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 11, inclusive, answered orally.
Question No. 12 answered with QuestionNo. 10.

Military Escorts.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

13 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the agreement reached earlier in May 2005 with the banks regarding payment for military escorts for cash transits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17559/05]

Joe Sherlock

Question:

58 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Defence when the new arrangement with the Irish Bankers Federation regarding the costs of providing military escorts for cash consignments will come into operation; the total revenue that will accrue to his Department in 2005 and in a full year; if this money will go directly to his Department or into general Exchequer funds; the way in which the revenue raised will be used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17606/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 58 together.

As I have outlined in replies to previous questions an annual contribution of €2.86 million has been paid by the banks to my Department in respect of the provision of cash escorts. This figure was set by the Department of Finance in the 1995 budget and had not been altered since. The contribution from the banks was designed to part cover the total costs to the State of providing cash escorts. At that time, the contribution covered approximately 72% of the total cost arising to the Defence Forces, which includes pay and allowances. Based on annual costings by the Department, the relative level of the contribution had fallen in real terms over the years to the situation where it was only covering 43% of the total costs.

I have had a number of discussions with the Irish Bankers Federation, IBF, about this matter in recent months, with a view to increasing the level of contribution by the banks in respect of the costs incurred by the Department in the provision of cash escorts. Following detailed and intensive discussions between officials of the IBF, the member banks and the Department, a detailed formal agreement was signed on 11 May 2005.

This agreement, which is for a five year period, provides that the banks will pay the total actual costs incurred by the Defence Forces in the provision of cash escorts. Costs in respect of each 12 month period to end December will be paid the following year on or before 1 June. This is to allow for the compilation of returns from the brigades and allocation of costs following the year end.

The first payment under the new system will be paid in June 2006. I have, at the banks' request, agreed to defer the first payment to that date to meet the banks' budgeting and accounting timeframe. In return for my agreement to this deferral, a transitional payment of €1 million, payable before end 2005, was negotiated as part of the overall agreement. In 2005, therefore, the banks will make their annual payment of €2.86 million plus the additional €1 million, making a total contribution of €3.86 million. The costs for the banks in any future year will be determined by the actual costs incurred by the Defence Forces in the provision of the cash escorts in the previous year and, thus, are not available at this time. The payments by the banks will be paid directly to my Department.

We have now agreed an open and transparent system for agreeing the costs in respect of the Defence Forces and this should stand the test of time. The agreement resolves the issue of the banks' contribution in respect of cash escort costs for the foreseeable future.

Overseas Missions.

Simon Coveney

Question:

14 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel on service overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17520/05]

Gerard Murphy

Question:

59 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Defence the requests for personnel which the Defence Forces have received from the United Nations to date in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17553/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 14 and 59 together.

Ireland is currently contributing approximately 740 Defence Forces personnel to 19 different missions throughout the world. The main commitments are to the United Nations mission in Liberia, UNMIL, with 410 personnel; the NATO led international security presence, KFOR, in Kosovo, with 205 personnel; and EUFOR, the EU led operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with 54 personnel. Other personnel are serving as monitors and observers with the United Nations, UN, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE, and the European Union, EU. Staff are also deployed at the organisational headquarters of the OSCE, the UN, NATO and the EU.

Ireland's commitment under the United Nations standby arrangements system, UNSAS, is 850, which represents 10% of the total Army strength. This is the figure set in the White Paper on defence. This is the maximum sustainable commitment that Ireland can make to overseas peacekeeping operations. It should be appreciated that at any one time one group of personnel will have just returned from service, one will be on overseas duty and a further group will be in training. There are no plans at this time to increase the level of our commitment to UNSAS.

Ireland receives requests from time to time regarding participation in various missions and these are considered on a case by case basis. To date in 2005, one such request has been received from the United Nations to contribute a small number of Defence Forces personnel to act as UN military observers, UNMOs, with the recently established United Nations mission in the Sudan, UNMIS. The request to participate in the peacekeeping operation in Sudan is being given careful consideration, as are all such requests from the UN.

Simon Coveney

Question:

15 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Defence the situation with respect to the investigation into the murders of persons (details supplied). [17645/05]

Liz McManus

Question:

64 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Defence if he has received a response to his reported request to the DPP (details supplied) to review the case of the killers of two Irish soldiers in the Lebanon in 1980 with a view to securing a prosecution under the Geneva Conventions; the other steps he intends to take to ensure that the killers of the two soldiers are brought to justice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17609/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15 and 64 together.

The case to which the Deputies refer relates to the killing of Private Thomas Barrett and Private Derek Smallhorne while serving with the United Nations interim force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, in 1980. The question of the measures open to the Irish authorities to bring the alleged perpetrator of this crime to justice is currently being examined in my Department in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Attorney General's office. The process is detailed and complex, involving a review of international legal provisions, including the potential application of the provisions of the Geneva Convention, and of all the available evidence in the case. In this regard, my Department sought the advice of the Attorney General as to whether there is a basis available for mounting a case against the alleged perpetrator.

I have recently received that advice of the Attorney General. He has advised that there are no provisions in Irish law which provide a basis for Ireland to pursue a prosecution against the alleged perpetrator. The attorney did indicate, however, that while untested and potentially difficult, it might be possible for Ireland to pursue a prosecution under the provisions of the Geneva Conventions. While this appears an outside possibility, I have asked the DPP, who would be responsible for pursuing any prosecution, to review the matter as a matter of urgency.

The country with primary jurisdiction in this case is Lebanon. I have, therefore, asked my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, to convey to the Lebanese authorities and the US authorities, where the alleged perpetrator resides as a naturalised US citizen, our earnest desire and determination to see the alleged perpetrator brought to justice and to advise them that we will assist in whatever manner we can should either the US or the Lebanese authorities be able to bring him to justice. However, the long passage of time since the tragic incident will create its own difficulties in terms of mounting a prosecution, even if we can make the alleged perpetrator amenable to justice.

I will continue to explore such avenues as may be open to me to seek justice in respect of Privates Barrett and Smallhorne.

EU Battle Groups.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

16 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if there have been further developments in regard to the formation and participation of EU led battle groups or peace enforcement missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17621/05]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

20 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Defence if the Government will actively play a role in the formation of the EU battle groups currently under consideration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17529/05]

Dan Boyle

Question:

31 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Defence , further to possible joint training missions with forces of EU member states, if he will report on the review now taking place by the interdepartmental group he established on the issue of Irish troops exercising with EU rapid reaction elements in future; the other issues this interdepartmental group is considering (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17558/05]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

33 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence if he has contacted any of his EU member state counterparts with regard to Ireland’s contributing to a possible joint EU battle group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17551/05]

Tom Hayes

Question:

43 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Defence if any decision has been taken on the matter of Irish participation in EU battle groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17531/05]

Denis Naughten

Question:

53 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Defence if he has received communications from any of his European Union counterparts with regard to the proposed new EU battle groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17552/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

154 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which Irish Defence Forces personnel have been involved in preparations for EU rapid response military missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17735/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

155 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has had discussions with his EU colleagues in regard to the possible formation of EU peace enhancement or peace enforcement missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17736/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

156 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which progress has been made in the formation of EU led battle groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17737/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 16, 20, 31, 33, 43, 53, 154, 155 and 156 together.

The background to the rapid response elements concept, commonly referred to as battle groups, is that at the European Council in Helsinki in 1999, member states set themselves a headline goal that "by the year 2003, co-operating together and voluntarily, they will be able to deploy rapidly and then sustain forces capable of the full range of Petersberg Tasks as set out in the Amsterdam Treaty". In short, they are humanitarian, rescue, peacekeeping and crisis management operations, including peacemaking. This included, inter alia, a capability to provide “rapid response elements available and deployable at very high readiness”. The ambition of the EU to be able to respond rapidly to emerging crises has and continues to be a key objective of the development of the European security and defence policy, ESDP.

Ireland's participation in such operations is entirely consistent with our foreign policy commitment to collective security which recognises the primary role of the UN Security Council in the maintenance of international peace and security and our tradition of support for the United Nations. Indeed, this is a position endorsed by the UN Secretary General who recognises and supports the development of EU rapid reaction elements as a key factor in enabling the UN to respond more rapidly and with greater authority to emerging crises. During his visit to Dublin in October 2004, the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, stressed the importance of battle groups and requested Ireland's support for them.

At the Cabinet meeting of 16 November 2004, the Government agreed that I should advise my EU counterparts of Ireland's preparedness to enter into consultations with partners with a view to potential participation in rapid response elements. A military capabilities commitment conference was held on 22 November 2004 at which member states committed up to 13 battle group formations which will be available to deploy to crisis situations within a five to ten day period from 2005 onwards. A battle group co-ordination conference was held on 11 May 2005 at which initial offers and commitments by relevant member states were confirmed. It was noted that only one slot, the second semester of 2007, remains unfilled.

Ireland supports the development of the EU's rapid response capability in support of UN authorised missions and is positively disposed towards participation in the rapid response elements in this regard. However, it is important that the full implications of our participation are assessed and, to this end, I have established an interdepartmental group which includes representatives of my Department, the Defence Forces, the Department of the Taoiseach, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Attorney General's office. This group met in December and has established three subgroups to address the policy, legislative and operational issues arising.

These groups are now working on position papers on the various issues related to Ireland's potential participation in EU rapid response elements. This is a detailed and complex task and it is expected that the work of the subgroups will span several months, not least because the rapid response elements concept is still evolving and a complete picture of all other member states' proposed involvement is not yet available. That said, I expect to receive the report over the summer months. I will then consider the matter, in consultation with my Cabinet colleagues, to see how we bring the matter forward from there.

Ireland's participation in rapid response elements will remain subject to the usual requirements of a Government decision, Dáil approval and UN authorisation and I have no plans to do away with the triple lock mechanism as the legal basis for our participation in overseas peace support operations.

Last Monday, along with Defence Ministers from other member states, I attended a meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council at which ESDP issues were discussed. Progress was noted on a 2005 requirements catalogue, which details an initial list of the capabilities required to meet the aims set in the 2010 headline goal; a single progress report on military capabilities; a European capabilities action plan; rapid response; and a report on the activities and 2005 work programme of the European Defence Agency.

Employee Protection Legislation.

Jack Wall

Question:

17 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Defence if has reconsidered or proposes to reconsider the justification for the exclusion of members of the PDFORRA from most of the statutory labour protection code, whether on a global or piecemeal basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17619/05]

Over the years PDFORRA has canvassed the idea that a soldier's conditions of employment should largely replicate conditions in the civilian world. However, in a professional military organisation, this approach is simply not practical and this is widely recognised internationally.

It is an inherent and over-riding principle of military service that personnel are at all times subject to military law. The application of legislation intended primarily for the civilian worker would be totally contrary to this principle and could have grave fundamental organisational and operational implications for the efficiency and effectiveness of the Defence Forces. That said, the Defence Forces have been included within the scope of employee protection legislation where appropriate, for example, health and safety legislation. Moreover, the Ombudsman (Defence Forces) Act 2004 was enacted last year and I am in the process of providing an ombudsman for the Defence Forces.

When an individual decides to join the Defence Forces, he or she voluntarily accepts, inter alia, a range of obligations and responsibilities which do not normally arise in the course of civilian employment, for instance, the taking of any form of industrial action is irreconcilable with military service.

I am satisfied that the mechanisms available to the representative associations through the Defence Forces conciliation and arbitration scheme — with its access to facilitation and arbitration and parallel discussions during national pay talks — provide a framework within which issues of concern can, are and should continue to be addressed. It is also worth noting that the Defence Act provides for a complaints procedure whereby if a member considers that he or she has been wronged, he or she may make a complaint in the matter and seek a redress.

Overseas Missions.

Enda Kenny

Question:

18 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Defence the level of assistance being given to countries affected by the December 2004 tsunami by the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17537/05]

As soon as the scale of the disaster in South East Asia became clear, the Department of Foreign Affairs deployed a high level technical assessment team, which included a member of the Defence Forces, to examine the situation on the ground and identify what assistance Ireland should offer to the affected region. Arising from its initial assessment, the team advised the Department of Foreign Affairs of an immediate requirement for two logistics planning experts and two engineers to be attached to the United Nations joint logistics centre, UNJLC. Four officers of the Permanent Defence Force were seconded, with effect from 18 January 2005, on a volunteer basis to the UNJLC in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The primary role of these personnel was to report to the UNJLC, following a detailed analysis of key priorities within their fields of expertise. The role of the logistics officers was to evaluate, on behalf of the UNJLC, the current and future transport requirements in the affected areas for the delivery of humanitarian aid and to recommend solutions to overcome any identified shortfalls. The role of the engineers was to examine the road infrastructure in the affected areas, specify the rehabilitation and repair requirements and establish repair priorities, so as to restore a functioning transport network in the area.

At the request of the UNJLC, an assessment of transport and logistics requirements in the north and north east of the country was conducted. In addition, the engineers completed a full and detailed analysis of the south and south east coastal road system. All four officers have since completed their work with the UNJLC and have returned home to Ireland.

No further requests for Defence Forces assistance have been received. However, in the event that the Defence Forces have the capacity and resources to offer further required assistance in the region in specified roles, this will be examined on a case by case basis having regard to the requirements and the situation on the ground. The Government is positively disposed towards supporting the relief effort in the affected areas to the greatest possible extent.

Question No. 19 answered with QuestionNo. 10.
Question No. 20 answered with QuestionNo. 16.
Question No. 21 answered with QuestionNo. 7.

Jack Wall

Question:

22 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Defence his views on whether the utilisation of regional arrangements or agencies for enforcement action under the authority of the UN Security Council is synonymous with the establishment of an international force or body by the Security Council in the dispatch of Defence Forces members on overseas service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17618/05]

The Defence Forces participate in two main types of overseas armed missions, namely, traditional UN led "Blue Hat" missions and UN authorised missions. The first type is where the mission is established under the authority of the UN Security Council or the General Assembly of the UN. UNIFIL in Lebanon and UNMIL in Liberia are examples of such missions. The second type are missions authorised to be established by the Security Council of the United Nations or the UN General Assembly. KFOR in Kosovo, EUFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina and ISAF in Afghanistan are examples of such missions, where a regional organisation, such as NATO or the EU, assembles the force and deploys it under the authorisation of the UN. Chapter VIII of the original charter of the United Nations, Article 53 in particular, makes provision for situations whereby the UN authorises regional organisations to undertake missions under the authority of the UN.

Hearing Impairment Claims.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

23 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Defence the number of claims for damages for deafness determined in court or settled out of court at the latest date for which figures are available; the amount paid out to date in terms of damages or legal costs; the number of such claims outstanding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17612/05]

As of 30 April 2005, a total of 16,736 claims had been received in my Department from current and former members of the Defence Forces in respect of loss of hearing allegedly caused during their military service. A total of 339 claims have been determined in court and 15,151 claims have been disposed of out of court, mainly through settlement, leaving a total of 1,246 claims outstanding at that date. A sum of €278.3 million has been paid in respect of hearing loss claims, including €93.9 million in plaintiff's legal costs.

Question No. 24 answered with QuestionNo. 10.

Overseas Missions.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

25 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Defence if he has received a report from the chief of staff on the findings of the board of officers established to examine events in Jadotville in the Congo in September 1961; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17614/05]

I have received and examined the Jadotville report. The report fully exonerates the actions of A Company. At the time they surrendered, nothing would have been served by fighting on, except further and unnecessary bloodshed. It is clear from the report that the company and its commanding officer acted appropriately given all the circumstances. The report recommended that the events at Jadotville and the contribution of the 35th Battalion should be given appropriate recognition.

In this regard, I have decided that a plaque will be situated in Athlone to commemorate the events at Jadotville and the significant contribution of A Company and of the 35th Battalion, as a whole, to the UN peace support mission in the Congo. Planning regarding the plaque is advancing in the Western Brigade and it is anticipated that the plaque will be in situ by the end of this year.

I have also decided that portraits of Lt. Col. McNamee, 35th Battalion commander, and Comdt. Quinlan, company commander, A Company, will be commissioned and arrangements in this regard are underway. Once completed, it is intended that these portraits will hang in the Congo Room in the United Nations training school in the Curragh. I have been advised by the military authorities that it is anticipated that these portraits will also be completed before the end of the year.

Defence Forces Training.

Joe Costello

Question:

26 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Defence if he has reviewed the regulations in regard to Defence Forces recruits who are injured during training being discharged due to their not having access to the public health service within the requisite six months (details supplied); if he plans to change the regulations to address this anomaly; the action he has taken following his Dáil reply on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17617/05]

At this stage, I do not envisage any requirement to change the provisions of the relevant Defence Force regulations with specific regard to the period within which a recruit must reach the appropriate standard for final approval. These provisions were outlined in my reply to Question No. 78 of 1 March 2005.

The central issue here, raised on 1 March 2005, has been examined by my officials to address the particular difficulty outlined by the Deputy. I understand that in practice cases such as this arise very infrequently. Nevertheless, we must deal compassionately with these cases on an individual basis to avoid the imposition of unjustifiable hardship.

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that revised arrangements for such rare cases have recently been agreed by the director of the medical corps and my officials. In the event of an injury attributable to service or illness occurring to a recruit and when the public health services required are not available in sufficient time to provide such treatment as is necessary to permit the recruit to achieve the medical classification code required for final approval, financial sanction may now be given for private treatment. Such sanction will be contingent on the recruit being likely to achieve the necessary medical classification code in sufficient time for final approval. Decisions will be made on the individual merits of each case based on the opinion of the relevant military medical authorities.

Naval Service Vessels.

Damien English

Question:

27 Mr. English asked the Minister for Defence his plans to replace the ships of the Naval Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17469/05]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

51 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Defence if it is planned to augment the capability of the Naval Service through the acquisition of new craft or the refurbishment of existing vessels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17549/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 and 51 together.

In the White Paper on defence, the Government decided that the Naval Service will be developed around the provision of an eight ship flotilla. In recent years, two new ships have been delivered to the Naval Service and the service is operating with the recommended eight ships. The total cost of the two ships was €50 million. Both ships have proved to be tremendous assets to the Naval Service in carrying out its various day to day roles.

There is a continuous process of refurbishment of the current fleet. Through a combination of improved support/operational systems and equipment and ongoing maintenance, the operational capability of the Naval Service is maintained at a high level. The Government remains committed to continuous investment in the equipment needs of the Naval Service that will maintain the eight ship flotilla.

Overseas Missions.

David Stanton

Question:

28 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Defence the level of Defence Forces support that will be sent to Sudan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17528/05]

Dan Boyle

Question:

47 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Defence the situation regarding the UN’s request to Ireland for peacekeeping forces in Sudan; if the risk assessment on Sudan has yet taken place (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17557/05]

Joe Sherlock

Question:

66 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Defence the position with regard to his consideration of the request received from the UN for Irish troops to be deployed to Sudan as part of a multinational peacekeeping force established to police the recent peace accord; when a decision will be made on the request; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17607/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28, 47 and 66 together.

The United Nations department of peacekeeping operations, UNDPKO, has invited Ireland to contribute a small number of Defence Forces personnel to act as UN military observers, UNMOs, with the recently established United Nations mission in the Sudan. The request to participate in the peacekeeping operation in Sudan is being given careful consideration, as are all such requests from the UN.

The mission is to support the comprehensive peace agreement for southern Sudan signed by the government of Sudan and the SPLM/A, Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army, in Nairobi on 9 January 2005. Ireland has been strongly supportive of the peace process in Sudan generally and also in the troubled region of Darfur, providing financial support to the African Union mission, AMIS, there as well as seconding an army officer to it. Ireland has also contributed considerable aid support to Sudan. Last month, Ireland announced that it will provide €15 million for the recovery and reconstruction of Sudan for the period 2005-07.

A risk assessment has been conducted by the Defence Forces on the current situation in the Sudan. The degree of risk involved in this mission is among the factors being taken into account in considering the UN request. Assessment of this request also needs to take into account the numbers of Permanent Defence Force personnel available for overseas service at present. We currently have 740 troops serving abroad out of a total of 850 maintained on UNSAS, UN standby arrangements system. This number can fluctuate; it was approximately 770 some months ago. It is expected that a decision on the UN request will be made shortly.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

29 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Defence the current strength of the Reserve Defence Force; the training that each member engages in; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17547/05]

The military authorities have advised that the strength of the Reserve Defence Force, including an Slua Muirí, is 12,287. Reserve Defence Force personnel engage in a variety of training related to the particular military unit in which they serve. Training consists of nightly parades, field days, weekend training, annual training periods and courses.

In July 2004, my predecessor, Deputy Michael Smith, officially launched the Reserve Defence Force review implementation plan. The reorganisation process will radically change the structure and configuration of the reserve and, although the implementation will take place over the course of the period to the end of 2009, members of the FCA are already seeing the benefits in terms of improvements in training, better clothing and improved equipment.

An important objective of the Reserve Defence Force review implementation plan will be to ensure that most personnel will, in each 12 month period, undertake a total of 14 days paid training in addition to unpaid training. The provision of paid training days — man days — for 2005 is 114,000. This represents a significant increase over recent years — 63,000 in 1998. Subject to financial prioritisation within the military budget as a whole, it is planned that the allocation of paid training days will be increased as the reorganisation process continues.

This increase in the provision of paid training days coupled with ongoing improvements in the quality and flexibility of training will see a continued improvement in the quantity and quality of training over the course of the implementation plan.

Question No. 30 answered with QuestionNo. 8.
Question No. 31 answered with QuestionNo. 16.

Defence Forces Training.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

32 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Defence the training given to members of the Defence Forces to deal with a nuclear accident or emergency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17527/05]

The military authorities advise that chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear, CBRN, training is conducted at induction level for all cadets and recruits in the Defence Forces. During the conduct of this training, students are trained and tested in personal nuclear decontamination techniques. In each brigade and the Defence Forces training centre, a CBRN platoon is fully trained in all aspects of nuclear decontamination to cater for battalion operations. The Defence Forces CBRN training for 2004 culminated in a major internal exercise in November 2004.

The Defence Forces have available to them equipment for monitoring and protecting their members in dealing with nuclear, biological or chemical, NBC, threats identified from time to time. They hold an extensive range of modern NBC equipment that meets their current requirements and have been trained in its operation. Other Defence Forces equipment includes biological agent detectors and screening kits, group decontamination equipment and personal decontamination equipment.

The Garda Síochána has primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State. In co-operation with the Defence Forces, it continuously monitors the potential threats to the State arising from international terrorism. The capacity of the Defence Forces to deal with major emergencies is kept under constant review. Plans and procedures are updated as necessary on the basis of identified priorities. Training and preparation for such events is also provided for in the Defence Forces annual training plan.

Question No. 33 answered with QuestionNo. 16.

Defence Forces Strength.

David Stanton

Question:

34 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Defence if the current strength of the Permanent and Reserve Defence Forces will be increased; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17523/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

37 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the strength by rank and gender of the permanent Defence Forces; if it is intended to increase these numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17620/05]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

38 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Defence the current strength of the Naval Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17548/05]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

57 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Defence the number of officers and personnel of other ranks in the Naval Service at the latest date for which figures are available; the way in which these figures compare with the establishment levels set out in the White Paper; the steps being taken to recruit personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17613/05]

Billy Timmins

Question:

63 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Defence the agreed strength of the Defence Forces according to the White Paper; the current strength of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17478/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

157 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the current strength of the Naval Service by rank; the extent to which it is intended to increase this number; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17738/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

158 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the current strength of the Army by rank; the extent to which it is intended to increase this number; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17739/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

159 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the current strength of the Air Corps by rank; the extent to which it is intended to increase this number; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17740/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

160 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence his proposals to increase the number in the Permanent Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17741/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 34, 37, 38, 57, 63, 157, 158, 159 and 160 together.

The White Paper on defence of February 2000 sets out a figure of 10,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force, comprising 930 for the Air Corps, 1,144 for the Naval Service and 8,426 for the Army.

The strength of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service and the number of female personnel by rank within these services, together with the strength of the Reserve Defence Force, as advised by the military authorities, is provided in the form of a tabular statement which I propose to circulate with the Official Report. The figures provided are as at 30 April 2005 in respect of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service and 31 March 2005 in respect of the Reserve Defence Force.

It is my intention to maintain the established Government policy of ongoing recruitment to the Defence Forces. Recruitment into the Permanent Defence Force will continue to maintain the strength at the level set out in the White Paper as required to meet military needs. Recruitment is ongoing to the Reserve Defence Force. The Defence Forces continue to have a proactive approach to recruiting.

Strength of the Permanent Defence Force

30 April, 2005.

Lt Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Gen

Col

Lt Col

Comdt

Capt

LT

Total Offrs

SM

BQMS

CS

CQMS

SGTS

CPLS

Total NCOS

PTES

Cadets

Total

Army

1

2

6

39

125

356

255

244

1,028

33

42

131

251

1,039

1,586

3,082

4,350

103

8,563

Air Corps

0

0

1

2

14

32

40

47

136

8

4

47

15

135

189

398

313

12

859

Naval Service

0

0

1

2

13

46

22

71

155

7

7

77

15

191

187

484

406

20

1,065

Lt Gen = Lieutenant General

Maj Gen = Major General

Brig Gen = Brigadier General

Col = Colonel

Lt Col = Lieutenant Colonel

Comdt = Commandant

Capt = Captain

Lt = Lieutenant

SM = Sergeant Major

BQMS = Battalion Quartermaster Sergeant

CS = Company Sergeant

CQMS = Company Quartermaster Sergeant

SGTS = Sergeants

CPLS = Corporals

NCOS = Non Commissioned Officers

PTES = Privates

Strength of Males in the Permanent Defence Force

30 April, 2005.

Lt Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Gen

Col

Lt Col

Comdt

Capt

LT

Total Offrs

SM

BQMS

CS

CQMS

SGTS

CPLS

Total NCOS

PTES

Cadets

Total

Army

1

2

6

39

124

341

221

211

945

33

42

129

250

1,029

1,482

2,965

4,130

85

8,125

Air Corps

0

0

1

2

14

32

38

46

133

8

4

46

15

135

179

387

308

11

839

Naval Service

0

0

1

2

13

46

19

56

137

7

7

77

15

191

184

481

372

19

1,009

Strength of Females in the Permanent Defence Forces

30 April, 2005.

Lt Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Gen

Col

Lt Col

Comdt

Capt

LT

Total Offrs

SM

BQMS

CS

CQMS

SGTS

CPLS

Total NCOS

PTES

Cadets

Total

Army

0

0

0

0

1

15

34

33

83

0

0

2

1

10

104

117

220

18

438

Air Corps

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

1

3

0

0

1

0

0

10

11

5

1

20

Naval Service

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

15

18

0

0

0

0

0

3

3

34

1

56

Strength of the Reserve Defence Force

31 March, 2005.

First Line Reserve

Naval Service Reserve (Slua Muirí)

Army Reserve (FCA)

Total

404

317

11,520

12,241

Defence Forces Property.

Phil Hogan

Question:

35 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Defence if he had any discussions with the Department of Transport with respect to the possible use of Baldonnel Aerodrome to assist in alleviating the overcrowding difficulties at Dublin Airport. [17643/05]

Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, is the principal base of the Air Corps. With the withdrawal of aircraft from Gormanston and the relocation of Air Corps headquarters to Baldonnel as outlined in the White Paper on defence, the Air Corps has the basis for better management of its resources. Baldonnel will continue to be the centre of military aviation in Ireland.

Periodic interest by the private sector has been expressed during the past decade or so in the use of Casement Aerodrome for civil aviation purposes. The establishment of facilities for civil aviation purposes is primarily a matter for the Minister for Transport. Under the Irish Aviation Authority Act 1993, however, military aerodromes are precluded from regulation by the Irish Aviation Authority. Only the regulation of military aviation activities at military aerodromes comes within my remit.

Before any consideration can be given to having commercial aviation at Baldonnel it would be necessary to bring Casement Aerodrome within the licensing and regulatory control of the Irish Aviation Authority, which would require an amendment to section 3 of the Irish Aviation Authority Act 1993. This is a matter for consideration in the first instance by the Minister for Transport.

International Terrorism.

Joe Costello

Question:

36 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Defence if he has satisfied himself with the Defence Forces’s capability to deal with any threat to Ireland that may exist from international terrorists; if he has held any discussions with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the intelligence services on the level of threat that currently exists to Ireland from international terrorism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17616/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

161 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of Permanent Defence Forces on constant alert in the event of a security breach or terrorist attack; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17742/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

162 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps are individually and collectively adequately prepared and trained to meet eventualities in the event of a terrorist attack; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17743/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

163 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the estimated length of time to put Defence Forces into action in the event of a terrorist attack in respect of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17744/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 36, 161, 162 and 163 together.

The most important defence against any terrorist attack is detection and prevention by the security forces. While the Garda Síochána has the primary responsibility for law and order, one of the roles assigned to the Defence Forces is the provision of aid to the civil power, meaning in practice to assist, when requested, the Garda Síochána. The various components of the Defence Forces are active in this regard, providing such assistance as is appropriate in specific circumstances.

The level of any terrorist threat to Ireland is continually assessed. The advice available to me would suggest that while the terrorist threat to parts of Europe is currently high, in relation to Ireland, it is low. However, it is prudent that we take precautions and keep matters under continuous review.

The Defence Forces make contingency plans for a range of scenarios where the State may be at risk. An urgent and detailed review to deal with a range of emergency situations was undertaken by the military authorities following the events of 11 September 2001. It included, inter alia, an update of the threat assessment, intensive contacts with other State agencies, a reassessment of operations orders relating to vital installations, alert systems, the Army Ranger wing, ordnance and engineer aspects in terms of explosive ordnance disposal and specialist search and a review of equipment including the need for air defence. All matters arising were addressed and all procedures updated as required. However, it is not possible to expand on the operational details of such plans.

The capacity of the Defence Forces to deal with major emergencies is kept under constant review. Plans and procedures are updated as necessary and such additional equipment as is required to address any perceived deficiencies is acquired on the basis of identified priorities. Training and preparation for such events is also provided for in the Defence Forces annual training plan.

The most important defence against any attack is of course external vigilance, detection and prevention by the security forces. All the necessary resources of the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces are deployed to this end.

Questions Nos. 37 and 38 answered with Question No. 34.

Search and Rescue Service.

Damien English

Question:

39 Mr. English asked the Minister for Defence if he will restore the search and rescue service for the Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17470/05]

The Irish Coast Guard has overall responsibility for the provision of maritime search and rescue services within the Irish search and rescue region. The Air Corps had been providing search and rescue, SAR, services off the north-west coast but withdrew in October 2004, following a handover of this role to CHCI, a private operator, which also provides the service at the country's other SAR bases at Dublin, Shannon and Waterford.

I understand from my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, that CHCI will provide continuity of SAR service to the coastal, island and seafaring communities in the north-west. The changeover from the Air Corps to CHCI will not in any way downgrade or diminish the level of service provided to mariners or to our island communities. I understand the mission list for the coast guard service includes air ambulance, island relief, medevac and so forth.

The decision to withdraw the Air Corps from search and rescue services was only made following a considered assessment of the capacity of the Air Corps to return to and maintain a full 24 hour service in the north-west. The decision was taken against what has always been the overriding concern of the Government: the safety of mariners and, indeed, anyone who gets into difficulty where SAR can respond. The Air Corps was not in a position to provide the level of service that was required. There is no plan to reconsider the decision to withdraw from the maritime search and rescue service. However, the Air Corps will continue to provide limited non-maritime search and rescue response and the specifications for the new helicopters being acquired for the Air Corps have this capability.

The White Paper on defence establishes the roles of the Defence Forces as including the provision of service to civil authorities as and when required. The Defence Forces have never been found wanting in this regard and in the event of an emergency request from the coast guard or indeed from any other service, the Air Corps will obviously respond to any such request in its usual efficient and supportive manner and to the best of its capability.

EU Battle Groups.

John Gormley

Question:

40 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Defence the relationship between the new EU battle groups and the EU constitution’s permanent structured co-operation; if most of the battle groups will be a part of permanent structured co-operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17556/05]

The European constitution proposes a new arrangement known as "permanent structured co-operation"— to enable those member states wishing to do so to commit to being able to undertake the most demanding crisis management missions. Structured co-operation is open to all member states, on the condition that they undertake to enhance their defence capacities through the development of national contributions and subject to participation in a number of areas specified in the constitution.

Member states can indicate their decision to take part in structured co-operation once the constitution comes into force. Alternatively, member states who decide not to participate immediately can decide to do so at a later date, providing they meet the criteria outlined. Member states which participate in structured co-operation may also withdraw from it. Decision making procedures in structured co-operation are set out in the European constitution. These provide that decisions will be taken by unanimity among the states participating in permanent structured co-operation. The detailed arrangements for the implementation of structured co-operation have yet to be elaborated.

Structured co-operation will be possible only upon entry into force of the European constitution which, subject to national ratification procedures, is envisaged in 2007. The purpose is to ensure that the Union shall have at its disposal the capabilities necessary to tackle the most demanding higher level crisis management missions under the Petersberg Tasks.

There is no specific link between structured co-operation and battle groups. While it may be the case that a group of countries which enter into structured co-operation may, as a result of this, provide a battle group from within their joint resources, there is no obligation on the part of those who form a battle group to enter into structured co-operation.

The Government will take a decision on whether Ireland should participate in structured co-operation in due course, once it becomes clear as to precisely what commitments are involved.

Question No. 41 answered with QuestionNo. 7.
Question No. 42 answered with QuestionNo. 9.
Question No. 43 answered with QuestionNo. 16.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

44 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the voluntary code to boost cross-border competition in military equipment, which is to be agreed in November 2005 by EU Defence Ministers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17563/05]

A decision to establish an intergovernmental agency in the field of defence capabilities development, research, acquisition and armaments, known as the European Defence Agency, EDA, was formally adopted at the General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting on 12 July 2004. The overall aim of the agency is to support member states in their efforts to improve European defence capabilities in support of European security and defence policy. To achieve this, the agency has been ascribed four functions, relating to: defence capabilities development; armaments co-operation; the European defence technological and industrial base and defence equipment market; and research and technology.

I attended a meeting of the EDA steering board on Monday last where the head of the EDA, Secretary General-High Representative Solana, presented the first report on the activities undertaken by the EDA since its establishment. The report outlined progress made on the agency's work programme for the year. The early priorities mainly concerned the setting up of the agency, appointments made to the agency's staff and office premises. The early work programme focused on relations with external entities such as member states, NATO and the defence industry.

The agency has also initiated research work and studies on the European defence equipment market with a view to reducing the level of fragmentation in the market and supporting greater co-ordination in the area of research, technology and procurement. Part of the agency's plan on the European defence equipment market is the development of a voluntary code of conduct on arms procurement which would seek to eliminate or reduce the use of Article 296 and the use of offsets and other market distortion instruments.

I believe the agency will be an important forum by which the EU can seek to improve competitiveness and efficiency in the defence equipment sector, which has been notable for fragmentation and duplication. While Ireland is not a major consumer of defence equipment, I believe we should encourage developments which improve market efficiencies or which may yield some economies of scale for equipment procurement for the Defence Forces.

Defence Forces Property.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

45 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Defence the number of medical facilities available to the Defence Forces; the capacity and usage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17525/05]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

65 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Defence the medical facilities available to the Defence Forces within the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17550/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 45 and 65 together.

The military medical services and their facilities exist primarily to maintain the health of the Defence Forces and to support them in operational and overseas activities. The reorganisation of the medical corps, which was effected as part of the Defence Forces review implementation plan in November 1998, redirected the focus of military medical care from a predominantly hospital based service to one in which primary, occupational and field support would continue to be further developed.

The medical corps facilities are as follows: St. Bricin's Military Hospital, Dublin; three military medical facilities, MMF, located in Cork, Athlone and the Curragh; and 17 medical centres, one in each of the other permanently occupied military barracks. St. Bricin's Military Hospital and the three military medical facilities have associated infirmaries for the care of living-in personnel — largely recruits and other training course students — who may become injured or ill. There are appointments for a physician as well as x-ray, pharmacy and screening audiometry facilities. Physiotherapy facilities are available at St. Bricin's Military Hospital and the MMF in Cork and the Curragh.

The focus of the military medical service is on primary care, acute trauma management, preventative medical programmes and field medical training. The range of services provided by the medical corps includes a military occupational medical service; a primary medical care service; a secondary medical care service; a preventative medical service; provision of medicines and dressings; dental services; a field medical service; training; maintenance of medical records; and medico-legal services.

The statistical information on capacity and usage as at end of 2004, the latest date for which figures are available, is shown in the tables.

2004 Activity Details: St. Bricin's Hospital MMFs, Air Corps and Naval Base.

St. Bricin’s Hospital

MMF Curragh

MMF Cork

MMF Athlone

Med Centre Casement

Med. Centre Naval Base

Occupational Medicals

2,414

1,205

1,738

3,719

328

834

Sick Parades

6,716

13,800

4,465

3,260

3,190

6,293

Inoculation/Vaccinations

800

11,500

754

958

30

1,090

Clinics

Audiograms

2,086

993

1,584

904

360

834

X-Rays

4,961

Eye Specialist

310

Surgeon

Psychiatrist

175

148

ENT

345

Physiotherapy

2,205

ECG

1,412

1,654

607

95

308

Families Clinic

3,653

Bloods

7,541

4,200

1,274

2,321

400

834

2004 Activity Details: Medical Centres.

Sick Parades

Occupational Examinations

Cathal Brugha Barracks

2,209

128

McKee Barracks

Aiken Barracks, Dundalk

2,520

171

Gormanston Camp

2,058

Monaghan Barracks

345

307

Kickham Barracks, Clonmel **

1,156

Sarsfield Barracks, Limerick **

2,175

686

Stephens Barracks, Kilkenny

2,372

29

Finner Camp

938

280

Lifford Barracks

892

Dún Uí Neill, Cavan

563

60

Connolly Barracks, Longford

676

97

Dún Uí Mhaoiliosa, Galway *

2,341

431

Rockhill House

706

116

Columb Barracks, Mullingar

1,136

187

*MO in barracks.

**MO shared.

Staff — Hospital/Medical Facilities/Centres.

Location

Officers

Non- commissioned Officers

Privates

Total

Army Nursing Service

Immediately available bed capacity

Bed night Occupancy 2004

Dundalk

1

3

4

Gormanston

1

2

3

McKee Barracks

1

1

Cathal Brugha

1

1

St. Bricin’s*

11**

33

20

63

11

18

846

Casement

1

4

5

1

MMF Cork

3***

14

15

32

9

10

50

Limerick

1

2

4

Clonmel

1

2

3

Kilkenny

2

2

4

Naval Base

1

9

3

13

1

MMF DFTC

4****

21

15

39

10

7

98

MMF Athlone

3***

12

2

17

Mullingar

1

2

3

Finner

1

5

6

Letterkenny

1

2

3

Galway

1

4

6

Lifford

1

3

4

Longford

1

1

Cavan

1

1

Monaghan

1

3

4

Grand total

22

103

92

217

32

35

994

*Includes base medical stores.

**1 × OIC 1 × radiologist 1 × pathologist 1 × psychiatrist 3 × medical officer 1 × periodontist 2 × pharmacist 1 × admin.

***1 × OIC medical officer 1 × dental officer 1 × pharmacist.

****2 × medical officer 1 × dental officer 1 × pharmacist.

Overseas Missions.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

46 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Defence the situation with respect to the disappearance of a person (details supplied). [17646/05]

On 27 April 1981, an observation post in South Lebanon manned by two members of the Irish battalion serving with the United Nations interim force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, Private Hugh Doherty and Private Kevin Seoighe, came under attack. Private Doherty was later found dead from gunshot wounds and Private Seoighe was missing. Some equipment was also missing. The attackers are unknown.

Efforts to obtain information on the whereabouts of Private Seoighe's remains have been ongoing since his disappearance. My predecessor raised the matter with the Israeli ambassador and the matter has also been pursued by the Department of Foreign Affairs with the Palestinian authorities. During visits by my predecessor to UNIFIL he took every opportunity to raise the issue both with government and local representatives and with the Lebanese media. In addition, each successive Irish battalion between 1981 and 2001, when the Irish battalion was withdrawn, had been tasked with pursuing the matter.

I am advised by the military authorities that the situation in UNIFIL is that the case remains open. Efforts are made from time to time in Lebanon to establish the location of Private Seoighe's remains and, if located, efforts will be made to repatriate his remains. The recent visit by two senior officers of the Defence Forces was part of the ongoing investigation into the disappearance of Private Seoighe. It is not possible at this stage to say if this particular visit will bear fruit. However, my Department will continue to make every effort to bring this tragic case to a conclusion.

Question No. 47 answered with QuestionNo. 28.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

48 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence the strength of the Irish Defence Forces contingent serving in Liberia; if he will report on the situation in that country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17519/05]

The Defence Forces contingent, which was deployed for service with the United Nations mission in Liberia, UNMIL, in December 2003, currently comprises a motorised infantry battalion, of some 404 personnel. A small number of additional personnel have also been deployed at force headquarters and as military observers. Irish personnel are rotated on a six monthly basis. The 92nd Infantry Battalion, which consists of troops mainly from the Southern Brigade area, commenced a six month tour of duty in December 2004. The 93rd Infantry Battalion drawn from the Western Brigade is replacing the 92nd Infantry Battalion at present. The rotation will be completed on 1 June 2005.

Ireland, together with an infantry company group from Sweden, provides the quick reaction force, QRF, to the UNMIL force commander. I very much welcome the participation of Sweden as part of the QRF. This type of co-operation is reflective of the changing dynamics in peacekeeping. The range and diversity of arrangements now in place for peacekeeping allow us to work in tandem with like minded nations to contribute in a very effective and meaningful manner to peace support operations throughout the world. The role of the Irish personnel is the provision of an immediate response capability, deployable in sufficient strength and with the required level of force to provide a swift and decisive military reaction to any crisis situation.

The Irish battalion in UNMIL has operated in a path finding and reconnaissance role supporting the deployment of other UN contingents. It has also conducted long range patrols beyond Monrovia and well into the interior of Liberia showing a UN presence, deterring lawlessness and protecting local populations. The contingent also undertakes regular daily patrols within the Monrovia area. The Irish battalion is available to the force commander to provide support and a rapid response capability in the event of a breakdown in law and order or further conflict. Additionally, the QRF conducts patrols to support election profiling efforts for the forthcoming national elections to be held on 11 October next.

The situation in Liberia is currently assessed as calm. However, the speed with which these situations can get out of hand is indicative of the difficult circumstances in which our troops operate and one can never lose sight of this. We will continue to keep this situation under review to ensure that our troops have the necessary equipment and resources to discharge their mandate.

Defence Forces Property.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

49 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Defence if it is planned to offer for sale lands or facilities currently used by the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17530/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

151 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the current use of all of the military installations decommissioned in 1998; the cost to date associated with security, maintenance or other services; the benefits accruing from rents or sale; the proposed use or uses of those not yet disposed of; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17732/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

164 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the net benefit to the Exchequer accruing from the closure of the various military barracks decommissioned in 1998; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17745/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

165 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the current value of the decommissioned Magee Barracks in Kildare town; the future intentions for the barracks; the extent to which discussions have taken place with interested parties on its future use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17746/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 49, 151, 164 and 165 together.

On 15 July 1998, the Government approved a programme of evacuation and sale of six barracks considered surplus to military requirements. The barracks in question were located at Ballincollig, Fermoy, Castleblayney, Naas, Kildare and Clancy Barracks, Dublin.

The sale of 97 acres approximately at Murphy Barracks, Ballincollig, was completed in 2003 for a total of €42 million. The bulk of the lands were purchased by O'Flynn Construction. The sale of a site comprising approximately 2.7 acres to the Southern Heath Board for €1.73 million was completed in December last. It was agreed at the time that an area comprising approximately 27 acres at Murphy Barracks would be transferred to Cork County Council for community use and title to this area is being transferred to the council. Agreement has also been reached for the sale of a site of approximately 1.7 acres to the Department of Education and Science for approximately €1.1 million. A half acre site has been set aside on foot of a request from the Office of Public Works, OPW, for a plot of ground to facilitate extension of the existing Garda station located on Main Street, Ballincollig.

Some 19.218 acres at the former Fitzgerald Camp, Fermoy, were sold to Cork County Council in 2001 for €973,889 for development in conjunction with the IDA. Castleblayney Military Post, County Monaghan, comprising approximately ten acres, was sold to the North Eastern Health Board for €761,843 in 2002. Seven acres at Devoy Barracks, Naas, County Kildare, were ceded free of charge to Naas Urban District Council, while a further 14 acres were sold to that authority for €8,888,167. The balance of the barracks lands, one acre, was sold to Kildare County Council for €380,921 in 2002. Clancy Barracks, Dublin, comprising approximately 13.65 acres, was sold to Florence Properties Limited for €25.4 million in 2004.

On 1 July 2003, the Government decided that Magee Barracks, Kildare, would be among the State lands released for inclusion in the Sustaining Progress affordable housing initiative. The intention is that this initiative will be targeted at those who in the past would have expected to purchase a house from their own resources but find that they are unable to do so in the current market. The release of State lands under this initiative is a critical factor in ensuring delivery of affordable housing units. The modalities of the transfer of the Magee Barracks property to Kildare County Council are in process in consultation with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The future development of the site is a matter for that Department and Kildare County Council, which has prepared a draft local area plan for the site.

The value of sales/disposals completed to date, in respect of the six barracks, which were the subject of the July 1998 Government decision, is in the region of €80 million. The security, maintenance, consultancy and other costs in respect of those barracks identified for closure in 1998 are shown in the table.

Security

Maintenance and Other Costs

Murphy Barracks, Ballincollig #

1,120,604

257,113*

Fitzgerald Camp, Fermoy #

330,813

42,633

Castleblayney Military Post #

131,289

10,548

Devoy Barracks, Naas #

472,654

16,959

Magee Barracks, Kildare #

123,291

15,677

Clancy Barracks, Dublin #

649,441

203,089

#Now sold or no longer in the administration of my Department — no further costs will be incurred by the Department of Defence.

*Includes costs relating to the integrated area action plan.

These costs were more than offset by savings on military security duty allowances and utility costs consequent on the closure of the six barracks. It is the policy of my Department to dispose of properties that are surplus to military requirements. In this regard the property portfolio is kept under continual review and any such properties will be disposed of to fund much needed investment for the Defence Forces.

Injury Compensation Claims.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

50 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Defence the amount paid out to members of the Defence Forces for each of the past five years in respect of compensation claims for injury or illness (details supplied); the amount paid in respect of legal costs associated with these claims in the same period; the steps being taken to reduce the level of such claims; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17610/05]

Details of the amount paid by my Department in settlement of compensation claims and associated legal costs, excluding hearing loss claims, over the period in question are shown in the table.

Non-Hearing Loss Claims.

Year

Awards/Settlements

Legal Fees

2000

6,799,201

1,564,900

2001

4,555,277

1,724,704

2002

4,835,652

1,430,747

2003

3,522,547

1,030,490

2004

3,149,599

1,755,582

The figures are the amounts paid in settlement of actions against the Minister for Defence. They include payments to serving and non-serving members of the Permanent and Reserve Defence Forces in respect of personal injuries and material damage. They also include amounts paid to civilian employees and members of the public.

I am concerned, of course, to ensure that such claims are kept to a minimum and that when they do arise they are dealt with expeditiously and efficiently. It was for this purpose that the Government established the State claims agency which formally took charge of its new responsibilities on 3 December 2001, with the resources necessary to dispose of claims against Departments as cost effectively as possible. To date I have referred 584 cases for the attention of the agency, 257 of which have been settled. Some 433 cases remain to be disposed by my Department including claims predating the State claims agency and in certain categories not encompassed in the agency's brief.

The agency also has a role in the overseeing of risk management. A working committee comprising military personnel, representatives from the State claims agency and Department officials, has been established to examine incidents giving rise to claims and trends emerging in order to identify and obviate, if possible, the underlying causes of injury to civilian and Defence Forces personnel. In addition to this, in 2004, the Defence Forces established a risk management steering group and a risk management implementation group to implement the overall Defence Forces risk management policy.

In the wider area of personal injuries compensation, significant legislative changes have been introduced. The Personal Injuries Assessment Board was established in 2004. The board provides independent assessment of personal injury compensation for victims of workplace, motor and public liability accidents. This assessment is provided without the need for most of the current litigation costs, such as solicitors fees, barristers fees and experts fees, associated with such claims. The Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 provides for procedural changes in actions to recover damages for personal injuries. These include a reduction from three to two years in the Statute of Limitations for such actions. Other provisions of this Act are aimed at streamlining the process, which should also reduce the overall cost of personal injuries claims.

Question No. 51 answered with QuestionNo. 27.

Nuclear Safety.

Pat Breen

Question:

52 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Defence if the Defence Forces provide security for the transportation of nuclear or chemical materials within the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17526/05]

The Garda Síochána has the primary responsibility for law and order. One of the roles assigned to the Defence Forces is the provision of aid to the civil power, meaning in practice to assist, when requested, the Garda Síochána. I am informed by the military authorities that they have received no request for the provision of security for the transportation of nuclear or chemical materials within the State. However, if such a request were received, it would be considered in the normal manner.

Question No. 53 answered with QuestionNo. 16.

Bullying in the Workplace.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

54 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding steps to eradicate bullying and harassment from the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17521/05]

Dr. Eileen Doyle and the external advisory committee presented their report, The Challenge of a Workplace, in March 2002. That independent report addressed the range of interpersonal issues within the Defence Forces. Its contents and recommendations were accepted in full. Implementation of the recommendations of the report has been one of the highest priorities for the Defence Forces and my Department since its publication. An independent monitoring group was established in May 2002 to oversee the implementation of those recommendations.

The independent monitoring group's progress report, Response to the Challenge of a Workplace, launched by my predecessor on 24 September 2004, is available on the Defence Forces website and describes in detail the progress achieved since the publication of the original Doyle report in 2002.

Arising from the Doyle report, the following steps have been taken. Firm guiding principles have been set out in the Defence Forces Dignity in the Workplace Charter. A major educational awareness programme is ongoing throughout the Defence Forces. A new administrative instruction on interpersonal relationships was introduced in March 2003. The instruction and a user's guide were distributed to every member of the Defence Forces. Some 177 of a planned 200 designated contact persons have been put in place throughout the organisation to facilitate the operation of the formal and informal procedures that may be used by any party wishing to institute a complaint. A course to qualify further personnel will be held in June 2005.

An independent external confidential "free phone" helpline and counselling service was set up for members of the Permanent Defence Forces in March 2003. An independent pilot project of exit interviews seeking the experiences and views of outgoing members of the Permanent Defence Forces was conducted. Leadership training has been given by external experts and has been the subject of NCO focus groups with emphasis on "training the trainers". Changes in cadet school instruction have been initiated and issues concerning the ranking, selection and training for cadet school instructors are being addressed. Defence Forces regulations, administrative instructions, policies and procedures have been reviewed by an equality steering group under a Labour Court chairperson. The position of Defence Forces Ombudsman is currently being advertised and the closing date for applications is 9 June 2005. An officer in the Defence Forces human resources management section has been assigned responsibility for equality matters.

The chief of staff has repeatedly emphasised his acceptance of the problems indicated by the Doyle report. He has recognised the necessity to tackle this matter in a fundamental way at all levels of the Defence Forces and has demonstrated a very active and genuine commitment to change. He has emphasised that it is incumbent on all commanders to ensure that best practice in the management of personnel is fostered at all levels to eliminate the problems identified in the Doyle report.

Policies on equality, dignity and bullying are constantly being communicated to all ranks. I am satisfied that the military authorities are alert and vigilant to this issue and committed to addressing the matter in a continuing and proactive manner through education modules on interpersonal relationships now embedded in career courses for all ranks.

I wish to reiterate that bullying is not training for anything. I fully realise that the project of bringing about necessary fundamental changes in attitudes and culture will not be quick or easy. However, with substantial and vigorous leadership, I have every confidence that the proper environment will be firmly established and maintained throughout the Defence Forces.

Question No. 55 answered with QuestionNo. 9.
Question No. 56 answered with QuestionNo. 11.
Question No. 57 answered with QuestionNo. 34.
Question No. 58 answered with QuestionNo. 13.
Question No. 59 answered with QuestionNo. 14.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Pat Breen

Question:

60 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Defence the number of nuclear, biological and chemical suits available to the Permanent and Reserve Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17524/05]

The Defence Forces have available to them equipment for monitoring and protecting their members in dealing with nuclear, biological or chemical, NBC, threats identified from time to time. They hold an extensive range of modern NBC equipment that meets their current requirements. That range includes approximately 7,000 NBC suits, 1,500 of which were delivered in 2004. It is planned to purchase a further 1,000 NBC suits this year and a further 1,000 suits in 2006.

Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

61 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Defence his views on the role of space technologies in the EU’s new European security and defence policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17564/05]

Space assets have multiple applications, both civil and military. In the civil role, space assets or satellites are used, for example, in monitoring implementation of the Common Agriculture Policy and for environmental analysis, research, navigation and so on. In the context of European security and defence policy, the availability of satellites for monitoring, reconnaissance and surveillance is extremely important and has application regarding all the Petersberg Tasks, from monitoring the impact of humanitarian disasters, identifying access routes and supporting relief efforts, to monitoring troop movements and opposing forces in the case of a peacekeeping or peace-making operations.

Space is a vital asset in supporting strategic decision making and operational planning. For example, the use of satellite imagery is essential for identifying transit routes in areas where reliable maps may not be available and for communications, weather forecasting and so on.

Air Ambulance Service.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

62 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Defence the number of helicopters available to the air ambulance service; if the provision of a dedicated all-island emergency helicopter medical service is being considered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17561/05]

The provision of an air ambulance service is primarily a matter for the Department of Health and Children. Inter-hospital air ambulance services are currently provided by the Air Corps and the Irish Coast Guard, subject to the nature of the mission, available aircraft and other operational commitments.

The Alouette and Dauphin helicopters are currently used by the Air Corps in the provision of air ambulance services. The existing fleet comprises seven Alouettes and two Dauphins. Fixed wing aircraft are also used from time to time, depending on the mission type. A total of 31 aircraft are in service with the Air Corps at present, comprising 19 fixed wing aircraft and 12 helicopters. The six new helicopters now being acquired for the Air Corps will also have a specific air ambulance capability.

A detailed service level agreement between my Department and the Department of Health and Children is currently being finalised. That agreement will set out the details of the specific capabilities which the Air Corps will provide in respect of air ambulance services.

Question No. 63 answered with QuestionNo. 34
Question No. 64 answered with QuestionNo. 15.
Question No. 65 answered with QuestionNo. 45.
Question No. 66 answered with QuestionNo. 28.

Parliamentary Questions.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

67 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that parliamentary questions referred by her to the HSE are often not replied to for several weeks and that some replies have been outstanding for several months; her views on whether this demonstrates an erosion of accountability since the health boards were abolished; her further views on the fact that these replies do not appear in the public record; the steps she intends to take to ensure that questions are replied to by her office and in a reliable and timely manner; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17659/05]

The HSE, established on 1 January 2005, is the national body with statutory responsibility for the delivery and management of health and personal social services. Accordingly, matters raised in parliamentary questions which relate to local or individual cases are referred to the executive for reply to the Deputy concerned. This is essentially a continuation of the practice which was followed, prior to the creation of the executive, when such matters were referred to the individual health boards. Similarly, questions which previously required information from each former health board to be collected and collated can now be more directly arranged by the executive.

Since the executive's establishment, the chief officers in each of its administrative areas have continued to deal with parliamentary questions in accordance with the arrangements which previously operated under the health boards. Essentially, the arrangements made to date were calculated to avoid any erosion in the accountability arising under the parliamentary question system since the health boards were abolished. The establishment of the executive should be grasped as an opportunity for an improved service for providing information to members of the Oireachtas, on a proactive basis as well as where it is specifically sought.

The executive recently established a parliamentary affairs division to act as a central contact for all Oireachtas requests relating to matters within its statutory remit. A key function of the division is to monitor, throughout the executive's national directorates and administrative areas, the timeliness of replies and to follow up immediately where a reply has not issued within 20 working days of receipt of the referral. However, if the Deputy wishes to supply details to my office of particular cases where he has experienced difficulties in obtaining a timely reply, my Department will pursue these immediately with the executive's parliamentary affairs division.

The Health Act 2004 introduced transparency and accountability arrangements for the management and delivery of health and personal social services. These measures relate to publication by the executive of a three year corporate plan, an annual service plan, a code of governance and an annual report. There is also provision in the Act whereby the executive's chief executive officer shall, at the written request of an Oireachtas committee, attend before it to give an account of the general administration of the executive. Members of the executive have already attended the Joint Committee on Health and Children and the Committee of Public Accounts.

I am keen to ensure that the executive provides a high quality service to Members of the Oireachtas and I will be making regulations under section 79 of the Act on the conduct by the executive of its dealings with Members of either House of the Oireachtas. My Department is also working with the executive on the finalisation and early implementation of arrangements to further enhance the capabilities of the executive to provide an information service to Oireachtas Members.

Pension Provisions.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

68 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the occupational pension scheme which is available to home helps; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17661/05]

Under the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001, any employee whose normal hours of work constitute at least 20% of the normal hours of a comparable full-time employee is entitled to be treated no less favourably than the comparable full-time employee. My Department has been informed by the Health Service Executive that pension arrangements for home helps employed in the health service are currently being discussed as part of a proposed collective agreement with the trade unions by the employers representative division of the executive, on behalf of health employers.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

69 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if extra finance for services for persons with disabilities announced in budget 2005 has been spent; and if she will make a statement on the amount which was spent on providing extra services for people with disabilities. [17677/05]

The national disability strategy provides a framework of positive action measures to support participation by people with disabilities in Irish society. The strategy consists of the Disability Bill 2004, the Comhairle (Amendment) Bill 2004, six outline sectoral plans and a commitment to a multi-annual investment.

The strategic review of services being undertaken by my Department is examining the significant level of service provision which is already in place, focusing on specific issues which are of concern to people with disabilities and their families and carers, together with statutory and voluntary bodies in this area, with an opportunity to input into the planning and delivery of services over the coming years.

The Government announced on budget day a special disability multi-annual funding package with a total value of close to €900 million over the years 2006 to 2009 which includes an allocation of €300 million out of the revised capital envelope to these high priority disability services. The amounts allocated for 2005 are €70.39 million and €34 million in respect of revenue and capital funding respectively. To ensure that the various elements of this additional funding are targeted to meet the priority needs which have been agreed a protocol has been developed by my Department with the Health Service Executive to facilitate the monitoring of the specific investment programme in disability services under the national disability strategy. In this regard, the Health Service Executive has established a disability policy and legislation standing group which has been working with my Department in relation to the implementation of the national disability strategy and the roll-out of the new disability legislation.

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the funding of services for people with disabilities. I am requesting the Health Service Executive's national director for primary, community and continuing care to provide the information for 2005 and I will reply directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Pat Carey

Question:

70 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) will receive an appointment in a hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17691/05]

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

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

71 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when sufficient qualified chiropodist staff will be available to enable persons seeking treatment as advertised in media advertisements to obtain that treatment within a reasonable time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17727/05]

Following an agreed assessment process, a further 81 names have been added to the list of chiropodists considered eligible to practise in the public health service. My Department is currently liaising with the relevant professional bodies in regard to the development of the assessment system, building on the work carried out to date for the preparation of the statutory registration of chiropodists as set out in the Health and Social Care Professionals Bill 2004. The Bill provides for the establishment of a chiropodists registration board which will be responsible for establishing and maintaining a register of chiropodists. Statutory registration will encompass chiropodists working in the public health service and in private practice.

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive has responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for human resource matters and the determination of eligibility for employment of staff, including chiropodists.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

72 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the length of time a person is likely to have to wait for an opportunity to have tests carried out at present in respect of heart condition, rheumatology, urology, cancer, tuberculosis and other conditions with particular reference to persons who might expect long waiting periods; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17728/05]

My Department does not collect or collate data on waiting times for tests in respect of the specialties mentioned. The length of time involved for patients requiring tests is dependent on a number of factors such as the patient's condition, the particular test required, the demand for such tests and the capacity of individual hospitals to carry out particular tests. Operational issues for the services provided by acute hospitals rest with the Health Service Executive. The executive has the responsibility to ensure that services are managed and delivered in a timely manner to meet the needs of the population.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

73 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of the application for domiciliary care allowance in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17729/05]

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 domiciliary care allowance. Accordingly, my Department has requested the chief officer for the eastern regional area to investigate the matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy.

Winter Vomiting Bug.

Dan Boyle

Question:

74 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the most recent statistics for the incidence of winter vomiting bug in Cork city and county hospitals in 2004 and to date in 2005. [17770/05]

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

National Lottery Funding.

Michael Lowry

Question:

75 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a scheme exists within her Department for a group (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17771/05]

The Department of Health and Children provides funding to voluntary organisations under a national lottery funded grant scheme. This funding is discretionary. A set protocol is in place in the Department for dealing with applications or requests for grants from discretionary national lottery funds. An application form is made available to any individual, group or agency which requests a grant.

When the completed application form is received in the Department, it is registered in the finance unit and forwarded to the relevant services division for its assessment, evaluation and recommendation. All applications are considered in the context of the recommendation and the overall level of funds available to the Tánaiste, and each organisation is then informed of the decision reached in regard to its application.

Hospital Staff.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

76 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a person being appointed to a hospital (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17786/05]

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

EU Directives.

Richard Bruton

Question:

77 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if he has assessed EU proposals to introduce an excise duty on aircraft fuel as part of the strategy to address this source of emissions affecting global warming; the Government’s approach to this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17660/05]

When the issue of introducing tax on aviation fuel arose in the context of discussions on the EU energy tax directive, 2003/96/EC, we expressed concerns, together with other member states, based on our peripheral status and dispersal of populations, which adds to transport costs, and the need to maintain competitiveness in the EU vis-à-vis third countries in regard to tourism. The directive did not include any taxes on aviation fuel because there was no agreement to do so. A proposal to introduce a tax on aviation fuel or a ticket tax to fund development aid has emerged at EU level in recent months. I have expressed my opposition to such a proposal as the concerns raised in the context of discussions on the EU energy tax directive still hold.

The Government continues to address its climate change commitments through the national climate change strategy. Taxation is only one way of addressing the issues involved. I have stated before that I am open-minded towards initiatives in the tax area which can impact positively on the environment. In reviewing any such initiatives, however, I must be mindful of competitiveness issues and the impact of any particular measure across the overall community.

Pension Provisions.

John Cregan

Question:

78 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Finance when the accompanying regulation to the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 will be notified to local authorities in order that pension entitlements will be calculated for part-time employees. [17663/05]

The Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 and any regulations made under that Act are the responsibility of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has responsibility for pensions of staff in local authorities and these are already covered by the provisions of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001.

However, I can answer the Deputy in the context of my responsibility for public service pensions reform. The Deputy may be aware that the Commission on Public Service Pensions, as part of its terms of reference, had regard to claims for improvements to pension arrangements for part-time public servants, particularly with regard to access to pension schemes and the method of integration of occupational pensions with social insurance benefits. The commission recommended that access to public service pension schemes should be granted to public servants in part-time work provided they are in regular or quasi-permanent employment and that they work a certain minimum number of hours per week. This recommendation was overtaken by legislation and a legal basis for access to pension schemes for part-time employees was provided with effect from 20 December 2001 by the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001.

Following consideration of the integration arrangements, the commission recommended a change in the form of integration from full to pro rata integration for the pensions of part-time public servants. In budget 2004, the Minister for Finance announced that the Government had decided to implement the bulk of the recommendations of the Commission on Public Service Pensions. Discussions were subsequently held with the unions and on 14 September 2004, following Government approval, the Minister announced the introduction of certain key recommendations, including the proposal for pro rata integration. These will enhance the pension benefits of part-time employees in the public service, including the local authorities.

My Department is finalising a detailed circular on revised arrangements for part-time public servants as part of the public service pensions reform package. It is intended to issue the circular in the near future.

Public Service Contracts.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

79 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Finance the criteria used by the national public procurement policy unit in its competitive processing system for short-listing contractors who can tender for major road works; when the change was made in the tendering process; and the way in which the contractors are selected and the persons allowed to tender (details supplied). [17673/05]

The primary responsibility for the procurement of capital projects rests with individual contracting authorities and it is a matter for them to determine the appropriate tendering procedure to use. I understand the question relates to larger capital projects. Public works contracts with an estimated value above the threshold, currently €5.9 million, must be awarded in accordance with EU directives.

These directives, in place since 1993, permit a number of tendering procedures but the most widely used are the open and restricted procedures. In the open procedure, all interested parties may submit tenders. The restricted procedure is a two stage process. First, applicants are invited to express an interest and to provide details of relevant experience and expertise, technical capability, competency and financial capacity. At the second stage, those who best meet the stated requirements under each criterion are short-listed and invited to tender. The pre-qualification and short-listing criteria set out in the directives must be used in an open, non-discriminatory and transparent manner.

Tax Code.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

80 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if a tax credit will be amended in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [17674/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they have adjusted the taxpayer's 2005 tax credits. An amended notice of determination of tax credits will be issued shortly, which will include the appropriate tax credit for a single person.

Tax Collection.

Finian McGrath

Question:

81 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if elderly persons whose relatives are affected by the trawl relating to insurance schemes exceeding €20,000 will be treated in a sensitive and fair manner. [17678/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that their investigation into individuals who have invested in single premium life assurance products is confined to those circumstances where tax liabilities have been evaded. The Revenue Commissioners accept there are many individuals who have invested money from non-taxable sources as well as from income, gains and acquisitions which have already been declared for tax purposes. Any individuals in that position who have received a letter from a life assurance company should have no need to do anything as they are not the focus of the investigation. It is also important to note that all profits which arise from investments in life assurance products are fully taxed at source by the life assurance company with whom the investment is placed and no further liability arises.

The Revenue Commissioners inform me that if individuals are affected by the investigation and have particular difficulties in regard to payment, they should make early contact with the Revenue Commissioners and fully explain their circumstances. They will be treated sensitively and fairly having regard to the need for equity with other taxpayers.

Finian McGrath

Question:

82 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 will receive the maximum advice and support on the insurance schemes issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17679/05]

The Revenue Commissioners have advised me that the individual mentioned above has no tax issues. The funds invested in the life assurance product were from taxed PAYE earnings. A Revenue Commissioners official has confirmed this to the family of the individual concerned.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

83 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if an association (details supplied) in County Kildare will be afforded full charity status given that the charitable status does not cover reclamation of VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17693/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the Celbridge Mental Health Housing Association Limited has been granted charitable status, that there is no separate concept of "full" charity status and that the status granted in this case allows for all the exemptions applicable to charities. A charitable body is exempt from income tax, corporation tax, capital gains tax, deposit interest retention tax, capital acquisitions tax, stamp duty, probate tax and dividend withholding tax.

With regard to VAT, the position is that when charities and non-profit organisations are engaged in non-commercial activity, they are exempt from VAT under the EU sixth VAT directive with which Irish law must comply. This means they do not charge VAT on the services they provide but cannot recover VAT on goods and services they purchase. Essentially, only VAT registered businesses are able to recover VAT.

Departmental Properties.

Denis Naughten

Question:

84 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Finance the renovation and infrastructural upgrades carried out on rental premises in Roscommon town by the Office of Public Works in each of the past three years and to date in 2005; the total cost of each project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17700/05]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the table.

Department

Location

Works

Cost

Agriculture and Food

Roscommon West Business Park.

Installation of fire fighting equipment and re-commissioning of fire alarm.

1,239.77

Agriculture and Food

Old Bank House, Church Street.

Various works to include new carpets, ceiling repairs, plumbing, electrical and fire fighting equipment.

14,981.73

Health and Children

Roscommon Enterprise Centre, Racecourse Road.

Transverse hoist installed in toilet with associated works for use by disabled persons.

6,188.71

Environment

Vehicle Registration Office, Castle Street.

Paving and drainage works, carpets, general maintenance.

12,554.42

Architectural Heritage.

Joe Costello

Question:

85 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Finance if he will reveal the whereabouts of a statue (details supplied) which was taken from the Botanic Gardens for cleaning some years ago and never returned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17715/05]

The statue in question is now located in Farmleigh House. It was originally purchased by the Guinness family for Iveagh House in the middle of the last century. It was transferred to the National Botanic Gardens in the late 1930s where it was subjected to vandalism and was ultimately stored indoors in plastic wrapping. It has been cleaned, restored and is now on display indoors in Farmleigh, which is a house associated with the Guinness family.

Disabled Drivers.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

86 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance if and when a special exemption in respect of VRT and VAT under the disabled drivers and disabled passenger tax concession 1994 will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17720/05]

The medical criteria for the purposes of the tax concessions under this scheme are set out in the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concessions regulations 1994. Six different types of disablement are listed under the regulations and a qualifying person must satisfy one or more of them.

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

It is a fundamental requirement for admission to the scheme that the applicant meets the specified medical criteria and is in possession of a primary medical certificate to that effect issued by the appropriate senior area medical officer, who is an official of the local Health Service Executive area. Where the issue of the required certificate is refused, appeal can be made to the disabled drivers' medical board of appeal, an independent body, whose decision is final. As the Deputy is aware, I have no direct role in the decision on whether a primary medical certificate is issued.

Possession of a primary medical certificate qualifies the holder for remission or repayment of vehicle registration tax, a repayment of value added tax, VAT, on the purchase of the vehicle and a repayment of VAT on the cost of adaptation of the vehicle. Repayment of the excise duty on fuel used in the motor vehicle and exemption from annual road tax to local authorities are also allowed.

Decentralisation Programme.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

87 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if the Government remains committed to bringing 120 civil service jobs to Buncrana, County Donegal, under the decentralisation programme; and, if so, the timeframe for same. [17780/05]

The Government is firmly committed to the implementation of the decentralisation programme, including to Buncrana. The decentralisation implementation group will report again presently about progress towards implementation of the programme. In its report it will also deal with the locations and organisations not covered in its 24 November report, including Buncrana.

Harbours and Piers.

Martin Ferris

Question:

88 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the OPW was responsible for financing the construction of steps leading on to a pier (details supplied) in County Donegal in the 1990s; and if so, if it was in the public interest. [17779/05]

Portronan pier is owned by Donegal County Council and responsibility for its repair and maintenance rests with the local authority in the first instance. In 1999 and 2000, the Department provided funding of €133,212.03 to Donegal County Council for repairs to Portronan pier. The repairs included the replacement of existing steps at the head of the pier and the works were carried out by Donegal County Council.

Foreshore Licences.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

89 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will report on the concerns of his Department and the details of the additional information requested with regard to the granting of a foreshore licence to a restaurant (details supplied) in County Donegal; the reason it was granted such a licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17657/05]

While examining a foreshore lease application for occupation of an area of foreshore at Ballyboe, Rathmullan, County Donegal, for the purpose of constructing a car park, a wastewater treatment system and a seawall with rock armour, the Department's engineering division expressed some concerns about the effluent treatment aspect of the proposal and requested additional information on this matter.

The applicants subsequently met with the Department's engineers. At the meeting, the applicants agreed to alter the originally proposed percolation treatment to a connection with the Rathmullen sewerage scheme. Donegal County Council agreed to this change. In light of this modification and having considered all other relevant aspects of the project, including its possible amenity implications, the Department recommended that a foreshore lease should be granted. I accepted this recommendation and the applicants have been notified accordingly.

Electricity Generation.

Joe Walsh

Question:

90 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to amend the Electricity (Supply) Act 1927 to allow landowners an opportunity to negotiate with the ESB before laying cables over their land and before deciding on routes for connection to the national grid. [17705/05]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

91 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the concerns regarding the use by the ESB of powers under the Electricity (Supply) Act 1927 to provide connection to the national grid on behalf of private developers; and his proposals to amend these powers. [17707/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 90 and 91 together.

I do not have plans to amend the Electricity (Supply) Act 1927 regarding the issues raised by the Deputies. The siting of ESB infrastructure is a day-to-day operational matter for the company and not one in which I have a function. I understand from the ESB that the current position is that ESB Networks carries out statutory duties in respect of the provision of electricity infrastructure under the terms of its licences provided by the Commission for Energy Regulation.

This requires the ESB to adhere to a code of practice which includes the requirement for ESB Networks to enter discussions with landowners concerning the timing and means of entry to land and the location of poles or other structures to be placed on the land. ESB Networks endeavours to take the concerns of all landowners on board. In a small number of cases, agreement cannot be reached and after exhausting all reasonable means of reaching agreement, ESB Networks may invoke powers provided under the 1927 Act to enter the land.

With the exception of local low and medium voltage lines, ESB Networks must apply for planning permission to erect its infrastructure in the same way as any other national infrastructure provider. This allows the public the opportunity to challenge the plans in a democratic manner. Furthermore, the current legislation gives a statutory right for payment of compensation to affected landowners. The legislation also entitles landowners to have compensation assessed by independent arbitration if agreement cannot be reached on the amount.

Foreshore Licences.

Martin Ferris

Question:

92 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Donegal County Council recently unanimously passed a motion (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17759/05]

Martin Ferris

Question:

93 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his Department will work with the directors of a marina (details supplied) in a spirit of partnership to resolve all outstanding issues that prevent this important marine tourism project from reaching its full potential in view of the unanimous endorsement of the elected representatives of the people of Donegal. [17760/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 and 93 together.

The Department has been engaged for some time in correspondence with the company in question with the objective of ensuring that the company complies in full with the terms and conditions of the foreshore lease on its development. The Department has referred the matter to the legal services and correspondence with the company's solicitors is ongoing. While the Department would wish to see all outstanding issues resolved as expeditiously as possible, the company has thus far failed to address the key issues of compliance with its obligations under the terms of the lease.

Under the circumstances and pending the resolution of these fundamental issues, consideration of an application by the company for funding under the INTERREG programme cannot be progressed. The Department has no wish to prolong the difficulties that have arisen but takes the view that the means of resolving the matter lies in the hands of the developers.

Coastal Protection.

Finian McGrath

Question:

94 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position regarding issues concerning the protection and preservation of the amenities of Dublin Bay (details supplied). [17762/05]

The need for high standards of environmental protection is a central consideration for the Department when addressing any application for authorisation under the Foreshore Acts for proposed development. Matters relating to the designation of areas pursuant to the EU birds directive are the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Foreshore Licences.

Dan Boyle

Question:

95 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the foreshore licences which have been granted in recent years in Waterville, County Kerry; if no such licences have been issued; the action being taken by his Department to prevent unauthorised development there. [17776/05]

No foreshore licences have issued recently for developments in the Waterville area. However, an application from Kerry County Council for an outfall pipe to facilitate a proposed sewerage scheme for the town is under consideration within the Department. All reports of unauthorised development are investigated by the Department and appropriate action, including legal proceedings where necessary, is taken.

Foreign Conflicts.

Finian McGrath

Question:

96 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will propose an inclusive resolution of the Basque conflict at both EU and UN level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17675/05]

The Basque Country has extensive autonomous rights in areas including taxation, education, health and policing, in accordance with Spain's 1978 constitution which provides for the devolution of power to 17 autonomous communities or regions.

In December 2004, the Basque regional parliament approved a plan proposed by the Basque Prime Minister, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, to replace the existing autonomy agreement for the region, the 1979 Statute of Guernica, with a new agreement to give the Basque Country the status of free association with Spain. In effect, the Basque Country would have had almost total internal financial and judicial control and the right to foreign representation. Mr. Ibarretxe's plan would also have allowed the people of the Basque Country to decide in a referendum whether they wished to remain within Spain. While the plan was rejected by the Spanish Parliament in February 2005, Prime Minister Zapatero has indicated his Government's willingness to consider devolving further powers to the Basque Country.

Mr. Ibarretxe's party lost its overall majority in the regional elections last month and a new Basque Government has yet to be formed. On 17 May 2005, the Spanish Parliament approved a resolution proposed by the Government to authorise dialogue with the Basque separatist group ETA, which has been included on the EU's list of terrorist organisations since 27 December 2001. The Spanish Government's resolution makes it clear that the focus of dialogue will be on bringing an end to violence. It states that terrorism is completely incompatible with democracy and that violence cannot yield a political reward. The resolution requires ETA to renounce violence before the process of dialogue can begin and states that ETA has no option but to dissolve itself and lay down its arms.

On wider political issues, the resolution stresses the principle of engaging solely with the legitimately elected representatives of the Basque people. Everyone who has the interests of the Basque people at heart hopes the process outlined above will lead to early progress in the resolution of the issues in question.

Passport Applications.

Michael Ring

Question:

97 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of passport applications which were received in the passport office which had been sent by swift or express post; the number of passport applications by ordinary post; the value of the new machine which was installed in the passport office; the number of times this machine has broken down; and the number of staff who are employed in the customer care side of the passport office over the past five years. [17787/05]

The following is the breakdown of applications received in the passport offices in Dublin — Molesworth Street and Balbriggan — and Cork in 2005 to the end of April: passport express — 128,080; regular post — 17,198; counter applications — 39,540; total — 184,818. The figures represent an increase of 8.86% over the corresponding period in 2004. The passport office is implementing a new system for processing passport applications which includes a new, more secure passport booklet. As part of the overall project, specialised production equipment has been purchased at a cost of approximately €8 million.

The new system involves the use of a number of new advanced software and hardware technologies to provide one of the most advanced passport systems in the world. It has been described to us by the US State Department as "superb" and as having "security advantages" which are "extensive". It is normal and understandable for teething problems to arise in the initial months of the operation of any new high technology system. Any problems, however, have been well within expectations and have not adversely affected the delivery of services to the public.

Production has been affected on 15 occasions since last November, with the majority of interruptions lasting five hours or less. As part of the contingency arrangements built into the new system, production can be transferred electronically between the production centres in Balbriggan and Molesworth Street. This ensures that one site can provide cover for the other in case of any difficulty.

The passport office has 19 staff in its customer care and telephone helpline sections. Staff levels in this area have been increased over recent years and current numbers are slightly above those of five years ago. A 24-hour recorded information service is also provided. As the Deputy will appreciate, the volume of calls varies from time to time and, at peak periods, customers may experience some delay in getting through by telephone. In response to the problem, the passport office redeploys staff from other areas to its customer care telephone helpline when required.

To respond as well as possible to public demand, the Department also provides an emergency passport service in the evenings and at weekends.

Michael Ring

Question:

98 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of passports which have been issued to date in 2005; and the amount of revenue which was taken in by the passport office. [17788/05]

A total of 184,818 passports were issued by the passport offices in Dublin, Balbriggan and Cork to the end of April 2005, the last month for which I have full monthly records. The revenue received amounted to €8,346,503.

Sports Capital Programme.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

99 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when funding will be announced under the sports capital programme 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17706/05]

The national lottery funded sports capital programme administered by my Department allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

Applications for funding under the 2005 programme were invited through advertisements in newspapers on 5 and 6 December last. The closing date for receipt of applications was 4 February 2005. The 1,362 applications received before that deadline are currently being evaluated against the programme's assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Rights of Way.

Dan Boyle

Question:

100 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department’s attention has been drawn to the right of way restriction that is preventing surfers from accessing their traditional base beach, at an area (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if the tourist implications of this mixed approach to planning has been properly thought through. [17775/05]

I have no responsibility in the matter of rights of way. I understand the issue referred to by the Deputy is being addressed by the local authority.

Grocery Industry.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

101 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the Restrictive Practices (Groceries) Order 1987; his further views on the recommendation for its abolition by the consumer strategy group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17718/05]

I have noted the consumer strategy group's recommendation that the groceries order be revoked in its entirety. I noted also the recent report of the Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business which recommended that the order be retained in its current form. In light of these divergent views and the complexity of the issues involved, I have initiated a public consultation process whereby parties are invited to make submissions on the order by 31 July 2005. I am especially interested to know whether public opinion supports the recommendation of the consumer strategy group or favours amending or replacing the order. I will consider all views put forward before deciding what action, if any, is appropriate.

Comments, observations or submissions on the groceries order should be sent to the consumer policy section of my Department at Earlsfort Centre, Lower Hatch Street, Dublin 2 or by e-mail to groceriesorder@entemp.ie.

Work Permits.

Tom Hayes

Question:

102 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding an application for a work permit on behalf of a person (details supplied). [17751/05]

The work permits section of my Department refused a work permit application by the above named individual on 20 August 2004 on the grounds that the position could be filled by an Irish or EEA national and that the proposed employee was in the country on a short-term visa. The employer was notified of the decision in writing and advised of the right to appeal. There is no record of any appeal in respect of the application.

Child Care Services.

M. J. Nolan

Question:

103 Mr. Nolan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his Department or the IDA construct and run crèche facilities in industrial estates in the ownership of the IDA for the use of employees in the IDA industrial and technology parks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17756/05]

The management of IDA Ireland's industrial property portfolio, including the provision of crèche facilities in its industrial estates and business parks, is a day-to-day operational matter for the agency. They are not matters in which I have a function.

My inquiries indicated that in March 2002, IDA Ireland commenced the phased roll out of an implementation programme to facilitate the provision of high quality child care facilities at selected IDA business parks. The initiative represents the first stage in the IDA strategy to increase the supply of quality child care places available in close proximity to workplaces and enhance the services available at its business parks.

The IDA invited proposals through newspaper advertisements from child care providers for the design, construction, financing and operation of high quality child care facilities at selected business parks. As the facilitator of the process, the IDA designates sites for sale on a managed and controlled basis and co-ordinates the process through the selection and planning stages of each project to ensure the highest quality standards are maintained. Following a public tender process, successful applicants have been selected and new child care facilities are now operational at IDA business parks in Athlone at Garrycastle, Galway at Parkmore, Tullamore, Kilkenny and Cork.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

104 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the regulations regarding entitlement to a companion free travel pass will apply to persons who are over 70 years and have a free travel pass and medical card and are medically certified as being unable to travel alone; and if he will make the necessary arrangements. [17710/05]

The free travel companion pass scheme was introduced in 1990 for persons who qualify for free travel and who, on account of their disability, are unable to travel alone. Those who are eligible for a companion free travel pass include: recipients of disability allowance or invalidity pension who are medically assessed as being unfit to travel unaccompanied; people who are blind or severely visually impaired; people who are confined to wheelchairs; and people who are receiving full-time care and attention from someone who is in receipt of a carer's allowance.

A person under age 75 would have to meet one of the above conditions to qualify for a companion pass. People who are aged 75 years and over and who are medically certified as unfit to travel alone are entitled to such a pass. Any further extension to the free travel scheme could only be considered in a budgetary context.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

105 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when rent allowance will be restored in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare in regard to enclosed documentation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17747/05]

The rent supplement scheme is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Neither I nor my Department has any role in determining entitlement in individual cases.

The position remains as advised in my reply to Question No. 128, which I answered for the Deputy on 12 May 2005. The Dublin-mid Leinster area of the executive advised then that it had sought confirmation of the employment status of the spouse of the person concerned to determine his continued entitlement to rent supplement. As he failed to provide the information requested, the executive ceased payment of his supplement in February 2005. The executive has confirmed that it did not receive the necessary information from the person concerned or his spouse to enable it to give any further consideration to their rent supplement entitlements.

My Department has arranged to forward the documentation supplied by the Deputy in connection with this question to the community welfare officer dealing with this case. The executive will determine whether the person concerned or his spouse is entitled to rent supplement, taking account of this information and the outcome of any further inquiries it considers necessary to verify the situation.

Road Traffic Regulations.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

106 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the criteria which are used to establish permitted weight limits on bridges; and if a national standard exists or is planned. [17690/05]

The maximum weight limits for vehicles travelling in Ireland are specified in the Road Traffic (Construction and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 2003. The weight limits are in line with those set out in EU Directive 96/53/EC which govern the maximum weights of vehicles in international traffic and apply generally to the road network and bridges on it. Notwithstanding the general weight limits, a road authority may specify a maximum vehicle weight limit for individual bridges having regard to their load bearing characteristics.

Air Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

107 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport if he will reconsider the proposed privatisation of Aer Lingus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17763/05]

The Government has decided, in principle, to sell a majority shareholding in Aer Lingus but to retain a significant minority stake to protect the State's key strategic interests. In making this decision, the Government is ensuring that Aer Lingus will have access to equity capital to enable it to compete effectively and to fund growth.

Significant growth potential has been identified, particularly on long haul routes, provided Aer Lingus has the appropriate cost base and access to funds to finance aircraft acquisitions. The Government decision will ensure that funds are available to support that growth and to provide financial security.

The Minister for Finance and I are moving quickly to implement this decision with the appointment of advisers to advise on the size, type and timing of the Aer Lingus sale transaction. In this regard, a request for tenders for advisers will be issued by my Department over the next few days.

In addition, I have already written to the Aer Lingus chairman and ICTU about this decision and my officials will be following up with them to make arrangements to discuss the essential preparatory work and to agree a road map for progressing the decision.

Lár-Ionad Náisiúnta Oideachais Gaeilge.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

108 D'fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an gcuirfidh sé in iúl a thacaíocht iomlán féin chomh maith le tacaíocht Údarás na Gaeltachta do bhunú, gan a thuilleadh moille, an Lár-Ionaid Náisiúnta Oideachais Gaeilge, atá geallta le fada, do Bhaile Bhuirne (Corcaigh) agus na hiarrachtaí atá déanta acu araon, go dtí seo, an tionscnamh a thabhairt chun críche. [17713/05]

Tuigfidh an Teachta gur cheist í seo go príomha don Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta. Ó thaobh mo Roinnse de agus Údarás na Gaeltachta is féidir glacadh leis go gcuirfear gach tacaíocht gur féidir ar fáil ach cinneadh a bheith déanta go rachfar ar aghaidh leis an Ionad Oideachais.

Security of the Elderly.

Tom Hayes

Question:

109 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary for funding for alarms for the elderly under community and voluntary organisations. [17750/05]

The person in question submitted an application in September 2004 under the scheme of community supports for older people as secretary of the parish council, New Inn, County Tipperary. A grant of €12,780 was paid in December 2004 in respect of that application.

I announced the 2005 scheme open for applications last month. The advertised closing date for receipt of applications was 24 May 2005. The process of collating the large number of applications received under the scheme is currently under way in my Department. All applications will be acknowledged in the coming days and the process of assessment will commence shortly thereafter.

Rural Social Scheme.

Michael Lowry

Question:

110 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the number of farmers enrolled on a scheme in each area (details supplied); the number of new entrants to the scheme; the number of participants moving from other social schemes; the number of eligible participants whose spouse took up a place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17758/05]

The rural social scheme was introduced in 2004 to provide directly improved rural services and, at the same time, within a working arrangement compatible with farming or fishing, secure an income and employment support for farmers and fisherman who can no longer make a viable living from such occupations.

The scheme was designed specifically for farming and fishing families and its operations and structures are operated in a manner to facilitate them. The scheme recognised that farmers and fishermen have a wealth of experience and talents that need to be preserved for future generations and these talents are being harnessed for the good of the community. This scheme focuses on the provision of direct services in the community.

There are 36 implementing bodies throughout the country and of those 34 have commenced projects under the rural social scheme to date. There are currently 1588 participants on the scheme. The breakdown of participants in each implementing body area is as follows:

Name of Implementing Body

Participant Numbers

Ballyhoura Development Ltd.

24

Barrow Nore Suir Rural Development Ltd.

4

Blackwater Resource Development

5

Donegal Local Development Company Ltd.

14

IRD Duhallow Limited

24

Inishowen Rural Development Limited

14

Kildare European Leader II Teoranta

3

Laois Leader Rural Development Company Limited

8

Longford Community Resources

30

Louth Leader

0

Mid South Roscommon Rural Development Company Limited

26

Offaly Leader + Company Limited

25

Rural Dublin Leader Company Limited

0

Co. Sligo Leader Partnership Company Limited

59

South Kerry Development Partnership Limited

79

Tipperary Leader Group Limited

32

Waterford Leader Partnership Limited

10

West Cork Leader Co-operative Society Ltd.

38

IRD Kiltimagh

61

Moy Valley Resources

109

Westmeath Community Development Limited

18

Wexford Organisation for Rural Development Limited

20

Wicklow Rural Partnership Limited

4

Arigna Catchment Area Community Company Ltd.

175

Cavan-Monaghan Rural Development Co-op Society Ltd.

62

Comhar Iorrais Leader Teo.

4

Comhdhail Oileáin na hEireann

13

Galway Rural Development Company Limited

143

Meitheal Forbartha Na Gaeltachta Teoranta

158

South West Mayo Development Company Limited

138

East Cork Area Development

1

Meath Community Partnership Co. Ltd.

0

Rural Resource Development Limited

85

Tuatha Chiarrai Teoranta

42

West Limerick Resources Limited

11

Carlow LEADER Rural Development Co. Ltd.

7

Údarás Na Gaeltachta

142

Total

1,588

A total of 263 participants have joined the rural social scheme from community employment directly and 540 have joined the scheme from unemployment benefit, having previously been on community employment. This leaves a balance of 785 participants from the other qualifying categories: farm assist 600, unemployment assistance 149, disability allowance 36.

A total of 148 participants have joined the scheme on the basis of the spousal transfer option available to eligible applicants.

Community Development.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

111 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the funding he will disburse from the dormant accounts fund in 2005 to voluntary and community groups in County Wexford and which of these groups have been successful in their applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17764/05]

The Deputy will be aware that decisions on the disbursement of unclaimed moneys from the dormant accounts fund are currently a matter for the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board. This is an independent statutory body, under the aegis of my Department, established under the Dormant Accounts Acts. The board engaged Area Development Management Limited, ADM, to administer the initial round of funding on its behalf, which involves the disbursement of up to €60 million from the fund.

The board has to date approved 481 projects for funding, totalling approximately €55.2 million, from the initial allocation of €60 million. In accordance with the board's disbursement plan, the bulk of this funding is initially being targeted at those areas designated as most disadvantaged, that is, RAPID, CLÁR and drugs task force areas. Nine of the approved projects, involving total funding of over €1.3 million, are based in County Wexford. A breakdown of these approved projects is provided in the appended table. The drawdown of this funding is subject to the satisfactory completion of legal contracts between the individual groups and the board.

Dormant Accounts Board Approvals (County Wexford).

Group/Organisation

Grant

Ferns Diocesan Youth Service, Co Wexford

€53,601.00

Youth New Ross Ltd, New Ross, Co Wexford

121,565.00

Wexford Education Network, Co Wexford

149,616.00

Taghmon Action Group, Taghmon, Co Wexford

70,000.00

South End Community Action Team, Maudlintown, Co. Wexford

149,500.00

Kilcannon Industries Limited, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford

250,000.00

County Wexford Community Workshop (Enniscorthy) Ltd, Co Wexford

115,000.00

Wexford Borough Council

160,000.00

County Wexford Community Workshop (Enniscorthy) Ltd, Co Wexford

250,000.00

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

112 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding an application under force majeure by a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17680/05]

The person named submitted an application on 16 March 2005 for consideration of his circumstances under the second tranche of the force majeure exceptional circumstances measure of the single payment scheme. Ill health was cited on the application form as giving rise to the circumstances outlined.

However, no details or medical evidence were furnished in support of the application. The person named was notified on 13 April 2005 that full medical details should be furnished and that on receipt of same his force majeure application would receive further consideration. To date no correspondence has been received.

Pat Breen

Question:

113 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Clare did not receive compensation from the ESB as a result of mast interference through his lands which has resulted in loss of forestry premium; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17681/05]

Compensation by the ESB for losses resulting from ESB power lines in forest plantations is a matter for negotiation between the landowner and the ESB. On 27 January 2005 the forest service of my Department provided the forest owner with a statement of the value of forest premium lost as a result of the power lines in his plantation. This statement was provided to facilitate his claim to the ESB.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

114 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; if she will provide a breakdown of these entitlements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17701/05]

The person named submitted an application for consideration in respect of both the new entrant and inheritance measures of the single payment scheme after the reference period. Following processing of these applications it was deemed that the person named was not eligible as a new entrant as she commenced farming in 2003 after the reference period.

To qualify for the inheritance measure one must have acquired land by way of gift or inheritance during or after the reference period. In this instance the land was leased and, therefore, does not meet the requirements of the inheritance measure.

However, the person named may include a clause in the lease contract agreeing to lease the entitlements established by the lessor with the leased land for the duration of the lease. An official from my Department has contacted the person named advising her of the procedures to be followed when submitting a private contract application with the single payment application form. The named person can contact the lessor with a view to establishing the single payment entitlements established by him if she so wishes.

The person named also submitted an application for an allocation of entitlements from the single payment scheme national reserve under category D, which caters for farmers who commenced their farming activities after 31 December 2002 or during 2002 without having received a direct payment in that scheme year.

In excess of 17,200 applications have been received under the national reserve in the Department's Castlebar office and are being processed at present. In view of the number of applications received and the documentation submitted, it will be some time before a decision is reached on whether the person named is entitled to an allocation from the reserve. She will, of course, be notified of her eligibility or otherwise as soon as all applications are processed.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

115 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17702/05]

The person named applied for consideration in respect of both new entrant during the reference period and inheritance measures of the single payment scheme. Following examination of the papers submitted, the person named was notified that his new entrant application was unsuccessful as no direct payments were paid to him during the reference years 2000 to 2002.

I am pleased to advise that the person named was notified that his inheritance application was successful. Following the transfer of the entitlements to him a provisional statement of entitlements was issued to him on 7 April 2005.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

116 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason the 2004 special beef premium has not been paid to a person (details supplied) in Cork South West; and if she will make immediate arrangements for payment. [17708/05]

The person named submitted two applications under the 2004 special beef/bull premium scheme, one on 11 February 2004, in respect of one animal, and one on 30 September 2004, in respect of nine animals. Under the EU regulations governing the 2004 special beef premium scheme a stocking density of 1.8 livestock units per hectare applies, based on the forage area declared on an applicant's area aid application. As the forage area declared on the area aid application is 20.18 hectares, the number of livestock units that may be calculated for livestock premia purposes is 36.32.

In this case, the named person holds a milk quota amounting to 153,992 litres. In accordance with the provisions of the relevant EU regulations this milk quota is converted to livestock units by dividing the quota by the national average milk yield. Therefore, the person named has a total of 38.67 livestock units based on his milk quota — 153,992 litres divided by 3,982 litres. This leaves no units left to enable my Department make payments under the special beef premium. Therefore, the person named is not entitled to payment in respect of the ten animals applied for under the 2004 special beef premium scheme.

Pat Breen

Question:

117 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food , further to Question No. 334 of 26 April 2005, how much money is involved for County Clare farmers who have 25 animals or more in the special beef premium; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17716/05]

Some 1,036 of the herd owners in County Clare who applied for more than 25 animals have now been paid interim balancing payments, based on an estimated quota overshoot. The total value of the interim balances is €1,542,477.38. The definitive position regarding the extent by which the national ceiling has been exceeded and the exact quota reduction will be established when all applications and all query cases have been fully resolved.

Given the impact of the introduction of full decoupling on the 2004 special beef premium scheme, I am pursuing all aspects of the quota overshoot with the European Commission.

Sugar Beet Production.

M. J. Nolan

Question:

118 Mr. Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the Government’s plans to safeguard sugar beet producers here in view of the recent changes being proposed by the European Commission in the reform of the sugar regime; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17777/05]

The EU Commission outlined its initial ideas for reform of the EU sugar regime in a communication to the Council and the European Parliament last July. The communication was the subject of technical discussions at Council working group level in Brussels and there was a policy debate at the Council's Agriculture Ministers meeting in November.

The European Commission's initial ideas for reform would, if adopted, have serious repercussions for sugar beet growing and processing in this country and I have made it clear in discussions in the Council of Ministers that they are unacceptable. Ireland is in a group of ten member states with shared concerns about the Commission's proposals in their current form and we made a joint ministerial submission to the Commission outlining these concerns.

The next step will be the publication of formal legislative proposals by the Commission which are expected to be published on 22 June. The recent ruling by the WTO appellate body will certainly add to the pressure for reform and there have been suggestions that when the reform proposals emerge they may be even more severe than originally anticipated. Therefore, we do not underestimate the scale of the challenge facing us when the reform proposals come before the Council of Ministers in the autumn. In the forthcoming negotiations on the reform proposals, my overall objective will be to ensure that the future shape of the EU sugar regime is consistent with the continuation of an efficient sugar beet growing and processing industry in this country.

Garda Stations.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

119 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the provision of a Garda barracks (details supplied) in County Galway. [17672/05]

There are plans to provide a new Garda station at the location mentioned by the Deputy. As a first step in the process, the Office of Public Works, which has responsibility in such matters, has been asked to acquire a suitable site.

In addition, the Deputy will be aware that last year the Office of Public Works publicised a pilot equity exchange programme, the purpose of which was to provide suitable accommodation for gardaí at eight Garda stations in counties Limerick and Tipperary, selected by the Office of Public Works following consultation with my Department and the Garda authorities. It was the intention to extend the programme to stations such as the one raised by the Deputy.

I understand from the Office of Public Works, however, that the level of interest expressed in the pilot was not adequate to meet the requirements of the programme and that the Commissioners of Public Works are now considering how best to progress matters.

Deportation Orders.

Finian McGrath

Question:

120 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons deported from here to date in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17676/05]

The number of persons deported to 13 May in 2005 is 110. In the same period, a further 59 persons were transferred to other EU member states under the Dublin II regulations — Council Regulation (EC) No. 343/2003 — to have their asylum applications processed there. Another 114 persons opted to return home voluntarily under section 3(4)(b) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended.

I should also mention the new arrangements for the speedier processing of asylum applications for applicants from certain prioritised countries, which I announced on 24 January 2005. These arrangements came into effect from 25 January 2005, covering applicants from Bulgaria, Croatia, Nigeria, Romania and South Africa. The new arrangements are already delivering faster processing times for asylum claims and, where the persons concerned are found not to be in need of protection, to speedier decisions about their return to their countries of origin. I expect this to be reflected in increased numbers of voluntary returns and deportations in the coming months.

Registration of Title.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

121 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for registration was received by the Land Registry Office; the contact that the Land Registry Office had with the solicitors concerned; the lodgements made on 18 April 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17687/05]

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 Titles Act 1964 which was lodged on 26 April 2002. Dealing number D2002GY003490D refers.

I understand that 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. I am further informed that queries were issued to the lodging solicitors on 13 May 2003, 6 January 2004, 18 February 2004, 10 January 2005 and 5 May 2005. While responses have been received from the lodging solicitor, the Land Registry is not satisfied that the registration requirements have been met. I am also informed that there were no lodgements made to the Land Registry in respect of this application on 18 April 2005.

Until the queries raised have been satisfactorily resolved, the application cannot proceed. However, I assure the Deputy that, on receipt of a satisfactory reply, the matter will receive further attention in the Land Registry.

Crime Scene Photography.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

122 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the numerous graphic photographs published in newspapers of the body of a person (details supplied); the responsibilities of the Garda Síochána in such circumstances; if provisions of the Garda Síochána Bill 2004 or the proposed defamation Bill will be relevant to such situations; if not, if he proposes to amend either of those Bills; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17688/05]

I am aware of the newspaper photographs referred to by the Deputy.

I am informed that on the day in question the crime scene was immediately sealed off by the Garda authorities with a number of adjacent streets included in the cordon area. In addition, direct action was taken by gardaí at the scene to ensure there was no encroachment by reporters or photographers at the scene. I am assured that no assistance was given at the scene by gardaí to enable such photographs to be taken.

I understand that the photographs in question were taken by photographers lying on the ground outside the cordoned area with suitable camera equipment. These cameras were apparently fixed on the crime scene tent awaiting an opportunity to take photographs when crime scene examiners were entering and leaving the tent.

The issue of whether to publish certain photographs rests with the editors of newspapers. The proposed code of standards being developed by the press industry steering committee, in the context of the creation of an independent press council, might usefully address this issue. There are no specific provisions in this regard in the proposed defamation Bill or in the Garda Síochána Bill 2004.

Residency Permits.

Phil Hogan

Question:

123 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will investigate the reason passports have been retained in respect of Romanian workers and their spouses in counties Carlow or Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17689/05]

The persons concerned made an application for permission to remain in the State on the basis of their parentage of an Irish citizen child on 30 March 2005. Their applications were acknowledged on 14 April 2005. Their passports have now been checked, copied and returned by registered post.

Applications are being dealt with in order of receipt in so far as is possible and as expeditiously as possible. Given the number of applications being processed, it will take several weeks before the processing of the applications from the persons concerned will be completed.

Crime Prevention.

Tony Gregory

Question:

124 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Garda authorities at the Bridewell in Dublin 7 will liaise with Dublin City Council to agree measures to curtail the very serious anti-social behaviour causing major problems for elderly persons living in cottages at a location (details supplied). [17692/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that they are aware of the problems being caused to residents by anti-social behaviour at the area in question. I am further informed that the Garda authorities meet on a quarterly basis with representatives from Dublin City Council to discuss problem issues arising at this location, with a view to agreeing measures to address these issues. I am assured by local Garda management that the area concerned receives regular ongoing attention by both mobile and foot patrols and community gardaí in particular.

Garda Investigations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

125 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of the 5491 suspicious transaction reports, STRs, reported in 2004 which have been investigated to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17695/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the suspicious transaction reports referred to by the Deputy were notified to both the Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners. I am further informed by the Garda authorities that there are regular meetings between the Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners to determine, having regard to the circumstances of each case, which agency should follow up individual STRs. I understand that of the 5,491 STRs reported in 2004 the Garda have investigated, or are in the course of investigating, 1,489 reports.

Garda Strength.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

126 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects the Garda strength to reach the 14,000 as promised in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17696/05]

The Deputy will be aware that in October 2004 the Government approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members on a phased basis, in line with the An Agreed Programme for Government commitment in this regard. This is a key commitment in the programme for Government and its implementation will significantly strengthen the operational capacity of the force.

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

As part of this plan, approximately 275 recruits will be taken into the Garda College in every quarter this year and the following two years, amounting to approximately 1,100 recruits each year. As I have previously stated, this will — taking into account projected retirements — lead to a combined organisational strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 as early as 2006. The first and second of the intakes of 275 recruits commenced training in early February 2005 and early this month, respectively. The remaining two intakes of 275 recruits for this year are scheduled to commence training on 2 August 2005 and 7 November 2005.

Visa Applications.

Willie Penrose

Question:

127 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a visa for a person (details supplied) was refused; if the reasons for such refusal will be set out in full; if same will be further reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17697/05]

The reference number supplied by the Deputy relates to a re-entry visa for a non-EEA national employed in the State under the employment permits scheme. This application was approved by my Department on 16 February 2005. However, the applicant had also sought to add her child to her visa to allow her bring him from his country of residence into the State on a temporary basis.

When assessing applications of this type, the visa officer will consider, among other factors, whether the level of salary of the worker would come within the ambit of qualifying for payment from public funds. In this regard, the criteria set by the Department of Social and Family Affairs for eligibility for family income supplement payment, FIS, are used. The criteria, which may change from time to time, are available onthat Department's website, www.welfare.ie/publications/sw22.html. If the level of the worker’s income as evidenced by his or her payslips or P60 would qualify for FIS payments, the application for a visa is generally refused.

In this case it was evident from the documentation supplied that the level of income available to the applicant would potentially qualify her for payments from public funds and as such it was necessary to refuse the grant of a visa in respect of the child, while still approving the re-entry visa for his mother, based on her existing immigration status in the State. The application was the subject of an appeal by the applicant at which time additional information was supplied to my Department. However, the visa appeals officer was unable to conclude that the initial decision should be overturned. Consequently the decision to decline the grant of a visa to the child was upheld on the 24 of March 2005. As each application is entitled to only one appeal, no further review can be facilitated.

Residency Permits.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

128 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will return the passport of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford who has applied for residency on the basis of an Irish born child; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17703/05]

The person concerned made an application for permission to remain in the State on the basis of their parentage of an Irish citizen child under the revised arrangements announced on 15 January 2005. The application was acknowledged on the same day. The person's passport has been checked, copied and returned by registered post.

Applications are being dealt with in order of receipt in so far as is possible and as expeditiously as possible. Given the number of applications to be processed it will be several weeks before processing of the application from the person concerned will be completed.

Prisons Building Programme.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

129 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a portion of the Thornton Hall farm purchased by the State for a new prison was excluded and retained by the vendor; if so, the amount and value thereof; and the planning zoning applicable to said excluded lands. [17709/05]

The contract entered into with the vendor was for a site consisting of 150 acres, the exact boundaries of which were agreed between the solicitors acting for the vendor and the Chief State Solicitor. I cannot comment on issues relating to lands which were not included in the contract.

Deportation Orders.

Joe Costello

Question:

130 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the circumstances in which a person (details supplied) was allegedly assaulted in a hostel prior to being deported; if the appeal process had been completed in their case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17714/05]

I refer the Deputy to the reply I gave to Questions Nos. 178 to 182, inclusive, on Wednesday, 25 May 2005. The position is as set out there.

Garda Strength.

Richard Bruton

Question:

131 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the Garda strength in the years 2000, 2004 and the most recent date for which data are available in 2005 in each of the 18 Garda districts within the Dublin metropolitan areas and of the central units of the DMA. [17719/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of each Garda district in the Dublin metropolitan area as at 31 December 2000, 2004 and at 23 May 2005 was as set out in the table.

District

Strength 31/12/00

Strength 31/12/04

Strength 23/05/05

D.M.R. South Central Division:

Pearse St.

305

329

328

Kevin St.

213

200

200

Donnybrook

179

182

178

D.M.R. Southern Division:

Crumlin

140

152

153

Tallaght

222

249

250

Rathmines

146

163

165

D.M.R. Northern Division:

Santry

255

231

239

Coolock

185

192

204

Raheny

156

179

174

D.M.R. West Division:

Blanchardstown

277

289

310

Lucan

153

183

184

Ballyfermot

159

186

185

D.M.R. North Central Division:

Store St.

248

269

267

Fitzgibbon St.

188

210

205

Bridewell

167

174

169

D.M.R. East Division:

Dún Laoghaire

215

206

201

Bray

164

179

182

Blackrock

170

167

175

There are no central units of the DMA. The only policing function which could be regarded as central within the Dublin metropolitan region is traffic policing. A number of national units are located in the Dublin metropolitan area, for example, Garda national immigration bureau, GNIB, Garda bureau of fraud investigations, GBFI, Criminal Assets Bureau, Garda technical bureau and so forth. These units provide specialised policing services on a nationwide basis and the tables above do not include the members included in these units.

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

The Commissioner will now draw up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources. In this context, the needs of each Garda district within the Dublin metropolitan area will be fully considered within the context of the needs of Garda districts throughout the country. Clearly, the additional resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government.

The programme identifies in particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda traffic corps. One thing I have already promised is 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.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

132 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a passport or copy of same will be returned to a person (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17721/05]

The person concerned made an application for permission to remain in the State on the basis of parentage of an Irish citizen child on 24 February 2005. The application was acknowledged on the same day. His passport has been checked, copied and returned to him by registered post. Applications are being dealt with in order of receipt in so far as is possible and as expeditiously as possible. Given the number of applications being processed, it will take several weeks before the processing of the application from the person concerned will be completed.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

133 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residency status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17722/05]

The persons concerned made an application for permission to remain in the State on the basis of their parentage of an Irish citizen child under the revised arrangements announced on 15 January 2005. Their applications were acknowledged on 28 February 2005. Applications are being dealt with in order of receipt in so far as is possible and as expeditiously as possible. Given the number of applications being processed, it will take several weeks before the processing of the applications from the persons concerned will be completed.

Visa Applications.

Tom Hayes

Question:

134 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the outcome of an application by a person (details supplied) to come here in early 2004. [17752/05]

In February 2004 the person in question submitted an application for a visa which was subsequently refused by my Department on 24 March 2004. The application was refused as the visa officer was not satisfied that the applicant would observe the conditions of the visa applied for and had not demonstrated sufficient obligations to return to the country of origin. The visa officer was unable to establish, based on the evidence supplied, that there were sufficient finances available to guarantee the support of the applicant whilst in the State and there was a lack of evidence to indicate that the applicant and their reference had ever met. No appeal was received in respect of this application.

A second application was received on 25 May 2004. This application was examined by my Department and, based on the information provided, a single journey, D-type join spouse visa was granted on 5 June 2004.

Tom Hayes

Question:

135 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) who applied for a visa. [17753/05]

The visa reference number supplied by the Deputy refers to an application that was refused by my Department on 23 December 2003 and as such has not been under active consideration by my Department for quite some time. The Deputy received a detailed explanation of the outcome of this case in June 2004 in response to correspondence with my Department.

A search of all visa records held by my Department did not locate any more current visa applications for a person of the same or similar name as that supplied by the Deputy. If such an application exists, the Deputy may wish to contact my Department through the standard channels, with the reference number, at which time my officials will ascertain the status of the application.

Child Care Services.

Tom Hayes

Question:

136 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an application for a capital grant submitted by a child care group (details supplied) in County Tipperary in 2003 was successful. [17754/05]

The Deputy may be aware that the group in question has been awarded staffing grant assistance of €106,663 to date under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme, EOCP, 2000-2006.

I understand that an application for capital grant assistance under the EOCP was submitted by this group to my Department in January 2004. This application has been forwarded to Area Development Management Ltd., ADM, which is engaged by my Department to carry out detailed assessments of all EOCP grant applications on my behalf. Each application for funding undergoes a thorough assessment by ADM to ensure it meets the EOCP funding criteria.

I understand from inquiries I have made that ADM has been in dialogue with the group recently and is awaiting additional information from the group to advance the assessment process. When the assessment on the project in question is completed, the application will then be considered by the EOCP appraisal committee, chaired by my Department, before I make a final decision and the group will be informed of the outcome in due course.

Visa Applications.

Mary Upton

Question:

137 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a tourist visa will be granted to a person (details supplied). [17761/05]

The visa application referred to by the Deputy was for the stated purposes of enabling a non-EEA national travel to the State for a short-term visit to an Irish national.

When assessing a visa application of this sort, the visa officer will expect to see sufficient evidence of a prior existing relationship between the applicant and their reference in Ireland, including evidence that they have met on more than one previous occasion. In this case the application, together with its supporting documentation, specifically stated that the applicant had only met the reference on one occasion, when the reference was a patient in the hospital where the applicant worked as a translator.

Second, the visa officer was not satisfied, based on the documentation supplied, that the applicant would observe the conditions of the visa were it to issue. The application was purportedly for a short-term tourist visa, however, the applicant specifically states their intention to seek to extend the duration of their stay upon arrival and to seek opportunities to enter into a course of study without the appropriate visa. As an Irish visa is generally issued for a specific purpose and specific duration, both of these stated intentions detracted from the overall credibility of the application.

Finally, the visa officer was unable to conclude from the information supplied that the applicant had sufficient obligations to return to their country of origin following the proposed visit.

Asylum Applications.

Tom Hayes

Question:

138 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the outcome of an appeal of a decision on an application for refugee status by a person (details supplied) which was lodged in late 2004 or early 2005. [17772/05]

The person concerned arrived in the State on 15 February 2000 and applied for asylum. His application was refused following consideration of his case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and, on appeal, by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Subsequently, in accordance with section 3 of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, he was informed by letter dated 30 April 2003 that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him. He was given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons he should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before an order is made; or consenting to the making of a deportation order.

This person's case file, including all representations submitted, will be considered under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, and section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996 — prohibition of refoulement. I expect the file to be passed to me for decision in due course.

School Staffing.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

139 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the situation arising in a school (details supplied) in County Cork; if she will have the matter investigated and the teacher retained. [17666/05]

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 the teaching resources to have smaller numbers in other classes.

The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year and by reference to a staffing schedule. This staffing schedule is outlined in primary circular 15/05, which issued to all primary schools recently. This is in line with guidelines agreed between my Department and the education partners.

In the current school year the staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy comprises of a principal and five mainstream class teaching posts. This is based on an enrolment of 148 pupils at 30 September 2003. The school also has a full-time resource post and the services of a learning support post based in the school. The staffing of the school for the 2005-06 school year will consist of a principal and four mainstream class teaching posts. This is based on an enrolment of 144 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, July and October to consider appeals on the mainstream teaching allocation to schools for the 2005-06 school year.

The closing dates for appeals are 3 June, 24 June and 7 October. 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. It would not be appropriate for me to intervene in the operation of the independent appeals board.

My Department has now completed its review of the general allocation system of resource teaching support. 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 has now devised school clusters in respect of allocations to be made under the general allocation system. These have been notified to schools together with the details of each school's individual allocation. This communication clarifies the position regarding the resource and learning support allocation available to each school. 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.

Áiseanna Scoile.

Tony Gregory

Question:

140 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Gregory den Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta cén fáth gur dhiúltaigh an Roinn Oideachais seomra i gcomhair múinteora acmhainne a chur ar fáil do Ghaelscoil (sonraí tugtha) agus, ós rud é go mbeidh beirt mhúinteoir acmhainne sa scoil ó Mheán Fómhair 2005, go bhfuil seomra agus trealamh ag teastáil go géar anois agus freisin nach bhfuil aon seomra ríomhaire, taisce nó leabharlann ag an scoil, an bhféadfadh sí cabhrú leis an scoil. [17667/05]

Breithníodh gach iarratas ar chóiríocht shealadach don chéad scoilbhliain eile i Rannóg Pleanála Scoile mo Roinne. Níor éirigh leis an iarratas ar sheomra acmhainní don scoil atá i gceist an uair seo. Cuireadh údarás na scoile ar an eolas dá réir.

Institutes of Technology.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

141 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science if she is alarmed at a recent OECD report which suggested that the institutes of technology, of which there are five in the BMW region, should be downgraded; the status this report has; the future policy on such colleges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17683/05]

The recent OECD Review of Higher Education in Ireland made a number of far reaching recommendations regarding the role of the institutes of technology within a future unified strategy for the higher education system. Far from attempting to downgrade the institutes, the report emphasises the great strengths that the sector has brought to the Irish system. The differentiated focus of the institute of technology and university sectors has been a key factor in successfully meeting the varying needs of students, the economy and society. The report advocates the maintenance of this diversified approach as part of a unified system in which a strong emphasis is laid on inter-institutional collaboration and this will form the cornerstone of future policy in this regard.

The Government recently considered and approved the broad general thrust of the reform agenda as outlined in the report and, in that context, I announced my intention to bring forward legislation as soon as possible providing for the early designation of the institutes under the Higher Education Authority. This will facilitate the creation of a unified strategic and management framework for the sector. My Department and I are also engaged in an extensive process of consultation with stakeholders on their reactions to the report. Their inputs will feed into the development of a comprehensive response to the recommendations of the report.

Special Educational Needs.

David Stanton

Question:

142 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the extra assistance or allowances that will be made in the case of children that are dyslexic in carrying out tests pertaining to end of year tests such as the SIGMA-T and others, which is commonly administered in primary schools; the directions she has given or intends to give to primary schools on this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17684/05]

The vast majority of schools carry out end of year tests using standardised tests administered under the conditions outlined in the test manual, as this is the only basis on which a reliable comparison can be made about the pupils' functioning in the area tested.

In the area of testing mathematics, as in the case of the test to which the Deputy refers, a pupil with dyslexia could be at a disadvantage in trying to respond to questions that require competence in reading. As it is the pupil's understanding and competence in mathematics that is the focus of the testing, it is important that s/he should not be disadvantaged by these difficulties. In such a case, it is open to the school staff to make a suitable arrangement to assist the pupil, for example, the pupil could be tested separately by the class, learning support or resource teacher. An arrangement such as allowing extra time to complete the test, or helping the pupil to read the questions or write down the answers, may also be made.

Physical Education Facilities.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

143 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the application by a college (details supplied) in County Mayo for a new sports hall and associated facilities; and if the students, staff and parents will be assured that the promised facilities will be provided within the next academic year. [17685/05]

The PE hall project at the school to which the Deputy refers has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria, which were revised last year following consultation with the education partners. The project will be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme 2005-2009.

School Staffing.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

144 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the inadequate resources being provided to a school (details supplied) in County Cork. [17699/05]

The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year and by reference to a staffing schedule. This schedule is outlined in primary circular 15/05 which issued to all primary schools recently. This is in line with guidelines agreed between my Department and the education partners.

According to my Department's records, the school referred to by the Deputy had an enrolment of 185 pupils on 30 September 2004. On the basis of this enrolment, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the appointment of two additional mainstream class teachers is warranted for the 2005-06 school year. Therefore, the mainstream staffing of the school for the 2005-06 school year will be a principal plus seven mainstream class teachers.

Education Centres.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

145 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science the advice given to her by An Chomhairle Oideachais Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta on the all-Irish national education centre designated for Ballyvourney, County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17712/05]

The advice submitted to me by An Chomhairle Um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíchta is available on its website. The appropriate link is www.cogg.ie. As I mentioned in my previous reply on this matter, there are a number of issues that remain to be clarified, including the specific rationale and function of the centre as well as building and related technical requirements. This necessarily involves other bodies such as An Chomhairle Um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta and the Department for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. I hope to make progress on these issues as quickly as possible.

Psychological Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science the level of psychological assessment which has been or will be undertaken in the case of a person (details supplied) who attends a school in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17731/05]

I understand that after a conference of everyone concerned, including the person's parents, a psychological assessment is being arranged by the local child guidance clinic of the Health Services Executive, HSE. The question of the type and level of assessment to be undertaken is a matter for the professionals in the HSE.

Special Educational Needs.

Tom Hayes

Question:

147 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if they are still in receipt of continuous full-time assistance. [17755/05]

Following a review of the pupil's needs, it has been decided that the appropriate level of SNA support for him is 12.5 hours per week and this has been communicated to the school.

Schools Building Projects.

Michael Lowry

Question:

148 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will review the appeal decision regarding a school (details supplied); if funds will be sanctioned for the necessary work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17757/05]

This issue is currently being considered in my Department and a decision will be communicated to the school and VEC shortly.

Overseas Missions.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

149 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the activities of the Irish Defence Forces deployed in Afghanistan. [17749/05]

On 20 December 2001, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1386 under Chapter VII of the UN charter authorising the deployment of an international security assistance force, ISAF, in Afghanistan for six months. The role of the force is to assist in the maintenance of security in Kabul and the surrounding areas. The mandate of the force has been extended by subsequent Security Council resolutions.

On 2 July 2002, the Government authorised the despatch of seven members of the Permanent Defence Forces for service with ISAF for a period of one year from July 2002. On 27 May 2003, the Government approved continued participation by seven members of the Permanent Defence Force in ISAF and again on 22 June 2004, the Government approved the continued participation in ISAF for a further period beyond July 2004.

These personnel are deployed in liaison, planning and administrative type roles at the ISAF force headquarters in Kabul and as part of the Kabul multinational brigade. The personnel are rotated on a four monthly basis with the current rotation due to be completed in July 2005.

Air Corps Helicopter Fleet.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

150 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Defence if he is proceeding with a significant helicopter fleet replacement programme which has been approved by Cabinet and put in place for the Air Corps, which helicopters, while being purchased for troop carrying capacity, are expected to have a specific air ambulance capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17789/05]

Following a tender competition, two contracts have been signed for the provision of new helicopters for the Air Corps, at a total cost of over €61million. Four utility AB 139 helicopters are being acquired from the Bell Agusta Aerospace Company at a cost of €48.4 million, inclusive of VAT. The four helicopters will be built at the Agusta facility near Milan, Italy. Two AB 139s will be delivered in 2006 and the other two will be delivered in 2007.

The four AB 139 helicopters will be operated by the Air Corps in a general purpose military operational and training role. Primary taskings for the utility helicopter will include training and operations with special forces, security and aid to the civil power, military exercises, infantry interoperability training and limited troop transport. They will also be used to perform air ambulance, inland search and rescue, aid to the civil community and VIP transport tasks.

Two light utility EC 135 helicopters are being acquired from Eurocopter SAS at a cost of €12.8 million, inclusive of VAT. The two helicopters will be built at Eurocopter's facility in Donauworth, Germany. Both EC 135s are scheduled to be delivered in the latter part of this year. The two light utility helicopters will be operated by the Air Corps primarily in the military pilot and air crew training role. Primary taskings for the helicopters will include pilot training, instructor training and instrument flight training.

Both of the new helicopter types will have the capacity of being configured for the air ambulance role and an air ambulance kit is part of the additional equipment ordered with the helicopters. Both kits will be fully certified for airborne use and will enable the transfer of one patient along with up to two medical personnel in the helicopter cabin. Both systems will incorporate basic medical facilities such as electrical power, oxygen supply and suction.

The provision of an air ambulance service by the Air Corps is on an "as is" basis. The level of service offered reflects the multi-purpose role of the Air Corps. The service provided, limited as it is, is well regarded by those who use it and who understand the nature of the service. The current arrangements for the provision of the service are in the process of being formalised between my Department and the Department of Health and Children. A detailed service level agreement is currently being finalised setting out the details of the specific capabilities which the Air Corps will provide in the area.

Question No. 151 answered with QuestionNo. 49.

Defence Forces Property.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

152 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the current number of Army overholders; the extent to which he has had discussions with his colleagues regarding the provision of permanent housing in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17733/05]

Personnel on being discharged from the Permanent Defence Force are obliged to vacate married quarters within a short period of the dates of their discharge. The provision of housing is primarily a matter for the local authorities and married personnel have an equal claim on such housing as other members of the community in the same income category.

Some 54 of those overholding married quarters at the time — 51 at the Curragh, two at McKee Park, Dublin 7, and one at Arbour Hill, Dublin 7 — were written to in August 2002 and requested to vacate the properties. In the Curragh, eight of the quarters have been vacated to date and three others have been purchased by the occupants. A further eight of the properties have been offered for sale and a number of those sales are likely to be finalised in the near future. The three properties in Dublin have also been offered for sale to the occupants.

In addition, the sale to the occupants of ten quarters overheld at Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin, is under examination. My Department is continuing to examine all options, including affordable housing and voluntary and co-operative housing schemes, regarding the rehousing of those overholders who would in the normal way be eligible for local authority housing. The Department remains in contact with the overholders pending resolution of the issue.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

153 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has satisfied himself regarding the quality of residential quarters for the military; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17734/05]

The refurbishment of residential accommodation is an integral part of my Department's ongoing building programme. Major contracts to improve the standard of accommodation have been placed over the past number of years as part of an ongoing investment programme within the Defence Forces.

In the period 2003 to date, major accommodation upgrades have taken place in McKee and Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin; Coolmoney Camp, Wicklow; Sarsfield Barracks, Limerick; Kickham Barracks, Clonmel; Naval Base, Haulbowline; Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel; Kilworth Camp, Cork; Custume Barracks, Athlone; and Dún Uí Mhaoilísa, Galway.

Further accommodation upgrades will commence later this year in the Defence Forces training centre in the Curragh; Custume Barracks, Athlone; Finner Camp, Donegal; and Dún Uí Mhaoilísa, Galway. I am fully committed to the ongoing development of accommodation facilities throughout the Defence Forces. Improvements will continue to be carried out until all accommodation has been modernised.

Questions Nos. 154 to 156, inclusive, answered with Question No. 16.
Questions Nos. 157 to 160, inclusive, answered with Question No. 34.
Questions Nos. 161 to 163, inclusive, answered with Question No. 36.
Questions Nos. 164 and 165 answered with Question No. 49.

Coursing Meetings.

Tony Gregory

Question:

166 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reports (details supplied) available to his Department from coursing meetings. [17662/05]

Three of the four coursing meetings referred to were monitored by staff of my Department. The meeting at Ennis-Clarecastle was not monitored by my Department because of a staff vacancy at the time. I am arranging for copies of the reports on the other three meetings to be forwarded to the Deputy.

EU Directives.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

167 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position with the proposed EU directive on recycling of electronic waste; the additional burden this directive will place on electrical retailers; if he will consider putting the onus for the safe disposal of electronic waste on the supplier and manufacturer rather than the retailer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17682/05]

I have recently published draft regulations implementing the EU directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment, WEEE, and a consultation process is currently taking place.

Primary responsibility for the environmentally sound management of WEEE rests with producers, in line with the producer responsibility obligations imposed by the directive. Producers will be required under the draft legislation to finance the collection, treatment, recovery and environmentally sound disposal of WEEE deposited by retailers and members of the public at collection facilities and to achieve the prescribed recovery targets.

The directive also involves a shared responsibility approach as between the various stakeholders, including retailers who will have an important role in ensuring effective implementation and operation of the directive. In particular, retailers will be required to take back household WEEE on a one-for-one basis when selling new equipment. I am satisfied that the draft legislation strikes the right balance between the responsibilities of the relevant stakeholders.

All comments and observations received on the draft regulations will be considered by my Department in finalising the regulations, which I intend to make in advance of the implementation of the WEEE directive on 13 August 2005.

Departmental Correspondence.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

168 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will agree to meet with a delegation from a group (details supplied) with particular reference to the resolution of a number of difficulties that have arisen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17723/05]

My Department has no record of having received representations from the group referred to in the question.

Serviced Residential Lands.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

169 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the proportion of the 12,500 hectares of zoned land owned by the various local authorities which is owned by the authorities in Dublin city and county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17724/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

170 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if it is true that all of the zoned or serviceable land in private hands in Dublin city and county are owned by no more than eight persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17725/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

171 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the total acreage of zoned land in the administrative areas of each of the local authorities in Dublin city and county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17726/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 169 to 171, inclusive, together.

The figure of 12,500 hectares represents the amount of serviced residential land nationally as at 30 June 2004 —owned both privately and publicly, which would give an estimated yield of 367,000 housing units. Details in regard to the amount of land zoned for housing in the State and in each local authority are available in my Department's housing statistics bulletin, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library and also the Department's website at www.environ.ie.

My Department does not have a breakdown of the component of this supply which is in the ownership of local authorities. Some information was provided to the Department as part of the 2004 survey of land that is serviced and zoned for residential purposes but it is incomplete. My Department is examining means of acquiring reliable information as part of the 2005 survey. This analysis would only provide a point in time assessment, as variation could be expected from year to year as lands are developed, particularly for social and affordable housing schemes. The value of local authority lands is reflected in their assets registers which now form part of their annual accounts.

My Department does not have information on the ownership of private lands in the State. In a study commissioned by my Department in 2003, consultants examined, inter alia, the availability of zoned and serviced lands and building activity in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown and Fingal. They identified five builder developers active in the former area and at least 15 significant builder developers active in the latter. The consultants referred to a separate published analysis of land ownership in Fingal, which identified 20 major landowners, with a total holding of 605 hectares, out of a total of 1,600 hectares of undeveloped zoned land in the county. They concluded that this analysis did not provide evidence of high levels of market concentration.

The Government has been focusing on measures to boost housing supply in response to demand. These measures are having success, with record output of some 77,000 homes in 2004. The availability of land that is serviced and zoned for residential purposes augurs well for future housing supply. Similarly in Dublin, output exceeded 16,800 units in 2004, up 80% on 2000 levels, and there were some 2,300 hectares of residentially zoned serviced land available last June to support future supply.

Architectural Heritage.

Martin Ferris

Question:

172 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department will approve a second stage of restoration to a castle (details supplied) in County Kerry due to the fact that remedial works to the castle are coming to an end. [17778/05]

The Office of Public Works has on my behalf recently completed a major programme of conservation works at Carrigafoyle Castle, Ballylongford, County Kerry, and the future stability of the castle has been secured.

I understand that the OPW is scheduled to undertake some minor presentation works in the coming weeks and that the site will be accessible to members of the public before the end of June. There are no plans for further works at this site and the future maintenance and conservation of the castle will be managed by the OPW.

Wildlife Species.

Dan Boyle

Question:

173 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures which are being taken by this Government to express concern regarding the threat of extinction to species of wild life, either through environmental factors such as global warming or as a result of war or conflict. [17785/05]

Ireland actively participates in action to protect biodiversity through its support for a number of important international conventions and processes and through the implementation of international, EU and national policies and measures.

At international level, my Department continues to support the development of EU and international policy to tackle threats to biodiversity. The primary international agreement relating to this area is the Convention on Biological Diversity, which aims to secure a significant reduction in the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 and which Ireland ratified in 1996. My Department participates at the conference of parties to this convention and at a number of associated working groups. Ireland represents the EU on the bureau of this biodiversity convention. My Department, together with the Department of Foreign Affairs, also provides voluntary financial contributions to enable representatives from developing country governments to participate in major meetings which deal with the conservation of global biodiversity.

Ireland has also ratified a number of other important conventions, which impact directly on protecting against threats to wildlife species. These include the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals; the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, CITES; the Convention on Wetlands, RAMSAR; and the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

At EU level, an ambitious target has been set which aims to halt, as distinct from securing a significant reduction in, the loss of biodiversity by 2010. In this regard, a major EU stakeholders' conference was held in May last year in Malahide, County Dublin, under our EU Presidency. Some 250 delegates and stakeholders from 25 member states and other European countries met to facilitate the completion of the review of the EU biodiversity strategy. The message from Malahide, which was adopted at this conference, was intended as a key step towards a communication on future EU priorities for biodiversity conservation and for meeting its 2010 target. It is expected that this communication will be completed by the European Commission later this year.

At national level, a national biodiversity plan was adopted by Government and published in April 2002. The plan details 91 actions aimed at halting biodiversity loss in Ireland and also explicitly commits Ireland to contributing to the conservation of biodiversity overseas. An interdepartmental steering group has been established, under the aegis of my Department, to assist in the implementation of the plan and to report to Government on progress with the plan. I intend that a comprehensive progress report on the national biodiversity plan will be published later this year.