance of its functions, including the submission of an annual report. As the PRTB only commenced full operation of its functions in December 2004, it would be premature to undertake an audit of its performance at this point.

National Spatial Strategy.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

108 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made to date with regard to implementation of the National Spatial Strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16341/05]

The Government has put a wide range of measures in place at national, regional and local levels to implement the national spatial strategy, NSS, and achieve its objectives over its 20 year timeframe.

The initial phases of NSS implementation focused on embedding the policy approach of the NSS within key Departments, their agencies and in regional and local authorities. Significant milestones reached during this period included: the adoption by all regional authorities of regional planning guidelines which set the strategic policy agenda for local authority development plans; substantial progress in national development plan capital investment programmes, endorsed by the NSS, to provide major infrastructure such as key road and rail links needed to support the achievement of more balanced regional development; the mid-term review of the national development plan, which signalled strongly the potential for further aligning NDP expenditure with the NSS planning framework, particularly in the environmental infrastructure and regional operational programmes; and planning implementation frameworks now put in place for the gateways of Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Sligo, with work on similar frameworks advancing in other areas.

The proposals announced for substantial investment in new suburban rail services in the Cork area represent a significant example of a direct response from the Government to the strategic planning policies that have been put in place at local level.

Other practical examples of implementation progress include the requirement in agreements between Department of Finance and other relevant Departments on multi-annual capital envelopes that Departments demonstrate how investments are being prioritised to implement the NSS; account is currently being taken of the NSS and regional planning guidelines in the preparation currently of a ten year investment plan for transport. The draft Dublin city development plan proposes a substantial increase in housing output in Dublin city to reduce urban sprawl and long-distance commuting and thus achieve one on the key objectives of the NSS. In Sligo a series of private sector hotel, leisure, retail and commercial development totalling around €200 million in value have commenced since its designation as a gateway. The completion there of the inner relief road will provide further support for Sligo's development as a gateway.

Key priorities in implementing the NSS over the next 12 months will include: putting in place a monitoring framework to report on progress in implementing the NSS, with a special emphasis on up-to-date regional population and housing projections that take account of the latest CSO national population estimates of up to 5 million people by 2020; advancing a detailed study, in conjunction with key Departments, the development agencies and relevant local authorities, of the potential of the NSS gateways for accelerated development in housing, commercial and employment terms, including the identification of the key infrastructure priorities necessary to facilitate such development; intensifying efforts in co-ordinating activities in the areas of housing, environmental and water services infrastructure provision and local roads programmes in my Department to support the objectives of the NSS; and building on bilateral links between my Department and other Departments and agencies to effectively link their strategic and longer term planning of investment to the priorities identified in the NSS and in regional planning guidelines.

Local Authority Lands.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

109 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress to date in compiling a comprehensive register of land owned by local authorities as recommended by the Committee of Public Accounts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16424/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

293 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the full extent of the land bank available for housing or other development purposes to each of the local authorities throughout the country, in view of the fact that the total of such lands is 12,500 hectares. [16706/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

294 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his instructions to the local authorities regarding the future use of their respective land banks in view of the serious public authority housing needs; his estimate of the maximum number of houses attainable through the use of the total land bank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16707/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

295 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the length of time which the local authority land bank of 12,500 hectares has been in the ownership of the various local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16708/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

296 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the transactions or exchanges which have taken place between the various local authorities and other bodies, groups or agencies which might have affected the amount or location of the various authority land banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16709/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 and 293 to 296, inclusive, together.

My Department does not have details of the extent of all lands owned by the State or local authorities. The figure of 12,500 hectares, referred to in the question, is the amount of serviced residential land as at 30 June 2004, owned privately and publicly, which would give an estimated yield of 367,000 housing units.

While information was returned at the time of the 2004 survey on residential lands in local authority ownership, it is incomplete. My Department is not satisfied that in its present form it gives the overall picture on this issue. My Department intends to obtain more detailed and further information as part of the 2005 survey.

There are no plans to produce a register of all local authority lands, and there was no formal recommendation by the Committee of Public Accounts to undertake such a task. The value of local authority lands is reflected in the authorities' assets registers which now form part of their annual accounts. As lands in ownership will vary over time, depending on the purpose for which they have been required, a register would not be the best means of assessing an authority's ability to implement its various programmes.

In regard to housing, my Department initiated the development by local authorities of new five-year actions plans for social and affordable housing last year to ensure a systematic and integrated approach to the effective use of these resources. In developing these plans, local authorities were specifically requested to address the issue of land availability. I consider that given the nature of continuous housing need, the preparation of these action plans is beneficial to local authorities in identifying priority needs over the coming years and providing a coherent and co-ordinated response across all housing services, including delivery of housing by the voluntary and co-operative housing sector, and supporting these through necessary land management. The action plans will be reviewed in 2006 in the light of performance.

In this context, the broader questions of how local authorities manage their land portfolio to achieve objectives, including the question of exchanges or other transactions relating to their land banks are matters for the local authorities concerned.

Question No. 110 answered with QuestionNo. 85.
Question No. 111 answered with QuestionNo. 95.

Local Authority Housing.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

112 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of local authority units which do not have either hot water or central heating; and the funding which is being and which shall be made available to address this issue. [16510/05]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

150 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of local authority housing units that do not have central heating installed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16385/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112 and 150 together.

An indicative survey of local authorities carried out by my Department prior to the introduction last year of a scheme for the installation of central heating in existing local authority rented dwellings estimated the number of such dwellings lacking central heating facilities to be in the region of 45,000. The current figure is likely to be somewhat lower than this reflecting work carried out since the survey was undertaken. A revised national estimate is being prepared on the basis of returns, which have been sought from local authorities.

The Irish national survey of housing quality carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute for the period 2001-02 estimated that 3% of the local authority rented stock lacks hot running water.

My Department is encouraging and supporting local authorities to put in place programmes of works to improve the quality of existing local authority dwellings. In this context the central heating scheme provides for an Exchequer contribution of up to €5,600 or 80% of the cost, whichever is the lesser, for each approved dwelling. The remaining 20% is met by the local authority concerned. My Department's contribution under the scheme in 2004 amounted to €12 million in respect of 2,800 dwellings. A provision of €30 million has been made for the current year.

Question No. 113 answered with QuestionNo. 91.

Housing Policy.

Seán Crowe

Question:

114 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his Department’s policy on second homes. [16521/05]

The Department does not have a definitive breakdown of house completions either by type of purchaser or whether they were second or holiday homes or intended for renting. However, with the unprecedented demand for housing, fuelled mainly by rapid economic growth and demographic changes, being the major driver of house price increases in recent years, it is clear that there has been significant activity over this period by investors and owners of second properties. This is to be expected in a growing economy and can offer gains in terms of the supply of private rented accommodation, tourist accommodation or revitalisation of areas.

My Department has recently issued rural housing guidelines, which acknowledge the trends for development of holiday homes in some coastal, scenic and lakeside parts of the country. These emphasise the importance of clustering some tourism driven activity as far as possible in well designed and appropriately scaled developments in or adjoining small towns and villages. The guidelines also call on planning authorities to closely monitor and respond to development trends in relation to holiday homes in rural areas to avoid negative impacts on the ability of persons with links in rural areas to provide permanent housing for themselves at reasonable costs.

Local Authority Staff.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

115 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the staffing limits his Department has placed on each local authority; and if it is intended to review the local government staffing embargo for developing areas. [16258/05]

In December 2002, the Government decided to cap public service numbers at the existing authorised level and to reduce numbers by 5,000 across all sectors by end 2005. Numbers in the local authorities are to be reduced by 1,000 over that period.

Local authorities were informed of the reduction required in the overall local government sector over the three year period 2003 to 2005 and the overall position is monitored on a quarterly basis. The latest quarter employment number, expressed in wholetime equivalents, at 31 March 2005 was 33,451, which represents a reduction of 849 since 2002.

I am keeping the overall position under review having regard to the employment demands in each local authority.

Waste Disposal.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

116 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when his Department received the study prepared by the Health Research Board on the health implications of waste incineration; when he intends to publish his response to the study; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16336/05]

The Health Research Board's study on the effects of landfill and incineration was published in 2003. My Department, together with the Department of Health and Children and the Environmental Protection Agency, has been considering this report with a view to co-ordinating a response to its findings. This process has taken longer than originally anticipated, due primarily to the need to also consider a more recently published UK Government report on a Review of Environmental and Health Effects of Waste Management.

Consideration of the issues has been concluded by the bodies concerned and an agreed draft response has been prepared, which I intend to publish without delay.

Water Pollution.

Michael Ring

Question:

117 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the failure of some local beaches to meet EU bathing water standards as highlighted in the Environmental Protection Agency’s bathing water quality in Ireland report 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16449/05]

Ireland's bathing waters were of a high standard during the 2004 bathing season and remain consistently near the top of the EU bathing water quality league table, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's annual report, The Quality of Bathing Water in Ireland 2004. The report indicates that 98% of bathing areas complied with mandatory EU values while 88% complied with the stricter guide values specified in the directive. Where bathing waters do not comply with the specified standards, local authorities are required to take the necessary measures to ensure compliance with the standards as prescribed in relation to designated bathing waters by the Quality of Bathing Waters Regulations 1992.

My Department is promoting a major investment programme by local authorities to upgrade sewerage networks and wastewater treatment facilities, particularly where such facilities are required to meet EU standards. Significant progress has been made in recent years in meeting our targets under the EU urban wastewater directive and the main impact of this investment will be on estuarine and coastal areas.

As part of the implementation of the Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC, my Department is promoting and funding, at regional level, the establishment by local authorities of inter-authority projects to develop river basin monitoring and management systems and to provide the bulk of the baseline data required for implementation of the directive and for development of river basin management plans. Five such projects have commenced in regard to the south-eastern region, the Shannon river basin, the eastern region, the western region and the south-western region. A further project, the North-South Shared Aquatic Resource, NS-SHARE, project commenced in August 2004 and addresses water quality management in cross-Border river basins which includes the Neagh Bann international river basin district and the north western international river basin district.

The river basin management projects will cover all inland surface waters and groundwaters as well as estuaries and coastal waters out to a distance of one nautical mile. These projects will identify all significant impacts on water quality and quantity, set quality objectives and identify and put in place the necessary monitoring and management measures to achieve those objectives. These projects should lead to improved water quality in coastal areas which, in turn, will have a significant positive effect on the quality of bathing water in those areas.

Proposed Legislation.

Joe Costello

Question:

118 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status with regard to the proposed Critical Infrastructure Bill, which was first announced in October 2003; if a decision has been made not to proceed with the Bill; if so, his alternative proposals for dealing with major infrastructural projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16330/05]

Willie Penrose

Question:

156 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the structure and remit of the proposed new division dealing with major planning applications in respect of the proposed reform of An Bord Pleanála; if planning applications for incinerators and other waste management facilities will be dealt with by this division; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16343/05]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

192 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason he has abandoned Government plans for a separate fast-track planning authority for major road and infrastructure projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16431/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 118, 156 and 192 together.

I refer to the reply to priority Question No. 74 of today's date.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

119 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action he will take to increase affordable housing output; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16462/05]

The Government has responded actively to increased levels of housing need by expanding affordable housing output very significantly. In the current year the Government has allocated record levels of funding to local authorities for their affordable housing programmes. Total capital spending on affordable housing output in 2005, including non-voted capital finance, will amount to over €432 million and will assist in meeting the housing needs of over 3,300 households.

The Government has placed a particular emphasis on the delivery of targeted schemes of affordable housing in recent years and we expect output of about 12,000 units from these schemes between 2005 and 2007.

Environmental Policy.

Martin Ferris

Question:

120 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement in relation to the recent European Court of Justice judgment against the State in relation to the failure of the State to fulfil obligations under various articles of the EU waste framework directive. [16517/05]

Ireland is now required to take the steps necessary to comply with the recent judgment of the European Court of Justice on the waste framework directive and to communicate our response to the Commission within three months of receiving the formal communication from it concerning the outcome of the case.

Ireland has not yet received this communication. Once it is received we will examine it carefully, formulate our national response, and discuss this with the Commission to ensure that our implementation plan meets the directive's requirements. My intention is to have the judgment studied by a high level group of officials from my Department, the Office of Environmental Enforcement, the local authorities and also with the assistance, as appropriate, of the Office of the Attorney General. Where gaps are identified in our current control regime these will be urgently rectified.

The ECJ case focused on 12 different complaints received by the European Commission between 1997 and 2000, involving some 18 waste disposal incidents, and one of the primary elements in the response will be to set out the current situation in each of the situations concerned with the aim of demonstrating full compliance with the waste framework directive in each case.

Since the period covered by these complaints, Ireland's waste regulatory regime has been brought up to modern standards. This was acknowledged by the OECD in its 2000 Environmental Performance Review of Ireland which noted that Ireland had a "modern and coherent body of environmental law". In addition, we have made major progress in modernising our waste infrastructure and services, including our capacity to deliver effective enforcement. In this regard a key initiative was the establishment of the Office of Environmental Enforcement just over one year ago.

It should also be taken from the judgment that Ireland needs to continue with the task of constructing a fully integrated waste management system, incorporating policies and infrastructure to support waste reduction, recovery and recycling so as to reduce greatly our reliance on landfill.

Question No. 121 answered with QuestionNo. 91.

Waste Management.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

122 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he expects to receive the results of the Office of Environmental Enforcement audit of dump sites used between 1977 and 1996; when the planned regulations in relation to landowners whose land has been used for dumping will be prepared; when the total cost of the clean-up in relation to illegal dumping will be determined; if funding will be made available to local authorities in respect of this cost; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16350/05]

The policy direction which I have recently issued under section 60 of the Waste Management Act 1996 directs the local authorities to ensure that the requirements of section 22 of that Act are fully met in the current review of their waste management plans. Section 22 states that a waste management plan shall include information on: the identification of sites at which waste disposal or recovery activities have been carried on; the assessment of any risk of environmental pollution arising as a result of such activities; measures proposed to be taken, or, where such an assessment has already been made, measures taken, in order to prevent or limit any such environmental pollution; and the identification of necessary remedial measures in respect of such sites, and measures proposed to be taken, or, where such measures have already been identified, measures taken, to achieve such remediation, having regard to the cost-effectiveness of available remediation techniques. This exercise will be completed as part of the process of replacing the current waste management plans over the coming months.

There are no proposals for further regulations in regard to the sites of illegal waste activity. The section 60 ministerial policy direction sets out the steps to be taken in relation to such sites.

As regards clean-up costs in relation to illegal dumping, the regulatory authorities have been directed to pursue illegal holders of waste looking to the maximum potential sanctions available in law. In that regard, prosecutions should be taken in all cases using the powers available under the Waste Management Act, as amended, or other relevant legislation to maximise the deterrent factor. The Garda Síochána should be asked to become involved in regard to more serious offences and the prosecution of offences should be at the highest available judicial level.

In addition, a landfill levy, as is prescribed in the Landfill Levy Regulations shall be applied in all circumstances of disposal of waste by means of an unauthorised landfill activity after 1 June 2002; and local authorities should, where practicable, pursue civil remedies against illegal operators under the provisions of sections 55 to 58 of the Act to, for example, seek to recover the costs of measures taken to prevent or limit environmental pollution caused by the waste.

Clearly there may be cost implications in regard to the remediation of older sites which may not be amenable to recovery in the courts from those concerned. There may also be cost implications for closed sites which are in the ownership of local authorities. Pending the outcome of the section 22 process it is not possible to quantify the extent of future costs in this regard.

Radon Gas Levels.

Tom Hayes

Question:

123 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress to date in implementing the RPII’s radon programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16455/05]

The Government has in recent years, largely through the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, committed significant resources to assessing the extent of the radon problem throughout the country and to increasing public awareness of radon.

For example, during the years 1992 to 1999, the RPII carried out a nationwide survey of radon in domestic dwellings. The survey involved the measurement by the RPII of radon for a 12 month period in a random selection of homes in each 10 km by 10 km grid square throughout the country. In all, over 11,000 houses were measured. The RPII's website, www.rpii.ie, contains a comprehensive map of the high radon areas in Ireland identified as a result of the nationwide survey as well as the report of the survey. High radon areas are areas where the RPII estimates that more than 10% of the houses in each grid square have radon concentrations levels above the national reference level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre. This reference level is the level for long-term exposure to radon in a house above which the need for radon remediation works should be considered.

The consolidated Building Regulations 1997 require all new houses commencing on or after 1 July 1998 to incorporate radon prevention measures. In October 2004, my Department published an updated edition of Technical Guidance Document C on Part C of the Building Regulations, site preparation and resistance to moisture, incorporating enhanced radon prevention measures for new buildings commencing on or after 1 April 2005. This new guidance document is aimed at ensuring that the 1997 radon prevention measures are carried out more effectively. Ireland was among the first European countries to introduce specific building regulations and related technical guidance on radon prevention in new buildings.

In February 2002, my Department published a booklet entitled Radon in Existing Buildings — Corrective Options advising designers, builders and home owners on remediation options for reducing radon in existing houses to, or below, the national reference level.

For many years now, the RPII, through press releases and radio and television interviews, and through its own published reports on radon, has been promoting public awareness of radon and highlighting the risks associated with exposure to radon. The RPII has long been encouraging householders, particularly those in high radon areas, to have their homes tested for radon and to undertake radon remediation works where necessary.

The RPII has undertaken several other initiatives to further heighten public awareness of the radon issue. In November 2004, the RPII hosted the third National Radon Forum in Dublin to raise awareness of radon as a health risk. That same month, the RPII published a booklet entitled Understanding Radon — A Householder's Guide. That guide is directed at householders who have been informed that they have radon concentration levels above the national reference level in their homes. The aim of the guide is to assist such householders in interpreting their radon measurement results and in deciding how to deal with the problem. The RPII also plans to distribute an information poster on radon for display in libraries, medical centres, etc., advising people to have their homes checked for radon. The RPII has also just begun a new radon awareness campaign which will involve a series of nationwide public information seminars on the dangers of radon and which will be targeted at selected high radon areas. As part of this campaign the RPII has organised road shows to further heighten awareness in relation to radon, particularly in areas with high radon levels.

Both the RPII and my Department will continue to use all appropriate opportunities to raise public awareness of radon and to encourage householders, particularly those living in high radon areas, to have their homes tested for radon and to undertake radon remediation works where radon concentration levels in excess of the national reference level are found.

Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 102
Question No. 125 answered with QuestionNo. 88.

International Agreements.

Bernard Allen

Question:

126 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has had contact with his US counterpart regarding the failure of the US to ratify the Kyoto Protocol; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13516/05]

EU international policy on climate change is determined through close co-ordination between all member states and the European Commission, and a common EU position is presented externally. The EU continues to engage with the United States on a range of climate change issues, despite the latter's decision not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

Since my appointment as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, an appropriate opportunity to discuss climate change policy with my counterpart from the US Administration has not arisen. My predecessor met with representatives from the United States before and during Ireland's Presidency of the EU in 2004. At these meetings, he emphasised the EU position that it expects the United States to play a full part in global efforts to tackle climate change.

Following on from the Kyoto Protocol coming into effect on 16 February 2005, the focus of the international climate change agenda has moved on to the measures to be taken in the next phase, after the Kyoto commitment period ends in 2012. It is important that the United States engage constructively in the international negotiations on the post-2012 objectives and that they take comparable measures to those being taken by the rest of the developed world in terms of greenhouse gas emissions reductions. This is the message that I will bring to any future meeting with representatives of the United States Administration.

Fire Service.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

127 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the recommendations of the 2002 Government commissioned report on the fire service, including the recommendation for a national fire authority, will be adopted; the reason for the delay in adopting these recommendations to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16352/05]

On 17 February 2005 I announced a fire services change programme in which I set out a strategy for the future development of the fire service. This strategy includes measures addressing the development of community fire safety programmes, the development of a risk based approach to the determination of fire cover standards, the introduction of a competency-based approach to recruitment, retention and career progression in the fire service and the enhancement of health, safety and welfare programmes within the fire service.

My priority under the change programme is not to pursue further institutional change at this time but to use the available resources to bring about direct improvements in these key areas identified in the report review of fire safety and fire services in Ireland. All of the key stakeholder groups in the fire service are participating positively in the change programme and I am confident that this approach can take us forward and achieve real progress in modernising the fire service.

Nuclear Plants.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

128 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the issues raised in the recent report of the RPII visit to Sellafield; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16446/05]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

130 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has raised with the British Foreign Secretary the issue of the refusal of the authorities in Sellafield to make information which has been sought available for the Radiological Institute of Ireland; the steps he intends to take to make such information available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13547/05]

Billy Timmins

Question:

138 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has considered the recent report of the RPII visit to BNFL Sellafield; his views on the findings in relation to terrorist threats to the facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12430/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 128, 130 and 138 together.

I welcome the publication of the report on the visit of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, to the Sellafield nuclear plant. I gave a commitment in December last that this report would be made public and was pleased to be presented with a copy by the RPII chairman when it was published recently. I would like to thank all those involved in facilitating this visit and commend the quality of the report which is clear and concise in its presentation of complex technical issues.

The Government remains opposed to the continued operation of the Sellafield plant. We seek the safe and orderly closure of the Sellafield site and we will continue to explore every diplomatic and legal route to this end. Obviously, the United Kingdom has and continues to hold a significantly different view. However, in my view and for some considerable time, there has been significant scope for both Governments and Administrations to develop a higher level of co-operative engagement on the nuclear issue. It is in this context that the provisional measures order of the UNCLOS tribunal was opportune and significant. This order provided for the development of improved co-operation and co-ordination measures between both Governments on nuclear safety. The visit by the RPII to Sellafield stemmed from discussions between Ireland and the United Kingdom under the terms of the order and further visits by the institute are planned.

This was the first visit to Sellafield by the institute since 2000. As the report clearly demonstrates, the visit helped the RPII to evaluate the associated hazards in the context of emergency preparedness. It also highlighted two areas that are of great concern and interest to Ireland, namely, developments in relation to the storage of high-level liquid radioactive waste on the site and the authorisation of radioactive discharges into the Irish Sea.

The nuclear inspectorate as regulators of Sellafield have imposed a requirement that the volume of liquid waste stored in the highly active storage tanks is to be progressively reduced. While this requirement is welcome, the modest rate of reduction in the volumes of this waste requiring storage at Sellafield up to 2010 does not, I believe, represent a decisive response. It remains to be seen if the recent events in relation to the THORP plant will result in a review of operational priorities at Sellafield that can positively address the risk posed by the long-term storage of highly active radioactive waste in tanks at Sellafield.

The highly active storage tanks represent a significant terrorist threat and the UK authorities have implemented a number of enhanced physical protection measures in attempts to address this risk. Additionally, assurances to the effect that the terrorist threat to Sellafield nuclear plant is continually reviewed and assessed have been received from the UK authorities. Nevertheless, the Government has continued concerns in relation to the threat posed by the highly active storage tanks and this was one of the issues addressed in the international legal actions by the Government against the UK in relation to Sellafield.

There is an obvious conflict between the necessity for the UK authorities to ensure the security of the installation is not compromised by limiting access to security sensitive material and RPII's need for access to information to provide additional evaluation and advice to this Government and the public in relation to threat assessments and security arrangements. In this regard, the additional access provided by the UK authorities to the Garda Síochána has been useful. A visit took place in June 2003, and while the report is confidential, the overall view formed was reassuring. Further visits and contacts at senior police level are continuing. While the issue has not been raised directly with the UK Foreign Secretary, discussions under the UNCLOS order are continuing between Ireland and the UK. Access to further information sought by the institute is one of the issues being addressed in this process.

In relation to marine discharges of radioactive waste from Sellafield, the Irish Government's view remains that continuing radioactive discharges to the Irish Sea from Sellafield are untenable and they should cease. The welcome success of improved abatement techniques recently introduced at Sellafield in reducing dramatically the amount of technetium-99 discharged to the Irish Sea indicates the real potential for addressing this issue in a constructive way.

Overall, the RPII visit and report reflect the benefit of the improved co-operation arrangements between Ireland and the UK, which in no way detract from Ireland's stated objective for the safe and orderly closure of Sellafield.

Question No. 129 answered with QuestionNo. 97.
Question No. 130 answered with QuestionNo. 128.

Local Government Reform.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

131 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of his plans for local government reform, including the provision of directly elected mayors in cities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16411/05]

The better local government modernisation programme has brought significant benefits to local government. These include constitutional recognition and guaranteed local elections; enhanced levels of funding; strengthened political and management structures; an updated legal framework as well as an efficiency agenda focused on improved corporate planning, IT, human resources, and customer service. Updated financial management systems, facilitating better financial management and planning, have also been introduced and a new initiative to improve service standards with an extended range of performance indicators was launched last year. A major independent study to identify future funding requirements and options for local government will be completed shortly.

Local government modernisation provides an enhanced role for elected members in policy formulation and review and in developing an integrated strategy for the economic, social and cultural development of their areas. This is undertaken in partnership with representatives of the sectoral interests through the establishment of strategic policy committees, SPCs, and the county-city development boards, respectively. The role of the locally elected representative has been further strengthened under the modernisation programme by the creation of a single mandate for councillors from the 2004 local elections and also by the improved financial support framework and better training-information opportunities.

Quality customer service is a key pillar of the modernisation programme. All of the various elements of the programme are centred around this objective. Substantial resources have been provided by my Department to local authorities on specific initiatives to improve service provision. These include €31 million in support for a one-stop-shop programme and €9.8 million to improve efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery through the use of technology.

I am determined to intensify and consolidate the gains being made through the modernisation programme and, in particular, to promote improvements in performance and in service delivery by local authorities to their communities.

With regard to directly elected mayors, legislation providing for the direct election of mayors was repealed by section 7 of the Local Government (No. 2) Act 2003. Accordingly, the question of directly elected mayors does not now arise.

Local Authority Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

132 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the numbers employed by each local authority for the years 2002, 2003 and 2004; the category under which they are employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16384/05]

Based on information supplied by the local authorities, the numbers of staff employed by them, expressed in whole-time equivalents, on 31 December in each of the years 2002, 2003, and 2004, and the categories are set out in the following tables:

2002.

Local Authority

Managerial/Administration/ Clerical

Professional/Technical

Outdoor

Overall Total

County Councils 1

Carlow

114

47

216

377

Cavan

168.5

47.4

330

545.9

Clare

290

114

487

891

Cork

782

426

1,282

2,490

Donegal

358.5

201

706

1,265.5

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown

507

238

670

1,415

Fingal

577

336

711

1,624

Galway

315

126

758

1,199

Kerry

416

173

660

1,249

Kildare

350

185

530

1,065

Kilkenny

199

72

346

617

Laois

167.5

66.5

255

489

Leitrim

137

59

208

404

Limerick

277

113

545

935

Longford

138

49

137

324

Louth

263

79

380

722

Mayo

301

89

916

1,306

Meath

273

113.5

339

725.5

Monaghan

172

63

121

356

Offaly

159.5

77

223

459.5

Roscommon

132

59.5

276

467.5

Sligo

228

85

278

591

South Dublin

663

160

619

1,442

North Tipperary

171

55

239

465

South Tipperary

228

97

459

784

Waterford

166

68

397.5

631.5

Westmeath

185.5

64.5

280

530

Wexford

334

94

357

785

Wicklow

288

114

523

925

County Total

8,360.5

371.4

13,248.5

25,080.4

City Councils

Cork

382

146

914

1,442

Dublin

2,752

*

3,906

6,658

Galway

149

53

269

471

Limerick

185

41

324

550

Waterford

174

48

256

478

City Total

3,642

288

5,669

9,599

Overall Total

12,002.5

3,759.4

18,917.5

34,292.4

*Dublin City figure for Man./Admin includes Prof./Tech.

1Includes urban authorities.

2003.

Local Authority1

Managerial/ Administration/ Clerical

Professional/ Technical

Outdoor

†Other

Overall Total

Carlow

112

47

144

27

330

Cavan

160.6

56

215.5

17

449.1

Clare

279

111.5

428

144

962.5

Cork

744.74

360

1,172.91

130

2,407.65

Donegal

338

145

492.5

132

1,107.5

Dún Laoghaire/ Rathdown

471

232

584

102

1,389

Fingal

595

260

640

68

1,563

Galway

304.82

125.8

471.55

75.5

977.67

Kerry

378.5

136.4

533

144.6

1,192.5

Kildare

322

110

361

146.33

939.33

Kilkenny

167

76

312

38

593

Laois

167.5

71

153

20

411.5

Leitrim

113.5

47

126.5

22

309

Limerick

255

109

366

76

806

Longford

140.9

45

142.2

9

337.1

Louth

228.47

94.5

305.57

76

704.54

Mayo

229

167

613.5

176

1,185.5

Meath

206.5

109

269

143

727.5

Monaghan

157.4

63.6

179.63

24.1

424.73

Offaly

160

59.5

221

40

480.5

Roscommon

137

59

281

79

556

Sligo

200.66

78

218.03

30

526.69

South Dublin

620.9

144.8

522

43

1,330.7

North Tipperary

152

52

219

76

499

South Tipperary

216

85

372

27

700

Waterford

170

64

289

28

551

Westmeath

167.5

66

227

83.5

544

Wexford

299

80

363.45

92

834.45

Wicklow

258.5

114

373.5

69.83

815.83

County Total

7,752.49

3,168.1

10,595.84

2,138.86

23,655.29

City Councils

Cork

366

143

907

172

1,588

Dublin

1,958.4

509.8

3,866.5

233

6,567.7

Galway

126.5

52

244

33

455.5

Limerick

184.5

45.6

316

76

622.1

Waterford

141

39

201

34

415

City Total

2,776.4

789.4

5,534.5

548

9,648.3

Overall Total

10,528.89

3,957.5

16,130.34

2,686.86

33,303.59

†Includes certain contract posts, temporary & seasonal workers (not separately collected in 2002).

1Includes urban authorities

2004.

Local Authority1

Managerial/ Administration/ Clerical

Professional/ Technical

Outdoor

†Other

Overall Total

Carlow

114

45

145

23

327.00

Cavan

165.6

59

215.5

27

467.10

Clare

279

113.5

428

144

964.50

Cork

764.89

359.4

1,145.27

193

2,462.56

Donegal

339

141

503

191

1,174.00

Dún Laoghaire/ Rathdown

475

232

581

100

1,388.00

Fingal

517

334

605

27

1,483.00

Galway

321.21

122.5

456.67

101.92

1,002.30

Kerry

403.2

149.4

519.66

145.04

1,217.30

Kildare

329

127

335.5

154

945.50

Kilkenny

169

77

295

45

586.00

Laois

160.1

66

158

19

403.10

Leitrim

118

48

125

20

311.00

Limerick

255

109

366

60.5

790.50

Longford

145

45

126.2

13

329.20

Louth

234.77

98.5

289.49

58.3

681.06

Mayo

229

164

613

209

1,215.00

Meath

237

117.1

273

73

700.10

Monaghan

161.2

62.6

177.63

43

444.43

Offaly

153.8

56

204

56

469.80

Roscommon

141

63

275

79

558.00

Sligo

198.16

78

221.97

51

549.13

South Dublin

662.4

143.6

527.5

32

1,365.50

North Tipperary

161

50

212

116

539.00

South Tipperary

221

89

372

21

703.00

Waterford

170

64

289

45

568.00

Westmeath

181

70

218.5

92.5

562.00

Wexford

294.5

80

370.35

87

831.85

Wicklow

274.75

112

377.9

91.3

855.95

County Total

7,874.58

3,275.6

10,426.14

2,317.56

23,893.88

City Councils

Cork

366

145

905

119

1,535.00

Dublin

1,993.8

445.1

3,841.15

314.25

6,594.30

Galway

131.5

53

254

18

456.50

Limerick

169.7

40.6

287

61

558.30

Waterford

139

38

198

56

431.00

City Total

2,800

721.7

5,485.15

568.25

9,575.10

Overall Total

10,674.58

3,997.3

15,911.29

2,885.81

33,468.98

†Includes certain contract posts, temporary & seasonal workers (not separately collected in 2002).
1Includes urban authorities

Water Pollution.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

133 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to assist local authorities and community groups to clean up beaches and to improve amenities in order to increase the allocation of blue flags by the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16430/05]

The blue flag scheme is operated by the Foundation for Environmental Education, an international non-governmental organisation based in Denmark, and is administered in Ireland by An Taisce. A local authority wishing to apply for blue flag status for a bathing area makes application to An Taisce who provides advice and guidance in relation to the scheme, the criteria on which decisions are based and aspects of beach management which may require improvement. My Department provides grant aid to An Taisce as a contribution towards the administration expenses of the scheme.

To qualify for blue flag status, a beach must be a designated bathing area under the quality of bathing waters regulations. There are 131 such bathing areas, 122 seawater and nine freshwater, designated in Ireland. The quality of the bathing water in these areas must comply with the guideline standards laid down in the EU bathing water directive during the bathing season, which runs from 1 June to 31 August, of the year prior to the application for a blue flag. To secure a blue flag, a beach must additionally comply with criteria specified by the foundation in relation to the facilities available and general management, for example, car parking, toilets, litter control, access for the disabled and environmental information.

A total of 77 blue flags were awarded in 2004 to 73 bathing areas and four marinas, maintaining the high number of blue flags awarded in 2003. My Department has requested a report from An Taisce as to the options and measures that might be pursued for increasing the number of blue flags awarded to areas in Ireland and I expect to receive the report shortly.

The blue flag scheme is mainly directed towards developed, resort beaches that have, in addition to excellent water quality, appropriate infrastructure and services. As a complement to the blue flag scheme, a separate environmental award scheme called the Green Coast Award is now being operated to recognise beaches which have excellent water quality and which are also prized for their natural unspoilt environment. The scheme is being applied, at this stage, to the east coast of Ireland and forms a major part of the Clean Coast project that is operated by An Taisce with INTERREG support and in partnership with Keep Wales Tidy. The other major element of the Clean Coast project is Coastcare, where voluntary groups adopt a beach and take responsibility for its care. Coastcare is particularly commendable in that it empowers local people to take charge of their own environment. Eleven beaches on the east coast have received Green Coast awards.

The potential to increase the number of environmental awards is being enhanced by the major investment programme underway to upgrade sewerage networks and wastewater treatment facilities. Enormous strides have been made in recent years in meeting our targets under the EU urban wastewater directive. Compliance with the December 2005 deadline of the directive stood at 25% at the start of the national development plan. That has now risen to some 90%. All remaining schemes needed to achieve full compliance with the directive are included in my Department's water services investment programme 2004-2006 which is available in the Oireachtas Library.

In addition, the river basin management projects, established under the water framework directive, will cover all inland surface waters and groundwaters as well as estuaries and coastal waters out to a distance of one nautical mile. These projects will identify all significant impacts on water quality and quantity, set quality objectives and identify and put in place the necessary monitoring and management measures to achieve those objectives. These projects should lead to improved water quality in coastal areas, which in turn will have a significant positive effect on the quality of bathing water in those areas.

Archaeological Sites.

Joan Burton

Question:

134 Ms Burton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the matters discussed at his meeting with the director of the National Museum on 12 May 2005; if he will publish the letter he received from the director setting out his serious concerns regarding the implications of the proposed route for the M3; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16327/05]

Liam Twomey

Question:

155 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will publish the advice of the director of the National Museum regarding the proposed M3 development in the Tara-Skryne valley; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16436/05]

John Gormley

Question:

195 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will provide this Deputy with a copy of correspondence received in 2005 from the director of the National Museum regarding the Minister’s pending decision regarding archaeological works along the route of the proposed M3 motorway in the vicinity of the Hill of Tara (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16512/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 134, 155 and 195 together.

Section 14(a) of the National Monuments Act 1930, as amended, provides that, before directions are issued by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to a road authority in relation to the carrying out of archaeological works connected with a road development which has been approved by An Bord Pleanála or in relation to a newly discovered national monument on the route of such a road, the director of the National Museum of Ireland is to be consulted.

I met the director on 1 March 2005 in relation to the issue of directions in respect of two cases and provided him with a copy of the proposed directions in each case. A written response was subsequently furnished by the director as regards each case. These related to an archaeological site at Woodstown, County Waterford, and also to the carrying out of archaeological works at locations along the Dunshaughlin to Navan section of the proposed M3 motorway.

The directions were made publicly available last week once issued. I have arranged within my Department to have copies of all correspondence with the National Museum regarding the carrying out of archaeological works at locations along the Dunshaughlin to Navan section of the proposed M3 motorway issued to the Deputies today.

Question No. 135 answered with QuestionNo. 88.

Local Authority Housing.

Richard Bruton

Question:

136 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he intends to introduce open and transparent tender procedures for all voluntary housing projects as recommended by the Committee of Public Accounts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16422/05]

In accordance with Government public procurement requirements, local authorities are requested to ensure that approved voluntary housing bodies who undertake projects under the capital funding schemes are made aware of the need to operate competitive tendering procedures.

Social Welfare Schemes.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

137 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if there is evidence for the recent public assertion that there is widespread abuses of the rent allowance system; the number of cases of such alleged abuse that have been brought to his attention; the amount of rent allowance being wrongly claimed in respect of each such case of alleged abuse; the action he has taken in respect of each such case of alleged abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16326/05]

Jack Wall

Question:

170 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of cases to which his attention has been drawn of tenants in receipt of the rent allowance not living in the dwelling concerned and sub-letting it; when his attention has been drawn to each such case; the action taken in respect of each such case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16357/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 137 and 170 together.

The issue of possible abuses of the rent allowance scheme has been brought to my attention in my capacity as a public representative. At my request, my Department has raised this concern with the Department of Social and Family Affairs so that the matter can be properly examined and considered by that Department.

Question No. 138 answered with QuestionNo. 128.
Question No. 139 answered with QuestionNo. 95.

Waste Management.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

140 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether small electrical retail outlets will have a difficulty in fulfilling their obligations under the EU directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16417/05]

The EU directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment, WEEE, which came into effect on 13 February 2003, presents a challenge to all relevant stakeholder groups, including retailers, both large and small, and effective implementation will require a focused, committed approach from all concerned.

Draft regulations, which will transpose the directive into Irish law, have now just completed a period of public consultation. These regulations were prepared by my Department, working closely with the relevant public sector and industry stakeholders through a dedicated WEEE task force. Retailer interests are represented on this task force, which was established in February 2003.

In order to minimise the regulatory burden of the WEEE directive, the draft regulations propose that retailers be allowed to avail of an exemption from the normal waste permitting requirements for the storage and transport of WEEE in certain circumstances. Under the modified regime, which will be considerably less burdensome than the normal collection and waste permitting requirements, retailers will be required to register their premises with their local authority.

In recognition that some retailers, particularly those operating in the centre of a town, may have difficulties in catering for WEEE, the draft regulations also propose that retailers may, subject to the agreement of the appropriate local authorities, make alternative arrangements to in-store take-back, provided that such arrangements are not more inconvenient for the purchaser and remain free of charge.

My Department has made every effort to include all stakeholders, including retailers, in the process of developing the draft regulations. The draft regulations are balanced and take account of the circumstances of those affected by the directive. I have, as part of the consultation process which has now ended, met with the retailers' representatives to discuss the draft regulations. All comments and submissions received will be considered by my Department in finalising the regulations, which I intend to make in advance of the coming into effect of the directive on 13 August 2005.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

141 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when he will publish final regulations in relation to waste management plans for construction and demolition waste; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16434/05]

The Government's policy statement, Changing Our Ways, September 1998, provided a framework for the adoption and implementation by local authorities of strategic waste management plans under which specific national objectives and targets would be achieved. It set out specific targets for the recycling of at least 50% of construction and demolition, C&D, waste by end 2003 rising progressively to at least 85% by end 2013.

A National Construction and Demolition Waste Council was established by the construction industry in June 2002 as a voluntary producer responsibility initiative to facilitate the achievement of the national C&D waste recycling targets. In September 2004, the council launched its voluntary construction industry initiative which involves all key participants in the construction industry committing to a series of specific actions that have the overall objective of increasing recycling rates for C&D waste. The initiative aims to concentrate on the major waste fractions in the early years and establish the most suitable practices for Ireland through practical experience. It is envisaged that further steps will be initiated at a later stage to focus on the remaining elements of C&D waste.

In tandem with the launch of the voluntary construction industry initiative, my Department announced new draft best practice guidelines on the preparation of waste management plans for construction and demolition projects for public consultation. The aim of the draft guidelines is to promote an integrated approach to C&D waste management throughout the duration of a project and ensure the projects are designed to promote sustainable development, environmental protection and optimum use of resources. The guidelines introduce the concept of on-site C&D waste management plans which would apply to projects above certain specified thresholds. It is my intention to finalise the draft guidelines as soon as possible following a comprehensive evaluation of the submissions recently received from the public consultation process. The finalised guidelines will be submitted to the National Construction and Demolition Waste Council for its formal endorsement.

My Department has developed revised draft waste permitting regulations which address a number of issues, including the permitting of inert soil and construction type wastes that are being used for the purposes of land reclamation and other similar activities. I intend to publish these draft regulations shortly for public consultation.

EU Directives.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

142 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of EU directives for which his Department has responsibility and which have yet to be implemented and in respect of which the deadline has passed; the number of cases in which the EU has either initiated prosecutions or given notice of its intention to prosecute for failure to implement such directives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16342/05]

I am fully aware of the importance of timely transposition of EU environmental legislation, some 200 items of which, including more than 140 directives, have by now been transposed in this country.

There are currently six directives in my Department's area of responsibility which are outstanding for transposition. These are: 2000/53/EC, end-of-life vehicles, ELVs. This directive contains two stages of transposition, the first by 21 April 2002 for new vehicles sold after 1 July 2002 and the second by January 2007 for all other vehicles. It is anticipated that this directive will be transposed in 2005; 2002/49/EC, assessment and management of environmental noise. Drafting of regulations to transpose this directive is well advanced and transposition is intended by mid-2005; 2002/88/EC, measures against the emission of gaseous and particulate pollutants from internal combustion engines to be installed in non-road mobile machinery. Draft regulations are nearing completion with a view to transposition of this directive by mid-2005. These regulations will also transpose Directive 2004/26/EC on non-road mobile machinery, which has a transposition target date of 20 May 2005; 2002/95/EC and 2002/96/EC, with its amending Directive 2003/108/EC. These two related directives deal, respectively, with restrictions on the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment and arrangements for dealing with waste electrical and electronic equipment. Legislative proposals for the transposition of both directives are now in drafting. It is intended that the directive will be transposed by mid-2005; and 2003/4/EC, public access to environmental information, repealing Directive 90/313/EEC. Legislative proposals for the transposition of this directive are in drafting. It is intended that this directive will be transposed shortly.

One case has been taken by the European Commission to the European Court of Justice in relation to the non-transposition of these directives, specifically the end-of-life vehicles directive. The court delivered a judgment in this case on 28 October 2004. As stated earlier, work is continuing to complete full transposition of this directive having regard, inter alia, to the terms of the court judgment.

Decentralisation Programme.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

143 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position in regard to the number of his Department’s Dublin based staff who have applied through the central applications facility for decentralisation for the proposed new locations for his Department at Kilkenny, New Ross and Wexford; the grades of staff who have applied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16339/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

152 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of employees of his Department who have applied for transfers under the decentralisation programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16470/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 143 and 152 together.

My Department is co-operating with the Department of Finance, the decentralisation implementation group, DIG, and the Office of Public Works to ensure the Government's decentralisation programme is implemented efficiently and effectively. In accordance with the Government decision on the first phase of moves under the programme, the transfer of my Department's headquarters to Wexford is included in the list of those considered as potential early movers.

A total of 495 applications had been received at the central applications facility, CAF, priority cut-off date on 7 September 2004 in respect of the 661 posts to be decentralised from my Department's Dublin offices and which are fillable through the CAF. A total of 31 staff from my Department's Dublin offices have applied for decentralisation to the Department's proposed four locations in the south east — Wexford, Kilkenny, New Ross and Waterford. The grades and numbers involved are detailed in the following table. Some 139 staff of my Department had also at that date applied for decentralisation to other Departments or agencies.

An implementation plan, which sets out the broad issues to be addressed in implementing the decentralisation programme for this Department, has been submitted to the DIG. My Department is in the process of finalising a revised implementation plan dealing with issues arising in the context of the move to Wexford.

Number

Principal Officer

3

Assistant Principal Officer

3

Higher Executive Officer

4

Administrative Officer

3

Executive Officer

5

Staff Officer

1

Clerical Officer

5

Accountant

1

Inspector

3

Senior Meteorological Officer

1

Archaeologist

1

Assistant Fire Adviser

1

Total

31

Water Pollution.

Pat Breen

Question:

144 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the assurances he will give to communities in Balbriggan and Skerries that the quality of bathing water at their beaches will be improved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16373/05]

Where bathing waters do not comply with the standards prescribed in relation to designated bathing waters by the quality of bathing waters regulations 1992, the relevant local authorities are required to take the necessary measures to ensure compliance with these standards.

Under the Water Services Investment Programme 2004-2006, €23 million is being provided to Fingal County Council for the construction of a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant at Barnageeragh, which will deal with all domestic, commercial and industrial wastewater from both Balbriggan and Skerries and which is due for completion by autumn 2006. This treatment plant will improve water quality at the Balbriggan and Skerries beaches to the highest possible standards so that in future years these beaches should be eligible for blue flag status.

Question No. 145 answered with QuestionNo. 85.

Waste Disposal.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

146 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to tackle emissions from backyard burning; if he has monitored an increase in such burning in recent months; and the enforcement action which can be and which has been taken to address this form of pollution. [16506/05]

Under the Air Pollution Act 1987, the occupier of any premises, other than a private dwelling, is required to use the best practicable means to limit and, if possible, to prevent emissions, including smoke emissions, from such premises. In addition, the occupier of any premises is prohibited from causing or permitting an emission in such a quantity or manner as to be a nuisance. The Act provides local authorities with powers to prevent or limit air pollution and penalties include fines and-or imprisonment upon conviction.

In addition, the Waste Management Act 1996 places a general duty of care on the holder of waste not to hold, transport, recover or dispose of waste in a manner that causes or is likely to cause environmental pollution. Local authorities are empowered to require measures to be taken to prevent or limit environmental pollution caused by the holding or disposal of waste and mitigate or remedy the effects on the environment of any such activity.

In light of the foregoing, I am satisfied that local authorities have adequate powers to deal with backyard burning and I have no plans to introduce further legislation.

Local Authority Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

147 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he is taking to ensure that the taxpayer receives value for money from local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16468/05]

While local authorities have primary responsibility for delivering value for money in their activities, my Department is actively involved on a range of fronts to ensure that this is achieved. Key initiatives by my Department include: full implementation in 2004, in co-operation with local authorities, of new financial management systems based on accrual accounting principles and incorporating balance sheets is designed to deliver better management information and enhanced performance management capacity, and to facilitate improved value for money measurement. This work will be complemented by the development of a new costing system in local authorities. The introduction of five year multi-annual capital investment programmes provides a structured basis for the planning and delivery of all capital programmes in a way that ensures that best value for money is achieved.

In the housing area, to maximise the benefits of this multi-annual approach, local authorities have prepared five-year social and affordable housing action plans. This plan-led approach will focus on achieving maximum output under the programmes and ensure that this output is delivered in a coherent, integrated and sustainable manner. In the area of water services where three year rolling plans were introduced in 2000, in order to deliver infrastructure more speedily and to improve operation and maintenance standards, my Department has adopted design build and operate as the standard form of procurement for all new treatment facilities to be provided by local authorities. Public private partnerships are also being used in the areas of waste management and housing.

In the non-national roads programme, a multi-annual restoration improvement programme is in place which ensures that priority is given to the more critical schemes, a number of best practice documents have been issued to local authorities and training for non-national roads staff in local authorities was introduced in 2002 to improve efficiencies and develop appropriate skills. The first phase - demonstration and capacity building - of the local government e-procurement strategy which has been adopted by my Department is currently under way. The strategy will generate value for money in the local government sector through better management of the procurement process, including the sourcing of lower prices, lower transaction costs and improved control of inventories. The use of the needs and resources model in the allocation of general purpose grants from the local government fund encourages efficient use of resources by local authorities. The management of 42 local authority performance measurement indicators across a range of services will foster increased emphasis on value for money in service delivery.

Economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the local government system are key elements in the terms of reference of a major independent review on local government funding which is being undertaken. The appointed consultants are due to report shortly. All local authority expenditure is subject to audit by the local government audit service and projects co-financed by the EU are subject to EU value for money scrutiny and cost benefit analysis. The value for money unit of the local government audit service has carried out a number of value for money studies on different local government expenditure areas and further such studies are planned.

Question No. 148 answered with QuestionNo. 91.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

149 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress to date on the serviced land initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16423/05]

The objective of the serviced land initiative is to provide water and wastewater services, primarily as extensions of existing water and sewerage schemes, to increase the supply of serviced land to meet residential development needs. The target number of serviced sites when the scheme was introduced was 100,000.

To date, approximately 300 serviced land initiative schemes have been approved under my Department's water services investment programme. Over 200 schemes, providing services for over 154,000 housing units, had been either been completed or were at construction at 30 December 2004. By the end of this year a total of 260 schemes are expected to be completed or at construction, representing 200,000 sites.

Question No. 150 answered with QuestionNo. 112.

EU Directives.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

151 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the likely cost to the State in fines if Ireland fails to implement the outstanding EU directives for which he is responsible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16393/05]

To date, fines have not been ordered by the European Court of Justice in relation to any case taken against Ireland.

While the majority of issues raised by the European Commission are resolved without recourse to the European Court of Justice, there are currently eight cases where legal proceedings have been initiated by the Commission in relation to EU environmental directives, seven of which are the direct responsibility of my Department. This includes one case where the Commission has applied to the court seeking the application of a daily fine of €21,600 for each day of delay in implementing measures in relation to the environmental impact directive. It is not possible to anticipate the decision of the court in this case.

Question No. 152 answered with QuestionNo. 143.
Question No. 153 answered with QuestionNo. 88.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Michael Noonan

Question:

154 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the action he will take to increase voluntary housing output; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16463/05]

The voluntary and co-operative housing sector has an important contribution to make in the provision of social housing. By working in close partnership with local authorities, it plays a significant role in supplementing the efforts of local authorities in providing social housing in areas where particular housing needs have been identified. It is supported by my Department through two separate funding schemes, the capital assistance scheme and the loan subsidy scheme.

The Government is fully committed to developing and expanding the sector and to supplying the necessary resources and support to enable it become an important and significant force and provider in the housing area. This commitment is reflected in the National Development Plan 2000-2006, which includes ambitious targets for output by the sector for each year of the plan. There has been a steady increase in output by the sector from a level of 579 units of accommodation in 1999 to a record output of over 1,600 units in 2004.

Capital spending on these schemes has been increased significantly from €47 million in 1999 to €183 million in 2004. In conjunction with this funding for the voluntary housing programmes, my Department has also initiated the development by local authorities of five year action plans, commencing in 2004, for the delivery of social and affordable housing, including the voluntary programme, to ensure a systematic and integrated approach to the effective use of these resources. I am concerned to ensure that the considerable investment involved will continue to increase output of the sector and reach the targets contained in the current and subsequent action plans.

Question No. 155 answered with QuestionNo. 134.
Question No. 156 answered with QuestionNo. 118.

Local Authority Housing.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

157 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will consider improvement of the quality and timeliness of his Department’s information on the extent and nature of housing need, including homelessness (details supplied). [16525/05]

The most recent assessment of need for local authority housing took place at end March 2005. Local authorities have been asked to forward completed returns to my Department by 27 May and my Department will then collate these returns to present an overall national position. The results of the last assessment were published in November 2002 and I expect that my Department will be in a position to publish the results of this year's assessment by next September or October.

The 2005 assessment of need is more rigorous than heretofore and requires local authorities to submit data in electronic format to the local government computer services board, LGCSB, for input into a data warehouse. This will enable my Department to improve its analysis of aggregate data in respect of all households, including homeless households. It is also envisaged that a new IT system being developed for housing authorities will provide the Department with information on housing needs on a more regular basis in the future.

It is recognised that a comprehensive data system is essential to monitor progress in addressing homelessness. In response to this the homeless agency, in conjunction with homeless service providers in Dublin, developed the LINK system, with funding provided by my Department. The purpose of the system is to improve and develop services and service delivery to homeless persons to ensure they receive a continuum of care based on an accurate and up to date assessment of their needs.

The LINK system is intended to help the local authorities to formulate appropriate responses to the accommodation needs of homeless households and individuals. It also facilitates the identification of their requirements other than accommodation and provides a basis for the formulation of responses to their case and support needs by the statutory and voluntary agencies involved.

Question No. 158 answered with QuestionNo. 85.

Waste Disposal.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

159 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to introduce civic amenity centres specifically to meet the needs of small and medium size enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16518/05]

Local authorities have a statutory duty under the Waste Management Act 1996 to provide and operate, or to arrange for the provision and operation of, facilities for recovery and disposal of household waste. Local authorities are not precluded from providing such facilities for commercial waste, but are not under a duty to do so. In general, I would consider the provision of recycling facilities for businesses as primarily a commercial matter, and do not believe that it would be appropriate to divert the limited resources of the environment fund, or to direct the diversion of local authority funds, to providing special facilities for the use of the business sector.

National Monuments.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

160 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to consolidate the national monuments code; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16419/05]

There have been significant changes in responsibilities and the transfer of functions for the built and natural heritage between a number of Departments since June 2002. This has resulted in a re-organisation and a rebranding of heritage administration and its incorporation into my Department's remit as finalised in April 2003. Despite these functional and organisational changes, significant preparatory work was done to consolidate and modernise existing national monuments legislation, culminating in an initial draft Bill being completed by parliamentary counsel in April 2003.

In the interim the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 2004 was made in July 2004 in response to new challenges to the protection of the archaeological, architectural and historical heritage and to take account of, and give effect to, various Supreme and High Court judgments. Five direct pieces of existing legislation now require to be consolidated under the national monuments code in addition to potential consequential impacts on other statutory codes. It has been necessary to review these developments and assess the adequacy of the draft 2003 Bill in order to progress the consolidation exercise to conclusion. My Department is working to this end and I expect significant progress in this regard to be achieved by the end of the year.

Question No. 161 answered with QuestionNo. 95.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

162 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in view of the amendment to the capital assistance scheme, introduced in November 2001, if the details of older emigrants (details supplied) on the safe-home programme waiting list will be calculated in each of the county council assessment of housing need figures for 2005 as a category in their own right; and if the recently notified requirements that such applicants hold PPS numbers will not be a requirement in order to ensure that the assessment of housing needs is fully inclusive and truly represents housing need; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16260/05]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 497 on 19 April 2005. The position is unchanged.

Radon Gas Levels.

Tom Hayes

Question:

163 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of directives issued by the RPII to employers to measure radon gas in the workplace; the number of legal actions commenced by his Department against employers who have failed to measure radon gas in the workplace following receipt of such a direction from the RPII; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16456/05]

Article 30(1) of the Radiological Protection Act 1991 (Ionising Radiation) Order 2000 requires employers to measure radon gas concentrations in their workplaces on being directed to do so by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII. On receipt of a direction, an employer has six months to comply with the direction. To date, the RPII has issued 2,670 directions to employers.

Failure to comply with the direction issued by the RPII is an offence under section 40 of the Radiological Protection Act 1991. Responsibility for undertaking prosecutions is a matter for the RPII and not for my Department. However, I understand that in a number of cases, where employers have failed to act following receipt of a direction, the process leading to prosecution has been put in train by the RPII. No case has yet been heard.

Environmental Policy.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

164 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the progress of the report to the EU Commission detailing the way in which Ireland is dealing with ozone depleting substances; the reason for the failure to produce the report by the deadline of 31 December 2001; the steps taken to ensure the completion of the report following the Commission’s warning that the Government could face financial penalties for ignoring the European court ruling on the issue of October 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16348/05]

Due to competing demands in the requirements of new EU environmental legislation, and the need to deploy available resources on a priority basis, it has not previously been possible to put in place the detailed arrangements which are necessary for the administration of EU Regulation 2037/2000 on substances that deplete the ozone layer. It is important to note that none of the substances controlled under the regulation are produced in this country.

Prior to the judgment of the European Court of Justice, steps had already been taken towards implementing the regulation. URS Ireland Limited were appointed as consultants at the end of 2003 by the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, on behalf of my Department to advise in this regard. Their final report has been received by the EPA and will be made available shortly. In the meantime, my Department is consulting with the EPA on appropriate administrative arrangements to fully implement the regulation and meet all reporting obligations.

Question No. 165 answered with QuestionNo. 88.

Local Authority Housing.

Enda Kenny

Question:

166 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will increase the 30% maximum discount to prospective tenant purchasers of local authority housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16448/05]

The terms of the present tenant purchase scheme strike a reasonable balance between the aspirations of existing tenants to own their homes and providing a fair level of discount having regard to the overall management of the local authority housing stock. While my Department has no immediate proposals to amend the scheme, the terms of the scheme are kept under continuing review.

Question No. 167 answered with QuestionNo. 89.
Question No. 168 answered with QuestionNo. 92.
Question No. 169 answered with QuestionNo. 88.
Question No. 170 answered with QuestionNo. 137.

Homeless Persons.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

171 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has plans to expand vastly the provision of move-on accommodation designed to enable homeless persons to move into independent living and to prevent vulnerable persons from becoming homeless; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16418/05]

The number of transitional and move-on accommodation units funded under section 10 of the Housing Act 1988 in various local authority areas in 2004 was 568. This does not include social housing units provided directly by local authorities or voluntary bodies or units sourced in the private sector by individuals, resettlement services, the housing access unit — operated by Threshold on behalf of the Homeless Agency — or specialist units in other Departments. A breakdown of these categories is not readily available in my Department.

In the context of the new housing action plans, renewed focus is now being placed on the provision of move-on and permanent accommodation together with the supports necessary to enable homeless persons to move into independent living. This accommodation may be provided by way of local authority housing or the voluntary sector, the capital funding for which is available from my Department. In addition, the introduction of the rental accommodation scheme will also enhance the availability of housing options for those homeless persons capable of independent living. I am confident that we will see a significant increase in assistance to homeless persons through a combination of these schemes in 2005 and subsequent years.

Funding available from my Department for recoupment to local authorities of costs incurred in the provision of accommodation and related services for homeless persons in 2005 is €51 million. This brings to €236 million the total funding available from my Department for this purpose since the implementation of the integrated strategy in 2000.

Water Pollution.

Shane McEntee

Question:

172 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the assurances he will give to communities in Laytown and Bettystown in County Meath that the quality of bathing water will be improved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16459/05]

Where bathing waters do not comply with the standards prescribed in relation to designated bathing waters by the Quality of Bathing Waters Regulations 1992, local authorities are required to take the necessary measures to ensure compliance with these standards.

Under the east Meath coastal sewerage scheme, which was funded under my Department's water services investment programme, municipal wastewater from Laytown, Bettystown and Mornington is transferred for treatment to the new wastewater plant in Drogheda. Since the new pumping stations, including the main pumping station to Drogheda were commissioned, I understand that there have been some mechanical difficulties with the pumps which have resulted in storm overflows coming into operation more frequently than intended. I understand that Meath County Council is addressing this issue.

Waste Management.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

173 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the underspend on waste management for each year since 2000 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16427/05]

The waste management investment foreseen in the National Development Plan 2000-2006 was based on the situation which obtained in 1999, when the plan was formulated. Since then, rapid change has occurred in the delivery of waste management services. In particular, a significant and vibrant private waste industry has rapidly formed and has begun to invest in waste infrastructure in a manner, and to a degree, not anticipated. This has permitted the public sector investment to be both reduced and targeted at key deliverables in the areas of provision of recycling infrastructure and enforcement of waste management legislation. Some €50 million from the environment fund has been allocated in this way since 2002 resulting in a doubling of the number of bring banks and civic amenity sites to 1,800 and 60, respectively.

In consequence, the prospective NDP investment of €825 million over the period to end 2006 was not drawn upon until 2002. In that year and in 2003 and 2004 the annual spend was €1.644 million, €8.212 million and €19.139 million, respectively. While further increases in expenditure can be anticipated, including in regard to the procurement of elements of heavy waste infrastructure by means of public private partnerships, it is inevitable that this will extend beyond the current NDP period and will need to be considered in the context of successor arrangements.

Question No. 174 answered with QuestionNo. 88.

Building Regulations.

Michael Noonan

Question:

175 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on whether his Department has protected the hollow block construction industry (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16439/05]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 58 of 13 April 2005, in which I explained the open and transparent procedure used for the formulation and adoption of building code standards. This guards against any sectoral interest having undue or improper influence on the regulatory process.

The building regulations lay down performance-based standards, and do not either mandate or prohibit the use of specific construction products-systems. Various competing products-systems demonstrating compliance with the regulations may lawfully be used; and the choice is left to the designers, builders and the market.

Part L of the building regulations deals with the conservation of fuel and energy in buildings. Stricter thermal performance and insulation standards apply to new dwellings commencing on or after 1 January 2003. Prior to the adoption of these standards, the building regulations advisory body, BRAB, commissioned a technical study by the energy research group, ERG, University College Dublin, of the impact of much higher thermal performance levels for new houses on the most common house construction types in Ireland. These were: twin leaf construction, using solid blocks; single leaf construction, using hollow blocks; and timber frame construction.

The results of the ERG-UCD study were published in November 2000 and showed that all commonly used house construction systems could be insulated to comply with the higher part L standards proposed. The study recommended minor adjustments in the u-values for roofs and walls. The recommended u-values were subsequently incorporated in the 2002 edition of technical guidance document L on how to comply with part L, published by my Department.

Departmental Capital Projects.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

176 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent of overrun on the various projects publicly advertised for tender by his Department in the past five years; if all such contracts have concluded on time and within cost; the exceptions and his plans regarding the way in which this matter will be dealt with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16473/05]

My Department directly commissions relatively few capital projects. Capital projects funded by my Department are, in the main, initiated by local authorities, and while my Department oversees and provides the policy framework for its capital programmes, the delivery of individual projects including any related procurement process is a matter for the implementing bodies concerned.

Information on the two major capital projects directly commissioned by my Department that come within the scope of the question is set out below. The original tender price of the contract for the introduction of an electronic voting and counting system was €31.49 million. This continuing project began as planned in January 2001 on the basis of a phased roll-out with review at each stage. To date total payments to the contractor amount to €38 million. The additional expenditure is due to the purchase of additional voting machines, programme reading units, ballot modules and the upgrading and retro-fitting of the voting machines used at the pilot polls.

The original tender price of the contract for footpath works at Diamond Hill, Connemara National Park, was €1.3 million. The project began as planned in October 2004 and is expected to be of 15 months duration. At this point it is not anticipated that there will be over-runs on either budget or time.

Question No. 177 answered with QuestionNo. 84.

Rural Housing.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

178 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of additional dwellings he expects to be built in rural areas as a result of the changes he recently announced to the planning guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16355/05]

It is not possible for my Department to forecast definitively how many additional dwellings will be built in rural areas as a result of the recently launched guidelines for planning authorities on sustainable rural housing. However, according to the latest statistics available, it is estimated that of the order of 15,000 one-off houses were built in rural areas in 2004. This equates to approximately 25% of the houses completed last year.

My Department has commissioned research from the National Spatial Research Institute at NUI Maynooth which will show, inter alia, at district electoral division level, the numbers of one-off houses constructed during different periods, the intensity of rural house building in different areas and the ratio of farm to non-farm one-off houses. This research is expected to be available shortly and will be of assistance in analysing the numbers, locations and intensity of house building in rural areas.

Waste Management.

John Deasy

Question:

179 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 42 of 4 November 2004, the reason he has stated subsequently that he will use the powers granted to him under the Waste Management Act to crack down on this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16458/05]

As stated in reply to Question No. 42 of 4 November 2004, waste enforcement activities in individual cases are primarily a matter for the local authorities concerned and-or the Office of Environmental Enforcement.

However, section 60 of the Waste Management Act 1996 authorises the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to give general directions to the Environmental Protection Agency and-or local authorities on waste management plans, waste licensing, the movement of waste and other matters. The powers conferred by section 60 do not extend to individual cases. The legislation precludes the Minister from exercising any power or control in relation to the performance in particular circumstances by the agency or a local authority of their waste management functions.

On 3 May 2005, I gave policy directions under section 60 which addressed action against illegal waste activity and movement of waste. As regards the former, the stated purpose of the direction was to encourage an intensification of action against illegal waste activity — which includes unauthorised disposal of waste, such as the abandonment, dumping or uncontrolled disposal of waste — and enhance the response of local authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency in ensuring the protection of the environment and human health and the prosecution of offenders. In determining the nature of such prosecutions regard was to be had to the elimination of the economic benefit deriving from the illegal activity.

I consider that this element of my recent policy direction was fully justified and consistent with the requirements of the legislation, while respecting the independence of the EPA and local authorities in relation to enforcement activity in particular cases.

Nuclear Plants.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

180 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the initiatives he has taken to advance the Sellafield issues; if he has taken steps at international level; if such steps include potential legal action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13548/05]

Seán Ryan

Question:

184 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the international legal action taken by Ireland with a view to securing the closure of the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16360/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 180 and 184 together.

The Government initiated international legal proceedings against the UK under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS, concerning the Sellafield MOX plant. The current position in relation to the litigation by Ireland under UNCLOS is that the arbitration remains suspended pending resolution of jurisdictional issues in the dispute, which were raised by the European Commission. These issues are now the subject of litigation between Ireland and the Commission before the European Court of Justice and formal pleadings have been exchanged. In November 2004, Ireland applied to the court for the holding of an oral hearing, and a court hearing of the case is expected later this year.

However, the tribunal in the UNCLOS case issued an order on 24 June 2003, after hearing an application by Ireland for provisional measures. The provisional measures award and orders recommended that Ireland and the UK enter into dialogue to improve co-operation and consultation between both Governments and report to the tribunal on specified dates. The most recent report to the tribunal was submitted on schedule by both parties on 30 November 2004 and the next report is due to be submitted by 31 May 2005.

In line with the obligation on both parties to improve co-operation and co-ordination arrangements, complex discussions, confidential to the tribunal and the parties pending outcomes, are at present continuing.

It was my stated intention to report on progress arising from this process at the appropriate instance and the signing of an agreement on notification and exchange of information arrangements between Ireland and the UK, on 10 December 2004, afforded both parties an opportunity to do so. The agreed package of measures announced is designed to address a wide range of issues related to nuclear safety and includes, inter alia, the facilitating of visits to Sellafield by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland and the Garda Síochána, provision of access for the institute to the UK’s radiation monitoring system, and a series of initiatives to develop and improve existing co-operation arrangements between both Governments.

In accordance with the commitment in the Government's programme for Government to use every legal and diplomatic opportunity to secure the orderly closure of Sellafield, I and my Department utilise all bilateral and multilateral opportunities to articulate Ireland's concerns about Sellafield. Considerable opportunities arise at international fora, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, the European Union and the OSPAR Commission, to advance our views on issues such as marine transport of nuclear waste, nuclear safety and radioactive discharges to the marine environment. All these issues have direct relevance to Ireland's concerns regarding Sellafield and I intend to continue Ireland's proactive engagement at these and other fora with a view to maximising support for our policies among like minded states.

Sustainable Energy Strategy.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

181 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has approved the draft action plan on the implementation of the EU directive on the energy performance of buildings by Sustainable Energy Ireland for publication; when he intends to publish the plan for public and industry consultation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16353/05]

The draft action plan for implementation of the EU energy performance of buildings directive in Ireland was published on 27 April 2005 by Sustainable Energy Ireland, SEI, on behalf of an interdepartmental working group. The group comprises senior officials from my Department, the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, and SEI. I have arranged for a copy of the draft action plan to be placed in the Oireachtas Library.

I have issued a press statement welcoming publication of the draft action plan and pointing out the public has three months, ending on 29 July 2005, to submit comments on the draft to SEI. I expressed the hope that this opportunity will be availed of by a wide cross-section of the general public, construction industry and the auctioneering and legal professions.

Noise Pollution.

Dan Boyle

Question:

182 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans to review and simplify the complaints procedure, legislation and regulation in the area of noise pollution from vehicle and building alarms. [16507/05]

There are various general legislative provisions applicable to noise nuisance, as well as a number of practical arrangements to reduce the instances of unnecessary noise from alarms and to tackle persistent incidence of such noise.

Section 107 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 provides local authorities with powers to require measures to be taken to prevent or limit noise. In the case of a faulty alarm, a local authority may serve a notice under this section. I am aware, for example, that intruder alarms gave rise to 7%, or 40 complaints, of the noise complaints made to Dublin City Council in 2003. Where the council receives a complaint, an advisory letter is issued to the owner-occupier advising of the terms of the current standards for intruder alarms systems.

A European standard for external intruder alarms has now replaced all national standards, and incorporates considerably stricter controls, regarding minimum and maximum duration for the sounding of alarms. The new limits are 90 seconds minimum and 15 minutes maximum duration from the sounding of external alarms in buildings. The alarms must cease automatically after the maximum duration. This standard has been applied by the NSAI for intruder alarms installed by certified installers since 1 March 2004. In addition, a new European standard is being developed for alarm monitoring centres, including a code of practice detailing the circumstances when the Garda Síochána should be alerted. When adopted, this should ensure that the reporting of alarms to the Garda Síochána is carried out in a consistent manner.

The Private Securities Services Act 2004 provides for a private security authority to license, control and supervise installers of security equipment, including alarm systems, and has powers to maintain and improve standards in the provision of security services.

The current and developing European standards, improved equipment and the co-operation of the installers certified by the NSAI, should together ensure that the incidence of false alarms and the failure of audible alarms to cut off will be significantly reduced.

The standard for car alarms is operated by car manufacturers and alarm installers, and covers both installation during manufacture and the retrospective fitting of alarms. The object of this standard, IEC 60839, is to ensure, among other things, a reduction in the number of false alarms.

Under the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 (Noise) Regulations 1994, a local authority or any person may seek an order in the District Court to have noise giving reasonable cause for annoyance abated. The procedures involved have been simplified to allow action to be taken without legal representation. A public information leaflet outlining the legal avenues available to persons experiencing noise nuisance is available from my Department or on www.environ.ie.

I have no plans to review existing legislation on noise from house or car alarm systems.

Anti-Poverty Strategy.

David Stanton

Question:

183 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the efforts he is making at local authority level to reduce poverty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11900/05]

The promotion of social inclusion is a key policy objective for Government. Local authorities have an important role in achieving this objective at local level, reflecting their democratic mandate, wide ranging service delivery functions and specific responsibilities in areas such as housing and community development. The Local Government Act 2001 identifies social inclusion as a core issue that should be reflected in local government activities. Local authorities also participate in delivering the national anti-poverty strategy, NAPS, and the national action plan against poverty and social exclusion 2003-05.

Local authorities are giving effect to their role and responsibilities in tackling poverty and promoting social inclusion through the implementation of a range of initiatives. For example, in line with guidelines issued by my predecessor in 2004 local authorities are now required to ensure social inclusion is properly addressed in their corporate plans and supporting annual operational plans. In 2002 pilot social inclusion units were established for a three year period in seven local authorities with funding of €4.1 million to date from my Department. I extended the programme for one more year to enable its future operation to be considered further. The local government anti-poverty learning network, representative of elected members and officials, was established in 2000 to provide a forum for sharing information and exchanging different local experiences and best practice on anti-poverty measures. Local authorities are supporting the RAPID programme, revitalising areas by planning investment and development, which is targeted at the most disadvantaged areas and under which such areas are prioritised for investment to tackle social exclusion. The cost to local authorities of employing the local co-ordinators in RAPID areas is met directly by my Department at a cost of €2.8 million per annum.

County and city development boards led by local government, and comprising social partners, State agencies and local development organisations operating locally, were established in 2000 to bring about the more co-ordinated delivery of public and local development services at local level. The boards have an important role in promoting social inclusion and tackling poverty at a local level. Each county or city local authority also has a community and enterprise unit which provides administrative back up to the board and supports the local authorities' expanded role in community development and social inclusion. Community and voluntary fora, established in each city and county in 2000 with funding of more than €1.2 million per annum from my Department, are also supported by local authorities. The fora are involved in promoting social inclusion and facilitating community representation on public sector structures.

Local authorities have a pivotal responsibility in providing and supporting the provision of social and affordable housing. Access to housing for low income groups is particularly important in tackling issues of poverty and social exclusion. More than €2 billion will be spent in 2005 on various housing measures. Local authorities' five-year action plans for social and affordable housing now provide the basis for delivery of housing measures in an integrated and holistic manner and in a manner which breaks cycles of dependency and disadvantage. The plans cover not only the capital investment in new housing units but also address regeneration of run down estates and policies on estate management and maintenance, all of which are key to developing good living environments for social housing tenants. I am satisfied that local authorities are now well placed, co-operating as necessary with other agencies, to meet the needs of the socially disadvantaged at local level.

Question No. 184 answered with QuestionNo. 180.

Waste Management.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

185 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the research and development on modern non-burn alternative treatments for hazardous and other waste; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16445/05]

I am aware of a number of waste management technologies being developed and tested. Some, such as mechanical biological treatment, involve pre-treatment of waste to produce refuse derived fuel, although it should be noted that the fuel is ultimately burned. There are also interesting prospects from gasification, thermolysis and pyrolysis. Waste cooking oils can be converted to fuel and at least one company in Ireland is working on this on a commercial basis. Stabilisation techniques are becoming recognised as an economic and environmentally sound way of dealing with certain types of hazardous wastes.

Overall, there is significant ongoing research and development on a variety of waste treatment technologies for many different types of waste. However, many of the non-burn treatments proposed for municipal waste are as yet unproven in terms of operations of scale and are not commercially available. My Department is monitoring technological developments and, as and when processes become environmentally and economically viable and reliable, I will consider how they can be incorporated into waste management policy at a national level.

Social and Affordable Housing.

Mary Upton

Question:

186 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress made with regard to the announcement on 24 February 2005 to swap State-owned lands for private sites on which housing development has already been completed to help fast track the provision of the 10,000 affordable houses promised under Sustaining Progress; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16332/05]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 77 of 13 April 2005. While the contract negotiations with the preferred bidder for the Harcourt Terrace site have been advanced by Dublin City Council, they have not yet been completed. It is hoped they will be brought to a successful conclusion soon.

Question No. 187 answered with QuestionNo. 88.
Question No. 188 answered with QuestionNo. 107.
Question No. 189 answered with QuestionNo. 97.

Local Authority Funding.

Jack Wall

Question:

190 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make funds available to Carrick-on-Suir Town Council to appoint a tenants liaison officer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16356/05]

An application from Carrick-on-Suir Town Council for funding under the housing management initiatives grant scheme is under consideration in my Department and the council will be notified of the decision as soon as possible.

Environmental Policy.

John Gormley

Question:

191 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures currently in place to gather and recover chlorofluorocarbons from discarded fridges and freezers in the State; the amount of CFCs recovered in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16511/05]

EU Regulation 2037/2000 on ozone depleting substances requires, inter alia, the recovery and destruction of CFCs from all refrigeration equipment, including domestic fridges and freezers, and the putting in place of detailed reporting arrangements on this. For reasons set out in the reply to Question No. 164 on today’s Order Paper, Ireland has not as yet completed the administrative arrangements which are necessary for the implementation of this regulation and it is not, therefore, possible to provide a comprehensive report on the recovery of CFCs from all such equipment. Arrangements for the full implementation of the regulation are being progressed by my Department in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency.

As regards domestic fridges and freezers, however, an all-island initiative for the recycling of domestic fridges and freezers was commenced in February 2004. This was developed by my Department in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment and in co-operation with local authorities on both sides of the Border. The scheme, in which 32 local authorities and 26 district councils are participating, involves the collection and recycling of waste fridges and freezers and the destruction of ozone depleting substances. Over 5,500 kg of CFCs were recovered in 2004 from fridges and freezers collected in the South as part of the scheme and the equivalent figure to date in 2005 is almost 1,800 kg. The contract period for the scheme in the South will end on the 12 August 2005 coinciding with the coming into operation of EU Directive 2002/96/EC on waste electrical and electronic equipment, which will be implemented in full from 13 August 2005. From that date, the costs of the collection, treatment, recovery and recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment including waste fridges and freezers will be a producer responsibility.

Question No. 192 answered with QuestionNo. 118.

Planning Issues.

Enda Kenny

Question:

193 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the Law Society’s report, Discriminatory Planning Conditions: the Case for Reform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16447/05]

I am aware of the recent report by the Law Society's reform committee entitled Discriminatory Planning Conditions: the Case for Reform. Section 39 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and corresponding earlier planning legislation provides that a condition may be attached to a grant of planning permission for a house, specifying that the house must be occupied by persons of a particular class or description, with provision to that effect to be incorporated in an agreement under section 47 of the Act. In effect, occupancy conditions are applied in certain circumstances as a mechanism to facilitate a positive approach to applications from persons who are part of or linked to certain rural communities in circumstances where a different application might have to be refused.

In addressing the issue of occupancy conditions, the recently launched guidelines for planning authorities on sustainable rural housing state such conditions are only appropriate in certain cases such as permissions being granted to persons with roots or links to areas close to the larger cities and towns under strong pressure for urban generated development and in the case of permissions being granted to permanent residents in an area where there is an over-concentration of holiday or second home development. The guidelines use illustrative examples to demonstrate that people who fall into the category of having local roots or links would include people who have spent much of their lives in rural areas and are building their first homes, farmers and their families, returning emigrants, people involved in forestry, inland waterway and marine related occupations, teachers in rural schools and other people whose work is predominantly in rural areas. This list is not intended to be exhaustive and planning authorities are asked to carry out their own assessment of the rural housing needs to be catered for in the areas mentioned, taking account of local conditions and planning issues and to add to the list as appropriate.

I am aware that in administering the planning code, planning authorities are required to act in a manner that is consistent with the norms of administrative and constitutional law, the European Convention on Human Rights law, EU law and equality law. It is my intention to monitor the effectiveness of the guidelines and in that context I will continue to bear in mind the concerns of the Law Society's recent report.

EU Directives.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

194 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of his Department’s implementation of the nitrates directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16437/05]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

286 Ms Enright asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason the classification of County Donegal was altered in the latest nitrates directive action plan submitted to the European Commission; the scientific basis for the decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16438/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 194 and 286 together.

The nitrates directive was adopted by the EU in 1991 with the objective of reducing water pollution caused or induced by nitrates from agricultural sources. The European Court of Justice delivered a judgment on 11 March 2004 that Ireland was non-compliant with the directive. The main finding was that Ireland had not fulfilled its obligations under the directive by reason of failure to establish and implement an action programme to protect water quality against pollution by farming. Following extensive consultations with the main farming organisations and other interested parties, a nitrates action programme was submitted to the European Commission on 22 October 2004, a copy of which is available in the Oireachtas Library.

In response, the Commission issued a letter of formal notice — an Article 228 letter — of further legal infringement action against Ireland on 22 December 2004. This letter of notice indicated that the Commission did not regard the October 2004 action programme as being complete or compliant with the judgment of the court. It was the view of the Commission that the action programme needed to be strengthened in certain respects, for example, to extend the prohibited periods for landspreading livestock manure and to require additional storage capacity for livestock manure. In addition, it was the view of the Commission that the minimum storage period of 16 weeks then proposed for County Donegal was inappropriate.

Following a series of discussions with the European Commission and consideration of the issues involved by Government, a substantive response to the Article 228 letter was sent to the Commission on 20 April 2005. My Department, in consultation with the Department of Agriculture and Food, is revising the nitrates action programme and a copy will be submitted to the Commission shortly.

Question No. 195 answered with QuestionNo. 134.

Health Service Allowances.

John Ellis

Question:

196 Mr. Ellis asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department will sanction a mobility grant for a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim; and the reason for the delay in the sanctioning of same. [16583/05]

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 payment of and entitlement to the mobility allowance. 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.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Martin Ferris

Question:

197 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the contingency plans which will be in place at Kerry General Hospital’s accident and emergency department over the summer months to cope with the increase in admissions at the department (details supplied). [16585/05]

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 Kerry General Hospital. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief officer for the executive's southern area to respond directly to the Deputy about the issue raised.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Dan Neville

Question:

198 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the practice whereby five persons are paid between €50 and €80 per week for working approximately 30 hours at a training centre (details supplied) in Dublin 24 under HSE supervision will be examined. [16586/05]

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

It is possible that the individuals referred to by the Deputy may be in sheltered work or sheltered occupational services rather than rehabilitative training. Sheltered occupational services for people with disabilities are managed in the main by voluntary organisations, with financial support from the Health Service Executive. Such services usually comprise a combination of structured occupational activities and support services for people with disabilities who require a significant amount of flexibility, time and personal support.

The status of people in sheltered services or sheltered-supported employment is being considered by my Department in consultation with the Departments of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Finance.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

199 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of psychotherapists in the health services for each of the years between 2000 and 2004 and to date in 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16587/05]

Psychological therapies, including psychotherapy, are currently provided within the health service by a range of health professionals. As there is no national grade of psychotherapist within the public health service, the health service personnel census does not capture the specific employment information requested by the Deputy.

The Deputy will wish to know, however, that a working group was established by the former health board CEO group to examine the role of psychotherapy in the health service in order to assess the requirement for the future. The report of the working group, which provides advice on how to progress many issues, including the development of psychotherapy and counselling services on a national basis, is currently being finalised by the Health Service Executive.

Hospital Services.

John Perry

Question:

200 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Question No. 76 of 14 April 2005, if a person (details supplied) in County Sligo will be called for treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16588/05]

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 Sligo, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive's north western area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

201 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if specific funding is given to mental health services which deal with young persons in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16589/05]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

202 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the funding which is given to mental health services in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16590/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 201 and 202 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 mental health services in County Laois. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive's midland area to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Paul McGrath

Question:

203 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will be admitted for surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16591/05]

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 Westmeath, my Department has requested the chief officer of the executive's midland area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Paul McGrath

Question:

204 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons who have presented at the accident and emergency department at Tallaght Hospital on each of the past 21 days; and the effect these persons have had on the normal admissions at the hospital. [16592/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

205 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that all elective surgery has been cancelled at Tallaght Hospital since 10 April 2005; the number of procedures and patients so postponed or cancelled; if she has put in place a protocol to prevent a repeat of this crisis situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16593/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 204 and 205 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 Adelaide and Meath Hospital, incorporating the National Children's Hospital, Tallaght, are provided under an arrangement with the executive. My Department has, therefore, requested the chief officer for the executive's eastern regional area to examine the issues raised and to reply to the Deputy directly.

EU Directives.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

206 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the full provisions of EU Directive 93/16/EEC, with regard to contracts under the GMS scheme, apply in respect of doctors who have been in general practice here for several years prior to the introduction of this directive; if long experience in general practice can provide an exemption from the vocational training requirement of this directive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16601/05]

The application of EU Directive 93/16/EEC, as it effects the general medical services, GMS, scheme, was agreed with health boards in 1994 following consultation with the representatives of the Medical Council, the Irish College of General Practitioners and the Irish Medical Organisation. With effect from 1 January 1995, doctors entering the GMS scheme are required to have graduated from a recognised vocational training scheme or to possess acquired rights under the directive. Certificates of acquired rights may be issued by the Medical Council to applicants who satisfy various criteria including previous experience in general practice.

Industrial Relations.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

207 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will provide the necessary moneys to honour the Labour Court recommendation (details supplied) concerning sponsorship towards a higher diploma in public health nursing for 32 claimants but which as yet has not been awarded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16608/05]

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 person social services. This includes responsibility for the funding of industrial relations settlements involving health service staff. Accordingly, my Department has requested the acting national director for human resources at the HSE to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Respite Services.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

208 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Brothers of Charity in Galway may not have sufficient funding to provide respite services for children reaching the age of 12 on or before 6 March due to a reduction in the budget available to Galway children respite services; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that one child (details supplied) needs such a service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16609/05]

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 funding of respite 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.

Nursing Home Charges.

Michael Lowry

Question:

209 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the date by which she and the HSE expect the first repayments under the national repayment scheme for long-stay charges to begin. [16620/05]

The Government has agreed the key elements of a scheme for the repayment of long stay charges for publicly funded long term residential care. All those who were charged and are alive and the estates of all those who were charged and died in the six years prior to 9 December 2004 will have the charges repaid in full. The scheme will not provide for repayments to the estates of those who died more than six years ago. The repayments will include both the actual charge paid and an amount to take account of inflation using the CPI since the time the person involved was charged.

Legislation will be brought before the Oireachtas as soon as possible to provide a clear legal framework for the scheme. The legislation will reflect the detailed design of a scheme drawn up by the company chosen by tender to assist the Health Service Executive with the repayment scheme. The objective is to initiate repayments later this year.

Nursing Home Regulations.

Michael Lowry

Question:

210 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the regulations which govern private and public run nursing homes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16621/05]

Regulation of the private nursing home sector is governed by the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 and regulations made under this Act. The regulations provide for the registration and inspection of private nursing homes and also for the payment of subvention to those patients in private nursing homes who qualify on both dependency and means grounds.

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

Cancer Incidence.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

211 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if data are available concerning the annual death rate from cancer in County Donegal; the number of male and female deaths from cancer; the types of cancer prevalent in the county; if there is any divergence from the norm; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16622/05]

Statistics on cancer incidences and cancer deaths are collated by the National Cancer Registry. My Department has asked the director of the registry to examine this matter and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Survivors of Symphysiotomy.

John Gormley

Question:

212 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will report on the assistance given to date to Survivors of Symphysiotomy; the reason such assistance has not been forthcoming; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16634/05]

My predecessor, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, met with the group, Survivors of Symphysiotomy, in late 2003 and agreed that a range of measures would be put in place to support it. My Department is advised by the Health Service Executive that the position in this regard is as follows.

The former health boards and the relevant voluntary hospitals have appointed liaison officers, who have met and continue to meet with patients that have undergone symphysiotomy to discuss their health care needs. An exercise was conducted, in conjunction with the Survivors of Symphysiotomy group, to profile patients in order to assist in formulating a needs assessment for each individual. An assessment service for patients has recently been established at Cappagh Hospital, Dublin. This service is provided by a multidisciplinary team which undertakes an assessment of patients, following which, recommendations for care pathways are discussed with individual patients.

Independent clinical advice is available, on request, through the liaison personnel, to patients who have undergone symphysiotomy. This has already been availed of by a number of members of Survivors of Symphysiotomy and appropriate follow-up has been arranged. Independent counselling services are available to patients where requested. Information packs have been made available to general practitioners and relevant health care personnel. Medical cards have been granted, based on medical grounds, to Survivors of Symphysiotomy patients who do not have such eligibility. The Health Service Executive is finalising arrangements for the issuing of replacement medical cards to the group which will contain a special patient identifier that will allow for the fast-tracking of patients requiring hospital appointments and treatments, together with the provision of certain non-GMS items recommended for patients by their GP and-or consultant.

My Department is advised that, following a number of meetings with the Survivors of Symphysiotomy group, it was agreed to defer the setting-up of a helpline. The provision of an information line is subject to active consideration by the Health Service Executive. It is evident from the foregoing that considerable progress has been made in putting in place a comprehensive range of support services for patients who have undergone symphysiotomy. The executive will continue to oversee the provision of necessary support services for this patient group.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

213 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the chief officer of the Health Service Executive north-western area, and the chief executive officer of the Health Service Executive will respond to a complaint made by a person (details supplied) in County Donegal and come to a resolution on this matter; and if she will investigate the proposal of an independent inquiry. [16687/05]

The Deputy will appreciate that I can have no function in this matter as responsibility rests in this instance with the Health Service Executive — north-western area. My Department has therefore asked the chief officer to investigate this matter and I have been advised that an update has already issued to the Deputy on this issue.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

214 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the CASA respite house in Malahide was forced to close; and if it will receive the maximum funding in 2005 for persons with disabilities. [16688/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive 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 and funding of respite services. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the executive's northern area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Finian McGrath

Question:

215 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons with disabilities who are on waiting lists for day care, respite and residential care at St. Michael’s House, Dublin 9; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16689/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive 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 matter referred to by the Deputy. 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 Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

216 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that many hospitals in the State, including Waterford Regional Hospital, Cork University Hospital and Letterkenny General Hospital, do not meet her Department’s guidelines that cancer chemotherapy be administered in designated inpatient and day care facilities, which are properly staffed and resourced; the steps she intends to take to achieve these guidelines; and when she will take these steps; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16690/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive 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 interim chief executive officer of the Health Service Executive to investigate the matters raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Flood Relief.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

217 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if he has received communication from Kildare County Council regarding the possible implementation of a scheme to alleviate flooding in the Prosperous, Allenwood, Timahoe, Coill Dubh areas of County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16717/05]

No communication has been received in the Office of Public Works from Kildare County Council on the possible implementation of a flood relief scheme in the Prosperous, Allenwood, Timahoe and Coill Dubh areas of County Kildare.

Architectural Heritage.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

218 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the conditions adjacent to Connolly’s Folly monument, Maynooth, County Kildare with particular reference to its deteriorating condition; his proposals to carry out repairs, improvements, reinstatements or restoration in or around the monument; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16719/05]

There is no change in the position outlined in my reply on 13 April 2005 to the Deputy's question on this issue. As I have indicated in previous replies, the Folly is constantly monitored and, in the event of essential repairs being deemed necessary, they will be carried out. A clean up of litter is being organised and the provision of CCTV is being actively pursued.

Flood Relief.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

219 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the position in regard to the permanent alleviation of flooding at Mill Lane, Leixlip, with particular reference to discussions between his Department and Kildare County Council. [16723/05]

The Office of Public Works received a report in April 2005 from Kildare County Council on flood alleviation measures in Leixlip, County Kildare. The Commissioners of Public Works are still considering this report among the many other such reports received from local authorities.

Tax Collection.

Martin Ferris

Question:

220 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Finance if a company (details supplied) has paid any income tax in this State since 1959; if so, when it commenced to do so; and the amount of revenue involved. [16547/05]

The particular tax arrangements for the company concerned date from an agreement reached in 1959, a copy of which agreement was laid before the House at the time. The scope and status of the agreement was covered in full by the Committee of Public Accounts in its 2001 report on the appropriation accounts, etc. I refer the Deputy to paragraphs 4.9 to 4.13 on pages 45 and 46 of the report.

Freedom of Information.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

221 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance if he will designate the Higher Education Training Awards Council as a body subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1997; when new institutions will be added; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16548/05]

The consideration of public bodies being brought under the Freedom of Information Act during 2005 will be finalised within the coming weeks. Pending publication of the details of the extension, I do not propose to make any further statements about individual bodies in this regard.

Pension Provisions.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

222 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance the status of outline proposals made for the enhancement of pensions for retired public servants on low incomes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16602/05]

The proposal to enhance the pension entitlement of retired public servants on low pay is at an advanced stage. Discussions are ongoing with the public service unions. These discussions will be completed successfully and the relevant circular will issue in the near future to implement the new arrangements. The proposals will benefit public service employees who are on full pay related social insurance and whose pensions are integrated with a social welfare pension. The proposal under consideration will benefit those whose income is below three and one third times the old age contributory pension. The application of the improved terms will be retrospective to 1 April 2004.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

223 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance if persons aged 65 years and over who remain in employment and wish to continue to make additional voluntary pension contributions are entitled to avail of tax relief on their additional voluntary contributions on the same terms as persons aged under 65 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16603/05]

The rules governing the approval by the Revenue Commissioners of retirement benefit schemes, such as occupational pension schemes, provide, among other things, that the basic benefit under such schemes must be a pension for the employee at a specified age not earlier than 60 years of age and not later than 70 years of age. It is a condition of approval that individual occupational pension scheme rules specify the age at which members will normally retire. In practice, this is typically set at 65 years.

An individual occupational pension scheme member who remains in service after reaching his or her normal retirement age, say 65 years, may continue paying contributions, including additional voluntary contributions, up until the date of his or her actual retirement, subject to the maximum retirement age of 70 years of age. Tax relief on such contributions is subject to the age related percentage limit of 30% of salary and annual earnings cap of €254,000 as applies to those over 50 years of age.

Under current rules, the maximum pension that an individual can receive at normal retirement age is two thirds of final remuneration. Part of this may be taken as a tax-free lump sum up to one and a half times final remuneration. However, not all occupational pension schemes provide the maximum pension benefits allowed by the Revenue Commissioners and, even where they do, an individual scheme member may not have the requisite service to draw maximum benefits. Where this is the case, a scheme member may, depending on the rules of the scheme, top up the occupational pension benefits by additional voluntary contributions. These may be used to increase the basic pension or to provide benefits based on non-pensionable pay; increase the tax-free lump sum; provide for, or increase, cost of living provisions on benefits; increase death in service provisions; provide for the social welfare offset in the case of a co-ordinated scheme; and provide for periods of service while not a scheme member.

The benefits payable under the occupational pension scheme and the additional benefits funded through additional voluntary contributions cannot exceed the maximum permissible Revenue benefits.

Tax Yield.

Phil Hogan

Question:

224 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance the number of requests for balancing statements made by PAYE taxpayers since 1 January 2005; the number of such requests that have resulted in a repayment of tax to taxpayers; the average amount repaid; the total sum paid to date; the anticipated total sum to be repaid to PAYE taxpayers in respect of overpaid tax by 31 December 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16628/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested is not readily available but the Revenue Commissioners will source as much information as possible and forward this to the Deputy within a matter of weeks.

Third Level Institutions.

Enda Kenny

Question:

225 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if he will report on the implications under equality legislation, or any other implications, for staff in the public sector if his Department sanctions an extension of the term of office of a person (details supplied); if he plans to request an official reply from the governing body of the third level institution concerned before making a decision regarding the extension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16631/05]

As the Deputy will be aware, extending the term of office in the case referred to requires an amendment to the pension scheme of the institution concerned. Such an amendment requires the approval of the HEA together with the consent of the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Education and Science. A proposal to extend the term of office is being considered by my Department in conjunction with the Department of Education and Science. This consideration is based on a request from the HEA which has already approved the amendment proposed by the institution concerned.

In taking my decision I will be looking at all the relevant factors, including the equality aspect. I do not propose to request an official reply from the governing body of the institution concerned. Any direct contact with the institution would be appropriate to the HEA, which in turn comes under the aegis of the Minister for Education and Science.

Decentralisation Programme.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

226 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding a site selection for decentralisation for the Department of Social and Family Affairs offices to Buncrana in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16691/05]

The Office of Public Works has agreed terms, subject to contract, for the acquisition of a suitable site for a decentralised office in Buncrana for the Department of Social and Family Affairs The legal aspects of the acquisition are currently being progressed.

Tax Collection.

Finian McGrath

Question:

227 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if urgent assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 with tax issues; and if the Revenue Commissioners and the Companies Registration Office will assist this person with the complaint. [16692/05]

The Revenue Commissioners have informed me that this taxpayer has approached them with information concerning suspected undisclosed income in the case of another taxpayer or taxpayers. Because of the requirements of taxpayer confidentiality, the Revenue Commissioners are unable to advise this person of the outcome of any investigations made on foot of the information supplied.

I am informed by the Companies Registration Office that it is unaware of any complaint which this person might have but is willing to assist him in relation to any complaints that fall within the remit of the office. The office can be contacted by phone on its Lo-call number 1890 220226 or in writing at 14 Parnell Square, Dublin 1.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

228 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he will consider increasing the threshold for the transfer of property to a niece or nephew under the capital acquisitions tax code, or relaxing the conditions under which a niece or nephew can obtain favoured status under the terms of that tax, in order to encourage mutual support within the extended family; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16693/05]

For the purpose of gift and inheritance tax, the relationship between the person who provided the gift or inheritance, the disponer, and the person who received the gift or inheritance, the beneficiary, determines the maximum tax free threshold, known as the group threshold. Three such thresholds exist, which are indexed by reference to the consumer price index. The indexed group thresholds for 2003, 2004 and 2005 are set out in the table below.

Group

Relationship to Disponer

Group Threshold

2003 (after indexation)

2004 (after indexation)

2005 (after indexation)

A

Son/Daughter

441,198

456,438

466,725

B

Parent/Brother/Sister/Niece/Nephew/Grandchild

44,120

45,644

46,673

C

Relations other than Group A or B

22,060

22,822

23,336

The current threshold for gifts-inheritances made to a niece or nephew of the disponer is €46,673, and where the value of the gift or inheritance is greater than this, a single of rate of 20% applies to the excess. Favourite niece-nephew relief is available to certain nephews and nieces who take a gift or an inheritance of a business or farm from the disponer. If the niece-nephew qualifies for the relief, he or she is treated as a child of the disponer for CAT purposes, and instead of a group B threshold, currently €46,673, is entitled to a group A threshold, currently €466,725, for the business or farm assets only. This means that if a gift or inheritance includes business-farm and non-business/farm assets the group B threshold will apply to the non-business/farm assets and the group A threshold will apply to the business-farm assets.

In order to qualify for the relief, the applicant must be a child of a brother or sister of the disponer, so that a nephew-niece in law will not qualify. He-she must also have worked substantially on a full-time basis for the disponer for a minimum of five years ending on the date of the gift or inheritance. This relief is intended to take account of the close working relationship that exists between certain nieces-nephews and their uncles-aunts. It is not intended to apply generally to all gifts or inheritances taken by nieces-nephews, and applying the relief to all such disposals would run counter to the Government's policy of broadening the tax base in order to keep direct tax rates low.

Child Care Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

229 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works plans to open a crèche in the Northside Civic Centre; if a contract for the operation of this crèche has been negotiated; if so, the identity of the proposed operator; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16694/05]

The crèche in the Northside Civic Centre was intended to provide child care for staff working in the centre. There is not sufficient demand to use it for this purpose. The Commissioners of Public Works will place advertisements in the papers shortly for proposals from parties interested in operating this crèche.

Foreshore Licences.

Finian McGrath

Question:

230 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position regarding the proposed land reclamation of 52 acres in Dublin Bay; if Dublin Bay will remain the property of all Irish citizens; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16540/05]

Dublin Port Company applied in March 2002 for ministerial consent for the reclamation of 21 hectares of foreshore in Dublin Bay. As private ownership of the foreshore in question was claimed, the application was made in accordance with the provisions of sections 10 and 13, as amended, of the Foreshore Act 1933.

Issues arose concerning proof of ownership of this area of foreshore and these are being actively pursued by the State's legal services, acting on behalf of the Department, with Dublin Port Company's legal advisers. The ownership question is a material issue in terms of the form of consent that would be required for the proposed reclamation and the factors that I am required to consider in making a decision on the application.

The proposed development will also require planning permission, and Dublin Port Company has been advised that it is more appropriate that the necessary consent under the planning process be obtained before the foreshore application is dealt with. This is in accordance with normal practice where a substantial development wholly or partly on the foreshore requires planning permission.

Dublin City Council, which is the appropriate planning authority for the area, has been advised that the Minister does not object to the making of a planning application for the proposed development. However, it was made clear that there was no commitment on the Minister's part to grant the necessary foreshore consents for the development and that the application would have to be fully considered.

Broadcasting Legislation.

Mary Upton

Question:

231 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that inappropriate viewing channels can be accessed from a television provider (details supplied); the action he intends to take to facilitate barring of such channels within a household; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16561/05]

Content broadcast on RTE's television channels, along with channels licensed by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, is subject to Irish codes and rules for television programmes. There are, however, many other channels available to Irish viewers on pay television platforms. Such channels are subject to the regulations of the country from which they originate and are not subject to Irish regulation.

In a digital environment, channels are accessed through the use of an electronic programme guide. It is the norm that such guides categorise programmes by genre to help viewers find the type of programme they wish to watch. Pay television operators sometimes provide their customers with tools for controlling access to certain channels. The pay television service provider referred to by the Deputy operates from the UK and as a result the UK authorities regulate its operations. I have no role in the matter.

Telecommunications Services.

Joan Burton

Question:

232 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his Department’s attention has been drawn to the inadequate broadband service to the Palmerstown area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16604/05]

I understand that the telephone exchanges serving the Palmerstown area have been enabled for the provision of DSL broadband, and a number of service providers are marketing broadband in the area.

While the principal broadband technology in use in Ireland is digital subscriber line, DSL, which is also the situation in most European countries, there are technical limitations to the service, such as line quality and distance from the exchange. Even though a line may be in an enabled exchange it may not be suitable for DSL broadband. If a telephone line cannot carry DSL, other technologies may be considered, such as wireless, cable modem or satellite. My Department's website, www.broadband.gov.ie, lists a number of service providers who offer broadband in the Palmerstown area, including nine DSL, one wireless and 11 satellite service providers. The website also gives comparative details of prices and service levels.

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market. Recent press announcements by some of the major service providers indicate a growing level of competition in the broadband market, and a considerable increase in availability. I expect these trends to continue.

Departmental Reviews.

Michael Lowry

Question:

233 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he will have completed his review of a report (details supplied); when he will make a decision on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16624/05]

I cannot forecast when a decision will be made. While the report I am reviewing covered a wide range of complex and difficult issues, including legal matters, there are also some further questions and consultations required as part of the deliberation process. I will make a decision when I am satisfied all the relevant information is available and necessary consultations and legal clarification completed. There are issues of broad public policy involved, and I will announce a decision following finalisation of my review of all the issues.

Post Office Network.

Michael Lowry

Question:

234 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will bring the 400 rural post offices which are considered non-viable under the ambit of a public service obligation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16625/05]

The Government and An Post share the objective of maintaining a viable nationwide post office network through a strategy of maximising the volume of public and private sector business handled by the network. Notwithstanding the commercial remit of An Post, there is clear Government recognition of the social benefits of maintaining a nationwide post office network. Accordingly, An Post development strategies for the network will continue to take full account of these social benefits.

Middle East Peace Process.

Finian McGrath

Question:

235 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding developments in the Middle East, particularly the future of the Palestinian people. [16701/05]

The Government, bilaterally and within the framework of the EU and UN, is continuing its efforts to encourage progress in the Middle East peace process, leading to two states, Israel and Palestine, living at peace within secure and recognised borders. We are ready, in concert with our EU partners, to assist the parties to the conflict in their efforts to move forward on the basis of the roadmap. Ireland, through its membership of the European Union, and its relations with Palestine, Israel, the United States, Arab and other key partners will strongly support early action, led by the quartet, to advance the implementation of the roadmap.

At its meeting on 25 April, the General Affairs and External Relations Council called on both sides to renew their efforts to implement the commitments made at the Sharm el Sheikh summit. It expressed its concern on issues of increased settlement-building and the continued construction of the separation barrier, and reiterated that no party should take measures which might prejudice the outcome of negotiations on a final settlement. The Council welcomed recent statements by the US, concerning a freeze on settlement activity. The Council recalled its support for Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, and stressed the importance of accelerating reforms within the Palestinian Authority, while welcoming recent measures to reorganise the Palestinian security services. The appointment of James Wolfensohn as the quartet's envoy for disengagement was welcomed, and the Council expressed its support for his mission.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

236 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when a new swimming pool programme will be put in place. [16626/05]

The closing date for receipt of applications under the current round of the local authority swimming pool programme was 31 July 2000, and the priority up to now has been to support the 55 projects submitted for consideration. Of these 55 projects, 25 have been allocated grant aid, with 15 completed and ten at construction stage. The remaining 30 projects are at various stages in the process, with six at tender stage, 15 at contract documents stage and nine at preliminary report stage.

The question of re-opening the programme will be considered following an expenditure review of the programme which is being carried out by my Department and is expected to be completed later this year. The review is examining issues such as how the programme has worked to date, the benefits which have accrued to the areas where pools have been built and what amendments, if any, are required to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of the programme.

Departmental Funding.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

237 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if, from the moneys voted by his Department, he has provided funds directly to arts, sport or tourism related projects in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16703/05]

My Department provides direct funding to projects under the sports capital programme, the local authority swimming pools programme and the ACCESS scheme. It does not provide direct funding to tourism projects. From January 2004 to date, over €95 million has been provided under the sports capital programme, over €18 million under the local authority swimming pools programme and over €8 million under the ACCESS scheme.

In addition, capital funding of €1 million has been provided in respect of the retention amount on the construction of the National Aquatic Centre at Abbotstown, and €1.75 million has been provided to the Lansdowne Road stadium redevelopment project during the same period.

State Airports.

Simon Coveney

Question:

238 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Transport if, in view of the commitment given that the new Cork and Shannon Airport Authorities would be debt free, his Department is reneging on that undertaking (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16560/05]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Cork Airport Authority was incorporated in September last following the passing of the State Airports Act 2004. The authority has been given the responsibility of preparing to assume full responsibility for the management and development of the airport. The authority also has responsibility for carrying out functions delegated to it, on an agreed basis, by the Dublin Airport Authority.

The 2004 Act provides a framework for a phased approach to the transfer of assets to the Shannon and Cork Airport Authorities which allows for one of the new airport authorities to be vested first, with the second being vested once sufficient distributable reserves have been built up within the Dublin Airport Authority. A key part of the preparatory work in advance of a separation of Cork Airport from Dublin Airport Authority is the preparation of a comprehensive business plan by the Cork Airport Authority. Business plans are also being prepared by the Dublin and Shannon Airport Authorities. The 2004 Act requires that both I and the Minister for Finance must be satisfied as to the state of operational and financial readiness of the Shannon and Cork Airport Authorities, including business planning, before the assets of each of those airports are vested in their respective authorities.

The business planning process will provide a basis for determining the most feasible options for carrying through the restructuring. As required under the State Airports Act, the Deputy can be assured that Cork's ability to operate on a fully commercial basis will be fully assessed as part of this process and will be factored into the decisions made.

Road Network.

Richard Bruton

Question:

239 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on the restrictions which are placed on the use of moneys collected from parking fees by councils; if councils are not permitted to use these moneys for road maintenance; and if so, if he will lift this restriction (details supplied). [16699/05]

Section 36 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 provides the legislative basis for road authorities to make by-laws for the operation of fee based on-street parking schemes. Under the section, the manner in which parking fees can be disposed of is a matter for the determination of the elected members of the authority.

Irish Language.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

240 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans to expand pre-school education through Irish (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16576/05]

My Department supports the development and progress of Irish language pre-school education outside of Gaeltacht regions through Foras na Gaeilge by way of assistance to Forbairt Naíonraí Teoranta, FNT, and, within Gaeltacht regions, through Údarás na Gaeltachta.

In the case of Údarás na Gaeltachta, support is provided to more than 70 naíonraí, which operate in Gaeltacht areas since the establishment of the first Gaeltacht naíonra in 1970. In 2004 Comhar Naíonraí na Gaeltachta was set up by Údarás and it provides support to both new and existing naíonraí within the Gaeltacht areas. Údarás also operates a funding scheme, pobal, cultúr agus teanga, which offers support for a range of initiatives coming from the local community, including initiatives that complement the main naíonra funding. Údarás funding for the naíonraí was increased from €327,552 in 2002 to €904,007 in 2004 with payments of €300,000 from an estimated budget of €950,000 made to date this year.

FNT, which was established in 2003, has responsibility for pre-schooling through the medium of Irish throughout the island of Ireland with the exception of the Gaeltacht areas. The board of FNT has a wide range of representatives from organisations, North and South. FNT provides financial support and an advisory service to naíonraí. FNT, in conjunction with interested parties, is preparing a strategic plan for the organisation and for Irish language pre-schooling in general.

Rural Development.

John Ellis

Question:

241 Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the funding allocated by his Department for co-operation on rural development with Northern Ireland. [16556/05]

I take it the Deputy is inquiring about funding of such programmes under the aegis of my Department, in conjunction, where appropriate, with Northern Ireland departments. Under the INTERREG III Ireland-Northern Ireland Programme 2000-2006, funding of €14 million is being provided for rural development measures over the period of the programme. Funding of €5.7 million is also being provided for such measures under the PEACE II Programme 2000-2004. These amounts comprise both EU and national contributions. In addition, specific allocations totalling €1.937 million have been put in place to date for cross-Border rural development projects under Leader+ and the area-based rural development initiative.

Rural Social Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

242 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will remove an anomaly (details supplied) that exists in regard to the rural social scheme; if so, when. [16557/05]

A review of the rural social scheme is being undertaken by my Department. This review includes an examination of the eligibility criteria.

Grant Payments.

John Perry

Question:

243 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a decision will be made on the single payment force majeure for a person (details supplied) in County Sligo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16549/05]

The person named, having been notified that the circumstances outlined by him did not satisfy the criteria for force majeure— exceptional circumstances under Article 40 of Council Regulation EC No. 1782/2003, submitted an appeal to the independent single payment appeals committee. Following a full examination of the circumstances outlined in the appeal, the committee made a recommendation and a letter issued to the person on 30 March 2005. The findings of the committee were that the original decision taken by my Department should be upheld. I am arranging for my officials to re-examine this case and my Department will contact the person regarding the outcome of the review.

Animal Health Strategy.

John Ellis

Question:

244 Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the funding allocated by her Department for co-operation on animal health with Northern Ireland. [16550/05]

There is no specific allocation within my Department's budget for co-operation on animal health with Northern Ireland. Activities associated with North-South co-operation relate to the general animal health and welfare, disease control or animal identification policies of the Department and are, therefore, absorbed into the overall budgets for these activities. For example, the two Administrations worked successfully in a co-ordinated manner to address the foot and mouth disease crisis and have since developed co-ordinated contingency arrangements in the event of future outbreaks of FMD. The cost of development of these co-ordinated arrangements has been absorbed in the overall cost of revision of the FMD contingency plan. Similarly, with regard to BSE, testing and results data on BSE surveillance are exchanged as a matter of routine as are the results of BSE reported passive cases. However the associated costs are not identified specifically in the budget for control of BSE.

The programme of work on co-operation and development of a common animal health strategy for the island has been taken forward by a series of working groups at official level, which have met at regular intervals over the past three years. The main achievements to date are the development of a co-ordinated and complementary approach towards import policies and portal controls at points of entry to the island and the convergence of policies on tuberculosis and brucellosis, animal identification and scrapie.

In addition, there has been a significant deepening and strengthening of co-operation, information exchange and ongoing co-ordination between the two Administrations on a variety of issues such as FMD, BSE and cross-Border fraud while the Farm Animal Welfare Advisory Council includes representation from DARD. On cross-Border fraud, the two Administrations have worked together successfully in a number of joint enforcement actions against alleged offenders and ongoing exchanges of expertise and information are taking place.

Agricultural Education.

John Ellis

Question:

245 Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the funding allocated by her Department for agricultural education. [16551/05]

The funding provided by my Department to Teagasc for non-capital purposes in 2005 amounted to €107 million for research, education and training programmes and advisory services. It is Teagasc's responsibility to allocate this funding in accordance with its priorities. In addition, under the national development plan, NDP, €11.6 million was allocated to Teagasc for agricultural training this year. In general Teagasc usually allocates 19% of its overall operating budget —€155 million in 2005 — for education and training programmes.

My Department provides funding also under the NDP equine measures for agricultural education. The funding allocated this year is €376,000, broken down as follows: €305,000 for distance learning diploma and certificate courses in equine science run by the University of Limerick; and €71,000 for educational courses in equine health and husbandry, nutrition, stud management and quality breeding run in conjunction with the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association.

Farm Safety.

John Ellis

Question:

246 Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the funding that has been allocated for farm safety since 2003; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16552/05]

Funding for the Health and Safety Authority, the State agency with overall responsibility for the administration and enforcement of health and safety, is provided by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the parent Department of the authority. Safety on farms is particularly important and, at the launch of Farm Safety Week last month, I expressed my commitment to ensuring the farming sector improves its safety record. My Department includes safety aspects in its specifications for all farm buildings and animal handling facilities. There are farm safety elements in the education and training programmes provided by Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority, which is financed by my Department. In addition, participants in the rural environment protection scheme undertake a Teagasc training course, which includes safety on the farm. My Department is also represented on the national farm safety partnership chaired by Teagasc.

Departmental Regulations.

John Ellis

Question:

247 Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the revenues her Department has raised by means of financial penalties for breaches of farming regulations. [16553/05]

My Department is obliged, under the relevant EU regulations, to apply penalties where scheme conditions are breached and, in general, to refund those amounts to the EU Commission. In its annual EAGGF guarantee account for 2004, my Department reported a total of €3,774,777.48 in penalties. Of this, €27,269.69 related to market supports, with the remainder relating to premia paid directly to farmers. This compares to more than €1.3 billion in guarantee funded payments to farmers in 2004.

Cattle Breeding Programmes.

John Ellis

Question:

248 Mr. Ellis asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the funding allocated by her Department in 2005 to promote quality breeding among cattle. [16554/05]

Up to the 1990s my Department operated a series of cattle breed improvement measures including milk recording, on-farm weight recording, genetic evaluations, development of livestock improvement programmes, and the management of the central bull performance testing station at Tully, County Kildare. In the 1990s, a series of initiatives was taken to reduce the Department's involvement in cattle breeding improvement and, at the same time, to provide a structure that would facilitate more rapid genetic gains in the Irish herd. A feasibility study, funded under the operational programme for agriculture, rural development and forestry, OPARDF, in 1995 confirmed an industry-led proactive approach to cattle breed improvement with State leadership and involvement as the best way forward. This led to the establishment in 1997 of the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation, ICBF, an organisation mainly controlled by the industry. Responsibility for most cattle breed improvement programmes operated previously by the Department and their associated costs have transferred to ICBF.

In addition to taking over functions from the Department of Agriculture and Food, ICBF has made a great deal of progress in the collection, storage and retrieval of the data that are essential for cattle breeding. ICBF has re-organised database systems used for cattle breeding in a way that eliminates duplication and facilitates the efficient collection of a wider range of accurate information than was the case heretofore. The current database offers greatly increased functionality compared with that offered by previous systems. ICBF is delivering to the industry and to farmers improved information on which they can make decisions based on knowledge. This is of increasing importance in the current era of decoupling.

My Department has provided ongoing substantial financial assistance to ICBF since its inception in 1997 by way of grant aid and under the national development plan, under the cattle breeding infrastructures submeasure and previously under the OPARDF, the predecessor to the NDP. Given the important contribution ICBF continues to make to ongoing improvements in cattle breeding in Ireland, I have made provision in this year's Estimate for €888,000 for ICBF in grant aid and €500,000 in NDP funding.

Grant Payments.

John Perry

Question:

249 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the payments which a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim will receive under the single payment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16555/05]

A provisional statement of entitlements issued to the person named on 6 August 2004 for €477.91. The operation of the single payment scheme is governed by the provisions of Council Regulation EC No. 1782/2003. In general, article 28 of that regulation provides for issue of payment under the scheme once a year within the period from 1 December of the scheme year to 30 June of the following year. My Department is in the final stages of implementing the single payment scheme and my primary objective is that payment should issue to farmers from the beginning of December 2005.

Animal Welfare.

Marian Harkin

Question:

250 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the precise changes in the regulations governing the transport of registered equidae as set out in Council Regulation EC No. 1/2005 of 22 December 2004 for journeys of more than 65 km and less than eight hours duration. [16611/05]

Marian Harkin

Question:

251 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the precise changes in the regulations governing the transport of registered equidae as set out in Council Regulation EC No. 1/2005 of 22 December 2004 for journeys of less than 65 km. [16612/05]

Marian Harkin

Question:

252 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the precise changes in the regulations governing the transport of animals as set out in Council Regulation EC No. 1/2005 of 22 December 2004 for journeys of more than 65 km and less than eight hours duration. [16613/05]

Marian Harkin

Question:

253 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the precise changes in the regulations governing the transport of animals as set out in Council Regulation EC No. 1/2005 of 22 December 2004 for journeys of less than 65 km. [16614/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 251 to 253, inclusive, together.

The objectives of Council Regulation EC No. 1/2005, which applies generally from January 2007, are to improve the welfare of animals during transport and to ensure a consistent and effective application of rules governing the transport of animals across the European Union. It is the result of intense negotiations at both the official and political level.

The main changes introduced by this regulation are that persons transporting animals, including registered equidae, over distances of more than 65 km but of less than eight hours duration, must be authorised by my Department and must complete appropriate training related to the welfare of animals during transport. In the cases of journeys of more than eight hours duration, the regulation provides that in addition to the foregoing, drivers and attendants must have appropriate certificates of competence and approval of vehicles.

These requirements do not apply in the case of the transport of live animals, including registered equidae up to a maximum distance of 65 km. In addition, the main provisions of the regulation will not apply to the transport by farmers of their own animals using their own vehicles for distances up to 50 km. However, the following general conditions apply to the transport of all animals, including registered equidae regardless of the duration of the journey: the animals must not be transported in a manner that is likely to cause injury or undue suffering; all necessary arrangements must have been made in advance to minimise the length of the journey and to meet the animals' needs during the journey including the provision of sufficient floor area and of adequate water, feed and rest; the animals must be fit to travel; the transport, loading and unloading facilities must be designed, constructed, maintained and operated to avoid injury and suffering and ensure the safety of the animals; the transport must be carried out without delay to the place of destination; and the welfare conditions of the animals must be regularly checked during the journey.

My Department is considering the arrangements and requirements relating to the operation of the new regime for the transport of animals from 2007 onwards. In this regard, my Department will consult all relevant parties on the most effective way to implement the regulation. The regulation does not apply to the transport of animals, including registered equidae, where they are not in connection with an economic activity nor to the transport of animals directly to or from veterinary practices or clinics under the advice of a veterinarian.

Departmental Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

254 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food further to Question No. 127 of 14 April 2005, if her Department has concluded its review of staffing numbers; the total number of staff from her Department who will be transferring to the new offices; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16619/05]

In view of recent developments in my Department, including the introduction of the single payment scheme, SPS, we are continuing to review staffing requirements of our local offices. In this context, a definitive decision on the staffing requirement for a dedicated Leitrim office has yet to be taken.

Public Order Offences.

John Gormley

Question:

255 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he has taken to deal with the continuing problem of drunkenness and rowdiness in the Ranelagh area; if he has plans to deal with this problem; if he will agree to more cycle patrols in the Ranelagh area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16594/05]

Garda authorities have informed me that high priority is given to the policing of anti-social behaviour. In Dublin, Operation Encounter is a Garda initiative aimed at providing high visibility Garda foot patrols in areas where large numbers of people socialise late at night and in the early morning. It is aimed at dealing effectively with public order issues, especially problems associated with drunkenness. This proactive initiative is kept under constant review by local Garda management and tailored to meet circumstances at any given time. The Garda authorities regard Operation Encounter as effective and intend that it will continue.

I am also informed that local Garda management is currently exploring the possibility of operating cycle patrols that would incorporate the Ranelagh area.

In order to deal with the problems caused by the abuse of alcohol, I brought forward tough new provisions in the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 and the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003. I have also put forward proposals in the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 and intend to bring forward further proposals for inclusion in the Bill.

Finally, I would advise the Deputy that there was a drop of 21%, over 1,000 incidents in the number of assaults causing harm for 2003 compared to 2002. This downward trend has continued in 2004 and the first quarter of 2005. Furthermore, there was a drop of 14%, over 1,000 incidents in the number of lesser assaults for 2003 compared to 2002 and a drop of 9% in public damage for 2003 compared to 2002.

Garda Operations.

John Gormley

Question:

256 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there will be cycle patrols operating from Irishtown Garda station in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16595/05]

Garda authorities have informed me 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 successful in tackling and responding to certain types of 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 DMR. 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. Garda management is currently exploring the possibility of operating cycle patrols from Irishtown Garda station.

Residency Permits.

Sean Fleming

Question:

257 Mr. Fleming asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for permission to remain here, on the basis of marriage to an Irish person, will be approved for a person (details supplied) in County Laois. [16596/05]

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

Prison Staff.

John Cregan

Question:

258 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if prison officers who have transferred from Spike Island prison will be made permanent at their present location; if so, when these permanent appointments will be made (details supplied). [16597/05]

I refer the Deputy to my response to Questions Nos. 191 and 207 on 21 April and to Question No. 256 on 5 May last, in which I outlined the measures I now intend to pursue to ensure the efficient and effective use of the valuable resources at my disposal.

The position regarding permanent placement for the staff temporarily assigned to other institutions as a result of the closure of Fort Mitchel place of detention is currently being examined and it is expected that staff will shortly be notified of the prisons to which they are being permanently redeployed. I am not in a position to indicate that the staff involved will be redeployed permanently at their present locations, as I must have regard to the wider staffing needs of the service. I have arranged, however, to elicit the preferred prison locations to which staff wish to be assigned so that some consideration might be given to their preferences. However, it has been made clear to all concerned that the needs of the service remains the primary issue of concern. Unfortunately, I cannot be more specific at this point on exactly what prisons will be involved.

Registration of Title.

John Perry

Question:

259 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Land Registry Office will expedite an application for a person (details supplied); if so, when; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16598/05]

I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that this is an application under section 49, that is, acquisition of title by virtue of long possession, of the Registration of Title Act 1964 which was lodged on 16 September 2004. Dealing number D2004SM007873A refers.

Due to their complicated nature, applications under section 49, which require detailed examination of claims for registration as owners, can take some time to process. Accordingly, it is not possible to estimate a completion date at this stage.

Queries issued to the lodging solicitor on 10 May 2005 and the application cannot proceed until these queries have been satisfactorily resolved. However, I can assure the Deputy that on receipt of a satisfactory reply, the matter will receive further attention in the Land Registry.

Security Operations.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

260 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the additional security resources that were allocated to Shannon Airport on 10 May 2005 to facilitate the proposed stopover by President George W. Bush; the cost of these resources (details supplied); the duration of the security operation; and if the cancellation of the stopover affected the costs in any way. [16605/05]

Garda authorities inform me that an additional 204 gardaí were allocated to Shannon Airport on 10 May 2005, in connection with the planned stopover of President George W. Bush. The duration of these security arrangements was 19 hours.

It is not currently possible to provide details of the associated costs, as not all claims have been submitted for payment at this time. As the cancellation of the stopover resulted in the security arrangements being stood down earlier than projected, costs were correspondingly reduced.

Garda Stations.

Tony Gregory

Question:

261 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there are plans to close Mountjoy Garda station, Dublin 7, and Fitzgibbon Street Garda station, Dublin 1; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16623/05]

There are currently no plans to close Mountjoy Garda station or Fitzgibbon Street Garda station.

Garda Operations.

John Gormley

Question:

262 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he is taking to ensure a more visible Garda presence in the Portobello area; if his attention has been drawn to the upsurge in vandalism and crime in the area; if he will take all steps in future to ensure a Garda presence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16635/05]

Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, inform me that the Portobello area is predominantly policed by gardaí from Kevin Street Garda station. The personnel strength of Kevin Street Garda station as at 17 May 2005 was 119, of all ranks. I am advised that the policing consists of patrols by uniformed and detective personnel, the community policing unit, the divisional crime task force, the district resource unit, the district drug unit and the Garda mountain bike unit.

It is the policy of local Garda management to ensure that high visibility policing is the norm at all times and this will continue.

While there have been miscellaneous breaches of the criminal law in the area referred to, all are under active investigation. Furthermore, there is no evidence to suggest that criminal activity is out of control in the Portobello area.

The number of Garda personnel assigned to Kevin Street Garda station, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are constantly monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

On the question of Garda resources generally, the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, in line with a 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 Garda Commissioner will draw up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources. In this context, the needs of Kevin Street Garda station will be fully considered within the context of the needs of Garda stations throughout the country. Clearly, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences, but it will be possible to address other priorities, 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.

Willie Penrose

Question:

263 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Garda complement at Killucan Garda station in County Westmeath will be restored to its original level of three; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16695/05]

Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of Garda resources, including personnel, inform me that the personnel strength of Killucan Garda station as of 17 May 2005 was one garda.

It is the responsibility of the divisional officer to allocate personnel within his or her division.

Garda management will continue to appraise the policing and administrative strategy employed in the Longford Westmeath division, with a view to ensuring an effective Garda service is maintained.

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

The Commissioner will draw up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources. In this context, the needs of the Longford Westmeath division will be fully considered within the context of the needs of Garda divisions throughout the country. Clearly, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as envisaged by the programme for Government. The programme identifies particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences, but it will be possible to address other priorities, 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.

Willie Penrose

Question:

264 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the manning level of Delvin Garda station in County Westmeath will be restored to its normal level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16696/05]

Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of Garda resources, including personnel, have informed me that the personnel strength of Delvin Garda station as of 17 May 2005 was one garda.

It is the responsibility of the divisional officer to allocate personnel within his or her division. A garda is due to be assigned to Delvin Garda station on 14 June 2005.

Garda management will continue to appraise the policing and administrative strategy employed in the Longford Westmeath division, with a view to ensuring an effective Garda service is maintained.

On the question of Garda resources generally, the Government has approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, in line with a 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 Garda Commissioner will draw up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources. In this context, the needs of the Longford Westmeath division will be fully considered within the context of the needs of Garda divisions throughout the country. Clearly the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences, but it will be possible to address other priorities, 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.

Visa Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

265 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a holiday visa will issue to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16726/05]

My Department has no record of a visa application from the person named in the details supplied by the Deputy. I advise the Deputy to forward the reference number of the visa application in question to the immigration division of my Department to enable officials to check on the status of the application.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

John Gormley

Question:

266 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason no progress has been made towards the Government’s stated commitment that the average size of classes of children under nine will be below the international best practice guidelines of 20:1; the steps she will take to address the situation at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 4; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16574/05]

The mainstream staffing of a primary school is determined by applying the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year to a staffing schedule, agreed between my Department and the education partners.

The system for allocating teachers to primary schools is based on ensuring an overall maximum class of 29 in each school. Where some classes in a school have class sizes of greater than 29, it is generally because a decision has been taken at local level to use teaching resources to ensure smaller numbers in other classes.

The Deputy should note that significant improvements have been made in this area in recent years. The average class size at primary level is now 23.9, down from 26.6 in 1996-97. The pupil-teacher ratio which includes all the teachers in the school, including resource teachers, has fallen from 22.2:1 in the 1996-97 school year to 17.44:1 in 2003-04. Over 4,000 additional teachers have been employed in our primary schools since 1997. These additional teaching posts have been used to reduce class sizes, to tackle educational disadvantage and to provide additional resources for children with special needs.

The staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy for the school year 2004-05 is one principal and three mainstream class teachers, based on an enrolment of 95 pupils at 30 September 2003. In addition, the school has the services of a learning support teacher based in the school.

In accordance with the staffing schedule issued recently to boards of management, the staffing of the school for the 2005-06 school year will remain at one principal and three mainstream class teachers based on an enrolment of 91 pupils at 30 September 2004.

To ensure openness and transparency in the system, an independent appeals board is now in place to decide on any appeals. The criteria under which an appeal can be made are set out in Department primary circular 19/02, which is also available on my Department's website. The appeals board will meet in June to consider appeals on the mainstream teaching allocation to schools for the 2005-06 school year.

The closing date for appeals is 3 June 2005. Appeals must be submitted to primary payments section, Department of Education and Science, Athlone, on the standard application form, clearly stating the criterion under which the appeal is being made. The application form is available from primary payments section, Department of Education and Science, Athlone or on my Department's website.

The Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to intervene in the operation of the independent appeals board.

All-Irish Schools.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

267 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science her proposals to expand second level education through Irish; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16575/05]

It is my policy to support the provision of all-Irish school facilities at primary and second level in areas outside the Gaeltacht regions, where a demand for such provision is demonstrated and where no alternative exists within a reasonable distance.

There are currently 120 recognised gaelscoileanna operating within the State. There are in excess of 50 schools providing varying degrees of education through Irish at second level and my Department is currently examining applications for the development of such facilities in other locations.

The valuable contribution to the Irish language being made by many other schools is recognised and appreciated as an important resource in the promotion of Irish as a living language and as a medium of instruction.

In line with the provisions of the Education Act 1998, a new statutory body, An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta has been established to promote education through Irish as well as the teaching and learning of Irish. The new body is undertaking a range of advisory and support functions with regard to Irish language education. These functions include the planning and co-ordination of textbooks and learning aids and the development of policies to facilitate the provision of education through Irish in Gaeltacht schools as well as in recognised schools generally.

The commission on school accommodation recently published a report entitled Criteria and Procedures for Establishing and Maintaining Provision through the medium of Irish in second level schools or clusters of schools. This report presents a framework of key issues and makes a number of recommendations on the provision of second level education through the medium of Irish. It is currently being examined in my Department in the context of establishing a revised process for the recognition of all-Irish second level schools.

Teaching Qualifications.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

268 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will establish the status of graduates of the B.Th degree in regard to their being able to teach religion in secondary schools if they decide to proceed with a H.Dip after graduating from the Milltown Institute; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16577/05]

Four degrees from the Milltown Institute have been recognised by the Registration Council for the purposes of teaching religious education in secondary schools. These degrees are: Bachelor of Arts in Theological and Philosophical Studies; Bachelor of Arts in Theology Ministry; Bachelor of Divinity; and Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Theology.

While the holder of any of these degrees is eligible for admission to a course leading to the higher diploma in education, not all eligible applicants are successful in accessing such a course.

School Staffing.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

269 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science if an extra teacher will be appointed to a school (details supplied) in County Cavan by September 2005; her views on whether it is unfair that a teacher be asked to deal with 35 pupils aged nine and ten from three different classes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16578/05]

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

The mainstream staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy for the current school year is a principal and three mainstream class teachers based on the enrolment of 105 pupils on 30 September 2003. The enrolment on 30 September 2004 was 113 pupils. Based on this figure the average class size in the current school year is 28.

The system for allocating teachers to primary schools is based on ensuring a maximum average class size in the school of 29. Where some classes in a school have class sizes of greater than 29, it is generally because a decision has been taken at local level to use their teaching resources to have smaller numbers in other classes.

Based on the enrolment on 30 September 2004 of 113 pupils, the mainstream staffing for the school year 2005-06 will remain at a principal and three mainstream class teachers.

The schedule referred to previously can only be deviated from when a school experiences rapid growth in its enrolment. Rapid growth is defined as an increase in its enrolment in one year relative to the previous year of 25 pupils plus a stipulated excess of five pupils on the appointment figure. In order for the school concerned to be considered for developing school status, it would require a minimum enrolment of 138 pupils on 30 September 2005. If the board of management of the school feels that the enrolment of the school will increase to a minimum of 138 pupils by 30 September 2005, it may apply for a post under the developing schools criteria as outlined in Department circular 15/05 which issued to all boards of management recently.

To ensure openness and transparency in the system, an independent appeals board is now in place to decide on any staffing appeals. The criteria under which an appeal can be made are set out in Department primary circular 19/02 which is available on my Department's website. The appeals board will meet in June to consider appeals on the mainstream teaching allocation to schools for the 2005-2006 school year.

The closing date for appeals is 3 June 2005. Appeals must be submitted to primary payments section, Department of Education and Science, Athlone, on the standard application form, clearly stating the criterion under which the appeal is being made. The application form is available from the primary payments section, or on my Department's website.

I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to intervene in the operation of the independent appeals board.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

270 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of two-teacher national schools in the country; the number of these schools which have a classroom assistant; the number of two-teacher schools which will lose resource teachers under the new weighted system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16579/05]

I can confirm for the Deputy that there are approximately 553 two-teacher primary schools in the country. Of these, 154 schools currently have special needs assistant support, SNA support, as follows: 123 schools have one SNA; 30 schools have two SNAs; and one school has three SNAs.

It is not possible at this stage to indicate the resource teaching position in two-teacher schools following the introduction of the new general allocation system. I trust the Deputy is aware that my Department has now completed its review of the general allocation system of resource teaching support. The new model replaces that which was notified to schools in June 2004, which has been reviewed to take account of difficulties that it may have caused for smaller schools.

I can confirm that 660 additional special needs teaching posts will be put in place in primary schools from next September to facilitate the implementation of the new general allocation system. The introduction of this new system will involve the provision of an estimated additional 340 permanent posts in primary schools from September next. A further 320 posts are being provided on a temporary basis to facilitate the transition to the new system.

My Department is now devising school clusters in respect of allocations to be made under the general allocation system. These will be notified to schools shortly along with the details of each school's individual allocation. This communication will clarify the position regarding the resource allocation available to the schools referred to by the Deputy. My Department is also finalising a circular for schools which will contain detailed information on how the new system will operate. It is intended that this circular will issue before the end of the current school year.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

271 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science if a primary school (details supplied) in County Kerry will retain its existing resource teacher under the new weighting system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16580/05]

I trust the Deputy is aware that my Department has now completed its review of the general allocation system of resource teaching support. The new model replaces that which was notified to schools in June 2004, which has been reviewed to take account of difficulties that it may have caused for smaller schools.

I can confirm that 660 additional special needs teaching posts will be put in place in primary schools from next September to facilitate the implementation of the new general allocation system. The introduction of this new system will involve the provision of an estimated additional 340 permanent posts in primary schools from September next. A further 320 posts are being provided on a temporary basis to facilitate the transition to the new system.

My Department is now devising school clusters in respect of allocations to be made under the general allocation system. These will be notified to schools shortly along with the details of each school's individual allocation. This communication will clarify the position regarding the resource allocation available to the school referred to by the Deputy. My Department is also finalising a circular for schools which will contain detailed information on how the new system will operate. It is intended that this circular will issue before the end of the current school year.

Schools Building Projects.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

272 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of a school (details supplied); when this project will go ahead; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16581/05]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the school in question has accepted the grant for the provision of an extension under the 2005 small schools initiative which I announced recently. The school authority is managing this project on a devolved basis, but I understand that the project is scheduled to go on site in late 2005 or early 2006.

School Discipline.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

273 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if the final appeal on a proposed expulsion from a school is made to the education and welfare board; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16582/05]

The Education (Welfare) Act 2000 established the National Educational Welfare Board as the single national body with responsibility for school attendance. The Act provides a comprehensive framework promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The general functions of the board are to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education.

Section 24(4) of the Act requires that a student shall not be expelled from a school before the passing of 20 school days following the receipt of such a notification by the educational welfare officer. However, this requirement is without prejudice to the right of the board of management of a school to take such other reasonable measures as it considers appropriate to ensure that good order and discipline are maintained in the school and that the safety of students is secured.

In January 2005, the NEWB issued guidance booklets to the management authorities of all primary and post-primary schools on the reporting of student absences and expulsions.

Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 provides for an appeal to the Secretary General of my Department where a board of management or a person acting on behalf of the board refuses to enrol a student, suspends a student for a cumulative total of more than 20 days in an academic year or expels a student from the school.

Provision also exists under section 29 for the NEWB to make a submission at the hearing of an appeal brought by a parent or student against expulsion. The NEWB may take an appeal under section 29 of the Education Act 1998. However, the NEWB does not exercise a decision-making function with regard to determining an appeal under section 29 of the Education Act 1998.

Special Educational Needs.

Willie Penrose

Question:

274 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will be approved immediately for a special needs assistant from September 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16615/05]

I can confirm for the Deputy that a special needs assistant was sanctioned by my Department to be shared between the pupil in question and one other pupil in the school. This decision was conveyed to the school authorities on 11 March 2005.

The Deputy may be aware that the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, which was established recently, and which has been operational since 1 January 2005, is responsible for processing applications for special educational needs supports. The NCSE, through the local special educational needs organiser, SENO, will also review the level of support in schools in the context of pupils' ongoing needs. This will ensure that each school has the level of resources required to cater for its pupils with special educational needs. With regard to the pupil referred to by the Deputy, the school may wish to liaise with the local SENO concerning the pupil's requirement for special needs assistant support for the coming school year.

I am anxious to ensure that special education support services are properly targeted at the children who require them and that the substantially increased resources which are being made available in the special educational area have the desired effect of ensuring that all children assessed as having special needs receive the support they require.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

275 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to Question No. 479 of 4 May 2005, the way in which the post-primary needs of a person (details supplied) will be met. [16616/05]

The National Council for Special Education, NCSE, has been established as an independent statutory body with responsibilities as set out in the National Council for Special Education (Establishment) Order 2003.

With effect from 1 January 2005, the NCSE through local special educational needs organisers, SENOs, is responsible for processing resource applications for children with special educational needs and identifying appropriate educational settings for individual children with special educational needs.

The NCSE has confirmed to my Department that SENOs have been assigned to the area in question and may be contacted for assistance in this matter.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

276 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of counties which have not had an SENO appointed yet; and when this will be rectified. [16617/05]

The National Council for Special Education, NCSE, has appointed 71 special educational needs organisers, SENOs, who are based throughout the country to carry out the council's functions at local level.

At this stage only one county does not yet have a SENO appointed to it. Arrangements have been put in place by the NCSE which ensures that any applications from schools in this county are processed by the existing SENOs. The Deputy's county, County Kildare, has a SENO appointed to it.

School Staffing.

Denis Naughten

Question:

277 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Questions Nos. 249, 250 and 251 of 13 April 2005, if she will report on the issue. [16618/05]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that my Department has now completed its review of the general allocation system of resource teaching support. The new model replaces that which was notified to schools in June 2004, which has been reviewed to take account of difficulties that it may have caused for smaller schools.

I can confirm that 660 additional special needs teaching posts will be put in place in primary schools from next September to facilitate the implementation of the new general allocation system. The introduction of this new system will involve the provision of an estimated additional 340 permanent posts in primary schools from September next. A further 320 posts are being provided on a temporary basis to facilitate the transition to the new system.

My Department is now devising school clusters in respect of allocations to be made under the general allocation system. These will be notified to schools shortly along with the details of each school's individual allocation. My Department is also finalising a circular for schools which will contain detailed information on how the new system will operate. It is intended that this circular will issue before the end of the current school year.

Special Educational Needs.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

278 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 22 will be given an appropriate primary school place in an autistic unit for September 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16629/05]

The Deputy may be aware that the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, which was established recently, and which has been operational since 1 January 2005, is responsible for processing applications for special educational needs, SEN, supports. Seventy one special educational needs organisers, SENOs, have been recruited throughout the country and they will be a focal point of contact for schools and parents.

My officials have been informed by the NCSE that the matter referred to by the Deputy has been forwarded to the local SENO for processing. The SENO has been in contact with a prospective school and has arranged to visit the school shortly to discuss the child's need for school placement.

University Governance Provisions.

Enda Kenny

Question:

279 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department was requested to arrange a visitation to a third level institution (details supplied) in County Cork; if, under the terms of the charter of that institution, a visitor has been appointed; if she will report on procedures for appointing such a person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16630/05]

The Universities Act 1997 provides a framework of legislation that is compatible with the role, function and operation of universities in modern society. The Act, which was the first Act of general application to all the university institutions since the foundation of the State, was a culmination of an extensive process of consultation and debate both within and outside the Houses of the Oireachtas. Among the significant features of the Act was the provision of revised governance structures for the universities which ensure that all the major stakeholders are represented on the university governing authority, the principal decision-making body of the institutions.

The Universities Act 1997, in addition to providing for strengthened governance arrangements at an institutional level, also provides a wider public interest protection in a case where the Minister for Education and Science is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds for contending that the functions of a university are being performed in a manner which prima facie constitutes a breach of the laws, statutes, or ordinances applicable to the university. This general protection is set out in sections 19, 20 and 21 of the Act, which provide for the appointment of a visitor to a university by the Government from time to time and for the visitor to conduct an inquiry at the request of the Minister, with the concurrence of the Government, in such circumstances.

The visitor has powers to inquire into the academic affairs of the university or to conduct any inspection relevant to his or her inquiry. On foot of the recommendations of the visitor, the Minister may recommend to the Government the suspension of the governing authority and the termination of the membership of its members.

In the case to which the Deputy refers, my predecessor received representations from certain members of the governing body of a university requesting the appointment of a visitor. In June 2004, in order to assist the Minister in considering requests for the appointment of a visitor, a report was sought from the Higher Education Authority.

A report was received from the HEA which took account of comprehensive background documentation made available by the governing body of the university. The view of the HEA was that there were no reasonable grounds for concluding that the functions of the university were being performed in a manner which, prima facie, was in breach of the laws, statutes and ordinances applicable to the university and that there was therefore no reasonable basis for the appointment of a visitor. Having considered the report and background documentation, the then Minister agreed with this assessment and the HEA was advised accordingly on 23 July 2004. Those making representations were also so advised.

School Discipline.

Finian McGrath

Question:

280 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding action plans to deal with violent and disruptive pupils in schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16698/05]

The Deputy will be aware that I recently established a task force to consider and report on the issue of student behaviour in second level schools. The task force is chaired by Dr. Maeve Martin of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

The terms of reference of the task force are: to examine the issue of disruptive student behaviour as it impacts upon teaching and learning; to consider the effectiveness of strategies at present employed to address it; to advise on existing best practice, both nationally and internationally, in fostering positive student behaviour in schools and classrooms; and to make recommendations on how best to promote an improved climate for teaching and learning in classroom and schools.

I want the work of this task force to provide a solid foundation for developing policies and best practice in our schools into the future. The task force will link closely to a wide range of interests across our education system on this very important issue. A consultative group is part of the process, comprising all the partners in education and allowing for their input to the deliberations of the task force.

In addition, I have asked that the task force should constitute fora of teachers, parents and students with a view to testing emerging ideas and proposals. The task force invited, by public advertisement, submissions from interested individuals and groups. I have asked it to let me have an interim report by June 2005 and to complete its work by the end of 2005.

My Department has provided guidelines to boards of management to assist them in discharging their obligations in the area of school discipline. The guidelines, which issued in 1991, were drawn up following consultation with representatives of management, teachers and parents, and are sufficiently flexible to allow each school authority to adapt them to suit the particular needs of the school.

Each board of management is responsible for formulating, in consultation with parents, a fair and efficient code of behaviour. This code should ensure that the individuality of each child is accommodated while acknowledging the right of each child to education in a relatively disruption-free environment. The code should also include provision for dealing with serious breaches of discipline and continuously disruptive pupils.

Social attitudes and parental approaches to discipline vary from one school community to another, and it would be impractical and even undesirable for the Minister or her Department to set out a formal and detailed code of behaviour for all schools.

Section 23 of the Education Welfare Act 2000 requires all schools to have in place a code of behaviour specifying: (a) the standards of behaviour that shall be observed by each student attending the school; (b) the measures that may be taken when a student fails or refuses to observe those standards; (c) the procedures to be followed before a student may be suspended or expelled from the school concerned; (d) the grounds for removing a suspension imposed on a student; and (e) the procedures to be followed relating to notification of a child's absence from school.

The school principal is required, before registering a child in the school, to provide the child's parents with a copy of the code of behaviour and may, as a condition of registering the child, require his or her parents to confirm in writing that the code is acceptable to them and that they will make all reasonable efforts to ensure that the child will comply with the code.

Security Resources.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

281 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Defence the additional security resources which were allocated to Shannon Airport on 10 May 2005 to facilitate the proposed stopover by President George W. Bush; the cost of these resources (details supplied); the duration of the security operation; and if the cancellation of the stop affected the costs in any way. [16606/05]

The Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate, for reasons of security, for me to comment on the exact nature of the deployment to Shannon Airport on 10 May 2005. However, it is estimated that the overall cost to the Defence Forces was approximately €28,000.

Waste Management.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

282 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the initiatives which are planned regarding extended producer responsibility; the persons who shall have responsibility for their implementation; the roles which local authorities will play; the budget he plans for this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16607/05]

A key component of waste management policy in Ireland in recent years has been the development of producer responsibility initiatives. Such initiatives are in line with EU and national policy on waste management, which is firmly grounded in the internationally recognised waste management hierarchy that prioritises respectively waste prevention and minimisation, increased levels of reuse, recycling and biological treatment, energy recovery and utilising landfill as the last resort for residual waste that cannot otherwise be recovered. This approach is reflected in my Department's policy statements: Changing Our Ways, 1998, Delivering Change, 2002, and Taking Stock Moving Forward, 2004.

Successful producer responsibility initiatives operate in Ireland in packaging, farm plastics and construction and demolition wastes. I recently made regulations to streamline further the packaging regulations made in 2003. The idea of producer responsibility is embedded in waste management policy and practice, but we need to build on this experience so it can contribute to waste prevention and reduce negative environmental impacts. Extended producer responsibility involves assigning increased responsibility to producers. It gives producers a direct financial incentive to incorporate environmental considerations in the design of products. It deals not only with the waste phase, but also with upstream issues relating to resource selection and product design. The focus on design is included in EU legislation on end-of-life vehicles and waste electrical and electronic equipment and the directives on the restriction of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. Regulations transposing the directives into Irish law will be made this year.

Producer responsibility places financial and logistical burdens on producers. Local authorities play an important complementary role in providing the necessary infrastructure and enforcement. The Government is committed to establishing an effective regime to ensure that producer responsibility initiatives are backed up by effective enforcement. The establishment of the Office of Environmental Enforcement in the EPA in late 2003 and the provision of additional funding to local authorities from the environment fund to facilitate co-ordinated and stepped-up enforcement of waste management legislation are intended to assist in this regard. The national waste prevention programme, which is being developed and implemented by the EPA, involves the development of waste prevention and minimisation strategies aimed at reducing negative environmental impacts. The EPA was given an initial budget of €2 million to fund the programme.

Environmental Policy.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

283 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will report on progress on, or plans to implement, the recommendations of the United Nations environment programme country profile on Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16632/05]

The UN environment programme country profiles provide a brief overview of a country's environment and international environmental activities. While the profile for Ireland does not make recommendations, it outlines the scope for using economic instruments as part of an approach to addressing the key environmental challenges facing this country. I accept that fiscal instruments can play a useful role as part of overall Government policy to protect and enhance the environment. The instruments in question are mentioned as potential economic instruments in Ireland's Environment — A Millennium Report, published by the EPA. The merits of such instruments are evaluated on a case by case basis.

Landfill charges and the plastic bags levy are examples of economic instruments which promote good environmental behaviour and provide resources through the environment fund for a range of environmental programmes. The structure of charges for domestic waste disposal, by local authorities or private collectors, has been modified to relate directly to usage, with a view to providing incentives towards more sustainable waste management. The potential further use of economic instruments is kept under ongoing review.

Local Authority Funding.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

284 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plans for an e-procurement initiative at local government level in view of the combined purchase power of the local government system and the potential savings that could be made. [15040/05]

In September 2003, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government endorsed the local government e-procurement strategy, which was produced by IBM Consultants in collaboration with the Local Government Computer Services Board, a number of local authorities and the Department. The strategy provides for the application of electronic processes to procurement activities and the prior modernisation, which is necessary in this context, of existing procurement processes and practices. All local authorities have been urged by the Department to commit to the implementation of the strategy. A number of pilot e-procurement projects have been undertaken by various local authorities and agencies in pursuance of the strategy. By the end of 2004, some €825,000 of matching funding had been granted by the Department to organisations in respect of such projects. A further €244,000 of funding has been made available for 2005.

A team compiled by the national public procurement policy unit, which is based in the Department of Finance and includes officers of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Local Government Computer Services Board, has conducted a further study of procurement in the local government sector. It has made a number of recommendations for further actions in accordance with the objectives of the local government e-procurement strategy. Its report will be presented to the County and City Managers Association soon.

It is difficult to quantify the exact level of savings that could result from the widespread adoption of e-procurement. The results of the pilot projects indicate that significant savings are achievable by the end of the timeframe envisaged in the strategy. The savings would arise not only from aggregate purchasing within and between local authorities, which would be facilitated by e-procurement, but also from such factors as the better use of staff resources, improvement in service delivery and reductions in transaction and logistical costs.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

285 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the latest annual figures he has for the level of emissions of greenhouse gases from the transport sector here; and the projections he has for the increase or decrease in these levels over the short, medium and longer terms. [15664/05]

As part of the overall EU commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 8% during the Kyoto Protocol period, which is between 2008 and 2012, Ireland is committed to limiting emissions to 13% above 1990 levels. The latest available greenhouse gas emissions figures from the national inventory report, which is compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency, indicate that overall emissions in 2003 were equivalent to 66.57 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. That figure is approximately 25% above 1990 levels, down from approximately 29% in 2002 and 31% in 2001. The figures show that significant progress is being made towards the 13% target. Regarding the transport sector, the national inventory report indicates that emissions for 2003 were equivalent to 11.85 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or approximately 18% of the total of emissions for 2003.

Projections for greenhouse gas emissions, which have been calculated up to 2012, are contained in the 2004 ICF-Byrne Ó Cléirigh study, Determining the Share of National Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Emissions Trading in Ireland. The study shows that expected emissions from the transport sector for 2004 are equivalent to 11.96 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is a projected marginal increase on the outturn for 2003. The average annual projected emissions for the transport sector over the Kyoto commitment period are expected to be equivalent to 13.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The national climate change strategy identifies a range of policies and measures to reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions in various sectors. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is reviewing the strategy, taking account of developments since its publication in 2000. While the Department has overall responsibility for the strategy, it is a matter for Departments with direct responsibility for each sector identified in the strategy to implement the optimum mix of policies and measures to control and reduce Ireland's overall level of greenhouse gas emissions.

Question No. 286 answered with QuestionNo. 194.

Environmental Policy.

Michael Noonan

Question:

287 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his assessment of the impact of the Good Friday Agreement, and the resultant cross-Border and east-west co-operation, on measures to protect the Irish environment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16440/05]

Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, new relationships based on mutually beneficial partnerships and equality have been established between administrations North and South and east and west. They have enabled us to address common challenges in a mutually beneficial way through enhanced co-operation and joint action on a range of environmental issues including waste management, water quality management, natural heritage, information and awareness, environmental research, environmental impacts of agricultural activities, planning, regional development, fire services and emergency planning.

I will give some examples of North-South co-operation bringing practical environmental benefits to the people of this island. An all-island scheme for the management of waste domestic fridges and freezers was developed by the environment departments on both sides of the Border under the auspices of the North-South Ministerial Council. In the first 13 months of its operation, over 122,000 units have been collected for recycling. The authorities on both sides of the Border are working together to tackle illegal movements of waste. The environmental protection measure of the current North-South INTERREG programme is providing EU support to 20 cross-Border projects, at a cost of €24 million.

The British-Irish Council, the most recent meeting of which was held in Farmleigh on 7 April last, provides a unique and useful forum where representatives of the member administrations can meet to address issues of mutual interest. Since its establishment, the council has acted as a forum for co-operation and exchange of information and has led to a greater appreciation of the valuable relationships between these islands. A programme of work involving enhanced co-operation on environmental areas of common interest, including impacts of climate change and adaptation, waste management, radioactive waste from Sellafield, integrated coastal zone management and follow-up action to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, is being taken forward through the council.

Local Authority Funding.

Mary Wallace

Question:

288 Ms M. Wallace asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the way in which his Department, in determining the funding for local authorities, provides balance between urban authorities and rural authorities in funding; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that urban authorities afford such a luxury as parks departments whereas the rural authorities are struggling for basic necessities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16544/05]

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government provides specific grants, including capital grants, to local authorities for a wide range of programmes. The allocation of such funding is carried out on the basis of national and local priorities relating to the programme concerned and having regard to the overall amount of funding available for each programme.

No specific funds are available to the Department to provide grants for the operation of parks departments in local authorities. Local authorities fund such expenditure from a variety of sources including commercial rates, fees and charges for services and general purpose grants from the local government fund. Such general purpose grants are determined on the basis of a number of factors including the overall resources in the fund, the application of the needs and resources model, which takes account of the appropriate cost to each individual local authority of providing a reasonable level of services, and the income available to each authority from local sources.

The funding provided to local authorities through the grants has increased substantially in recent years. Grant allocations from this source in 2005 were, on average, 8.6% higher than the corresponding allocation for 2004 and approximately 130% higher than the level of such grants in 1997. The financial position of local authorities has been greatly strengthened in recent years because of increases in central funding and the strengthening of local income bases. It is a matter for each local authority to determine its own spending priorities in its annual budget having regard to locally identified need and the resources available to it.

Library Projects.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

289 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when work will commence on the new library at Castleisland, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16545/05]

In January of this year, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government approved tender documentation for a branch library at Castleisland and authorised Kerry County Council to proceed to invite tenders for the project. Further advancement of the project is a matter for Kerry County Council.

Local Authority Staff.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

290 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of counties which employ an archivist. [16546/05]

Based on the annual staffing returns received from local authorities for 2003, nine county councils and four city councils employ an archivist.

Litter Pollution.

John Gormley

Question:

291 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the further steps he intends to take to ensure compliance with dog dirt littering laws; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16633/05]

Under the Litter Pollution Acts 1997 to 2003, primary responsibility for enforcement of the litter laws, including section 22 of the Litter Pollution Act 1997, which relates to dog fouling, rests with the local authorities. I am satisfied that the Acts give adequate penalties and enforcement powers to local authorities to deal with the problem of dog fouling.

Register of Electors.

Willie Penrose

Question:

292 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has received correspondence from a person (details supplied); if the Government is considering the possibility of extending the right to Irish citizens abroad to participate in the forthcoming referendum and other electoral contests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16697/05]

A letter from the person in question was received by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on 12 May. It was acknowledged on 13 May and a substantive reply will issue shortly. The compilation of a register of electors is a matter for the appropriate registration authority in accordance with electoral law. To be able to vote, a person's name must be entered in the register of electors for the constituency in the State in which the person ordinarily resides. The person's citizenship determines the polls at which he or she is entitled to vote. Irish citizens who are registered to vote may vote at all polls. British citizens may vote at Dáil, European and local elections, EU citizens other than Irish and British citizens may vote at European and local elections and non-EU citizens may vote at local elections only.

Postal voting is provided for certain categories of person as specified in electoral law. The Electoral Act 1992 provides for postal voting for members of the Garda, whole-time members of the Defence Forces and Irish diplomats serving abroad and their spouses. Subsequent legislation enacted by the Oireachtas has extended postal voting to other categories. The Electoral (Amendment) Act 1996 extended postal voting to electors living at home who are unable to vote because of a physical illness or disability. The Electoral Act 1997 extended postal voting to electors whose occupation, service or employment makes it likely that they will be unable to vote in person at their local polling station on polling day and to full-time students registered at their home who are living elsewhere while attending an educational institution in the State. The Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001 extended postal voting to certain election staff employed at the poll outside the constituency where they reside.

The question of voting rights for Irish citizens living abroad has been considered in detail on a number of occasions, most recently by the All-Party Committee on the Constitution in its examination of Parliament. The committee's seventh progress report, published in March 2002, concluded that the right to vote in Dáil elections should remain confined to citizens ordinarily resident in the State and that the right to vote at referenda should not be granted to emigrants. While electoral law is subject to ongoing review, there are no proposals to alter the existing arrangements.

Questions Nos. 293 to 296, inclusive, answered with Question No. 109.
Question No. 297 answered with QuestionNo. 95.
Questions Nos. 298 to 301, inclusive, answered with Question No. 85.

Public Procurement Procedures.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

302 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if all contracts, procurements, disposals or acquisitions in which his Department has been involved in the past five years have been open to public tender and in accordance with procurement or other procedures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16715/05]

My Department seeks to comply fully with Department of Finance and EU procurement procedures in relation to tendering and awarding of contracts. Public procurement procedures as detailed in Department of Finance circular 40/02 do not require that all contracts should go to public tender. My Department has an approval and registration process in place for contracts where a single tender has been obtained, which is overseen by the Department's internal audit function and reported to the Comptroller and Auditor General. In relation to the disposal of assets, I can confirm that my Department have disposed of no assets exceeding €100,000 over the past five years.

Planning Issues.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

303 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent to which local authorities have adopted his recently issued guidelines in respect of rural housing for the indigenous population; if local authorities have decided to ignore these guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16716/05]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 227 of 12 May 2005.

Waste Management.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

304 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has issued guidelines in respect of the location of landfill sites; if such guidelines are as restrictive as those in respect of housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16720/05]

My Department has not issued guidelines in relation to the location of landfill facilities. However, I have recently issued a policy direction under section 60 of the Waste Management Act 1996 to provide greater clarity in regard to the appropriate application of the proximity principle so as to facilitate the provision of environmentally sustainable and economically viable waste infrastructure in accordance with overall national policy on waste management.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

305 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of illegal dumps or sites that have to date been identified in the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16721/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

306 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of illegal dumps identified in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16722/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 305 and 306 together.

The Office of Environmental Enforcement has commissioned a study on unauthorised waste activities, to be completed shortly and made available for public consultation. This will include establishing as completely as possible the extent of unauthorised activities, reviewing current procedures and developing improved guidance for investigation of such activities. In the meantime, the office and the relevant local authorities are taking urgent and co-ordinated action against identified illegal waste activities, and these actions will be further assisted when the results of the study are available.

In the context of general policy directions on waste management matters which I recently issued under section 60 of the Waste Management Act 1996, I have reminded local authorities of the need to ensure that the requirements of section 22 of the Act are fully met in the current review of their waste management plans. Section 22 states that a waste management plan shall include information on: the identification of sites at which waste disposal or recovery activities have been carried on; the assessment of any risk of environmental pollution arising as a result of such activities; measures proposed to be taken, or, where such an assessment has already been made, measures taken, in order to prevent or limit any such environmental pollution; and the identification of necessary remedial measures in respect of such sites, and measures proposed to be taken, or, where such measures have already been identified, measures taken, to achieve such remediation, having regard to the cost-effectiveness of available remediation techniques.

Local Government Regulations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

307 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he is satisfied that the commitment given with regard to access for Oireachtas Members to local authority structures, management, directors of service and others involved in the local authority system is being honoured in view of the commitment to Dáil Éireann during the passage of legislation to abolish the dual mandate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16724/05]

From the commencement of the single mandate for elective local government, local authorities were required to make specific arrangements to provide a reasonable level of service for Oireachtas Members and facilitate them in carrying out their work on behalf of local communities. These arrangements provide, inter alia, for the supply of specified documentation to Oireachtas Members by the local authority, and equivalent systems, procedures and timeframes to those used in relation to correspondence from local authority members apply also in respect of Oireachtas Members.

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

Quite apart from the regulations in this area, I expect that any issues around the operation of these arrangements will be resolved as local authorities and Oireachtas Members become more familiar with the process. I intend to contact local authorities this year to obtain information on the practical application of the scheme to date. Arising from this, I will, if necessary, issue supplementary guidance to local authorities taking account of the responses on the matter.

I am concerned that local authorities should at all times facilitate parliamentary representatives in both the spirit and the letter of the regulations in relation to the timely provision of local authority documentation.

Local Authority Funding.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

308 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason sufficient funds have not been made available to Kildare County Council to fund essential repair grant applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16725/05]

It is a matter for local authorities to decide on the level of funding to be provided for the essential repairs grant scheme in their area from within the allocation notified to them for disabled persons and essential repairs grants by my Department and to manage the operation of the schemes from within this allocation. My Department recoups to local authorities two thirds of their expenditure on the payment of individual grants and it is a matter for the authorities to fund the remaining one third from their own revenue resources with amounts provided for that purpose in their annual estimates of expenses.

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

A combined capital allocation of €70 million has been provided for the payment of disabled persons and essential repairs grants in 2005. Allocations, which will be notified to local authorities shortly, will be based on their requirements as notified to my Department.