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 25, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 26 to 48, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 49 to 57, inclusive, answered orally.

Special Educational Needs.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

58 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the resource teacher assigned to a school (details supplied) in County Cork is being moved; and if this resource teacher will be allowed to continue working with the children they have been working with in this school. [18937/05]

As the Deputy is aware, my Department has issued a letter to all primary schools notifying them of their resource teaching allocation under the new general allocation scheme for the 2005-06 school year. The school referred to by the Deputy has been notified that it has a general allocation of 12.5 hours, based on an enrolment of 49 pupils. The letter also included details of the arrangement under which the school will be clustered with another school to enable the creation of a full-time post, rather than just hiring different part-time teachers for both schools.

Clustering facilitates the assignment of experienced teachers as well as allowing for better training of resource teachers on the basis that permanent posts will retain teachers for longer periods. This ultimately benefits the pupils. In this regard, the school in question has been clustered with one other school in the area.

The school was previously in a clustering arrangement with four other schools. As a result of the allocation of additional resources to schools in the cluster it was necessary to revise the clustering arrangements. The revised clustering arrangement means that the school will no longer be clustered with the previous base school. It is a matter for the board of management of the new base school to determine the teacher who will fill the general allocation post to service the revised cluster.

The posts being provided under the new general allocation scheme are designed to ensure that each school has enough resource teaching hours to meet the needs of children with high incidence special needs, such as dyslexia and children with learning support needs. Resource teaching hours for children with low incidence special needs, such as autism, will continue to be provided on the basis of an individual application for each child.

As regards whether pupils in the school with high incidence special needs and learning support needs will receive support from the resource teacher, it is important to note that this is a decision to be made at school level. Each school will have enough resource teaching hours to provide its pupils with a level of support appropriate to their needs. The school can then use its professional judgment to decide how these hours are divided between different children in the school to ensure that all their needs are met.

Research shows that some children with special needs will respond better with one-to-one tuition. Others, however, do better when taught in small groups. Often it is best for resource teachers to work with children in the classroom rather than taking them away to a separate room, as the children then have to catch up work done by the rest of the class in their absence. The point is that the type of response needed depends on the child. While the new scheme will not prevent schools from giving one-to-one time with the resource teacher to children that need it, it is important to note that one-to-one teaching is not the best option for every child. I am grateful to the Minister for Finance for providing me with the resources to ensure that the new system could be put in place.

As of next September, there will be over 5,000 teachers in our primary schools working directly with children with special needs, including those requiring learning support. This compares to under 1,500 in 1998. Indeed, one out of every five primary school teachers is now working specifically with children with special needs.

The Government, and I as Minister for Education and Science, are deeply committed to improving services for children with special needs. In addition to the massive increase in resource teachers in recent years, the introduction of this new general allocation scheme will ensure a faster and more flexible response for children with special needs.

Liam Twomey

Question:

59 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Education and Science the arrangements for the clustering of schools for special needs support; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19751/05]

As the Deputy may be aware, my Department has issued a letter to all primary schools notifying them of their teaching allocation under the new general allocation model for the 2005-06 school year. The letter also includes details of any clustering arrangements that may apply.

One of the objectives of the general allocation model is to maximise the extent of full-time permanent posts available to support the needs of pupils with higher incidence special educational needs, SEN, and learning support teacher requirements. Clustering facilitates the assignment of experienced teachers as well as allowing for better training of resource teachers on the basis that permanent posts will retain teachers for longer periods. This ultimately benefits the pupils. To this end, schools, particularly those with small enrolments, have been grouped in clusters where possible.

Part-time hours have been provided to schools in cases where it was not possible to form a cluster of general allocation hours. Schools that have been allocated part-time permanent hours may be aware of other local schools with part-time permanent hours that, when combined, could form a full-time permanent post. It is open to any such schools wishing to form a cluster by combining these hours to contact my Department's special education section in writing with details of their proposal. It should be noted that these arrangements apply to staffing associated with the general allocation model only.

Where it is not possible for schools to form permanent posts under the general allocation model, such schools may, for the purposes of creating temporary full-time posts, form clusters to combine permanent part-time hours allocated under the general allocation model with hours allocated for individual children with low incidence disabilities or transitional hours retained for children with high incidence disabilities. Again, any schools wishing to form such temporary full-time posts should contact my Department's special education section in writing with details of their proposal. This arrangement will apply for the 2005-06 school year only and is being facilitated on the understanding that, as pupils with an individual allocation of hours leave the school at the end of that school year, the full-time temporary posts will be adjusted to the appropriate reduced level of part-time hours.

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. It is also intended that this circular will address issues that have been raised by schools with my Department since the system was notified to schools in mid-May.

School Accommodation.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

60 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science if she intends to provide funding to provide a premises for a school (details supplied) in County Mayo in view of the fact that this school has to vacate its current accommodation by June 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19684/05]

I have already addressed the issue raised here in an earlier question. The school referred to by the Deputy opened in September 1996 with provisional recognition. Having met the criteria for recognition and proven its viability, the school was granted permanent recognition in 2000. Standard practice is that the school authorities are responsible for the securing of interim accommodation which is grant-aided by the Department, pending the securing of permanent recognition. On being granted permanent recognition, a school becomes eligible for capital funding. The rate of progress towards a permanent accommodation solution depends on a number of factors including availability of sites and the Department's budgetary capacity to meet the level of demand.

The school is currently accommodated in prefabricated classrooms on a three quarter acre site in the town. The rental costs of the site and classroom accommodation is grant-aided by my Department at the rate of 95%. My Department is advised that the lease on the site is due to expire in June 2006.

I want to assure the Deputy that we are acutely aware of the urgent need for an accommodation solution for this school particularly given the limitations on the existing arrangement and my Department is doing its utmost to achieve a satisfactory outcome at the earliest possible date.

To that end, the property management section of the Office of Public Works has been actively engaged in seeking a suitable site for a new school building. Soil sampling is being undertaken to verify the suitability of a particular site. The result of the tests and final assessment of site suitability is expected to be concluded and with my Department in a week or two.

Schools Building Projects.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

61 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding plans for an extension at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 20. [19761/05]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that I have included the building project for the school in question in my recently announced list of school projects to be progressed through architectural planning in 2005. The building project is at an early stage of architectural planning — stage 1-2-3, detail plans-costs. The stage submission for this project has recently been examined by my Department's technical staff. A revised submission has been sought from the school authority to reflect changes to the school building since the original plans were prepared.

A decision on which school building projects will advance to tender and construction as part of the 2006 schools building and modernisation programme will be taken later in the year.

The school in question will also be receiving grant aid from my Department for security works, including CCTV, under this year's summer works scheme.

Higher Education Sector.

Paul McGrath

Question:

62 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of OECD report recommendations which have been implemented at third level to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19742/05]

Denis Naughten

Question:

72 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science her Department’s opinion on the OECD report on third level education institutions here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18996/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 62 and 72 together.

The OECD review of Irish higher education makes a series of far-reaching recommendations for reform and development of the sector, against the backdrop of the crucial role which has been identified for it in helping to achieve the broad strategic national goal of becoming a leading knowledge-based society. The Government has approved the broad reform agenda outlined by the OECD and also the early bringing forward of legislative proposals to transfer responsibility for management of the institutes of technology from my Department to the Higher Education Authority.

The OECD proposed that research and development issues should be looked at across Government within unified structures. The appointment of the chief science adviser to the Government and the establishment of the Cabinet committee on science technology and innovation, which is supported by a high level interdepartmental committee, will help to fulfil this function and ensure that national objectives are pursued and achieved within a joined up strategy.

In April of this year, I outlined a detailed response to the overall OECD recommendations. I announced my intention to create a strategic innovation fund to incentivise reform and modernisation in the sector. I also signalled a number of other priority actions on which work will now be progressed through the Higher Education Authority and on which further proposals will be developed. These include reform of the funding allocation model, review of a number of human resource issues and the development of a model of new programme approval. I have signalled my intention to develop comprehensive new legislation to give effect to those OECD recommendations that will involve legislative change. I have also made it quite clear that the final shape of future policy proposals for the sector will take account of the views of those working in and with it. To this end, I and my Department have been engaging in an extensive consultation process with stakeholders. I convened a colloquium in January with the HEA, CHIU, DIT and the Council of Directors of Institutes of Technology. At the end of May, my Department organised and chaired a consultative forum on future strategy for research and development which was attended by all relevant bodies in this area. In identifying priority areas for action and for the development of more detailed proposals, it is my intention to continue to consider all relevant inputs.

Schools Building Projects.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

63 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the impending crisis at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; when a decision will be made on the matter; and the projected timeframe for availability of additional classrooms. [19770/05]

School building projects are selected for inclusion in the school building and modernisation programme on the basis of priority of need using published criteria. In this regard, an application from the school to which the Deputy refers was received in the planning section of my Department on Thursday last, 9 June 2005, seeking additional accommodation for the 2006-07 school year onwards. There is no indication in the application that the school has any requirement for the coming 2005-06 school year.

The application will be assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation referred to. The project will be assigned a band rating and its progress will be considered in the context of the school buildings and modernisation programme from 2005 onwards. The school authority will be notified when the assessment is completed.

Vetting Procedures.

Phil Hogan

Question:

64 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans for the introduction of vetting for all teachers, both full and part-time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19689/05]

Tom Hayes

Question:

128 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if vetting will be extended to third level students who require placements with agencies as part of their studies which may give them substantial unsupervised access to children or vulnerable adults; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19691/05]

Phil Hogan

Question:

147 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science when all ancillary school staff will be vetted prior to taking up employment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19690/05]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

674 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the timescale for the introduction of vetting in the education sector; if vetting processes will be extended to certain third level students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19939/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 64, 128, 147 and 674 together.

The central vetting unit is run by the Garda Síochána and it is therefore the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform who has primary responsibility in this area. The vetting unit is responsible for vetting requests in relation to prospective employees of designated agencies who would have substantial unsupervised access to children and vulnerable adults. The designated agencies comprise over 900 organisations. At present in the education sector, vetting is available in respect of requests for clearance from my Department in relation to bus escorts and special needs assistants provided to children with special educational needs, and to staff working in children detention schools.

A cross-governmental working group, established to put forward proposals for reform of vetting by the central vetting unit, recommended in March 2004 the expansion of its services to include all people working with children and vulnerable adults. To this end, the Minister of State with responsibility for children, Deputy Brian Lenihan, has announced a major increase in the resources to be provided to the Garda vetting unit to improve the level of vetting available to employers who employ people to work with children and vulnerable adults. The initiative includes the more than doubling of staff resources for the unit.

Among the working group's recommendations was the proposal that my Department and the Department of Health and Children explore the possibility of developing an employment history register, similar to the PECS system in Northern Ireland. An implementation group has been established by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and discussions between my Department and the Department of Health and Children are ongoing in that context. Although considerable preparatory work examining the issues relating to a PECS system has been undertaken by my Department, given that substantial further work needs to be undertaken it is not possible at this time to provide a timetable for the introduction of a PECS system.

The implementation group is also examining issues relating to the introduction of legislation to ensure the maintenance of a national criminal records system within the Garda Síochána, the disclosure of not just ‘hard' facts but also ‘softer' information, and access to information about — and proof of — criminal convictions for the purposes of litigation. In addition, Part 4 of the Sex Offenders Act 2001 obliges convicted sex offenders, which includes persons convicted abroad as well as in this jurisdiction and before as well as after the commencement of the Act, when seeking or accepting employment or a voluntary position involving unsupervised access to children, to inform their prospective employer of the fact of the conviction. Failure to do so is a criminal offence.

The Teaching Council also has a role here. When it is established, the council will provide the teaching profession, both primary and post-primary, with the means to self-regulate and its functions will include maintaining a register of teachers and if necessary removing the names of those shown to be unfit to teach, including those unfit to teach by reason of the fact that they pose a threat to children.

School Staffing.

Billy Timmins

Question:

65 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has received a submission from the board of management and the parents’ association of a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow requesting that the school not lose a teacher for 2005-06; if she will grant this request; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19775/05]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

780 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will sanction the retention of the current number of teachers for a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19873/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 65 and 780 together.

I am aware of the submission of the parents' association of the school referred to by the Deputies and of the board of management's appeal in respect of the loss of a mainstream teaching post.

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. The staffing schedule is outlined in primary Circular 15/05, which issued to all primary schools recently.

In the current school year the mainstream staffing of the school in question consists of a principal and 17 class teachers. This is based on an enrolment of 494 pupils at 30 September 2003. In addition, the school has two learning support teachers, one special class teacher, three resource teachers, one home school community liaison teacher and one resource teacher for Travellers.

The mainstream staffing of the school for the 2005-06 school year will consist of a principal teacher and 16 class teachers. This is based on an enrolment of 468 pupils at 30 September 2004. The board of management of the school referred to by the Deputy has appealed the loss of a mainstream staffing post for the 2005-06 school year.

To ensure openness and transparency in the system, such appeals are considered by an independent primary staffing appeals board. The board will meet on the 14 June 2005. This school's appeal will be considered at that meeting and the decision of the appeals board will be conveyed to the board of management of the school shortly thereafter.

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

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

66 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science her proposals to bring pupil-teacher ratios into line with previous commitments and in accordance with best practice throughout the EU; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19773/05]

Significant improvements have been made in the pupil-teacher ratio and in average class size in recent years. The average class size at primary level is now 23.9, down from 26.6 in 1996-97. The pupil-teacher ratio, which includes all the teachers including resource teachers, has fallen from 22.2:1 in the 1996-97 school year to 17.44:1 in 2003-04. Over 4,000 additional teachers have been employed in our primary schools since 1997. In allocating teaching posts regard has been had to the commitments of the Government to reduce class size, tackle educational disadvantage and to provide additional resources for pupils with special educational needs. The additional teaching posts created since 1997 have been deployed to address all of these priorities.

The Deputy will be aware that a review of the allocation system of teaching support for pupils with special educational needs was recently completed. Arising from that review a new model has been introduced to replace that which was notified to schools in June 2004. 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 and to ensure continuity of service for children who have previously been given an individual allocation until those children leave the primary school system. The new system will greatly benefit schools and the children in schools that need additional support.

The Deputy will also be aware of the new action plan for educational inclusion, DEIS — Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools — which I launched recently. This action plan will result in reduce class sizes in schools serving the most disadvantaged communities to 24:1 at senior level and 20:1 at junior level. In line with Government policy, my Department will continue to provide further reductions in the pupil-teacher ratio within available resources and subject to spending priorities within the education sector. Priority will be given to pupils with special needs, those from disadvantaged areas and those in junior classes.

Early Childhood Education.

Shane McEntee

Question:

67 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of early education places currently available in the State; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19753/05]

Early education in Ireland covers the period from birth to six years. Almost all five year olds and half of four year olds attend junior infant and senior infant classes in primary schools. Provision for children below the age of four is targeted at specific groups.

Outside of junior classes in primary schools, my Department's main role in the area of early childhood education encompasses pre-school provision for children from disadvantaged areas, Traveller children and those with special needs.

The Early Start pre-school project was established in 40 primary schools in designated areas of urban disadvantage in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Drogheda and Dundalk during 1994 and 1995. There are a total of 1,680 places in Early Start centres.

The new action plan for educational inclusion, DEIS — Delivering Equality Of Opportunity In Schools — which I launched on 30 May, provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and a new integrated school support programme, SSP, which will bring together and build upon a number of existing interventions for schools with a concentrated level of disadvantage.

The action plan aims to concentrate early childhood education actions on those children, aged from three up to school enrolment, who will subsequently attend the 150 urban-town primary schools, participating in the new school support programme, and identified as serving the most disadvantaged communities. The early childhood education actions under the new plan will be well targeted and my Department will work in partnership with other Departments and agencies with a view to meeting the overall care and education needs of the children involved in an integrated way. A strong emphasis will be placed on adding value to the work of other providers by embedding quality early learning within child care provision.

The future direction of the Early Start programme will be considered in rolling out the new action plan.

A survey to assess levels of disadvantage in primary schools is currently being carried out with the assistance of the Educational Research Centre and this will assist my Department in identifying the primary school communities to be targeted for early education support under the action plan. The plan will be implemented on a phased basis, starting in the next school year.

My Department currently funds 48 pre-school classes for Traveller children. In the special needs sector, there are currently 14 pre-school classes for children with autism located throughout the country. In addition to this, ten stand-alone autism facilities that provide an applied behavioural analysis, ABA, model of response to children with autism cater for a number of children of pre-school age. My Department has also sanctioned the establishment of a pre-school for six children with hearing impairment on a pilot basis.

The bulk of pre-school places in the country are financed by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, which has provided unprecedented levels of funding for child care in recent years. The Department of Health and Children also provides grants to child care groups, including to community groups in areas of social and economic disadvantage.

School Accommodation.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

68 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the difficulties being experienced by staff and pupils at a school (details supplied) in County Donegal regarding the shortage of space; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that a child with special needs is being taught in the staff toilets; and if she will report on the number of other schools across the State which have similar arrangements due to gross overcrowding in their schools. [19780/05]

My Department is considering an extension project at the school to which the Deputy refers in the context of the overall school building and modernisation programme 2005-2009. The project has been assessed and will be prioritised using the published prioritisation criteria. The project will provide a general purposes room and ancillary accommodation.

In 2002, following a specific approach from the school authorities regarding the need to provide facilities for a special needs pupil, the Office of Public Works acting on my Department's behalf discussed two options with the school authorities — one was to provide a prefab or alternatively to convert existing toilet facilities to meet the need identified by the school. The Office of Public Works subsequently reported to my Department that the school authority rejected the option of using the prefabricated accommodation and opted instead to convert an adjoining boys and girls toilet by removing sanitary ware but leaving the original divisional wall in order to provide separate accommodation for the full-time and part-time support teacher. At the time a grant in the amount of €5,385 was sanctioned by my Department to cover the full cost of the conversion project.

In relation to the position of schools generally clearly the rapid expansion in the number of teachers allocated to schools by this Government to respond to children with special needs has placed pressure on existing accommodation, particularly in smaller schools. We have been making significant inroads in dealing with the needs of such schools through the significant expansion of the school building programme in recent years and through measures like the devolved initiatives.

My Department is not aware of any school where a directly comparable conversion of existing building space was carried out by a school.

Literacy Levels.

Liz McManus

Question:

69 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science the actions she intends to take arising from the report, Literacy and Numeracy in Disadvantaged Schools, which found that in some schools up to 50% of pupils have literacy problems; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19665/05]

In 2004, the inspectorate of my Department carried out a focused evaluation of educational provision in the areas of literacy and numeracy development in 12 primary schools with a high concentration of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The purposes of the evaluation were to report on the quality of provision for literacy and numeracy development in the selected schools; to identify the issues that impact on literacy development in the selected schools; and to recommend policies and strategies that would contribute to improvement in children's literacy and numeracy achievement.

The analysis and conclusions of the inspectorate's report, Literacy and Numeracy in Disadvantaged Schools, has added significantly to our understanding of the educational contexts of schools in disadvantaged settings. The report identifies challenges for the wider educational community in tackling poor attendance and in addressing low levels of achievement in literacy and numeracy among pupils in disadvantaged areas.

The report has provided school principals, teachers and boards of management with advice on planning for improvement and development and will assist individual schools in reviewing current practice and provision for pupils in literacy and numeracy. The report emphasises the significant role of school principals and of school management in making literacy and numeracy a key priority.

In the context of a special initiative under the Sustaining Progress social partnership agreement, targeted interventions are being implemented in primary schools serving disadvantaged communities aimed at ensuring that pupils with serious literacy difficulties are supported in improving their attainment levels.

DEIS — Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools — the new action plan for educational inclusion that I launched in May, will have a significant impact on the quality of educational provision in disadvantaged settings and will directly address many of the issues identified in the inspectorate's report. A key underlying principle of the plan is that of early intervention, including assisting children who are having difficulty learning to read and write at an early stage before the problem becomes entrenched. In implementing the action plan a number of measures will be rolled out, starting in the next school year, to tackle literacy and numeracy problems in primary schools serving disadvantaged communities.

These measures will include a new advisory service at primary level; more access to initiatives such as reading recovery and maths recovery, which enable intensive, individualised teaching to be provided to the lowest attaining pupils at an early stage, when intervention can be most effective; and a new family literacy project.

The National Educational Welfare Board will also have a key role to play in the successful implementation of the action plan and additional resources have been made available to support the continuing development of the services provided by the board. The budget which has been allocated to the NEWB for 2005 is up by 20% on the 2004 allocation, to nearly €8 million.

Schools Funding.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

70 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has received the report she commissioned into use of moneys paid by her Department to Coláiste Mhuire Marino-Marino Institute of Education; if she intends to publish the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19649/05]

As the Deputy is aware, issues were raised in a number of quarters about the funding provided by my Department to Coláiste Mhuire Marino-Marino Institute of Education for the training of primary teachers.

I announced, on 6 May, that I had asked PricewaterhouseCoopers to "examine the question of the use of monies paid by the Department of Education and Science to Coláiste Mhuire Marino-Marino Institute of Education". While I indicated that there was nothing to suggest that funding provided by my Department to Coláiste Mhuire Marino-Marino Institute of Education has not been applied solely and properly for its intended purposes, I felt that it was important to secure confirmation that this is indeed the case.

In addition to the provision of funding for training primary teachers at undergraduate and post-graduate levels, PricewaterhouseCoopers has been asked to look at funding provided by the Department of Education and Science to Coláiste Mhuire Marino-Marino Institute of Education for expenditure on items of a capital nature in relation to training primary teachers; in-service national programmes-support services, focusing on curriculum changes and specific topics relating to teaching and learning; and the scrúdú cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge, SCG.

In order to ensure that the examination is as comprehensive as possible, PricewaterhouseCoopers is covering the period from 2001 to date.

My officials are in ongoing contact with PricewaterhouseCoopers and indications have been received that steady progress is being made on the work which is currently at an advanced stage. I understand that the examination will be completed shortly.

When initially establishing the examination, I indicated my intention to make the findings of the report public. This remains my position.

Standardised Testing.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

71 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding her consideration of a report from the NCCA recommending that all 450,000 primary school pupils should be tested for literacy and numeracy in first class and fifth class; if she intends to implement this proposal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19669/05]

John Gormley

Question:

77 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science if she intends to introduce a national student report card in line with recommendations from the NCCA. [19764/05]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

86 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science when the system of standardised testing will be introduced at primary level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19723/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71, 77 and 86 together.

As I have said before, I see great potential for a new system of standardised testing to provide valuable information which will help everyone involved in education — parents, teachers and policymakers — to play their part in enabling each child to reach his or her full potential.

The results of standardised tests will help parents to understand where their child is at compared to the national norm. They will assist teachers in planning their students' learning and enable them to establish which children need extra help and they will inform policy-making at national level by providing invaluable information about attainment levels in our schools. This is especially crucial in relation to evaluating the outcomes of additional investment in disadvantaged schools. It is vital that we can identify the interventions that make a difference for students.

The NCCA advice, which was prepared at my Department's request, recommends that all pupils in primary schools should be tested in literacy and numeracy at the end of first or the beginning of second class and again at the end of fourth or the beginning of fifth class. It recommends that this requirement should be introduced as soon as is feasible, while taking account of the need for professional development for teachers and principals, arranging the necessary administrative structures and the provision of funding for the purchase of tests.

The NCCA's report also proposes that it should develop and pilot a common template for recording assessment information and reporting such information to parents during the coming academic year. The national report card template would facilitate common procedures for recording and reporting on the overall progress of individual students, including their standardised test results, as they advance through the system and particularly at the point of transfer to post-primary school. It should provide data on a pupil's attainment that is easily understood by both parents and teachers alike.

With a view to introducing a national system of standardised testing as soon as is feasible, I will be asking the NCCA to commence work shortly on developing a national report card template and to proceed with the development of its guidelines for teachers on assessment policy and practice, as part of the necessary groundwork that must be in place before specific requirements and implementation dates can be set for schools.

Question No. 72 answered with QuestionNo. 62.

School Curriculum.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

73 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps she is taking to assist schools in catering for the increasingly diverse cultural and ethnic nature of the pupil base, particularly at primary level; if her attention has been drawn to concerns expressed by teachers at the lack of resources available to them to cope with the changing nature of the pupil base; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19673/05]

My Department's approach to the increasingly diverse cultural and ethnic nature of the pupil base in our schools is twofold — to promote and facilitate the delivery of an intercultural education for all children and to provide the specific supports needed by children whose first language is not English to help them to succeed at school.

Intercultural education revolves around respecting and celebrating diversity as well as promoting equality and human rights within and outside the whole school community. Last month, I launched Intercultural Education in the Primary School: Guidelines for Schools. This valuable resource was prepared by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA, to support teachers and schools in developing a more inclusive learning environment and in providing students with knowledge and skills they need to participate in a multicultural world. My Department provided €167,000 to ensure that every primary teacher in the country will receive a copy of this document in either English or in Irish. Corresponding guidelines for intercultural education in post-primary schools are currently being prepared and will be available later this year.

In relation to the provision of resources to enable children with low levels of competence in the English language to succeed at school, extra staffing and materials are available to schools to help them meet the needs of such students.

In the current school year, my Department has provided over 600 language support teachers to help pupils who have significant language difficulties, representing an investment of €27 million. Over 400 of these teachers are working in primary schools with approximately 6,000 children. As well as these teaching posts, my Department has provided grant aid to 350 primary schools, each of which has fewer than 14 pupils in need of assistance with language. Over 2,000 international students are benefiting from this form of support.

Schools granted full language support teacher posts receive additional financial support to enable the purchase of resource materials suitable for use within the language support class or mainstream class.

A further additional resource will be available to teachers shortly in the form of guidelines on teaching students who do not have English as their first language. These are currently at an advanced stage of preparation by the NCCA.

Higher Education Grants.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

74 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps she intends to take to ensure that there is a full breakdown of recipients of third level grants available within a reasonable period, broken down by country and socio-economic background, in order that the fairness of the current grants scheme can be assessed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19664/05]

In my reply to Parliamentary Question Number 55 of 26 April 2005 in relation to the availability of a statistical breakdown of grantholders by socio-economic background, I referred to the fact that the most recent data on participation rates at third level is that published in the HEA review of higher education participation in 2003, which showed that participation in higher education among the school leaver age cohort has passed the 50% mark for the first time. The study puts the overall transfer rate to higher education at 54% in 2003, as against 44% in 1998, 36% in 1992, 25% in 1986 and 20% in 1980. This data are based on a full census of entrants.

The study also contains findings relating to the socio-economic breakdown of entrants in that year which are based on a sample of new entrants in 2003. It should be noted that previous studies on participation by socio-economic group, the Clancy reports, conducted in relation to 1998, 1992, 1986 and 1982 were based on a census of new entrants in those years. A follow up to previous Clancy studies based on a census of entrants in 2004 is under way and will provide a full picture of progress in relation to higher education participation by socio-economic group since 1998.

While final analysis and comparison with previous Clancy studies, together with any policy conclusions, should await the outcome of the full survey which will be available later this year, the study of 2003 entrants nonetheless provides some interesting pointers. It suggests that participation rates of some of the lower socio-economic groups, particularly skilled manual and semi-skilled and unskilled manual and other non-manual workers, have increased substantially.

In relation to the number of students receiving financial assistance under the student support schemes, the most recent figures show that over 56,000 students benefited under the schemes in 2003-04, of whom approximately 11,500 benefited from top-up grants as well as the basic maintenance grant. The top-up grant was introduced by this Government to provide greater assistance to the most disadvantage students, and in this regard it should be noted that the maximum amount of grant support available this year is €4,855, including the top-up grant, compared to just €2,032 in 1996-97.

My Department fully recognises the importance of statistics in analysing the effectiveness and fairness of the student grant schemes. In so far as data in relation to the socio-economic backgrounds of grant holders are concerned, limited data have been collected by my Department in the past with specific reference to the higher education grants scheme administered by the local authorities. Following consultations with the Irish Vocational Education Association, new arrangements have recently been introduced to compile a more comprehensive statistical breakdown of grant holders under the schemes administered by the VECs. This complements arrangements in place in respect of the higher education grants scheme. While the majority of awarding bodies have at this stage returned completed forms for 2003-04, officials in my Department are continuing to communicate with those from whom completed forms are still outstanding.

On receipt of completed statistical forms for 2003-04 from all awarding bodies, my Department will be a position to compile and analyse the relevant statistics in respect of socio-economic background and other relevant classifications for that year. Statistical forms in respect of the 2004-05 academic year will issue to the awarding bodies shortly.

Looking to the future, at the request of my Department the HEA has been working with the universities and institutes of technology to develop an electronic student record system which is intended to provided more detailed information on students, including their socio-economic backgrounds. I have asked the HEA to examine how this might provide more timely and reliable data on the socio-economic backgrounds of grant-holders as I fully accept that the existing time-lags in the provision of data are not acceptable.

Psychological Service.

Richard Bruton

Question:

75 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children currently awaiting a NEPS assessment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19688/05]

The National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, does not normally keep waiting lists of children requiring assessment in the sense of lists of names that are dealt with in chronological order. NEPS operates a staged assessment process whereby each school takes responsibility for initial assessment, educational planning and remedial intervention, in consultation with its assigned NEPS psychologist. Only if there is a failure to make reasonable progress in spite of the school's best efforts will a child be referred for individual psychological assessment. This system allows the psychologists to give early attention to urgent cases and also to help many more children indirectly than could be seen individually.

As the end of the 2004-05 school year approaches, NEPS management is conducting a survey to ascertain how many children have been through the staged assessment process in school but who still need an individual psychological assessment. As soon as the information has been collated, it will be made available to the Deputy. Every effort will be made to ensure that urgent assessment needs will be met as soon as possible.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

76 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science if more than 1,000 primary schools have no educational psychologist and 20% of secondary schools are without one; the steps which are being taken to deal with this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19660/05]

While it is true that more than 1,000 primary schools and 13% of post-primary schools do not have NEPS psychologists assigned to them, it is important to note that all schools have access to psychological assessments, either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, for those schools currently served by NEPS, or through the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, SCPA, for those that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them.

All schools that do not have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of this scheme whereby they can commission assessments from a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the fees directly to the psychologists concerned. Details of this scheme, including the conditions that apply to it, are available on my Department's website.

The complement of psychologists in NEPS has increased almost three-fold from 43 psychologists on establishment to 128 psychologists at present.

NEPS also provides assistance to all schools that suffer from critical incidents, regardless of whether they have a NEPS psychologist assigned to them. Also, in relation to all schools, NEPS processes applications for reasonable accommodations in certificate examinations.

On behalf of my Department, the Public Appointments Service has recently initiated a new recruitment competition for NEPS. Any increase in the overall numbers of psychologists in NEPS must take account of Government policy on public sector numbers.

Question No. 77 answered with QuestionNo. 71.

School Transport.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

78 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children carried by school bus transport each day at both primary and secondary level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19707/05]

The number of children availing of school transport services in a school year varies from time to time. However, the average number of children availing of school transport daily is 138,000. This includes approximately 8,000 children with special educational needs.

Vetting Procedures.

Pat Breen

Question:

79 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science when the legislation to establish a register of persons considered unsafe to work with children will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19749/05]

A cross-governmental working group was established to put forward proposals for reform of vetting by the central vetting unit run by the Garda Síochána. Among its recommendations was the proposal that the Departments of Education and Science and Health and Children explore the possibility of developing an employment history register, similar to the PECS system in Northern Ireland. An implementation group has been established by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and discussions between my Department and the Department of Health and Children are ongoing in that context. Although considerable preparatory work examining the issues relating to a PECS system has been undertaken by my Department, these discussions are at an early stage. In addition, my Department will be convening meetings with the relevant interested parties to explore the issues involved.

The Teaching Council also has a role here. Once it is formally established, the council will provide the teaching profession, both primary and post-primary, with the means to self-regulate and its functions will include maintaining a register of teachers and if necessary removing the names of those shown to be unfit to teach, including those unfit to teach by reason of the fact that they pose a threat to children.

School Transport.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

80 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science if any contact has been made with UK manufacturers of school buses with a view to purchasing new models with seat belts; if so, the current availability and timeframe for delivery of such buses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19758/05]

My Department, at the invitation of a UK manufacturer, recently viewed a demonstrator bus at Bus Éireann's headquarters in Broadstone, Dublin. The bus was fitted with three seats on one of the aisle and two seats on the other. All seats were fitted with seat belts.

In fact, this is the third demonstrator bus viewed by officials of my Department and Bus Éireann. The other two vehicles, which were not manufactured in the UK, were used on trial runs in April.

The question of acquiring vehicles to replace or supplement the existing school bus fleet is under consideration. However, it should be borne in mind that many of the buses used for school transport are privately owned.

National Adult Literacy Council.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

81 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has received proposals from her Department in regard to role and functions of the National Adult Literacy Council arising from the recent review undertaken; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19683/05]

The National Adult Learning Council was formed in March 2002 on an ad hoc basis with the intention that it would be established as a statutory body under section 54 of the Education Act 1998. Following the formation of the ad hoc council, concerns emerged that the functions envisaged for the council were too wide-ranging and were not sufficiently focused. Additionally, a number of developments had occurred which would impact on the work of the council, including the establishment of the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland and the Further and Higher Education and Training Awards Councils.

My Department undertook a strategic review of the role and functions of the council to address these concerns. I am awaiting proposals from my Department as to the role and functions of the council in the light of the review. I expect to be in a position to take a decision in this matter in the near future.

School Transport.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

82 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Education and Science if she plans to commission a study into the benefits of seat belt use versus compartmentalisation for primary and second level students using school buses. [19767/05]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

124 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department has organised a study into the risks involved with the use of various seat belts on school buses for children of various age groups. [19762/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 82 and 124 together.

Legislation regarding the fitting and wearing of seat belts in public service vehicles including school buses is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Transport.

EU Directive 2003/20 requires seat belts to be used where they are fitted. This directive must be transposed into national law by 9 May 2006.

Separately, proposals to extend the requirement for seat belts in all new vehicles, except for city buses used in stage stop routes, have been developed at EU level. When the directive is adopted, all new school buses being registered from a future date will require to be fitted with seat belts.

The suitability of different restraint mechanisms is under active consideration by my Department in consultation with the Department of Transport and Bus Éireann.

Educational Disadvantage.

Seán Crowe

Question:

83 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on whether her Department’s new approach to tackling educational disadvantage highlights a substantial policy failure within the Government on the commitment to delivering educational equality, particularly in the context of literacy and numeracy in poorer areas; her plans for a more integrated approach, highlighting timescales and budget allocations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19756/05]

The new action plan for educational inclusion, DEIS — Delivering Equality Of Opportunity In Schools — which I launched recently, aims to ensure that the educational needs of children and young people from disadvantaged communities are prioritised and effectively addressed.

The plan provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and a new integrated school support programme, SSP, which will bring together and build upon a number of existing interventions for schools with a concentrated level of disadvantage. Approximately 600 primary schools, comprising 300 urban-town and 300 rural, and 150 second level schools, will be included in the school support programme. The new action plan will be introduced on a phased basis starting in the next school year and will involve an additional annual investment of €40 million on full implementation. It will also involve the provision of some 300 additional posts across the education system.

Since 1997, the Government has increased funding on specific measures at primary and second level to tackle educational disadvantage by some 130% — from some €50 million in 1998 to about €120 million in the current year. The additional €40 million annual investment under this action plan on full implementation will represent a 33% increase on current expenditure and a three-fold increase in spending in this area since 1998.

A key underlying principle of DEIS is that of early intervention, including assisting children who are having difficulty learning to read and write at an early stage before the problem becomes entrenched. In implementing the action plan a number of measures will be rolled out, starting in the next school year, to tackle literacy and numeracy problems in schools serving disadvantaged communities. These measures will include a new advisory service at primary level; more access to initiatives such as reading recovery and maths recovery, which enable intensive, individualised teaching to be provided to the lowest attaining pupils at an early stage, when intervention can be most effective; targeted extension of the successful demonstration library project at second level — 40 more schools will benefit on a phased basis; and a new family literacy project.

Other key measures to be implemented on a phased basis over the next five years include the following: targeted early childhood education provision for 150 school communities; extended availability of home-school-community liaison and school completion programme services; the 150 urban-town primary schools with the highest concentrations of disadvantage will be targeted to benefit from maximum class sizes of 20:1 in junior classes and 24:1 in senior classes; rural primary schools participating in the new school support programme will be targeted to benefit from access to a teacher-co-ordinator serving a cluster of schools. Rural primary schools that cannot be clustered will be provided with financial support as an alternative to teacher-co-ordinator support; measures will be implemented to enhance student attendance, educational progression, retention and attainment; measures will be put in place to support the recruitment and retention of principals and teaching staff in schools serving disadvantaged communities; and professional development for principals, teachers and other personnel in schools participating in the SSP will be enhanced.

Central to the success of the action plan will be an increased emphasis on planning at school and school cluster level, target-setting and measurement of progress and outcomes to ensure that the increased investment is matched by an improvement in educational outcomes for the children and young people concerned.

Schools Building Projects.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

84 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science if a new round of PPP school buildings will be announced; if any changes will be made to the PPP contract based on the experience of PPPs in education to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19724/05]

My colleague, the Minister for Finance, provided a capital envelope of €555 million in respect of education PPPs for the period 2005 to 2009 and I am examining how this may be best utilised. This examination covers both schools and the third level sector.

A key rationale underpinning the decision to proceed with the initial bundle of five schools was to test the PPP procurement method in the case of schools to learn from the experience and thereby to inform future usage of a PPP approach to procuring schools.

Based on the experience to date from the use of the PPP process for the National Maritime College and the schools project, a number of issues are under active consideration by my Department and will inform my decision on the allocation of the funds available to me for PPP development. These include the type of PPP model to be used, the level of operation and service to be included in any new programme, how the projects should be bundled so as to provide the most cost effective procurement and the size and geographical spread of the bundles. My Department is also in the process of examining the market interest in the different types of PPP model that are under consideration for a future programme.

As I have previously indicated, in respect of further PPP school building projects, new schools on greenfield sites that have been prioritised using the criteria agreed with the education partners, and published by my Department, fit the PPP model best as distinct from projects that involve modernisation and upgrading of existing buildings.

I intend to announce my plans for a further PPP programme in the near future.

State Examinations.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

85 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the decision by the joint managerial body not to release teachers for oral, practical and in-service training from September 2005; the steps she intends to take arising from this decision in view of the possible disruption to exams; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19661/05]

I am aware that the joint managerial body has stated that it will advise its member schools not to release teachers for examinations — oral and practical — and in-service training from September 2005. The JMB and the other management bodies have raised the need for new arrangements to be put in place for activities such as the examinations and in-service training to ensure that they take place outside of school time because it is considered that current arrangements seriously disrupt schools and create major difficulties for school authorities.

Sustaining Progress, the social partnership agreement 2003-05, which set out the modernisation agenda for teachers, acknowledged that existing in-service training delivery arrangements are a cause of disruption in schools which may impact on students. Sustaining Progress also indicated that there was agreement among the education partners that the present in-service training delivery is unsatisfactory and that new arrangements need to be developed and agreed. As provided for in the agreement, discussions are in train with the school management authorities and the teacher unions to address the need for new arrangements and to agree a new model for the delivery of in-service training. The issues surrounding the oral and practical examinations are also being explored in the context of these discussions.

As an initial step, however, a number of significant developments have been put in place by my Department which have made progress in diminishing the impact of in-service training on school life. Among these developments have been the establishment of a co-ordination committee for national programmes-support services at post-primary level which has developed a nationwide calendar of in-service training provision to avoid undue disruption in an individual school. The work of this committee will feed into the biannual second level support service brochure and ongoing school-specific Education Centre calendar, both of which highlight the in-service training available for individual schools thus enabling management authorities to ensure that any disruption is minimised.

There would be serious implications for students if there was a refusal to release teachers for exams. The process of Sustaining Progress is designed to ensure that such difficulties can be discussed and avoided by proper engagement by all parties.

Question No. 86 answered with QuestionNo. 71.

Teaching Profession.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

87 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of males entering the primary teaching profession for the 2003-04 and 2004-05 academic year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19747/05]

According to my Department's records, 180 male teachers were appointed for the first time as permanent or temporary qualified teachers at primary level in the 2003-04 school year; 184 such male teachers were appointed in the current school year, 2004-05.

I am aware of the decreasing number of males entering the teaching profession and I know that the situation is particularly acute at primary level.

I would point out that the relatively low number of males in the teaching force is a feature common to all OECD countries. Indeed, OECD statistics show the situation in Ireland to be close to the OECD average.

It is important to attract more men into teaching for a number of reasons, not least of which is the positive role models that teachers provide in children's lives and the desirability of having both male and female role models in our schools.

A report on attracting more men into primary teaching is currently being compiled by a committee comprised of representatives of the colleges of education, the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, the INTO and officials of my Department.

The main objective of this committee is to make recommendations on strategies and initiatives to increase the number of males entering primary teaching. It is expected that the committee will make recommendations in respect of both short-term and long-term strategies.

The work of the committee is almost complete and I understand I can expect to receive the committee's report within a few weeks.

State Examinations.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

88 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science if it is intended to proceed with changes to the structure and content of the leaving certificate examination as recommended by the NCCA; if not, her reasons for rejecting the recommendations; if it is intended to publish the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19675/05]

Seán Crowe

Question:

100 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the proposals of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment for reform of the leaving certificate, particularly in terms of dealing with pressure on students, drop out rates, the maths crisis and tackling educational disadvantage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19755/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 88 and 100 together.

It is essential that our education system is positioned to maintain excellence, relevance, quality and inclusiveness in a changing climate. I have just launched DEIS, a focused five-year plan to combat educational disadvantage. It is important that the implementation of senior cycle reform would complement and further this work.

The NCCA proposals are ambitious and far-reaching. Senior cycle reform has the potential to promote greater inclusion and effective participation, to provide greater curriculum balance and choice and to contribute to a more positive learning culture in schools. I recognise that potential exists to improve the senior cycle education experience. It is crucial that reforms will promote cohesion and equity in society and enable students to develop their talents, prepare for adult life, for lifelong learning and employment in the knowledge society. The education system must also continue to play its part in promoting Ireland's competitiveness and growth. These are major considerations of fundamental importance to our future, and our children's future.

It is vital that the implications of the proposals be considered thoroughly and that changes adopted are effective in supporting strategic change which promotes increased relevance, quality and equity in the system. I am having the NCCA's advice fully examined within my Department. I want to ensure that change is carefully managed, well-resourced and that the best elements of the current system, including public confidence in its integrity, objectivity and quality, are retained. I will engage in further discussions with the council and with stakeholders on the proposals and priorities for the future, with a view to making decisions as soon as possible.

As regards mathematics specifically, the NCCA is currently advancing a review of mathematics in post-primary education at the request of my Department.

Since the NCCA's advice is already publicly available on the NCCA's website at www.ncca.ie. I do not intend publishing it separately.

School Accommodation.

Michael Ring

Question:

89 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the alternative in the event that a site is not purchased and construction of a permanent building for a school (details supplied) in County Mayo does not commence. [19772/05]

Michael Ring

Question:

137 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to the site for a school (details supplied) in County Mayo. [19771/05]

Michael Ring

Question:

682 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science if a site has been identified for a school (details supplied) in County Mayo; if she will meet a deputation from the school; the date and time that she will meet this deputation; and if parents and pupils will have to march on the street to get a new school. [19007/05]

Michael Ring

Question:

783 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of sites which the OPW looked at for a school (details supplied) in County Mayo. [19970/05]

Michael Ring

Question:

784 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will make a decision regarding a site for a school (details supplied) in County Mayo. [19971/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89, 137, 682, 783 and 784 together.

The school referred to by the Deputy opened in September 1996 with provisional recognition. Having met the criteria for recognition and proven its viability, the school was granted permanent recognition in 2000. Standard practice is that the school authorities are responsible for the securing of interim accommodation which is grant-aided by the Department, pending the securing of permanent recognition. On being granted permanent recognition, a school becomes eligible for capital funding. The rate of progress towards a permanent accommodation solution depends on a number of factors including availability of sites and the Department's budgetary capacity to meet the level of demand.

The school is currently accommodated in prefabricated classrooms on a three quarter acre site in the town. The rental costs of the site and classroom accommodation is grant-aided by my Department at the rate of 95%. My Department is advised that the lease on the site is due to expire in June 2006.

I want the assure the Deputy that we are acutely aware of the urgent need for an accommodation solution for this school particularly given the limitations on the existing arrangement and my Department is doing its utmost to achieve a satisfactory outcome at the earliest possible date.

To that end, the property management section of the Office of Public Works has been actively engaged in seeking a suitable site for a new school building. Soil sampling is being undertaken to verify the suitability of a particular site. The result of the tests and final assessment of site suitability is expected to be concluded and with my Department in a week or two.

As the board and patron are already aware, the provision of interim accommodation remains the responsibility of the board until such time as my Department is in a position to provide a permanent solution. However, I am sure that all partners will work together to secure alternative interim accommodation should that be required pending the provision of permanent accommodation.

As the Department is actively engaged in securing the school's future accommodation needs, a meeting would not serve any useful purpose at this time.

Children Act 2001.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

90 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will list the sections of the Children Act 2001 for which her Department has responsibility, which are already in operation; if she will list those sections that have yet to be brought into operation; if any timetable has been set for the implementation of the remaining sections; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19676/05]

Part 10 of the Children Act 2001 relates to the governance and operation of children detention schools. Section 159(1) of the Act has been commenced for the purpose of allowing three representatives of children detention schools to be appointed to the Special Residential Services Board. However, Part 10 of the Act cannot be commenced more fully at this time as its effect will include replacing the existing industrial and reformatory schools with children detention schools. While boys aged between 17 and 21 who are convicted of a criminal offence may be sent to a place of detention, there is no equivalent place at present for female offenders who may be imprisoned from the age of 17 years.

It is intended that the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform will provide a facility for young women similar to that provided for boys. The timing of the commencement of Part 10 of the Act is contingent upon such a facility becoming available. Pending commencement, industrial and reformatory schools continue to be governed by the Children Acts.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Bernard Allen

Question:

91 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children at primary level in classes of more than 35; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19694/05]

Bernard Allen

Question:

149 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children at primary level in classes of more than 30; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19693/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 91 and 149 together.

Completed data are not available for the current school year because a number of outstanding queries on returns from a small number of schools must be resolved before the current primary census is finalised. When the information is available I will forward it to the Deputy.

School Books.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

92 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will take action to prevent publishers of school books from reprinting text books with minor textual changes, forcing parents and schools to discard expensive books after a short period of time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19681/05]

Apart from a small number of prescribed texts at second level, mainly in the case of language subjects, school books are not approved or prescribed by my Department at first or second level. Decisions on which books to use are taken at school level.

School authorities have been advised that book selections should be changed only to the extent that is necessary. However, text books have to be changed periodically to enable students' work to be kept educationally stimulating and to ensure that content and methodology are kept up to date.

My Department operates a grant scheme towards the cost of providing school text books for pupils from low-income families in schools at first and second level. For the purposes of these grants, a needy pupil is a pupil from a family where there is genuine hardship because of unemployment, prolonged illness of a parent, large family size with inadequate means, single parenthood, or other family circumstances such as substance abuse, which would indicate a similar degree of financial hardship. Principal teachers administer the book grant schemes in schools in a flexible way under the terms of the schemes based on their knowledge of particular circumstances in individual cases. Many schools operate book rental schemes and second-hand book exchanges.

A total of €3,961,683.89 was paid by my Department in respect of the school books grant scheme in primary schools for the 2004-05 school year. This figure includes €3,272,733.40 in respect of the loan-rental scheme.

The total expenditure in post-primary schools for the 2004-05 school year was €6.359 million, which includes €221,240 in respect of the book rental-loan schemes seed capital.

Early School Leavers.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

93 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of students who failed to make the transition from primary to secondary education in 2003 and 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19717/05]

The specific information requested by the Deputy is not available at present. However, the National Economic and Social Forum report of 2002 on early school leaving cited, as a broad estimate, that around 1,000 children do not transfer from primary to post-primary on an annual basis. There is some doubt attached to this estimated figure of 1,000, which may be an over-statement of the true position at this stage.

The Education Welfare Act 2000 and the establishment of the National Educational Welfare Board provides a comprehensive framework for promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. To discharge its responsibilities, the board is developing a nationwide service to provide welfare-focused services to children, families and schools. The board currently has an authorised staffing complement of 94.

My Department also operates a number of programmes at both primary and post-primary level to tackle the problem of early school leaving.

The Giving Children an Even Break programme provides additional financial and teaching supports for children in primary schools from disadvantaged backgrounds who are most at risk of educational disadvantage and early school leaving.

A key role in this regard is also played by the home-school-community liaison, HSCL, scheme which helps parents to develop their skills as the primary educators of their children and also addresses issues in the community impinging on learning and educational participation.

The school completion programme directly targets those in danger of dropping out of the education system by targeting individual young people of school going age, both in and out of school, and arranging supports to address inequalities in education access, participation and outcomes.

Both the HSCL scheme and all 82 school completion programme projects operate transfer programmes which are very important in assisting pupils in making the transition from primary to post-primary level.

The new action plan for educational inclusion, DEIS — Delivering Equality Of Opportunity In Schools — which I launched recently, focuses on addressing the educational needs of children and young people from disadvantaged communities. The plan provides for a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage and a new integrated school support programme, SSP, which will bring together and build upon a number of existing interventions for schools with a concentrated level of disadvantage. The new action plan will be introduced on a phased basis starting in the next school year and will involve an additional annual investment of €40 million on full implementation. It will also involve the provision of some 300 additional posts across the education system.

A continuing emphasis will be placed on the development of effective transfer programmes by building on the existing work of the HSCL scheme and the school completion programme in this area. An additional guidance counselling provision, being made available for second level schools having the highest concentrations of disadvantage, will also assist in this regard.

School Curriculum.

Paul McGrath

Question:

94 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress being made on the implementation of the recommendations of the task force on the physical sciences; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19741/05]

My Department continues to progress the recommendations of the task force on the physical sciences as resources permit in collaboration and consultation with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Forfás and industry.

Significant progress has been made in a range of areas pertaining to my Department. For example: a new science curriculum has been introduced at primary level supported by a resource grant in December 2004 of €1000 per school plus €10 per pupil; revised syllabi in junior certificate science and in leaving certificate physics, chemistry and biology have been introduced. Work on the revision of the two remaining leaving certificate subjects — agricultural science and physics and chemistry combined — is well advanced. The introduction of the revised syllabi has been supported by comprehensive in-service programmes for teachers; additional equipment grants have been provided to schools, and laboratories continue to be refurbished as part of the ongoing schools building programme. In that context, €16 million was issued to schools in 2004 to support the implementation of the revised junior certificate science syllabus; a review of grading of subjects in the leaving certificate and initial reports on teacher training have been undertaken; a review of mathematics at post-primary level is being undertaken by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment; and investment in the programme of research in third level institutes is continuing apace to enhance and promote world class standards in research, innovation and development. Between this programme and the various grants to the research councils, and other sources, an estimated €101.5 million will be invested in third level institutions in 2005.

The discover science and engineering programme, operated under the aegis of Forfás with the collaboration of the education sector, was launched in October 2003 to bring together existing science awareness activities in a unified strategy. I have recently announced a provision of €750,000 towards the cost of the BA festival of science which is being hosted by Trinity College this year. This is one of the world's leading science events and will be attended by some 3,000 delegates, with an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 people enjoying some part of the programme.

Áiseanna Scoile.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

95 D'fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta an bhfuil iarratas ina Roinn le haghaidh halla spóirt do Phobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair, cén staid ag a bhfuil an t-iarratas faoi láthair; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [19242/05]

An tionscadal maidir leis an Halla um Chorpoideachas sa Phobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair, rinneadh é a mheas de réir na gcritéar tosaíochta a foilsíodh cheana féin agus a rinneadh a athbhreithniú an bhliain seo caite tar éis dul i gcomhairle leis na páirtithe oideachais.

Déanfar an tionscadal a chur san áireamh i gcomhthéacs an Chláir 2005-2009 um Thógáil agus um Nuachóiríocht Scoileanna.

Grangegorman Development Authority.

Michael Noonan

Question:

96 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Education and Science when the Grangegorman Development Authority will begin its work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19719/05]

The Dáil passed all Stages of the Grangegorman Development Agency Bill on 1 June 2005. The Second Stage reading of the Bill is scheduled to commence in the Seanad on 14 June 2005.

The purpose of this Bill is to establish an agency whose function, in the first instance, is to prepare a strategic planning scheme for the Grangegorman site. The plan must provide for the needs of the Dublin Institute of Technology, the Health Service Executive and the Ministers for Education and Science and Health and Children. The Bill provides for wide-ranging consultation with all the parties that may have an involvement in the site. This ranges from those who are directly concerned — local residents, the DIT, the HSE and the Dublin City Council — to those parties whose future involvement may have a bearing on the site reaching its full potential such as the IDA and Dublin Bus. The Department of Transport will also have a major input because of the public transport requirements of the developed site.

It is my intention, once the necessary legislative framework is in place, to establish the agency as soon as possible thereafter so that it can then commence carrying out the functions given to it in the legislation.

Special Educational Needs.

Liz McManus

Question:

97 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will address the serious concerns regarding the impact the introduction of the weighted system of allocation of resource teaching support will have on resource teachers and resource hours; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19666/05]

As the Deputy is aware, a new scheme for allocating resource teachers to schools to cater for the needs of children with high-incidence special needs and learning support needs was announced last month. The reason for the new scheme is simple. Children with special needs such as dyslexia or mild learning difficulties are found in almost every school. It makes sense then that every school should have a number of resource teaching hours based on the number of pupils in the school.

This is a major improvement on the previous system, under which children with high incidence special needs required a psychological assessment before they were given resource teaching hours by the Department. This was a time-consuming process that often led to delays in children getting the support they needed. Resource teachers will now be in place in the school from the start of the school year so that children who need their assistance can get it straight away.

Under the new arrangement disadvantaged schools, boys schools and mixed schools get extra resources as research shows that pupils in these schools are more likely to have learning difficulties.

To ensure that every school has enough resource teaching hours to meet the needs of its pupils, an extra 660 resource teaching posts are being put in place for next September. A total of 340 of these are permanent posts and 320 are temporary posts being provided to ensure that children who had been given an individual allocation of resource teaching hours by my Department will keep these in situations where the general allocation to the school would not be sufficient to allow the school to provide these hours from within its general allocation.

The provision of these temporary posts will ensure that no child who has been allocated a specific number of hours with a resource teacher by my Department will lose these under these new arrangements. In fact, the reality is that the majority of schools are gaining resource teaching hours under the new scheme.

Addressing the concerns of small and rural schools was, as the Deputy will be aware, the reason I initiated a review of the original general allocation model which had been announced last year, to come into effect in the 2005-06 school year. Following this review, a special improved ratio for small schools has been introduced to ensure that they are given resource teaching hours on a more favourable basis.

I would like to stress that despite misleading claims to the contrary, the new scheme does not prevent schools from giving one-to-one time with a resource teacher to any child who needs such support. Rather, it ensures that each school has enough resources to ensure that each child gets a level of support appropriate to their individual needs.

The school can then use its professional judgement to decide how these hours are divided between different children in the school to ensure that all their needs are met. Research shows that some children with special needs will respond better with one-to-one tuition. Others, however, do better when taught in small groups. Often it is best for resource teachers to work with children in the classroom rather than taking them away to a separate room, as the children then have to catch up work done by the rest of the class in their absence. The point is that the type of response needed depends on the child. While the new scheme will not prevent schools from giving one-to-one time with the resource teacher to children that need it, it is important to note that one-to-one teaching is not the best option for every child.

I am grateful to the Minister for Finance for providing me with the resources to ensure that the new system could be put in place.

As of next September there will be over 5,000 teachers in our primary schools working directly with children with special needs, including those requiring learning support. This compares to under 1,500 in 1998. Indeed, one out of every five primary school teachers is now working specifically with children with special needs.

The Government, and I as Minister for Education and Science, is deeply committed to improving services for children with special needs. I believe that, in addition to the massive increase in resource teachers in recent years, the introduction of this new general allocation scheme will ensure a faster and more flexible response for children with special needs.

School Inspection Reports.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

98 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the recent decision of the Supreme Court banning the publication of inspectors reports on primary schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19655/05]

The judgment of the Supreme Court issued on 31 May 2005 clarifies that it is within the discretion of the Minister for Education and Science under section 53 of the Education Act 1998 to decide whether or not to release information on schools. This discretionary power applies to the publication of school inspection reports.

In the light of growing demand for information on school quality, we need to make more information on schools available. However, this information must be balanced and must take account of the wide range of work undertaken by the schools. As I have stated on numerous occasions, I am totally opposed to the publication of crude league tables based on examination results. School inspection reports provide balanced evaluations of the work of schools and I am convinced that their wider availability could be very beneficial to students, parents, teachers and schools.

It is my intention to move to a situation where my Department will make school inspection reports more widely available. I intend to proceed on this in a planned and well thought out way. I have asked the inspectorate to consult with the education partners on how best we can achieve this.

School Accommodation.

Dan Boyle

Question:

99 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans in place to purchase a site and build a new permanent school for a school (details supplied) in County Mayo before September 2006. [19759/05]

The school referred to by the Deputy opened in September 1996 with provisional recognition. Having met the criteria for recognition and proven its viability, the school was granted permanent recognition in 2000. Standard practice is that the school authorities are responsible for the securing of interim accommodation which is grant-aided by the Department, pending the securing of permanent recognition. On being granted permanent recognition, a school becomes eligible for capital funding. The rate of progress towards a permanent accommodation solution depends on a number of factors including availability of sites and the Department's budgetary capacity to meet the level of demand.

The school is currently accommodated in prefabricated classrooms on a three quarter acre site in the town. The rental costs of the site and classroom accommodation is grant-aided by my Department at the rate of 95%. My Department is advised that the lease on the site is due to expire in June 2006.

I assure the Deputy that we are acutely aware of the urgent need for an accommodation solution for this school particularly given the limitations on the existing arrangement and my Department is doing its utmost to achieve a satisfactory outcome at the earliest possible date.

To that end the property management section of the Office of Public Works has been actively engaged in seeking a suitable site for a new school building. Soil sampling is being undertaken to verify the suitability of a particular site. The result of the tests and final assessment of site suitability is expected to be concluded and with my Department in a week or two.

Question No. 100 answered with QuestionNo. 88.

Psychological Service.

Richard Bruton

Question:

101 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of psychologists employed by the National Educational Psychological Service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19687/05]

The complement of psychologists in NEPS has increased almost three-fold from 43 psychologists on establishment to 128 psychologists at present.

All schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, SCPA, whereby the schools can commission assessments from a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the fees directly to the psychologists concerned. Details of this scheme, including the conditions that apply to it, are available on my Department's website.

NEPS also provides assistance to all schools that suffer from critical incidents, regardless of whether or not they have a NEPS psychologist assigned to them. In addition, in respect of all schools, NEPS processes applications for reasonable accommodations in certificate examinations.

On behalf of my Department, the Public Appointments Service has recently initiated a new recruitment competition for NEPS. Any increase in the overall numbers of psychologists in NEPS must take account of Government policy on public sector numbers.

Schools Funding.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

102 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans to end the funding crisis in regard to Educate Together schools and the ongoing difficulties this is causing in terms of their development (details supplied). [19781/05]

Enda Kenny

Question:

142 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the level of funding allocated by her Department to the Educate Together group; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19728/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 142 together.

I am not aware of any funding crisis in Educate Together schools. These schools qualify on the same basis as other primary schools for various Department grants, including capitation and ancillary services grants, both of which have been increased significantly in recent years.

Each year my Department provides grant assistance to the primary school management bodies, including Educate Together, to defray costs incurred in the running of their organisations. The level of grant paid for Educate Together in 2005 is €41,133.

Educate Together has submitted an application for additional funding to my Department. My Department is currently engaged in discussions with Educate Together. The provision of some additional funding in 2005 is under discussion along with the organisation's longer term needs.

Education Welfare Service.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

103 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of education welfare officers currently employed by the NEWB; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19729/05]

Since its formal launch in December 2003, the aim of the National Educational Welfare Board has been to provide a service to the most disadvantaged areas and most at-risk groups. Five regional teams have been established with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford and staff have been deployed in areas of greatest disadvantage and in areas designated under the Government's RAPID programme. Thirteen towns with significant school going populations, 12 of which are designated under the Government's RAPID programme, also now have an educational welfare officer allocated to them. In addition, the board will follow up on urgent cases nationally where children are not currently receiving an education.

The service is developing on a continuing basis and the board received sanction in late 2004 from my Department for an additional ten educational welfare officers. This brings its total authorised staffing complement to 94, comprising 16 HQ and support staff, five regional managers, 11 senior educational welfare officers and 62 educational welfare officers.

The board has indicated to my Department that it is in the process of filling 13 positions arising from the current recruitment process including one senior educational welfare officer post and 12 educational welfare officer posts. I understand that it is the intention of the board to have the positions filled prior to the commencement of the next school year.

Special Educational Needs.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

104 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of special needs assistants assigned to schools in County Kildare; the number of these which will have their contracts renewed prior to the ending of the 2004-05 school year; if a more formal structure will be put in place for special needs assistants in view of the fact that many are investing their own funds in training and have built up valuable experience; if she intends to introduce specific contracts for special needs assistants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19769/05]

There were 273.31 whole-time equivalent special needs assistants, also known as SNAs, employed in 80 primary schools in County Kildare on my Department's payroll at the end of May 2005. It is not possible to say how many of these will have their contracts renewed for the new school year. Responsibility for the recruitment and employment of SNAs rests with the relevant school authorities.

SNAs are assigned to schools to meet the care needs of individual children who have been assessed by a psychologist as needing this type of support. I can confirm that there has been no change to the criteria or guidelines for allocating SNA support to schools and I can further confirm that there are no plans to review the criteria or guidelines under which SNA support is allocated.

Applications for SNA support are now dealt with by the National Council for Special Education which processes all applications for support from schools and communicates the decisions directly to the schools. At this stage, the council has dealt with all new applications from schools for SNAs that will be required from the beginning of September 2005.

However, in order to ensure that resources are used in the most effective manner, a review has been conducted in recent months to establish whether primary schools have the level of SNA support that they need for children in their care, whether they have resources which they no longer need or whether they need extra resources.

The review has found that some schools no longer have the care needs for which the SNA was originally sanctioned, that is, in some cases the child may have left the school while in other cases the care needs of the child have diminished as the child has progressed through the school. In this regard, the schools where surplus SNA support was identified have been advised that they may retain this surplus until the end of the current school year.

My Department is engaged in discussions with the trade union representing SNAs, under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, on a number of issues relating to the employment of SNAs, including the issues raised by the Deputy. In the circumstances, it would not be appropriate for me to comment specifically on any of these issues.

The Deputy will be aware that this Government has put in place an unprecedented level of support for children with special needs. Indeed, since 1998, the number of SNAs has increased from under 300 to nearly 6,000 nationally. In addition to this, more effective systems, such as the establishment of the National Council for Special Education, have been put in place to ensure that children get support as early as possible.

School Curriculum.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

105 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Education and Science if she is considering introducing ECDL or a comparable information and communications technology course as a second level subject. [19768/05]

A number of schools currently facilitate students in completing ECDL, particularly in transition year. However, I have no plans to introduce information and communications technology, ICT, as a discrete examination subject for second level students.

Recent thinking on ICT in schools is that the best way to learn ICT skills is to apply them in meaningful context. Based on this, the focus in Ireland is on developing and promoting the use of ICT as a tool for learning across the curriculum. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA, is currently developing a framework for ICT in curriculum and assessment. This will outline the kinds of ICT learning experiences that students should have during key phases of their schooling and will provide guidance on how these can be provided by integrating ICT across the curriculum. This is in line with current international practice.

Educational Projects.

David Stanton

Question:

106 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the supports or programmes her Department offers to encourage secondary school pupils in disadvantaged areas to progress to higher or further education; the success of these supports and programmes in encouraging students in these areas to progress to third level institutions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19778/05]

In 1980 3% of socio-economically disadvantaged school-leavers entered higher education. According to the most recent national survey data available for 1998 — Clancy 2001, that figure has risen to between 20 and 30% of school-leavers from the most under-represented groups. While this represents a significant improvement it is below the current average participation rate of 54% for all young people.

A recent sample survey of 10% of entrants to higher education in 2003 carried out on behalf of the HEA is providing indications that the participation rate of socio-economically disadvantaged groups has increased further since 1998-37% for the most under-represented unskilled group in the 1998 report. This report also indicates that admission rates to higher education from all counties in the state and 17 of the 21 Dublin postal districts, including many districts with areas of concentrated disadvantaged, have risen since 1998. It is also clear, however, that while there is welcome improvement, some counties and districts have admission rates which are below the national average and it is here that we need to continue to focus our efforts. A full study of access in 2004, currently being carried out on behalf of the HEA and scheduled for publication later this year, will give a more comprehensive review of both the social background of new entrants and trends in admission by county or postal district of origin.

Improvements in participation rates reflect the outcome of how State funding measures have over the last decade increasingly focused on improving the progress and performance of young people from areas of socio-economic disadvantage, firstly in primary and second level education then in the transition to further and higher education.

Measures directed at improving participation in higher education include the establishment in August 2003 of a National Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education within the HEA as a co-ordinating unit to lead work nationally on achieving equity of access to higher education, co-ordinate funding and resources, and monitor and report on progress.

In December 2004 the national office published a three-year action plan for the period 2005-07, which sets out a range of practical steps which need to occur so that more opportunities are created for groups who have to date been under-represented in the sector, such as socio-economically disadvantaged school-leavers. This will include arrangements so that all disadvantaged regions, schools and communities, in particular those with low levels of representation, are linked to access activities and programmes in at least one higher education institution in their region.

A priority area for action in the plan is evaluation of access programmes which have been established in higher education institutions to ascertain what strategies and partnerships work best in achieving equity of access to higher education for all under-represented groups. This work has commenced and building upon the outcome the national office will develop and support the implementation of a national framework of access policies and initiatives for each target group, including young people from socio-economically disadvantaged areas.

The national office also manages a number of funding programmes to widen access and support the participation of under-represented groups in higher education. These include the HEA strategic initiative funding, improving access, through which €7.3 million is ring-fenced annually for widening access programmes in HEA funded institutions. This scheme has supported a range of pre and post-entry actions and interventions on the part of 11 third level institutions towards increasing access as well as supporting the subsequent participation and completion of students from disadvantaged areas, including work with primary and second level schools, extra tuition, further education links, foundation courses, direct entry arrangements, learning support and financial support.

A review of the scheme was published by the HEA in October 2004. Towards a National Strategy — Initial Review of HEA Targeted Initiatives to Widen Access to Higher Education, provides an overview of the outcomes and impact of initiatives to date and also identifies where further progress needs to occur. There are similar access programmes in the institute of technology, non-HEA, sector which will be reviewed as part of the overall evaluation of access programmes currently under way.

A number of other funding programmes have also contributed to increased participation by young people from disadvantaged areas including the student assistance fund which provides financial support to students who require additional support to enable them to fully benefit from their third level studies —€5.6 million was allocated under this fund in 2004-05; and the millennium partnership fund for disadvantage through which €1.85 million was allocated in 2004-05 to 68 partnerships and community groups.

In addition, my Department provided grants of approximately €460,000 in 2004 to specific projects such as the Ballymun initiative for third level education; Clondalkin higher education access project; the accessing college education project, based in Tallaght; the Limerick community based education initiative; the Trinity access programme; the Blanchardstown area partnership; the northside partnership based in Coolock and the Wexford campus of the Institute of Technology Carlow.

The national office will be monitoring and reporting on progress in implementing the action plan and reaching national and institutional targets on equity of access to higher education.

Student Councils.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

107 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science if she intends to implement the recommendations contained in the recent report, Second Level Student Councils in Ireland, produced by the children’s research centre in Trinity College, Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19659/05]

The research report referred to by the Deputy was commissioned by the working group on student councils in second level schools. The working group was established by the National Children's Office in June 2003, in co-operation with my Department, to promote the establishment of democratic student councils in second level schools. All of the partners in education and 11 second level students are members of the group. Officials of my Department are also participating in the working group.

In order to develop a better understanding of the operation of student councils and discover the needs of students, teachers, principals and schools, the working group contracted the children's research centre at Trinity College to carry out the research. The aim of the research study was to describe barriers, enablers and supports to the development and operation of student councils in Ireland as perceived by key stakeholders and to situate this within the international context. The research raises issues and makes recommendations for the development and support of student councils and is still being considered by the working group. The research report was formally launched by my colleague, the Minister of State with responsibility for children, Deputy Brian Lenihan, on 25 April last.

The working group will make a final report on their findings, including a proposed three year strategy to support the establishment and development of student councils, to my colleague, the Minister for children, by the end of June 2005. I will consider the recommendations contained in the research report in the context of the final report from the working group when it becomes available.

Joint Managerial Bodies.

Joe Costello

Question:

108 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to results of a survey of 250 joint managerial body members which showed that some principals were working up to 70 hours per week and that many are also forced to work during holiday periods; her plans to ease the workload on principals through the provision of administrative support or other measures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19658/05]

I am very aware of the administrative burden currently placed on schools and the effect this has on the workload of principals. I have started a process of review of the administrative burden imposed on schools arising from departmental and legislative requirements. I believe we can collectively seek opportunities to ensure that this burden is kept to the minimum, consistent with achieving the worthwhile and indeed essential objectives of legislation in recent years.

The core purpose of the review I have set in motion is to focus sharply upon administrative processes and consequent administrative burdens which arise within the school as a result of regulations and-or departmental requirements and to consider what scope exists for alleviating these or having them performed in a more efficient and less demanding manner from the perspectives of the school.

My Department wrote to the various representative bodies last March inviting them to consider where and in what way present processes can be improved upon. A number of submissions have been received to date, including one from the joint managerial body, JMB, incorporating the key findings of the JMB survey of its members to which the Deputy refers. My Department is currently in communication with the JMB with a view to arranging a follow up meeting to discuss their submission.

Teaching Profession.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

109 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has received the report of the committee examining ways of attracting more men into primary teaching; the main findings of the report; the action she intends to take to ensure a better gender balance in the teaching profession; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19663/05]

I understand that the committee examining this issue held its final meeting recently and agreed the core elements of the report and that the final text of their report is being drafted at present. I expect to receive its report shortly.

The relatively low levels of men in the primary teaching forces, which is a feature common to all OECD countries, is an issue that is of concern to me. I believe it is important to attract more men into teaching for a number of reasons, not least of which is the positive role models that teachers provide in children's lives and the desirability of having both male and female role models in our schools.

I genuinely believe that teaching should be seen as an attractive profession for the best candidates of both genders. Teaching is fulfilling work which makes a huge social contribution. With the increases in teachers' salaries under partnership agreements and benchmarking in recent years, it is also now a well-paid job.

This Government wants to attract and reward the best teachers. In addition to increasing teachers' salaries, we have also undertaken other initiatives to enhance the status of the profession. Not least of these is the establishment of the Teaching Council as a professional regulatory body.

I know, however, that a particular focused effort must be made to encourage more men to become teachers, particularly at primary level. I look forward to receiving the committee's report, which I understand will make recommendations in respect of both short-term and long-term strategies for attracting more men into the profession.

Psychological Service.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

110 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of special schools in the State which are not covered by the National Educational Psychological Service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19692/05]

All schools have access to psychological assessments, either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, for those schools currently served by NEPS, or through the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, SCPA, for those that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them.

All schools that that do not have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of this scheme, whereby they can commission assessments from a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the fees directly to the psychologists concerned. Details of this scheme, including the conditions that apply to it, are available on my Department's website.

At present, 87 special schools do not have a NEPS psychologist directly assigned to them. However, it should be pointed out that many schools for children with disabilities receive psychological support from voluntary bodies or the Health Service Executive.

The complement of psychologists in NEPS has increased almost three-fold from 43 psychologists on establishment to 128 psychologists at present.

NEPS also provides assistance to all schools that suffer from critical incidents, regardless of whether or not they have a NEPS psychologist assigned to them. Also, in relation to all schools, NEPS processes applications for reasonable accommodations in certificate examinations.

On behalf of my Department, the Public Appointments Service has recently initiated a new recruitment competition for NEPS. Any increase in the overall numbers of psychologists in NEPS must take account of Government policy on public sector numbers.

Education Welfare Service.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

111 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the average case load of each education welfare officer at present; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19686/05]

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

To discharge its responsibilities, the board is developing a nationwide service that is accessible to schools, parents-guardians and others concerned with the welfare of young people. For this purpose, educational welfare officers, EWOs, are being appointed and deployed throughout the country to provide a welfare-focused service to support regular school attendance and discharge the board's functions locally.

The service is developing on a continuing basis and the board received sanction in late 2004 from my Department for an additional ten educational welfare officers. This brings its total authorised staffing complement to 94, comprising 16 HQ and support staff, five regional managers, 11 senior educational welfare officers and 62 educational welfare officers.

The board is in the process of making 13 appointments arising from the recent recruitment campaign, including one senior educational welfare officer and 12 educational welfare officers.

These appointments will bring the number of service delivery staff to its authorised complement and will enable the board to further roll out its services at local level around the country.

Five regional teams have been established by the board with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford and staff are deployed in areas of greatest disadvantage and in areas designated under the Government's RAPID programme. Thirteen towns with significant school going populations, 12 of which are designated under the Government's RAPID programme, also now have an educational welfare officer allocated to them. In addition, the board follows up on urgent cases nationally where children are not currently receiving an education.

The budget which has been allocated to the NEWB for 2005 is €7.8 million, an increase of €1.3 million or 20% on the 2004 allocation.

The National Educational Welfare Board has indicated to my Department that the average caseload of each educational welfare officer as at May 2005 was approximately 200. The board is continuously reviewing the protocols for prioritising children and families who require intervention in order to ensure that children with greatest need gain maximum impact from available resources, and to work with local agencies in prioritising children's and family needs.

Schools Building Projects.

Denis Naughten

Question:

112 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the action she is taking to upgrade schools in County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18995/05]

I draw the Deputy's attention to the series of announcements I have made so far this year as part of the 2005-09 school building and modernisation programme. These announcements, which were published in county order, outline: schools with major building projects allowed to move to tender and construction; schools invited to deliver their building projects on the basis of devolved funding; details of schools with projects approved under the 2005 summer works scheme; schools whose projects will further progress through the design process; and schools authorised to commence architectural planning.

Applications for capital works from schools in County Roscommon which are not included in these announcements are being assessed and considered for inclusion in further announcements as part of the 2005-09 school building and modernisation programme.

In order to assist primary school authorities to complete general upkeep and maintenance, an annual grant is paid to schools under the grant scheme for minor works. This is also known as the devolved grant. The level of grant paid amounts to €3,809 per school plus €12.70 per pupil.

School Staffing.

Billy Timmins

Question:

113 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools in County Wicklow which have concessionary teachers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19776/05]

There are six primary schools in County Wicklow with concessionary teaching posts.

University Post.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

114 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science the circumstances under which the Government agreed to an extension of four years in the term of office of the president of UCC; if it is planned to extend this facility to any other head of a third level college; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19652/05]

Under the Universities Act 1997, any amendment to the superannuation scheme of University College Cork requires the approval of the Higher Education Authority and the consent of the Minister for Education and Science and the consent of the Minister for Finance. I recently consented to an amendment to the superannuation scheme of University College Cork as did my colleague the Minister for Finance.

The amendment provided that the present holder of the Office of President of University College Cork shall hold office for a period of ten years from 26 January 1999. By making such provision, the amendment removed the requirement to retire at age 65 from the present holder of the office. The text of the amendment is contained in statute J of UCC. As is required under the provisions of the Universities Act 1997, the statute will be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas in due course, as a statutory instrument.

The Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 removed the requirement to retire on age grounds from most public servants who were appointed on or after 1 April 2004.

State Examinations.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

115 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the call from the TUI for the extension of the leaving certificate timetable beyond the current 13 days and the better distribution of core subjects throughout the exam period; her views on the call made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19662/05]

On foot of a Government decision, the then Minister for Education and Science formally established the State Examinations Commission on 6 March 2003. The commission now has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations, such as the timetabling of examinations.

I have asked officials from my Department to discuss the matter with the State Examinations Commission.

Teachers’ Remuneration.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

116 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason she is unable to provide details of the number of school days taken by unqualified teachers; the steps she intends to take to ensure that such information is made available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19674/05]

My Department's payroll can provide information on the number of days for which unqualified temporary and substitute teachers were employed.

In the 2003-04 school year, 139,570 substitution days were paid to unqualified teachers. In the same year, 165,087 days in respect of temporary teacher appointments were paid to unqualified teachers. However, I should point out that, as the teacher's payroll system is structured to pay temporary teachers in respect of a seven day week, this figure is somewhat inflated as it includes week-ends and school closures and does not specifically take account of school days. Due to the complexities involved in compiling this data and having regard to the staffing resources available to my Department, it is not intended to extract details of the number of school days worked by individual temporary unqualified teachers.

The Deputy may be interested to note however that my officials have recently written to the boards of management of all primary schools employing an unqualified teacher. The boards have been directed to employ fully qualified primary teachers for any vacancy arising in the coming school year.

School Transport.

Damien English

Question:

117 Mr. English asked the Minister for Education and Science if safety belts will be fitted on all school transport vehicles; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19745/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

831 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans to ensure the provision of seat belts in all school buses throughout the country; if she is prepared to meet this requirement by September 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20102/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 and 831 together.

There is at present no legal requirement to wear seat belts in buses, including school buses, in this country. However, EU Directive 2003/20 requires seat belts to be used where they are fitted. This directive must be transposed into national law by 9 May 2006.

Separately, proposals to extend the requirement for seat belts to be fitted in all new vehicles, except for city buses used in stage stop routes, have been developed at EU level. When the directive is adopted, all new school buses being registered from a future date, yet to be determined, will require to be fitted with seat belts. It is not expected that this directive will provide for any mandatory retrofitting of seat belts in existing buses.

The question of the fitting and the mandatory use of seat belts on school buses, outside of these legislative requirements, is at present under consideration in my Department. Before any decision is made, the issue of the type, or types, of seat belt to be fitted must be determined having regard to the differing sizes of the student passengers being carried. My Department is working closely with the Department of Transport and Bus Éireann on this issue and any decisions reached will be guided by expert advice.

Whatever conclusion is reached, the provision of seat belts on school buses, if that is what is recommended, would have to introduced on a phased basis having regard to the logistical difficulties involved in sourcing right-hand drive buses equipped with any appropriate seat belts and the fact that not all the buses in the current fleet may be suitable for the retrofitting of seat belts.

Schools Refurbishment.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

118 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the conditions at a school (details supplied) in County Dublin have continued to deteriorate and that maintenance funding is no longer effective; the reason there is an ongoing delay in sorting out the serious overcrowding problems in the school; if there are plans to find an alternative suitable location for the school as a matter of urgency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19757/05]

The school planning section of my Department is in receipt of an application for major capital funding from the school to which the Deputy refers. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale projects which were revised following consultation with the education partners last year. Progress on the application is being considered in the context of the school building programme from 2005 onwards.

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that earlier this year I approved funding for the school under the summer works scheme to upgrade its toilet facilities. It will be open to the school to apply for further funding for other improvement works under the 2006 scheme when it is announced later this year.

School Transport.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

119 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science when the 3:2 rule will no longer be necessary on school bus transport; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19713/05]

Dan Boyle

Question:

148 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Education and Science if she plans to end the practise of school buses carrying more passengers than can be seated. [19760/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 148 together.

The loading of all school buses is determined by the relevant sections of the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations which are laid down by the Department of Transport. The licensed carrying capacity of all vehicles engaged in school transport is based on a ratio of three pupils for every two adult seats, in accordance with relevant legislation.

My Department has been in discussions with Bus Éireann with a view to phasing out the three for two arrangement over the next two or three years. Indeed, the discussions have been advanced to a stage at which it is possible to confirm that the necessary steps are now being taken to commence the general phasing out of this arrangement from next September.

The wearing of seat belts and the three for two rule are intrinsically linked, which means that school children who are travelling on buses equipped with seat belts from next May will also be provided with a single seat.

Separately, proposals to extend the requirement for seat belts to be fitted in all new vehicles, except for city buses used in stage stop routes, have been developed at EU level. When the directive is adopted, all new school buses being registered from a future date will require to be fitted with seat belts. It is not expected that this directive will provide for any mandatory retrofitting of seat belts in existing buses.

School Staffing.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

120 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason she has decided to reduce a three teacher school (details supplied) in County Mayo to a two teacher school; if she will overturn this decision and take steps to ensure the continuation of this school. [19779/05]

Michael Ring

Question:

778 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science if a teacher will not be removed from a school (details supplied) in County Mayo for one year. [19849/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 and 778 together.

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 mainstream staffing of the school referred to by the Deputy comprises of a principal and two mainstream class teaching posts. This is based on an enrolment of 50 pupils at 30 September 2003.

The mainstream staffing of the school for the 2005-06 school year will consist of a principal and one mainstream class teaching post. This is based on an enrolment of 45 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.

The board of management of the school has submitted an appeal to the staffing appeals board. The appeal will be considered by the appeals board at a meeting which is scheduled to take place on 14 June. The board of management will be notified of the outcome of the appeal as soon as possible thereafter.

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

School Placement.

David Stanton

Question:

121 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of pupils who enrolled in junior infants in ordinary classes in September 2004; the breakdown of the ages of the pupils involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19777/05]

Completed data are not available for the current school year because a number of outstanding queries on returns from a small number of schools must be resolved before the current primary census is finalised.

I will forward the information sought directly to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

School Accommodation.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

122 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of parents who applied for a place in a Lucan primary school and who have been forced to send their children elsewhere in September 2005. [19765/05]

It is important to understand that my Department's main responsibility is to ensure that schools in an area can, between them, cater for all pupils seeking places. This may result in parents not obtaining a place in the school of their first choice for their child.

There are ten primary schools in the Lucan area including two new state of the art multi-denominational schools and a new Gaelscoil due to commence operation in September 2005. These developments, together with a number of extensions to existing schools, the provision of temporary accommodation and the reorganisation of one school to enable the enrolment of an additional two junior infant classes, has increased capacity significantly in the area. Through a combination of these measures, the school planning section of my Department is satisfied that, between them, the schools have adequate accommodation to cater for current demand.

My Department continues to monitor school needs in the Lucan area. In this regard all schools have been requested to submit their pre-enrolment lists with the date of birth of prospective pupils so that any newly emerging needs can be addressed as expeditiously as possible.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Willie Penrose

Question:

123 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the total number of persons who have made compensation applications to the Residential Institutions Redress Board at the latest date for which figures are available; the way in which the number of applications compares with the original estimate made by her Department; the latest estimate of the number of applications; the total amount paid out in awards to date and the estimated likely total liability of the State; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19671/05]

The Residential Institutions Redress Board is an independent body established under statute in December 2002 to provide financial redress to persons who, as children, were abused while resident in industrial schools, reformatories or other institutions that were subject to State regulation or inspection.

To date, the board has received 6,300 applications and has processed some 3,277 of these cases at a total cost of approximately €253 million.

The board has prepared its second annual report which covers the period 1 January 2004 to 31 December 2004. This report was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on 13 April 2005 and is available on the board's website at www.rirb.ie. In its 2004 report, the board states that, based on the pattern of receipt of applications to date, it anticipates receiving between 7,500 and 8,000 applications by the final date for receipt of applications on 15 December 2005, though it emphasises that this is a tentative estimate.

The redress scheme has now been in operation for almost two and a half years, and the board will continue to accept applications until 15 December 2005. At that stage, it will be possible to determine the total number of applications under the scheme but, as it will take the board some considerable time to deal with all applications, the final cost of the scheme may not be known until some time in 2007. Based on the total number of applications the redress board expects to receive up to the end of this year, and allowing for legal and administration costs, the estimated total cost of the scheme will be somewhere in the region of €680 million and €730 million.

The Department of Education and Science's estimate prior to the establishment of the redress board was that the amount of compensation would be €508 million, not including legal and administration costs. Including legal and administration costs, the cost of awards under this estimate would be €610 million.

I should add that the final cost of the redress scheme must be viewed in the context of the Government's concern to provide reasonable compensation towards the hurt and suffering experienced by victims of abuse and the very substantial costs that would have been incurred in any event if no such scheme had been established and if cases had been processed in the normal manner through the courts.

Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 82.

Special Educational Needs.

Dan Neville

Question:

125 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the manner in which the general allocation system is being introduced for children with special educational needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19721/05]

As the Deputy is aware, a new scheme for allocating resource teachers to schools to cater for the needs of children with high-incidence special needs and learning support needs was announced last month. The reason for the new scheme is simple. Children with special needs such as dyslexia or mild learning difficulties are found in almost every school. It makes sense then that every school should have a number of resource teaching hours based on the number of pupils in the school.

This is a major improvement on the previous system, under which children with high incidence special needs required a psychological assessment before they were given resource teaching hours by the Department. This was a time-consuming process that often led to delays in children getting the support they needed. Resource teachers will now be in place in the school from the start of the school year so that children who need their assistance can get it straight away.

Under the new arrangement disadvantaged schools, boys schools and mixed schools get extra resources, as research shows that pupils in these schools are more likely to have learning difficulties.

To ensure that every school has enough resource teaching hours to meet the needs of its pupils, an extra 660 resource teaching posts are being put in place for next September. A total of 340 of these are permanent posts and 320 are temporary posts being provided to ensure that children who had been given an individual allocation of resource teaching hours by my Department will keep these in situations where the general allocation to the school would not be sufficient to allow the school to provide these hours from within its general allocation.

The provision of these temporary posts will ensure that no child who has been allocated a specific number of hours with a resource teacher by my Department will lose these under these new arrangements. In fact, the reality is that the majority of schools are gaining resource teaching hours under the new scheme.

Addressing the concerns of small and rural schools was, as the Deputy will be aware, the reason why I initiated a review of the original general allocation model which had been announced last year, to come into effect in the 2005-06 school year. Following this review, a special improved ratio for small schools has been introduced to ensure that they are given resource teaching hours on a more favourable basis.

I would like to stress that despite misleading claims to the contrary, the new scheme does not prevent schools from giving one-to-one time with a resource teacher to any child who needs such support. Rather, it ensures that each school has enough resources to ensure that each child gets a level of support appropriate to their individual needs.

The school can then use its professional judgement to decide how these hours are divided between different children in the school to ensure that all their needs are met. Research shows that some children with special needs will respond better with one-to-one tuition. Others, however, do better when taught in small groups. Often it is best for resource teachers to work with children in the classroom rather than taking them away to a separate room, as the children then have to catch up work done by the rest of the class in their absence. The point is that the type of response needed depends on the child. While the new scheme will not prevent schools from giving one-to-one time with the resource teacher to children that need it, it is important to note that one-to-one teaching is not the best option for every child.

I am grateful to the Minister for Finance for providing me with the resources to ensure that the new system could be put in place.

As of next September there will be over 5,000 teachers in our primary schools working directly with children with special needs, including those requiring learning support. This compares to under 1,500 in 1998. Indeed, one out of every five primary school teachers is now working specifically with children with special needs.

The Government, and I as Minister for Education and Science, are deeply committed to improving services for children with special needs. I believe that, in addition to the massive increase in resource teachers in recent years, the introduction of this new general allocation scheme will ensure a faster and more flexible response for children with special needs.

Computerisation Programme.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

126 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason Government spending of €160 million on information and communications technology in schools is only half that of Northern Ireland; if there are plans to increase investment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19766/05]

In respect of the funding being provided for ICT in our schools, it is important to note the significant developments in recent years and the fact that a major project is under way at present to bring broadband connectivity to all recognised schools. This project is being undertaken in partnership with industry, following the establishment of a three year joint Government-IBEC-TIF fund. Combining Government and industry investment means that Irish schools benefit from more expenditure than just that which is being provided from Exchequer funds.

The broadband connectivity is being provided via a schools national broadband network supported by HEAnet, which will provide managed Internet access, e-mail, security controls and other services designed to enhance the educational process. A broadband support service is being provided by the NCTE to assist schools with advice and information relating to the roll-out and ongoing use of their broadband connectivity within the schools network.

The provision of always-on high speed Internet access for schools represents a major development in the ICT in schools programme to integrate technology into teaching and learning and equip our young people for full participation in the information society.

The roll-out of broadband to schools will enable them to capitalise on the potential that other significant Government investment in IT infrastructure and ICT training for teachers in recent years has to improve learning opportunities.

School Inspections.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

127 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools at primary level and secondary level inspected by the Health and Safety Authority in each of the past five years; the number of cases in which adverse findings were made by the inspectors; the steps she is taking to ensure that all schools are brought up to an acceptable level and that such inspections be no longer required; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19668/05]

Joan Burton

Question:

144 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps she intends to take to deal with the intolerable conditions in a number of primary schools identified in the recent report from the Health and Safety Authority; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19654/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 144 together.

In accordance with the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989, it is the responsibility of school management authorities to have a safety statement in place in their schools. Schools are obliged to identify possible hazards, assess the risks to health and safety and to put appropriate safeguards in place.

It is open to school management authorities or individuals to make direct contact with the Health and Safety Authority in relation to matters of concern to them and the Department would not necessarily be aware of such communications. Where they are issued, notifications from the Health and Safety Authority are sent to the management authorities of schools in the first instance.

In practical terms, individual school authorities are best placed to assess the detail of their own health and safety requirements.

Provision is built into the school building programme to enable schools address urgent health and safety problems. Primary schools are given an annual allocation, currently amounting to €3,809 plus €12.70 per pupil, under the grant scheme for minor works which can be used entirely at the discretion of school management to address basic health and safety issues relating to school infrastructure.

The summer works scheme was introduced during 2004 which provides capital grants for small scale refurbishment works at primary and post-primary schools. The level of funding that is provided is based on the cost estimate provided by the school's design team at application stage. Responsibility for the delivery of the projects is entirely devolved out to the schools and their design teams. The scope of works covered under this scheme is intended to address health and safety issues in all schools as well as improvement works to the existing fabric of the buildings.

A total of €31 million was spent in 2004 on 292 primary projects and 158 post-primary projects under this scheme. The 2005 programme provides for 380 primary school projects and 234 post-primary school projects that will be grant-aided at a total cost of approximately €64.4 million.

The Department also sets aside a contingency sum each year to deal with emergency works in primary and post-primary schools, including health and safety works. Urgently required health and safety works relating to asbestos removal, radon mitigation or dust extraction may be grant-aided under the remediation programmes operated by the school building section of my Department.

In addition to the summer works scheme, I have made a number of announcements regarding the 2005 schools building and modernisation programme. This year alone, €270 million will be allocated to primary schools and €223 million to post-primary schools for building works. This represents an increase of 14% on the 2004 allocation.

The programmes supported will include: 141 major building projects already on site and more due to go on site in the near future; 122 major school building projects country wide which will go to tender and construction during 2005 or early 2006; 192 primary schools which have been invited to take part in the small and rural schools initiative and the devolved scheme for providing additional accommodation; up to 120 schools which have been given approval to rent temporary premises pending delivery of a permanent solution to their long-term accommodation needs; 43 schools which have been authorised to start architectural planning of their major projects; and 124 schools to progress through architectural planning.

The new schools building and modernisation programme 2005-2009 will be underpinned not just by a significant increase in overall funding but also by major improvements in the administration of the funding. Devolving more funding to local level through the summer works scheme and the small and rural schools initiative will allow schools to move ahead more quickly with smaller projects.

Question No. 128 answered with QuestionNo. 64.

Third Level Sector.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

129 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the recommendations of the McIver report progressed to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19726/05]

The McIver report on the PLC sector contains 21 over-arching recommendations, incorporating over 90 sub-recommendations.

Having regard to the number and scope of the recommendations in the report, consultations have been held with management and staff interests with regard to such issues as the prioritisation of recommendations, the structural changes envisaged in the report, their implications and associated costs.

The Department has made it clear that the recommendations of the PLC review cannot be dealt with in isolation and will have to be considered in the light of the totality of provision for further and adult education. This will require a realignment of the structures that have evolved in a pragmatic fashion to cater for particular needs at a given time. Initial discussions with the management side have been concluded and a joint meeting with management and staff representatives has been scheduled for later this month.

Register of Courses.

Joan Burton

Question:

130 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the circumstances in which non-approved colleges and courses appeared on her Department’s website; the colleges or courses that have now been removed; the steps she is taking to ensure that such errors do not occur again; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19653/05]

My Department's website, to which the Deputy refers, contains a provisional list of courses which are approved by me in the context of allowing students from outside the European economic area and Switzerland access to the labour market.

My Department has recently commenced the compilation of a register of courses which meet criteria in relation to duration and quality. The register is now being used by the Garda National Immigration Bureau for the purpose of issuing work permits to eligible students. This register of courses is being updated on a monthly basis. New courses will be added and there will also be deletions from the register where courses are no longer found to meet the criteria.

Following a review of the register during May 2005, three courses which had been included in April were removed from the register in the light of new information received by my Department; 536 new programmes were added to the register in the same period.

I intend that the present arrangements, which are provisional, will operate until March 2006 when they will be reviewed pending emerging developments in relation to the implementation of the Report on the Internationalisation of Irish Education Services.

State Examinations.

John Deasy

Question:

131 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of leaving certificate students who gain exemptions from the need to take the Irish examination; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19746/05]

In the 2004-05 school year 2,951 leaving certificate pupils have gained an exemption from the study of Irish. The number of pupils exempt from the study of Irish fluctuates annually depending on pupils applying who meet the criteria as set down by my Department.

My Department has issued guidelines in relation to the granting of exemptions from the study of Irish to primary and post-primary schools.

My Department's guidelines in relation to an exemption from Irish at post-primary level are outlined at rule 46 of the Rules and Programmes for Secondary Schools and circular letter M10/94.

Under the terms of this circular, my Department has delegated authority to the principals of second level schools to grant the exemptions provided that the pupil meets the criteria as set down.

Exemptions may be granted by school authorities for pupils whose primary education up to 11 years of age was received in Northern Ireland or outside Ireland; pupils who were previously enrolled as recognised pupils in a primary school or second level school who are being re-enrolled after a period spent abroad, provided that at least three years have elapsed since the previous enrolment in the State and the pupil is at least 11 years of age on re-enrolment; certain categories of pupils with special educational needs as set out in Circular M10/94; or pupils from abroad, who have no understanding of English, when enrolled.

Departmental Expenditure.

Simon Coveney

Question:

132 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount spent by her Department on the provision of prefabricated buildings at secondary level for the 2004-05 academic year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19702/05]

My Department's records are held on a calendar year basis rather than by academic year and the information which I am providing reflects that position.

Since the start of 2004 my Department has spent €5,529,738 on the purchase of prefabricated buildings at post-primary level. This expenditure was for the supply and installation of the prefabricated buildings including associated site works and other related costs such as compliance with planning permission conditions, professional fees, connections for water, electricity and sewage.

The total expenditure for 2004 and 2005 on post-primary school buildings is €386 million and the expenditure on the purchase of prefabricated buildings represents less that 1.5% of the overall outlay.

In addition to the expenditure on the purchase of prefabricated buildings my Department also provided €129,457 on the refurbishment of prefabricated buildings and €77,427 on the rental of prefabricated buildings in 2004 at post-primary level.

School Enrolments.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

133 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has resolved the issues of persons (details supplied) who wish to retain the right to send their children to a school in County Wexford; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is room in the school for the children concerned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19651/05]

The school to which the Deputy refers is heavily oversubscribed as a result of a significant number of pupils enrolling from outside its catchment area. The development of this type of situation can impact negatively on pupils who reside within the catchment area and who are entitled, as of right, to a place in a particular school. It also invariably impacts negatively on the school or schools to which these pupils should rightly attend and in which considerable capital investment has been made for this purpose. It is a matter for all school authorities, in the context of their enrolment policies, to limit enrolment to within their catchment areas to ensure that such situations do not arise. A school authority may offer places to pupils from outside the catchment area only if it does not have negative repercussions for additional accommodation and or transport costs.

However, where a school refuses to enrol a pupil, the school is obliged to inform parents of their right under section 29 of the Education Act 1998 to appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department.

Section 29 of the Education Act 1998 provides parents with an appeal process where a board of management of a school or a person acting on behalf of the board refuses enrolment of a student. An appeal will generally not be admitted unless it is made within 42 calendar days from the date the decision of the board of management was notified to the parent or student concerned. However, a longer period for making appeals may be allowed as an exception where it is accepted that circumstances did not permit the making of an appeal within the 42-day limit.

Where an appeal under section 29 is upheld, the Secretary General of my Department may direct a school to enrol a pupil.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

134 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science the timetable for meeting the commitment on class sizes given in An Agreed Programme for Government within the lifetime of this administration; if she will put in place the steps needed to ensure the recruitment of the additional teachers and the provision of the extra classrooms required; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19667/05]

Denis Naughten

Question:

768 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps she is taking to deliver on the commitment in the programme for Government to introduce class sizes of 20 pupils to one teacher; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19790/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 134 and 768 together.

Significant improvements have been made in the pupil teacher ratio and in average class size in recent years. The average class size at primary level is now 23.9, down from 26.6 in 1996-97. The pupil teacher ratio, which includes all the teachers including resource teachers, has fallen from 22.2:1 in the 1996-97 school year to 17.44:1 in 2003-04. Over 4,000 additional teachers have been employed in our primary schools since 1997. In allocating teaching posts regard has been had to the commitments of the Government to reduce class size, tackle educational disadvantage and to provide additional resources for pupils with special educational needs. The additional teaching posts created since 1997 have been deployed to address all of these priorities.

The Deputies will be aware that a review of the allocation system of teaching support for pupils with special educational needs was recently completed. Arising from that review a new model has been introduced to replace that which was notified to schools in June 2004. 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 and to ensure continuity of service for children who have previously been given an individual allocation until those children leave the primary school system. The new system will greatly benefit schools and the children in schools that need additional support.

The Deputies will also be aware of the new action plan for educational inclusion, DEIS — Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools — which I launched recently. This action plan will result in reduced class sizes in schools serving the most disadvantaged communities to 24:1 at senior level and 20:1 at junior level. In line with Government policy, my Department will continue to provide further reductions in the pupil teacher ratio, with priority given to pupils with special needs, those from disadvantaged areas and those in junior classes.

Each year my Department decides on the number of places to be provided on the teacher training programmes, both in respect of school leavers and post graduate applicants, in the colleges of education having regard to the projected demand for qualified primary teachers. This process will continue in the future.

Any requirement for additional accommodation arising from the creation of additional teaching posts will be considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

135 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has finalised the institutions to be added to the list under the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19670/05]

Section 4 of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 enables additional institutions, in which children were placed and resident and in respect of which a public body had a regulatory or inspection function, to be added to the Schedule to the Act.

Since the enactment of the legislation, my Department has received correspondence from both individuals and survivor groups identifying a number of additional institutions that may be eligible for inclusion in the Schedule. Accordingly, consultations have taken place between my Department and other Departments which may have provided a regulatory function in the operation of these facilities in order to ascertain the case for their inclusion under the Act.

On 9 November 2004, I signed an order which provided for the inclusion of 13 additional institutions in the Schedule.

Further consultations are taking place in relation to a number of institutions and the position in relation to these institutions will be considered shortly.

Mobile Telephony.

Pat Breen

Question:

136 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department will bring forward a policy on the use of mobile phones in schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19725/05]

In accordance with the Education Act 1998, individual school authorities are responsible for the day-to-day running of schools. It is a matter for each school authority to establish rules on what is and is not acceptable for students to do while on the school premises, provided that those rules are lawful, fair and reasonable.

The National Centre for Technology in Education, in its advice sheet for schools on mobile phones, recommends that the management of mobile phone use by students should be incorporated into the school's ICT plan and acceptable use policy.

Question No. 137 answered with QuestionNo. 89.

Education Welfare Service.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

138 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the concern expressed at the launch of the National Education Welfare Board’s first strategic plan that the development of the board’s work had been inhibited by a lack of funding; the steps being taken to provide the board with the resources to discharge all its duties, including the appointment of education welfare officers in all counties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19656/05]

The Education (Welfare) Act 2000 established the National Educational Welfare Board as the single national body with responsibility for school attendance. The Act provides a comprehensive framework promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The general functions of the board are to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education. The priority I attach to supporting the NEWB in delivering on this goal is evident from the fact that the budget allocated to the NEWB for 2005 is up by 20% on the 2004 allocation to nearly €8 million.

To discharge its responsibilities, the board is developing a nationwide service accessible to schools, parents-guardians and others concerned with the welfare of young people. For this purpose, educational welfare officers or EWOs are being appointed and deployed throughout the country to provide a welfare-focused service to support regular school attendance and to discharge the board's functions locally.

The service is developing on a continuing basis and the board received sanction in late 2004 from my Department to recruit an additional ten educational welfare officers. This brings its total authorised staffing complement to 94, comprising 16 headquarters and support staff, five regional managers, 11 senior educational welfare officers and 62 educational welfare officers. These additional posts will ensure that every county will have an educational welfare service. I understand the board is in the process of filling 13 positions arising from the current recruitment process, including one senior educational welfare officer post and 12 educational welfare officer posts. The intention of the board is to have the positions filled prior to the commencement of the next school year.

To date, the board has focused the resources available to it on providing a service to the most disadvantaged areas and most at risk groups. Five regional teams have now been established with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford and staff have been deployed in areas of greatest disadvantage and in areas designated under the Government's RAPID programme. Some 13 towns with significant school going populations, 12 of which are designated under the Government's RAPID programme, also now have an educational welfare officer allocated to them.

The board issued an information leaflet to 330,000 families and 4,000 schools in March 2004. The leaflet targeted parents and guardians of children aged between six and 16 years of age and young people aged 16 and 17 who have left school early to start work. It outlined the role parents and guardians play in ensuring that their children do not miss out on education and training and also gave information about the National Educational Welfare Board. In addition, the board launched a new lo-call telephone number to inform parents and guardians about their legal role and responsibilities under the Education (Welfare) Act 2000.

Guidelines were issued by the NEWB to all primary and second level schools in January of this year on reporting student absences. The guidelines provide step-by-step advice on how and when school attendance returns should be made and on how a new website established by the NEWB can be used by schools to comply with their legal obligations to report student absences to the board.

The NEWB collated the first hard data on school attendance nationally during the summer of 2004. The data revealed the level of non-school attendance in Ireland for the first time. Two core themes were immediately apparent from the data, namely, that absenteeism is prevalent throughout the country and it is significantly worse in disadvantaged areas. Under the terms of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000, one of the functions of the board is to conduct and commission research into the reasons for non-attendance on the part of students and into the strategies and programmes designed to prevent it. The board is in the process of establishing two research projects in 2005, one of which will focus on an analysis of student absenteeism returns.

The first assessments of children being educated in places other than in recognised schools, for example, the home, have been carried out by authorised persons specially trained for the work. By the end of March 2005, 40 children had been registered as being in receipt of a "certain minimum education". Assessments have also taken place in a number of independent schools and these children will also be registered. I understand the board issued the first school attendance notices or SANs to parents in March 2005. SANs are legal notices requiring the parent to send the child to a named school for a specified period of time. They are the first step in taking legal action against parents who have failed over time to co-operate with educational welfare officers to ensure that their children attend school and where the board considers that parents could do more to uphold their children's right to an education.

I will keep the issue of the NEWB's staffing under review in the light of the roll-out of services and any further proposals the board may put to me on clearly identified priority needs.

Student Population Increase.

Willie Penrose

Question:

139 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science the provisions she is putting in place to cater for the projected increase in the student population in the years ahead; if she will publish the report prepared by her officials on this subject; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19672/05]

My Department takes account of projected changes in population when identifying requirements for future educational provision. It is my intention to make the latest projections publicly available shortly.

Special Educational Needs.

Joe Costello

Question:

140 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science her plans to try to relocate almost 70 special needs assistants with a view to retaining their experience within the educational sector in regard to the decision to dispense with the services of same from summer 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19657/05]

Special needs assistants or SNAs are assigned to schools to meet the care needs of individual children who have been assessed by a psychologist as needing this type of support. There has been no change to the criteria or guidelines for allocating SNA support to schools and I further confirm that there are no plans to review the criteria or guidelines under which SNA support is allocated. Applications for SNA support are now dealt with by the National Council for Special Education which processes all applications for support from schools and communicates the decisions directly to the schools.

However, to ensure that resources are used in the most effective manner, a review has been conducted in recent months to establish whether primary schools have the level of SNA support they need for children in their care, whether they have resources they no longer need or whether they need extra resources. The review has found that some schools no longer have the care needs for which the SNA was originally sanctioned, that is, in some cases the child may have left the school, while in other cases the care needs of the child have diminished as the child has progressed through the school. In this regard, the schools where surplus SNA support was identified have been advised that they may retain this surplus until the end of the current school year.

My Department is engaged in discussions with the trade union representing SNAs, under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission, on a number of issues relating to the employment of SNAs, including the matters raised by the Deputy. In the circumstances it would not be appropriate for me to comment specifically on any of these matters. It has always been the case that where the care needs of a child no longer justify SNA support, that support should no longer have been available to the school.

The Deputy will be aware that this Government has put in place an unprecedented level of support for children with special needs. Since 1998 the number of SNAs has increased from under 300 to nearly 6,000 nationally. In addition, more effective systems, such as the establishment of the National Council for Special Education, have been put in place to ensure that children get support as early as possible.

Languages Programme.

Seán Ryan

Question:

141 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the call made by the Irish language commissioner, Mr. Seán Ó Cuirreáin, for a review of Irish language education in primary and secondary schools; her response to this call; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19678/05]

The recent report of the Irish Language Commissioner highlighted the fact that despite appreciable time devoted to Irish in the school system many students emerge from primary and post-primary education without achieving a reasonable command of the language. Particular concerns were raised about students' command of the spoken language. While I accept that the standard of oral Irish in particular of many of our young people is not as it should be, it is important to note that significant efforts have been made by my Department in recent years to improve standards in the teaching and learning of Irish in our schools.

The revised Irish language programme at primary level places a strong emphasis on oral Irish. This programme, which has been implemented in all schools since September 2003 and which is supported by extensive in-service training by the primary curriculum support programme, should bring significant improvement to the standard of spoken Irish over time. This development at primary level complemented similar curricular changes at second level where syllabus reform is ongoing.

Significant improvements are being made in terms of the provision of materials and resources for the teaching of Irish. An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta has been established to progress this area and to provide support services for schools. Funding has been provided to An Chomhairle to support this task and I know this is an area that will need further work. Evaluations by my Department's inspectorate of the teaching and learning of Irish in our schools provide useful analysis to underpin future policy making in this area.

The inspectorate in its 2002 publication, "50 School Reports — What Inspectors Say", has reported that the teaching of Irish is good in the majority of primary schools with the strongest aspects being the teaching of reading, poetry and writing. However, oral language attainment is generally poor despite considerable time being devoted to this aspect of Irish. This resonates with a view expressed by the Coimisinéir Teanga that insufficient attention is given to the use of Irish as a medium of communication in lessons taught. The Coimisinéir Teanga has pointed to other issues which I will consider in the context of developing ongoing policy responses.

At post-primary level, subject inspection reports indicate that inspectors regularly observe a good standard in the teaching and learning of Irish and that students demonstrate a good knowledge of texts being studied. However, there is concern that Irish is not used as the language of instruction in many classes, that Irish is taught through English in a significant number of classrooms and that the level of exemptions from Irish is too high.

My Department is currently engaged in a number of evaluation activities relating to the teaching and learning of Irish. These include a focused evaluation of Irish in 45 primary schools and an evaluation of the teaching and learning of Irish in the junior cycle in 75 post-primary schools. Both of these evaluations will be completed in 2005 and reports will be published subsequently. A report on standards of Irish in sixth class in primary schools is being prepared by Dr. John Harris and will be finalised later in 2005. This report will look at changes in pupil achievement levels between the years 1985 and 2003.

Also, at the request of my Department the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment or NCCA is carrying out a review of languages in the post-primary curriculum. This will include Irish. I am confident the reports will both inform us of good practice within the system and point to areas requiring improvement.

The inspectorate of my Department, on foot of a major review of Irish language policies carried out in the Department last year, has recently prepared an internal report for policy discussion regarding areas where further improvements could be made. The Coimisinéir Teanga, along with other interest groups, contributed to that process. It is important to note that the issue of promoting the Irish language is not one that can be advanced by schools alone. Societal attitudes to the Irish language certainly impact on students' desire to learn it.

This Government has demonstrated a clear commitment to promoting our national language. It is hoped the continuing initiatives in education, along with the increased emphasis on the use of Irish in the Official Languages Act, will in time create a positive climate whereby students will realise the value of learning our native language and, as a consequence, language competence will prosper.

Question No. 142 answered with QuestionNo. 102.

Education Places.

Enda Kenny

Question:

143 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of further education places to be agreed for the 2005-2006 academic year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19727/05]

The full-time programmes within the further education sector that are funded by my Department and managed and delivered by the vocational education committees are Youthreach, senior Traveller training programmes, the vocational training opportunities scheme and post-leaving certificate courses. In excess of 39,000 places will be provided on these programmes in 2005-06. This comprises in the region of 30,000 places on post-leaving certificate programmes, 5,000 places on the vocational training opportunities scheme, over 3,200 places on the Youthreach programme and almost 1,100 places on senior Traveller training programmes. In addition, 7,000 places will be available for part-time further and adult education options under the Back to Education initiative, catering for over 15,000 adults. Grants are provided to VECs for adult literacy and community education. The adult literacy programme caters for approximately 30,000 participants per annum.

Question No. 144 answered with QuestionNo. 127.

Research Funding.

John Gormley

Question:

145 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the plans in place to invest in strategic research and development at third level to help ensure that Ireland has security of energy production in all forms by 2012 as oil production begins to peak, prices start to rise sharply and economic systems come under strain (details supplied). [19763/05]

The Deputy may be aware that the policy issues associated with renewable energy sources are matters for my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. A dedicated agency, Sustainable Energy Ireland or SEI was established under the aegis of his Department for the purpose of addressing these issues, including the commissioning of appropriate research.

However, my Department, through the programme for research in third level institutions or PRTLI has provided for the establishment of a number of centres which, inter alia, conduct research in this area. These include the Environment Research Institute in University College Cork, the Urban Institute in University College Dublin and the Environmental Change Institute in University College Galway. In addition, both the institutes of technology and the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology may, from time to time, commission individual researchers to undertake projects on the issue identified by the Deputy.

As regards investment in research, a team of international experts recently undertook an impact assessment on PRTLI. It noted the positive impact of the programme on higher education institutions and the valuable contribution it made to the national research effort. The Higher Education Authority is currently engaged in a series of consultations with stakeholders on the development of a successor programme.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

146 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the concerns of parents, teachers and school management authorities at the prospect of proposed changes in the allocation of special needs teaching assistants at various schools throughout the country; if her attention has been drawn to the need to retain in full and enhance the availability of teaching assistants to an even greater degree with particular reference to areas of social or economic deprivation; if she will give an undertaking that no school will be detrimentally affected by any such changes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19774/05]

As the Deputy is aware, a new scheme for allocating resource teachers to schools to cater for the needs of children with high-incidence special needs and learning support needs was announced last month. The reason for the new scheme is simple. Children with special needs, such as dyslexia or mild learning difficulties, are found in almost every school. It makes sense then that every school should have a number of resource teaching hours based on the number of pupils in the school.

This is a major improvement on the previous system under which children with high incidence special needs required a psychological assessment before they were given resource teaching hours by the Department. This was a time-consuming process that often led to delays in children getting the support they needed. Resource teachers will now be in place in the school from the start of the school year so that children who need their assistance can get it straight away.

Under the new arrangement disadvantaged schools, boys schools and mixed schools get extra resources, as research shows that pupils in these schools are more likely to have learning difficulties. To ensure that every school has enough resource teaching hours to meet the needs of its pupils, an extra 660 resource teaching posts are being put in place for next September. Some 340 of these are permanent posts and 320 are temporary posts being provided to ensure that children who had been given an individual allocation of resource teaching hours by my Department will keep these in situations where the general allocation to the school would not be sufficient to allow the school to provide these hours from within its general allocation. The provision of these temporary posts will ensure that no child who has been allocated a specific number of hours with a resource teacher by my Department will lose these under these new arrangements.

The majority of schools are gaining resource teaching hours under the new scheme. Addressing the concerns of small and rural schools was, as the Deputy will be aware, the reason I initiated a review of the original general allocation model which had been announced last year to come into effect in the 2005-06 school year. Following this review, a special improved ratio for small schools has been introduced to ensure that they are given resource teaching hours on a more favourable basis.

Despite misleading claims to the contrary, the new scheme does not prevent schools from giving one-to-one time with a resource teacher to any child who needs such support. Rather, it ensures that each school has enough resources to ensure that each child gets a level of support appropriate to their individual needs. The school can then use its professional judgment to decide how these hours are divided between different children in the school to ensure that all their needs are met.

Research shows that some children with special needs will respond better with one-to-one tuition. Others, however, do better when taught in small groups. Often it is best for resource teachers to work with children in the classroom rather than taking them away to a separate room, as the children then have to catch up on work done by the rest of the class in their absence. The point is that the type of response needed depends on the child. While the new scheme will not prevent schools from giving one-to-one time with the resource teacher to children that need it, it is important to note that one-to-one teaching is not the best option for every child.

I am grateful to the Minister for Finance for providing me with the resources to ensure that the new system could be put in place. As of next September there will be more than 5,000 teachers in our primary schools working directly with children with special needs, including those requiring learning support. This compares to under 1,500 in 1998. One out of every five primary school teachers is now working specifically with children with special needs.

The Government and I, as Minister for Education and Science, are deeply committed to improving services for children with special needs. In addition to the massive increase in resource teachers in recent years, the introduction of this new general allocation scheme will ensure a faster and more flexible response for children with special needs.

Question No. 147 answered with QuestionNo. 64.
Question No. 148 answered with QuestionNo. 119.
Question No. 149 answered with QuestionNo. 91.

Population Figures.

Richard Bruton

Question:

150 Mr. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the population in each of the 18 Dublin Garda districts at the last census. [18945/05]

The information requested by the Deputy is contained in the following table:

Population of Garda Districts in the Dublin area, Census 2002.

Garda District

Population 2002

1000F

Pearse Street

17,972

1070G

Kevin Street

42,505

1200K

Donnybrook

42,262

1300E

Crumlin

59,513

1372B

Tallaght

128,412

1470B

Terenure

55,273

1500H

Santry

55,595

1530L

Coolock

110,594

1570K

Raheny

86,504

1700M

Blanchardstown

116,099

1710H

Lucan

69,292

1721C

Clondalkin

68,190

1800G

Store Street

12,485

1830K

Fitzgibbon Street

37,626

1870H

Bridewell County Dublin

23,033

1900C

Dún Laoghaire

72,169

1930E

Bray

68,658

1970D

Blackrock County Dublin

83,499

Total Dublin area

1,149,681

Tribunals of Inquiry.

John McGuinness

Question:

151 Mr. McGuinness asked the Taoiseach the costs paid from Exchequer funds to 31 December 2004 of all commissions, inquiries and tribunals commenced since 1995 by his Department; the title of the commission, inquiry and tribunal; the estimated date of completion of same; the estimated final cost of each commission, inquiry and tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18946/05]

Costs relating to the McCracken Tribunal, Dunnes payments, the Moriarty Tribunal, payments to Messrs. Haughey and Lowry, and the Independent Commission of Inquiry have been made from Exchequer funds by my Department in the period to which the Deputy refers. The total cost to 31 December 2004 for each is given in the following table:

Year of Appointment

Expenditure to 31 December 2004

Estimated Date of Completion

McCracken Tribunal

1997

6,655,332

Completed

Moriarty Tribunal

1997

18,643,249

January 2006

Independent Commission of Inquiry

2000

3,063,145

June 2005

The McCracken Tribunal, Dunnes payments, was completed in 1997. The Moriarty Tribunal is expected to be completed by 11 January 2006. The estimated costs for the tribunal for 2005 amounts to €10.552 million, giving total expected costs to the end of 2005 of €29.195 million. However, €6.5 million of this estimate is to cover costs, such as report publication and some element of award of legal costs in the event that the tribunal completes its work in 2005. As regards estimated future liabilities for costs, it is impossible to predict what costs may be awarded and to whom by the sole member of the tribunal.

The Independent Commission of Inquiry is expected to conclude in June 2005. An allocation of €257,000 has been included in the 2005 Estimates to cover the work of the commission bringing final costs to the end of 2005 of €3,320,145.

Decentralisation Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

152 Mr. Durkan asked the Taoiseach the number of civil and public servants on a county basis who have been relocated in accordance with the Government’s programme for decentralisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18947/05]

Some 42 staff from my Department have applied through the central applications facility to relocate under the Government's decentralisation programme. The breakdown by county is outlined in the following table:

County

Number of applicants

Louth

4

Galway

3

Waterford

1

Wicklow

1

Meath

2

Kerry

2

Sligo

3

Leitrim

1

Kildare

6

Clare

1

Donegal

6

Limerick

1

Mayo

3

Tipperary

3

Offaly

2

Cork

2

Dublin

1

While none of the staff from my Department has relocated as yet, the process of relocation has commenced and my Department is currently involved in transfer arrangements with other Departments on behalf of a number of our staff.

Official Travel.

Bernard Allen

Question:

153 Mr. Allen asked the Taoiseach the most up-to-date information on his travels abroad for the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations; the persons who travelled with him in his official party; the duration of the visit; and the total cost. [19184/05]

I travelled to the United States of America on 15 March for St. Patrick's Day, returning on 18 March. My programme included visits to Syracuse, New York, Baltimore and Washington. I was accompanied by the second Secretary General of my Department, the director of the Northern Ireland division, the Government Press Secretary, special adviser, private secretary, personal assistant and security officer. The Minister for Foreign Affairs travelled separately to the US and joined me in Washington. He accompanied me on the return journey. The cost arising to my Department for the visit has not yet been finalised. It currently stands at €27,549.

Helpline Service.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

154 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a grant of €30,000 will be approved in respect of a helpline service (details supplied) in County Cork. [19223/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

EU Directives.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

155 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if recommendation 1117 (1989) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has been implemented; if not, the steps which are being taken to implement it; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19267/05]

The Minister for Foreign Affairs may also have a contribution to make on this matter.

I understand that recommendation 1117 (1989) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was made to the Committee of Ministers and not to the member states. I understand also that the Committee of Ministers did not adopt the recommendation directly, but did consider it important that member states keep the need for appropriate legal measures under review. The Committee of Ministers also noted with satisfaction that the European Committee on Legal Co-operation has referred this matter to the Committee of Experts on Family Law to allow for the substantive issue to be studied in detail.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

156 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the funding package submitted for approval from the indicative funding available to the intellectual disability services in the south east will be approved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18970/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Paul McGrath

Question:

157 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the average cost for a plastic surgery operation under the national treatment purchase fund when compared to the cost of the operation under the standard Health Service Executive route. [18971/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

158 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the average cost for cardiac surgery under the national treatment purchase fund when compared to the cost of the operation under the standard Health Service Executive route. [18972/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

159 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the average cost for a prostate operation under the national treatment purchase fund when compared to the cost of the operation under the standard Health Service Executive route. [18973/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

160 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the average cost for a tonsils operation under the national treatment purchase fund when compared to the cost of the operation under the standard Health Service Executive route. [18974/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

161 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the average cost for a cataracts operation under the national treatment purchase fund when compared to the cost of the operation under the standard Health Service Executive route. [18975/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

162 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the average cost for a varicose veins operation under the national treatment purchase fund when compared to the cost of the operation under the standard Health Service Executive route. [18976/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

163 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the average cost for a hernia operation under the national treatment purchase fund when compared to the cost of the operation under the standard Health Service Executive route. [18977/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

164 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the average cost for a gall bladder operation under the national treatment purchase fund when compared to the cost of the operation under the standard Health Service Executive route. [18978/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

167 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the average cost for a hip operation under the national treatment purchase fund when compared to the cost of the operation under the standard Health Service Executive route. [18981/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

168 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the average cost for a knee operation under the national treatment purchase fund when compared to the cost of the operation under the standard Health Service Executive route. [18982/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 157 to 164, inclusive, and Questions Nos. 167 and 168 together.

My Department does not maintain data on the average cost of the specific operations arranged by the national treatment purchase fund or NTPF. My Department has, therefore, asked the chief executive of the NTPF to reply directly to the Deputy with regard to the specific information requested.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

165 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the maximum assistance and support will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 in relation to orthodontic treatment. [18979/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Paul McGrath

Question:

166 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the annual budget for the national treatment purchase fund since it was established in 2002; the number of persons treated per HSE region; the number of persons who had to travel to the UK for treatment; the cost of the travel expenses for persons; and the average waiting time reduction for adult and child patients for each category of operation as covered by the scheme. [18980/05]

The funding allocated to the national treatment purchase fund since it was established in 2002 is as follows:

Year

Funding

€ million

2002

5.012

2003

30.057

2004

44.000

2005

64.000

My Department has asked the chief executive of the NTPF to reply directly to the Deputy in relation to the other information requested.

Questions Nos. 167 and 168 answered with Question No. 157.

Care of the Elderly.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

169 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if capital funding will be provided for a proposed day care project for the elderly (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18988/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for considering new capital proposals or progressing those in the health capital programme. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

170 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to re-examine the grant available through subvention for nursing homes in view of the serious increase in energy and other running costs of the nursing homes, which are now being passed on to individuals and families; if she has satisfied herself that the present rate of subvention is sufficient; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18999/05]

The Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 allows for the payment of a subvention towards the cost of nursing home care based on medical and means assessments. The process used in determining a person's eligibility for subvention is set out in the Nursing Homes (Subvention) Regulations 1993.

As the Deputy will be aware, the placing of a person in a private nursing home is a private matter between the person or his or her representatives and the nursing home proprietor, as are the fees charged by a nursing home. The subvention scheme was introduced to assist with the cost of private nursing home care and it was never intended that a subvention payment would meet the full costs of private nursing home care.

The Government is conscious of the changing demographic profile of our population, with more people living longer lives and the consequential greater demand for services, both community based and residential. The Mercer report on the future financing of long-term care in Ireland, which was commissioned by the Department of Social and Family Affairs, examined issues surrounding the financing of long-term care. Following on the publication of this report, a working group chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach and comprising senior officials from the Departments of Finance, Health and Children and Social and Family Affairs has been established.

The objective of this group is to identify the policy options for a financially sustainable system of long-term care, taking account of the Mercer report, the views of the consultation that was undertaken on that report and the review of the nursing home subvention scheme by Professor Eamon O'Shea. This group has been requested to report to both the Tánaiste and Minister for Social and Family Affairs by mid-2005.

Genetically Modified Organisms.

Martin Ferris

Question:

171 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the procedures in place to test imported foodstuffs for genetically modified content. [19020/05]

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland or FSAI is the competent authority in Ireland for the enforcement of EU legislation regarding genetically modified or GM foods. The FSAI carries out checks of the marketplace for compliance with the GM legislation. Under EU rules, only authorised GM foods or foods containing ingredients thereof can be placed on the market. New legislation which came into force in 2004 stipulates that persons wishing to place GM foods on the market must provide material and information to enable testing for specific GMOs or genetically modified organisms before they may be authorised for marketing.

The FSAI has carried out a number of surveys of the food supply chain in recent years and has employed both the State Laboratory as well as a private laboratory to carry out testing of the genetic material or DNA in a range of foods using a technique called polymerase chain reaction or PCR. One of the uses of this highly sensitive technique is to allow for the testing for the presence and sometimes the amount of a genetically modified organism or GMO present in a food. The EU Joint Research Centre, based in Ispra in Italy, has undertaken to standardise how GMOs and derived food and feed are tested using PCR and a number of tests have already been developed.

The FSAI has recently published a report on its surveillance of foods carrying GM free labels. This type of label had been identified as a potential problem in previous surveys. The results show that a small number of products with GM free labels contained low levels of GM ingredients. The FSAI is following up on this matter with the companies concerned. In addition, a number of foods with GM free labels had no ingredients that could be from a GM source, which meant that such labels in those cases were merely a marketing tool rather than for consumer information.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

172 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if certain anti-sickness drugs used by cancer patients including a medication (details supplied) have been removed from cover under the GMS system; the reason this change has been made; and her assessment of the impact on patients for whom this medication has been recommended. [19021/05]

There is a common list of reimbursable medicines for the general medical services and drug payment schemes. This list ensures equity between the schemes in relation to the range of medicines paid for by the State. The list is reviewed and amended monthly, as new products become available and deletions are notified.

For an item to be included on the common list, it must comply with a published list of criteria. These include authorisation status, where appropriate, price and, in certain cases, the intended use of the product. In addition, the product should ordinarily be supplied to the public only by medical prescription and should not be advertised or promoted to the public.

There is an agreement in place between my Department, the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association and the Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of Ireland on the supply terms, conditions and prices of medicines supplied to the health services, including the general medical services, other community drug schemes, the Health Service Executive and hospitals. One of the conditions of the agreement is that the price to the wholesaler of each item of medicine covered by the agreement may not be increased for the term of the agreement.

The manufacturer of the product referred to by the Deputy applied to my Department for a price increase in December 2003, which was refused. The product was subsequently removed from the list of reimbursable drugs and medicines at the manufacturer's request. However, because of the indications for which this product is prescribed, my Department reviewed the matter and agreed to grant the price increase requested by the manufacturer. My Department is now awaiting receipt of an up-to-date product authorisation from the company concerned. As soon as this is received, the product will be restored to the common list of reimbursable drugs and medicines. A medical cardholder who experiences financial difficulty in obtaining items not on the common list should approach the relevant Health Service Executive area for assistance.

Hospital Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

173 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has issued instructions in regard to the provision of extra beds in Naas General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19022/05]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for the provision of services at Naas General Hospital. My Department has not issued instructions to the HSE in relation to the provision of extra beds at the hospital.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

174 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19023/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

175 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a nursing home subvention or home help will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19024/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

176 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the current entitlement a 14 year old medical card holder has in terms of orthodontic treatment; if it is the policy of her Department not to treat medical card holders in the area of orthodontics if they have extra teeth that need to be removed in order for orthodontics work to be carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19025/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

177 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that if a person’s income exceeds the non-contributory old age pension by a margin of 20% plus the current maximum subvention level of €190, he or she is deemed too wealthy to qualify for even €1 of support towards the cost of private nursing home care and cannot apply for the hardship provision under which enhanced subvention can be paid; and the way in which this income ceiling compares to the current estimate of the average cost of private nursing home care. [19042/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

178 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the three different levels of maximum nursing home subvention were first set; her estimate of the inflation in the cost of private nursing home care in the intervening period; and the present value of these subvention levels had they been indexed in line with rising costs. [19043/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 177 and 178 together.

The Nursing Home (Subvention) Regulations came into effect in 1993, at which time the rates of subvention were £70, £95 and £120 per week for medium, high and maximum dependency, respectively. The current three rates of subvention payable are €114.30, €152.40 and €190.50, which came into effect in April 2001. It should be noted that the nursing home subvention scheme was introduced to financially assist those in private nursing home care and was never intended to cover the entire cost.

The HSE may pay more than the maximum rate of subvention relative to an individual's level of dependency in a case, for example, where personal funds are exhausted. The application of the scheme in an individual case is a matter for the HSE in the context of meeting increasing demands for subvention, subject to the provisions of the Health Act 2004. The average rate of subvention paid by the HSE generally exceeds the current approved basic rates.

The Government is conscious of the changing demographic profile of our population, with more people living longer lives and the consequential greater demand for services, both community based and residential. The Mercer report on the future financing of long-term care in Ireland, which was commissioned by the Department of Social and Family Affairs, examined issues surrounding the financing of long-term care. Following on the publication of this report, a working group chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach and comprising senior officials from the Departments of Finance, Health and Children and Social and Family Affairs has been established.

The objective of this group is to identify the policy options for a financially sustainable system of long-term care, taking account of the Mercer report, the views of the consultation that was undertaken on that report and the review of the nursing home subvention scheme by Professor Eamon O'Shea. This group has been requested to report to both the Tánaiste and Minister for Social and Family Affairs by mid-2005.

Question No. 179 withdrawn.

Hospital Charges.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

180 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of the refund of the hospital charge for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; when payment will be made further to Parliamentary Question No. 180 of 26 January 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19061/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive, HSE, and I understand that the HSE replied to the Deputy on 31 January 2005 on this matter. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated further and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

181 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive has not replied to Parliamentary Question No. 203 of 12 April 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19065/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Promotion.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

182 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to current media and television adverts on the benefits of folic acid by the health promotion unit of her Department, the way in which a person can make a submission or offer an opinion on the issue to the health promotion unit in writing or by telephone; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19078/05]

The national committee on folic acid food fortification, whose secretariat is provided by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, FSAI, is tasked with reviewing options for the fortification of foods with folic acid in view of the relatively high level of neural tube defects, NTDs, in Ireland. In carrying out this work the committee will address the broader issues that would be involved in the event that it is decided to proceed with fortification with folic acid, including the technical issues regarding fortification, addressing risk and examining other reported health benefits that are linked to fortification.

The FSAI has initiated a public consultation process and members of the public who wish to comment on these issues should access the relevant website for details on how to make a submission; alternatively, they can contact the FSAI by telephone, 1890 33 66 77. It should be noted that the latest date for the receipt of submissions is 24 June next.

Psychological Service.

Phil Hogan

Question:

183 Mr. Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she will provide the necessary finance for the appointment of a psychologist for County Carlow in view of the proposed autism centre in Myshall, County Carlow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19089/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Mental Health Statistics.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

184 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of patients admitted to each psychiatric admission unit nationally between 2000 and 2005 on a yearly basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19122/05]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

185 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the percentage of involuntary patients admitted to each psychiatric admission unit nationally between 2000 and 2005 on a yearly basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19123/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 184 and 185 together.

The number of patients admitted to each psychiatric admission unit nationally together with the percentage of involuntary admissions to such units as requested by the Deputy from 2000 to 2003 are as follows:

Health Board Hospitals

2000

% Invol

2001

% Invol

2002

% Invol

2003

% Invol

Cluain Mhuire Family Centre

396

12.6

423

13.7

387

15.0

438

13.2

Newcastle Hospital, Greystones

568

9.9

596

12.1

487

9.2

562

6.9

Vergemount Clinic, Clonskeagh

455

5.9

346

6.6

333

10.8

269

11.5

St. Brendan’s Hospital, Dublin

874

13.7

700

17.6

618

15.4

589

18.7

St. Ita’s Hospital, Portrane

1,071

6.6

997

6.7

921

6.7

1,026

7.5

St. Vincent’s Hospital, Fairview

692

16.5

720

19.3

653

17.2

570

19.5

St. Loman’s Hospital, Dublin

56

0

42

0

74

2.7

81

0

St. Fintan’s Hospital, Portlaoise

729

2.7

768

5.5

690

4.6

689

6.1

St. Loman’s Hospital, Mullingar

804

14.3

844

12.7

727

10.7

646

10.4

Our Lady’s Hospital, Ennis

507

11.2

481

13.3

1

0

St. Joseph’s Hospital, Limerick

94

23.4

91

24.2

82

14.6

85

30.6

St. Brigid’s Hospital, Ardee

456

9.6

421

7.8

441

12.7

472

8.1

St. Davnet’s Hospital, Monaghan

66

18.2

68

19.1

59

20.3

76

27.6

Mental Health Service, Sligo

575

14.3

689

11.8

529

12.3

470

14.9

St. Conal’s Hospital, Letterkenny

37

24.3

18

61.1

11

18.2

25

16.0

St. Canice’s Hospital, Kilkenny

492

9.8

411

8.8

417

8.2

75

9.3

St. Dympna’s Hospital, Carlow

311

5.1

294

7.1

290

5.2

60

0

St. Luke’s Hospital, Clonmel

175

33.7

124

16.1

205

23.9

154

19.5

St. Otteran’s Hospital, Waterford

49

20.4

48

8.3

29

24.1

36

16.7

St. Senan’s Hospital, Enniscorthy

535

10.8

562

9.6

616

10.4

728

6.5

Our Lady’s Hospital, Cork

365

35.3

213

53.1

Carraig Mór

204

53.9

184

48.4

St. Finan’s Hospital, Killarney

57

49.1

52

63.5

57

61.4

43

58.1

St. Stephen’s Hospital, Cork

513

5.7

346

6.9

362

6.9

359

7.2

St. Brigid’s Hospital, Ballinasloe

689

17.6

739

15.8

825

15.5

613

16.8

St. Mary’s Hospital, Castlebar

633

10.1

666

11.7

614

15.0

450

9.6

General Hospital Psychiatric Units

St. Vincent’s Hospital, Elm Park

370

3.0

285

1.8

169

3.0

203

4.9

James Connolly Memorial Hospital

225

5.3

262

5.3

Mater Misericordiae Hospital

97

8.2

223

12.6

167

8.4

189

11.6

Naas General Hospital

578

7.1

593

8.3

531

10.2

584

7.5

St. James’s Hospital, Dublin

243

0

301

0

556

9.2

507

7.3

Tallaght Hospital, Dublin

642

11.8

657

13.2

626

13.4

495

17.2

Ennis General Hospital

59

28.8

520

14.2

540

14.6

Regional Hospital, Limerick

785

11.2

776

13.4

732

16.3

643

17.7

Cavan General Hospital

158

12.0

136

24.3

134

17.9

132

21.2

Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan

283

15.9

309

12.9

278

10.8

271

12.9

Letterkenny General Hospital

820

12.3

931

12.1

798

13.4

698

11.3

St. Joseph’s Hospital, Clonmel

1,083

8.5

1,118

8.9

894

13.8

797

9.8

Waterford Regional Hospital

753

9.2

736

7.5

773

7.2

718

7.2

St. Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny

469

4.7

Bantry General Hospital

349

6.3

276

8.3

265

9.1

273

8.4

Cork University Hospital

683

22.3

649

22.0

616

23.5

627

16.7

Mercy Hospital, Cork

662

12.5

938

5.9

898

10.7

836

11.1

Tralee General Hospital

819

8.1

837

8.6

787

14.5

802

9.5

Roscommon County Hospital

445

7.4

457

10.7

385

11.2

384

10.9

University College Hospital, Galway

755

8.6

836

7.9

637

14.8

639

9.9

Mayo General Hospital

34

26.5

Private Hospitals

Bloomfield Hospital, Dublin

21

0

11

9.1

17

0

11

0

Hampstead & Highfield Hospital

76

0

66

0

33

0

64

0

Kylemore Clinic, Dublin

15

0

11

0

3

0

4

0

Palmerstown View, Dublin

5

0

1

0

3

0

1

0

St. John of God Hospital, Dublin

1,085

3.6

1,094

5.2

1,307

4.6

1,287

3.5

St. Patrick’s Hospital, Dublin

2,172

2.7

2,128

3.3

2,809

2.4

2,722

2.6

Total

24,098

24,312

23,570

22,892

Source: Health Research Board.

Statistics for 2004 and 2005 are not available at this time.

Substantial progress has also been made in recent years in ensuring that those in need of mental health services receive care and treatment in the most appropriate setting. It is the intention to continue to accelerate the growth in alternatives to hospitalisation with the further development of community-based services throughout the country.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

186 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the extent of hospital waiting lists for patients throughout the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19124/05]

Responsibility for the collection and reporting of waiting lists and waiting times now falls within the remit of the national treatment purchase fund, NTPF. A new on-line national patient treatment register is being developed by the fund. The new patient treatment register will allow for more accurate identification of waiting lists, and more importantly waiting times. It is intended that the register will be implemented on a phased basis during 2005.

Up to the end of May 2005 some 30,000 patients have had treatment arranged for them. It is now the case that, in most instances, anyone waiting more than three months will be facilitated by the fund.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Mary Upton

Question:

187 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if medical card holders will have cervical smears for no charge; and if she will review the current practise where general practitioners now charge medical card holders for such smears. [19131/05]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

207 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if cervical screening is free of charge for women in possession of a medical card; if this is uniform in each Health Service Executive area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19263/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 187 and 207 together.

Cervical smear testing is not currently provided by GPs or family planning clinics under the scheme for medical card holders. However, where cervical smears form part of recognised protocols for the ongoing treatment of individual patient illnesses, they should be provided free of charge to eligible women under the GMS scheme. Any necessary follow-up treatment is available to all women, including medical card holders, within the public hospital system.

I am committed to the national roll out of a cervical screening programme in line with international best practice. International evidence demonstrates the proven efficacy of programmes that are effectively managed and meet quality assurance standards. Careful planning and consultation with relevant professional and advocacy stakeholders is required in advance of a national roll out.

Water Fluoridation.

Pat Breen

Question:

188 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the forum on fluoridation will be wound up; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19139/05]

Pat Breen

Question:

190 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the annual cost to her Department of the forum on fluoridation since 2000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19142/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 188 and 190 together.

The forum on fluoridation was established in May 2000 and held its first meeting in September 2000. The forum on fluoridation concluded in September 2002 with the launch of the report of the forum on fluoridation.

The annual cost of the forum on fluoridation since 2000 is as follows:

Year

2000

16,153.70

2001

184,593.31

2002

128,383.26

2003

6,576.16

2004

90.34

Although the forum on fluoridation concluded in 2002, there were some outstanding expenses due.

Pat Breen

Question:

189 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when legislation reducing the amount of fluoride in public water supplies will be introduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19140/05]

As the Deputy is aware, a forum on fluoridation was established to review the fluoridation of public piped water supplies in Ireland. The forum report's main conclusion was that the fluoridation of public piped water supplies should continue as a public health measure.

In all the report of the forum on fluoridation made 33 recommendations covering a broad range of topics such as research, public awareness, policy and technical aspects of fluoridation and the establishment of an expert body to oversee the implementation of the recommendations.

The Irish expert body on fluorides and health held its inaugural meeting in April 2004. The terms of reference of the expert body are: to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the forum on fluoridation; to advise the Minister and evaluate ongoing research, including new emerging issuesm, on all aspects of fluoride and its delivery methods as an established health technology and as required; and to report to the Minister on matters of concern at his/her request or on its own initiative.

The expert body on fluorides and health is currently examining the regulations governing fluoridation of public piped water supplies with the aim of making proposals to me for the purposes of implementing the recommendation of the forum to reduce the level of fluoride in public piped water supplies. As part of this exercise the expert body is carrying out a census of public piped water supplies and when this work is complete the expert body will make recommendations to me in relation to the updating of the current regulations.

Question No. 190 answered with QuestionNo. 188.

Suicide Statistics.

Pat Breen

Question:

191 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of deaths by suicide of persons under 25 between 1997 and 2004 in counties Clare, Limerick, north Tipperary and nationally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19143/05]

Data on mortality compiled and published by the Central Statistics Office indicate that there were 21 deaths by suicide of persons under 25 in County Clare between 1997 and September 2004, there were 47 such deaths in Limerick city and county and there were 27 such deaths in Tipperary North Riding. Nationally, there were 858 deaths by suicide of persons under 25 in the period 1997 to September 2004. Figures for 2003 and January to September 2004 are provisional and may be subject to change.

Suicide is a serious social problem in this country and every suicide and attempted suicide is a tragic event. As the Deputy is aware, work is now well underway on the preparation of a national strategy for action on suicide prevention. This strategy, which involves the project management unit, Health Service Executive in partnership with the national suicide review group, supported by the Department of Health and Children will be action-based from the outset and will outline the priority initiatives for suicide prevention and mental health promotion across the country for the coming years. All measures aimed at reducing the number of deaths by suicide will be considered in the preparation of this strategy which will be published in September of this year.

Services for People with Disabilities.

David Stanton

Question:

192 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount made available for 2005 under the special disability multi-annual funding package; the way in which this money is to be spent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19147/05]

The Government's multi-annual investment programme for services for people with disabilities provides for additional funding of €70 million revenue and €60 million capital in 2005. This funding will provide for a broad range of additional services for people with intellectual, physical and sensory disabilities, autism and those with mental illness including new residential, respite and day services enhanced multi-disciplinary support services enhanced home support services, increased funding for aids and appliances additional beds at the Central Mental Hospital further development of the child and adolescent mental health services expansion of the community mental health teams and services.

Details of the actual services to be provided from this funding are a matter for the Health Service Executive, which under the Health Act 2004, has responsibility for the management and delivery of health and personal social services.

National Lottery Funding.

Pat Carey

Question:

193 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department is in a position to make a determination regarding an application for national lottery funding by a resource centre (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19150/05]

The organisation referred to, which is a family resource centre, applied to my Department for a grant from the Health and Children allocation of national lottery funds in April 2004. The organisation sought funding of €6,500 towards the cost of carrying out a feasibility study to determine the development potential of the courtyard area and the building adjacent to the resource centre. As the applications for national lottery funding received in 2004 far exceeded the resources available, it was not possible to assist this organisation in 2004. The organisation was informed of this in January 2005 and advised that, if funding for this project is required in 2005, to apply for a grant from the 2005 national lottery allocation.

My Department forwarded an application form to the organisation on 8 June 2005.

Nursing Allowances.

Liz McManus

Question:

194 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason student nurses attending Trinity and affiliated to St. James’s Hospital have not been awarded their travel allowances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19156/05]

The travel allowance to which the Deputy refers is the external clinical placement allowance, which was introduced to assist undergraduate nursing students undertaking external clinical placements. Nursing students on the undergraduate nursing degree programme are entitled to a refund of the cost of transport to and from the clinical placement site for the duration of the placement.

Payment of this allowance is the responsibility of the hospital to which the student is affiliated, in this case St. James's Hospital, and funding has been provided to the hospitals by my Department. I understand that the up-to-date position at St. James's Hospital is that payments have been made to many of the students. St. James's Hospital has issued reminders to a number of the remaining students who still have to furnish some details. When these details have been received, the outstanding allowances can be processed.

Nursing Education.

Liz McManus

Question:

195 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the rostered placement will be reduced to 34 weeks, excluding leave for the 2005 intake onwards, in view of the proposed changes to the structure of the rostered year for B.Sc. nursing students; if, prior to these changes taking place it will be appropriate that some discussion take place with the HEI’s, the heads of the nursing schools, the Department of Health and Children, the health service providers, An Bord Altranais and student representatives (details supplied). [19157/05]

The Government has invested heavily in the new four-year undergraduate nursing degree programme which started in 2002. The total capital investment in building 13 new nursing schools around the country will be in the region of €240 million on completion. Ongoing revenue funding will be in excess of €90 million when the full cohort of students are in place in 2006. The primary concern of my Department is to ensure a safe and effective service for patients. This means that not only must the training and education of nurses be of a high quality to produce nurses fit for purpose and practice but patient safety must not be compromised in the course of this training.

Nursing is a practice-based profession and half of a nurse's education is spent in clinical placement for which 49 weeks currently is paid on the basis of 80% of a staff nurse salary. The first roll out of the rostered year commenced in early 2005, with the exception of one college which commenced in September 2004. Currently the course is structured so that students undertake the paid rostered year between the third and fourth year of the programme. During the rostered year students replace nurses at an agreed ratio. The arrangements for the rostered year therefore, have a direct impact on service provision.

It became clear to my Department last year that the structure of the degree programme put in place by higher education institutions and the length of the rostered year, coupled with the specific requirements of An Bord Altranais, had made it very difficult to ensure that students had sufficient relevant generic and specialist clinical placements completed before they took on the role of rostered employees of the health services. It was therefore necessary for certain changes to be put in place to solve the immediate difficulties and to avoid similar problems arising in the future. To ensure that the existing arrangements for the rostered placement could go ahead my Department agreed that a replacement ratio of 3.5:1, students to nurses, instead of the anticipated 2:1 ratio would apply for a transition period. This change in the replacement ratio gave rise to significant costs of €2.5 million in 2004 and an estimated additional cost of €9 million in 2005 rising to €11.95 million in each of the years 2006-08.

The changes to the structure of the undergraduate nursing degree programme which are to be put in place for the 2005 intake onwards are based on findings of the independent report carried out on behalf of my Department by Deloitte & Touche and extensive consultation by my Department with key stakeholders including An Bord Altranais, higher education institutes, health service providers and the nursing unions. The changes include the reduction of the rostered placement to 34 weeks, excluding annual leave, for the 2005 intake onwards with the placement moving to the end of the programme finishing in week 52 of the fourth year, this will have the effect of maximising the overall amount of clinical experience available in advance of the rostered placement; and revisions to the Bord Altranais requirements and standards for nurse registration education programmes. The structure of the revised programme provides for a minimum of 63 weeks theoretical instruction and 45 weeks supernumerary clinical placement prior to the rostered period. This will ensure the completion of all theoretical and supernumerary generic and specialist clinical placements prior to the rostered placement.

These changes will not impact on students who are currently undertaking the programme. I am satisfied that the changes will continue to meet the needs of the health service providers in addition to maintaining the integrity of the undergraduate nursing education degree programmes.

Medical Records.

Tony Gregory

Question:

196 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 387 of 5 October 2004, the progress that has been made to correct the inaccuracies in the medical record referred to; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19161/05]

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

As the Deputy will be aware, meetings have already taken place to find a resolution to this case. My Department has been advised that the HSE, eastern region, will continue to facilitate both parties in regard to future discussions.

National Children’s Strategy.

David Stanton

Question:

197 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress that has been made on the implementation of the national children’s strategy; the amount of the strategy that has not yet been implemented; when this will be implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19183/05]

Annual progress reports on the national children's strategy, NCS, are compiled by the national children's office, NCO on the basis of detailed returns submitted by Departments against each of the actions in the strategy. These reports show the progress that has been made against each action. A copy of the 2002 and 2003 reports are available on the NCO website at www.nco.ie. The 2004 report is being finalised by the NCO at present, and will be submitted to the Cabinet committee on children at its July 2005 meeting. I will ask my Department to forward a copy to the Deputy as soon as it is available, which is expected to be end July 2005.

A further source of independent information on the implementation of the strategy is available from the national children's advisory council, NCAC, which has a role in independently monitoring implementation of the strategy. Its review of the 2002 progress report is available on the website www.ncac.ie. The council did not review the 2003 report as its term had expired at that time. It has since been reconstituted, and will be reviewing the 2004 report later this year.

As the progress reports demonstrate, steady progress is being made in implementing the national children's strategy. At the end of 2004 progress had been reported on almost all of the 141 actions in the strategy, although the extent of progress varies. It is important to note that the strategy is a ten year strategy and that 2005 marks the half way point. In particular, good progress has been made in relation to goals 1 and 2 of the strategy, that children will have a voice in matters that affect them, and that children's lives will be better understood. Some 124 of the 141 actions under the national children's strategy relate to improving supports and services for children. Good progress has been made on a number of issues, including substantial investment in child care, investment in educational disadvantage and resources for special needs in education, reduction of hospital waiting lists for children, the publication of a national play policy, investment in the sports capital programme, extension of the Garda vetting service and the implementation of the youth homelessness strategy.

I have recently decided to carry out a mid-term review of the national children's strategy. The purpose of the review will be to identify areas where progress has been made; identify the key issue or priorities over the remaining five years and raise awareness and give a new impetus to the strategy for the period 2006-10.

The National Children's Office will undertake this project. The assistance and input of a wide range of stakeholders, including the NCAC, will be integrated into the process.

Ministerial Travel.

Bernard Allen

Question:

198 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the most up-to-date information on her travels abroad for the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations; the persons who travelled with her in her official party; the duration of the visit; and the total cost. [19185/05]

I travelled to Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to undertake a number of duties in relation to St. Patrick's Day. I travelled with my husband, Mr. Brian Geoghegan, the deputy Government press secretary, Mr. Iarla Mongey, and my acting private secretary, Mr. Michael Corban. The delegation left on Wednesday, 16 March and returned on Sunday, 20 March. The costs of the trip have not yet been finalised. However, the costs finalised to date total €5,311.53.

Nursing Home Inspections.

Liam Twomey

Question:

199 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason 83 private nursing homes were inspected only once in 2004; if this is a satisfactory inspection regime; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19214/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

However, as the Deputy is aware the Nursing Homes Regulations 1993 provide for two inspections of each private nursing home per year. In this regard the Tánaiste has written to the Health Service Executive stressing that it is of the utmost importance that this target is achieved countrywide by the HSE to ensure the highest standards in private nursing homes.

Hospital Accommodation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

200 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate the situation which occurred at Louth County Hospital in Dundalk on 30 May 2005; and the reason efforts were not made to accommodate those patients in beds. [19227/05]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

201 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate the situation which occurred at Louth County Hospital in Dundalk on 31 May 2005 whereby five female patients had to spend the night on trolleys while there were five empty beds available in an eight person male ward; and if the Health Service Executive will instruct hospitals to take measures to accommodate patients in available beds in wards where such a situation occurs. [19228/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 200 and 201 together.

The Deputy's questions relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Charges.

Mary Upton

Question:

202 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if persons who are in receipt of a disability allowance and resident of a residential home are entitled to a refund of the portion of their payment retained by the residential home in view of the fact that they are medical card holders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19234/05]

The Government has agreed the key elements of a scheme for the repayment of long-stay charges.

All those who were illegally charged for publicly funded long-term residential care and are alive and the estates of all those who were charged and died in the six years prior to 9 December 2004 will have the charges repaid in full. The repayment will apply to all those who were charged including those in receipt of payments other than the non-contributory old age pension. The scheme will not provide for repayments to the estates of those who died more than six years ago.

Any person who considers that they or a family member may be eligible for repayment may register their interest in advance with the Health Service Executive, by writing to the National Refund Scheme, HSE Midland Area, Arden Road, Tullamore, County Offaly; or e.mail to refundscheme@mailq.hse.ie; or by calling the helpline 1800 777737 during office hours.

Health Insurance.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

203 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to alter the regulations pertaining to the health insurance sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19249/05]

Under the Health Insurance Acts, regulations shall not be made until a resolution approving of the regulations in draft has been passed by each House of the Oireachtas. It is my intention to present some minor amendments to the health insurance regulations to the Houses of the Oireachtas seeking approval this week.

I intend to bring forward a limited number of amendments to the risk equalisation scheme, to address issues raised by the Health Insurance Authority in its reports made under the scheme. The amendments relate, primarily, to clarifications of existing definitions. Given that insurers make returns on a six monthly basis under the scheme, it would be desirable that amendments be approved and the regulations made in advance of 1 July next, the first day of the next data return period.

I also intend to submit amendments to the open enrolment regulations relating to the envisaged commencement of section 8 of the Health Insurance (Amendment) Act 2001. The proposed amendments relate to the decision of two restricted membership undertakings to opt out of risk equalisation arrangements under subsection 2(b) of section 12 of the Health Insurance Acts, and providing for the extension of open enrolment to those aged 65 and over. One other proposed amendment to the regulations, generally, will be to replace the term ‘ancillary health services’ with ‘relevant health services’ in line with the related change made in the 2001 Act.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

204 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite an occupational therapist’s report in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny whose spouse has applied for a grant under the disabled person’s grant scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19250/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Pat Breen

Question:

205 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 280 of 12 April 2005, when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with a bed in the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dún Laoghaire; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19251/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

John McGuinness

Question:

206 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a long-term stay bed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if a decision in the case will be expedited. [19262/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 207 answered with QuestionNo. 187.

Grant Payments.

John Ellis

Question:

208 Mr. Ellis asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive will sanction a motorised transport grant for a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim. [19295/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

John Ellis

Question:

209 Mr. Ellis asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she proposes to take with regards to the decision of the Health Service Executive to refuse motorised transport grants to persons over 65 years in view of the fact that they are in breach of the equality legislation. [19296/05]

The motorised transport grant was introduced in 1968 by way of circular 7/68. It is a grant which may be made payable by the Health Service Executive towards the purchase of a car and-or adaptations to a car being purchased by a person with a severe disability who is 17 years or older and up to 65 years of age, where such a car is essential for him or her to obtain or retain employment. Self-employed persons who satisfy the criteria for eligibility may also be considered, subject to the above age limits.

The grant may also be considered in exceptional circumstances for a person with a severe disability, subject to the above age limits, who lives in a very remote location and whose disability impedes him or her from using public transport.

My Department will examine the issue which the Deputy has raised regarding equality legislation. This grant, including criteria for eligibility, will also be considered as part of my Department's strategic review of services for people with disabilities.

Hospital Staff.

Billy Kelleher

Question:

210 Mr. Kelleher asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken and the representations she has made to the Health Service Executive to ensure that the post of consultant haematologist with an interest in child haematology for the Cork University Hospital will be appointed following the retirement of a person (details supplied); if her attention has been drawn to the fact that to date no reply let alone a decision has been received from the Health Service Executive regarding the filling of this post and that this is placing further anxiety on persons; the timeframe as to when the post will be filled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19297/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Dan Neville

Question:

211 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when work will be completed to a house under the special housing aid for the elderly scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [19298/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

212 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the situation in relation to the requirements for and the availability of speech and language therapists between now and 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19302/05]

The Deputy may wish to note that three new speech and language therapy courses commenced in the 2003-04 academic year, one of which is a two-year postgraduate course, at the University of Limerick. In total, these courses provide an additional 75 training places in speech and language therapy. This expansion in training numbers has been identified in the report commissioned by my Department from Dr. Peter Bacon and Associates on current and future demand conditions in the labour market for certain professional therapists as sufficient to meet the long-term requirements for speech and language therapists in Ireland.

The first graduates from the new speech and language therapy course in the University of Limerick will be conferred in the near future.

Medical Cards.

Pat Carey

Question:

213 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the discussions which have taken place within the Health Service Executive to ensure that chiropody services, at a reasonable cost and without a top-up charge, are available to medical card holders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19321/05]

The provision of chiropody services is a matter for the local area of the Health Service Executive. This is a service which the HSE is not statutorily obliged to provide but a variety of arrangements are in place nationally under arrangements made by the former Eastern Regional Health Authority, ERHA, and other health boards.

Generally speaking, fees paid to private health care practitioners for the provision of services to public patients are reviewed periodically, and in that context I have requested my Department, in conjunction with the Health Service Executive, to look specifically at the current levels of fees paid to chiropodists participating in the chiropody scheme of the former ERHA. I wish to restate that I consider it inappropriate for chiropodists to charge a top-up fee to elderly public patients who have been deemed eligible for services under the scheme.

My Department wrote to the Health Service Executive on 26 January 2005 regarding the inappropriateness of these additional charges.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

214 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the procedure for the Inspector of Mental Hospitals to arrange visits to hospitals; if these take place without the prior knowledge of the hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19322/05]

Under the provisions of the Mental Health Act 2001, the previous office of the inspector of mental hospitals has been replaced with the office of the inspector of mental health services, which is part of the Mental Health Commission. Dr. Teresa Carey has been appointed to the position of inspector of mental health services and, together with her team of assistant inspectors, has commenced a programme of inspections.

The Mental Health Act 2001 requires the inspector of mental health services to visit and inspect every approved centre each year and to visit and inspect any other premises where mental health services are being provided, as the inspector thinks appropriate. The procedure for such visits is a matter for the inspector of mental health services and the mental health commission. The inspector's review of the services, including reports of inspections carried out, is published with the mental health commission's annual report and is laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas. The inspector's first comprehensive annual report is expected to be presented before the end of this month.

Hospital Staff.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

215 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to previous Government commitments in this regard, if she has succeeded in making one of the two radiation oncologists to have been appointed in Cork available on an outpatient basis to the people of Waterford for at least five sessions per fortnight; the extent to which services have been made available to persons of Kilkenny and Carlow through Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19323/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

216 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the sub-committee on radiotherapy will address the issue of designated transport with a view to providing the persons of the south east with adequate services in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19324/05]

As I previously indicated to the House, I consider that appropriate transport arrangements for patients requiring radiotherapy should be made available, where necessary, by the Health Service Executive. The national radiation oncology co-ordinating group provides advice to my Department and the HSE on radiotherapy, including patient transport arrangements. I understand that the group will shortly be writing to the HSE on this matter. My Department has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy in relation to the position in the south-eastern area.

John McGuinness

Question:

217 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that home care attendants in the south east are being informed by the Health Service Executive that they cannot work before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m. due to insurance issues; if the funds have been made available by her Department to cover the cost of insurance; if persons’ hours will not be cut and if she will resolve the issues; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19332/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004 within the resources at its disposal. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

John McGuinness

Question:

218 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that there will be no cut in the hours allocated for the home care attendant in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19333/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John McGuinness

Question:

219 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in arranging an appointment at Waterford Regional Hospital for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny in view of the fact that they were referred by their general practitioner on 12 March 2003; if a response will be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19334/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Homes.

Paul McGrath

Question:

220 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of public nursing home beds each year for each of the past 20 years. [19344/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

221 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of privately owned and operated nursing home beds for each of the past ten years. [19345/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

222 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of private nursing home patients for whom a nursing home subvention was payable in 2004 or later. [19346/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

223 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of private nursing home beds which were contracted out to the local health board or Health Service Executive equivalent during 2004 or later. [19347/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 220 to 223, inclusive, together.

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Michael Ring

Question:

224 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) was not called for their operation on the 1 June 2005. [19367/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the esxecutive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John Ellis

Question:

225 Mr. Ellis asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department will arrange for the North Western Health Executive to provide orthodontic treatment for a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim who has been waiting four years. [19369/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

226 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the unacceptable delay in organising an angiogram for a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19370/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

227 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the general practitioner only medical cards scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19382/05]

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 will include responsibility for the determination of eligibility of persons for ‘GP visit' cards.

In 2005 funding has been provided to allow the Health Service Executive provide an additional 30,000 people with full medical cards and also to extend free access to general practitioner services under the general medical services scheme to up to a further 200,000 persons. The Health Service Executive has put in place the necessary administrative arrangements for the introduction of the 'GP visit' cards. It is intended that a public information campaign will be undertaken which will indicate the process to be followed by applicants to obtain application forms and to have their eligibility assessed by the HSE.

It is my firm view that this initiative should be implemented for the benefit of persons on low income as quickly as possible. However, it has not been possible, to date, to reach agreement on the issue with the Irish Medical Organisation.

Pension Provisions.

Bernard Allen

Question:

228 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will re-examine the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork; and the gratuity this person would be entitled to if she were to accept. [19383/05]

As set out in my reply to Question No. 39 dated 17 February 2005, an ex-gratia retirement benefit is payable to qualifying non-pensionable staff under the terms of the voluntary hospital superannuation scheme. The amount of €3,196.54 authorised by my Department in November 2003 is based on information supplied by the relevant employer and takes account of unpaid leave taken by the person concerned during her employment. This is therefore the maximum gratuity applicable in this instance under the terms of the scheme and having regard to the length of service involved.

Nursing Homes.

Billy Timmins

Question:

229 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department has received complaints regarding a nursing home (details supplied); if so, if they have been investigated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19423/05]

The Department has not received a complaint about this nursing home.

Health Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

230 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) was refused sanction by the HSE for the purchase of certain medical material which was recommended to treat his condition; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19424/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

231 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a home care grant will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [19425/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

232 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will provide information on the financial allocations made by her to each of the learning disability service providers in each of the past five years; the number of day places, residential places and respite places which this funded in each case; if all funding for 2005 has been drawn down; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19433/05]

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available in my Department. However, my officials have asked the Health Service Executive's national director for primary, community and continuing care to investigate the matter raised and reply directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Correspondence.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

233 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 175 of 11 May 2005, the reason no reply has yet issued to this Deputy; her views on whether it is acceptable that Members of Dáil Éireann go to these lengths to obtain basic information from the health services; if she has satisfied herself with the level of competency of senior management of the HSE in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19434/05]

As the Deputy is aware, the Health Service Executive came into being on 1 January, 2005. My Department has made inquiries with the HSE and was told that, on foot of the referral to the HSE of her Question of 11 May, a reply issued to the Deputy in the past week.

My reply to the Deputy's question of 11 May informed her that steps were being taken within the executive, including the recent establishment of a parliamentary affairs division, to strengthen its capability to provide information to members of the Oireachtas. As stated in the executive's service plan for 2005, this is a priority area of work for its corporate affairs directorate. I am satisfied that, in the organisational arrangements currently being made to complete the transition to the unitary system, due importance and attention is being given by the executive to enhancing its capacity to respond in an efficient and timely manner to requests for information from members of the Oireachtas.

Health Services.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

234 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to a general practitioners crisis in Beara in west Cork (details supplied); if support will be provided for them by way of weekend cover or the equivalent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19455/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Public Private Partnership.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

235 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she intends to publish the conditions pertaining to public private partnerships in the health sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19469/05]

My Department has been examining Public Private Partnerships, PPPs, and other procurement options in line with Government policy with a view to finding the approach that will deliver additional long stay beds and provide the best services and value for money to the Exchequer.

In this regard there have been discussions between my Department and the Department of Finance on an initiative which is based on entering into a medium term service agreement with the private sector to deliver the additional long stay beds required to relieve pressure on the acute hospitals and community care programme.

Under a PPP arrangement the HSE is subject to the national guidelines on PPPs and all capital investments must comply with EU procurement legislation. Pending the outcome of the deliberations of the proposal any conditions attached will be published at that stage.

My Department engaged a consultancy firm to provide advice on an assessment framework that should be applied to proposals for developing private hospitals on public hospital sites.

I am currently considering the advice from the consultants and related policy issues regarding the development of private hospital facilities on public hospital sites and increasing capacity in the public hospitals for public patients.

Health Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

236 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress which has been made in the discussions between the HSE north western area regarding north west residents accessing radiotherapy services in Belfast; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19470/05]

Patients in the north west are currently being referred for radiation oncology treatment to the recently commissioned radiation oncology department at University College Hospital Galway, UCHG, and also to St. Luke's Hospital Dublin. A consultant radiation oncologist with significant sessional commitments to the north-western area has recently been appointed to UCHG. In addition, further discussions are scheduled to take place later this month between the HSE north-western area and Belfast City Hospital in relation to access to radiation oncology services for patients in the north-west, mainly Donegal. My Department has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the Health Service Executive to advise the Deputy of progress on these discussions. The state of the art facility at Belfast City Hospital is scheduled to open in early 2006.

Disability Bill 2004.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

237 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to meet the concerns of a group (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19471/05]

The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has responsibility in the first instance for matters related to the Disability Bill 2004.

My Department has forwarded the proposals in question to that Department for its attention.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Jack Wall

Question:

238 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive an earlier appointment date to attend the consultant neurologist at Beaumont Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19478/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Funding.

Tony Gregory

Question:

239 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if adequate funding will be made available to a centre (details supplied) by the HSE in order that the centre can run to full capacity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19479/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Foster Care.

Richard Bruton

Question:

240 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the insecurity of children who are fostered under family arrangements whereby even quite settled and successful arrangements can be brought abruptly to an end by the intervention of the natural parent, unless the fostering family undertake the substantial legal expense of obtaining joint guardianship; if she is considering changes in the law that might offer greater primacy to the interests of the child in such circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19487/05]

Foster care and relative care arrangements under the Child Care Act 1991 are subject to regular reviews. The views of the child, the parents and the foster carers are taken into account and the review considers a number of issues regarding the child's placement, including whether it would be in the best interests of the child to be returned to the care of his or her parents.

Where it is agreed that it is in the best interests of the child to be reunited with its parents, the Health Service Executive is obliged under the Child Care Regulations 1995 to inform the foster carers, including relative carers, of its intentions to remove the child from their care and their reasons for doing so. The foster carers may appeal the decision to return the child to its parents. Where appropriate, the Health Service Executive may make counselling available to foster carers who have a child removed from their care.

I re-iterate that in considering whether to re-unite a child with its parents, the Health Service Executive must consider what is in the overall best interests of the child.

The Deputy will be pleased to know that a provision has been included in the Adoption (Hague Convention, Adoption Authority and Miscellaneous) Bill 2004 allowing a long-term foster carer to apply to the Circuit or District Court for a guardianship order, taking into account the views of the child and having obtained the relevant consents. The legislation also provides that a person who is 18 years of age or more may be adopted, if the person consents and has been in long term foster care, thus allowing them to become a legal part of their long term foster care family.

The Bill has gone to the parliamentary counsel for drafting and it is hoped it will be published at the end of 2005.

Health Services.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

241 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason only children from fifth and sixth class at a school (details supplied) in County Galway are examined for orthodontic needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19494/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hanly Report.

Michael Lowry

Question:

242 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if it remains the policy of her Department to implement in full the Hanly report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19518/05]

Michael Lowry

Question:

243 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the policy implications of the Hanly report (details supplied); the services that will be relocated out of the hospital; if the report is implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19519/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 242 and 243 together.

The report of the National Task Force on Medical Staffing — Hanly report — makes important proposals for reducing the working hours of non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) in line with the European Working Time Directive and highlights the need to implement changes in medical staffing to ensure safety and quality of patient care.

My Department is working closely with the Health Services Executive and other health agencies with a view to reducing the working hours of junior doctors. Negotiations with the Irish Medical Organisation in this regard are continuing. Local implementation groups have been established in nine hospitals as part of an agreed process and a detailed hospital activity analysis is underway which will inform reforms in this area.

The report recommends a significant increase in the total number of consultants, working in a ‘consultant-provided', team-based system, so that patients can receive faster access to senior clinical decision making. While consultant contract negotiations are delayed pending resolution of issues related to medical indemnity arrangements, significant preparatory work has been undertaken within my Department in partnership with the Health Service Executive in preparation for the commencement of negotiations.

The implications of the report for post-graduate medical education and training are being examined by the medical education and training group originally established as part of the National Task Force on Medical Staffing.

In relation to the organisation of hospital services, I consider that the National Hospitals Office is best placed to build on the recommendations of the report in this area and have asked my officials to progress the issue with officials of the National Hospitals Office.

In relation to the specific hospital mentioned by the Deputy, the report stated that a full range of acute hospital services should be available within the mid-western region, so that patients would not have to travel outside the region other than for specialised supra-regional or national-level services. This would involve the appointment of an additional 195 consultants to the mid-western region. These consultants would be required to work both in hospitals such as Nenagh and Ennis as well as the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Limerick.

Health Service Executive.

Michael Lowry

Question:

244 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she intends to take to find a replacement CEO for the HSE; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19520/05]

Under the Health Act 2004 the statutory responsibility for recruiting the first chief executive officer of the Health Service Executive rests with the board of the executive. My function in the matter is to appoint the person recommended by the board.

Rehabilitation Services.

Michael Lowry

Question:

245 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the supports available to assist stroke victims and their families during rehabilitation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19521/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Michael Lowry

Question:

246 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the proposed move of a service (details supplied); if this move represents a further downgrading of the organisation involved; the steps she intends to take to ensure no further downgrading of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19522/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Benchmarking Awards.

Enda Kenny

Question:

247 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the legal basis for withholding a benchmarking award to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal; if this is the case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19523/05]

Human resource management issues relating to Health Service Executive employees are a matter for the Health Service Executive. Accordingly my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Funding.

Michael Lowry

Question:

248 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when funding will be provided to a group (details supplied). [19524/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Act 1970.

Denis Naughten

Question:

249 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to bring forward legislation to amend the Health Act 1970; the timetable for publication of the legislation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19525/05]

I understand the Deputy's question relates to the possibility of introducing a requirement that catering establishments would be obliged to indicate to customers the country of origin of the meat they might consume. The current position is that officials of my Department are in contact with officials in the Department of Agriculture and Food in regard to this issue and I hope to be in a position to make an announcement shortly.

Health Services.

John Perry

Question:

250 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a decision has been made regarding the case of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo. [19526/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy

Mental Health Services.

John Perry

Question:

251 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that plans are in place to close Caltragh House, the mental health services unit in Sligo; if her attention has further been drawn to the growing concern regarding this closure; if she will ensure that it remains open; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19527/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Voluntary Sector Funding.

John Gormley

Question:

252 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if multi-annual funding for the voluntary sector such as the Carmichael Centre is absolutely vital; if she intends to introduce funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19528/05]

Since 2005, there are two separate Votes for health funding. Vote 39 for the Office of the Minister for Health and Children covers the running expenses of the Department and certain other functions. Health services in the main are funded through Vote 40 for the Health Service Executive and the Carmichael Centre is funded by the HSE. Overall funding of the HSE, as well as for Departments continues to be decided on an annual basis with the funding available being published in the Revised Estimates for Public Services.

The question of providing further statutory funding to the Carmichael Centre is being considered in my Department, in consultation with the Health Service Executive and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John Perry

Question:

253 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene with a hospital (details supplied) on a person’s behalf; if he will be called for treatment in view of the major need following an accident; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19545/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

254 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in providing a new wheelchair to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if she will expedite the request; the level of funding being provided in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19570/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

255 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she intends to meet a group (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19581/05]

The Tánaiste has agreed to meet this group on Wednesday 22 June 2005.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

256 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she proposes to make an announcement in respect of capital funding for a new hospital in Dingle, County Kerry; the reason there has been no announcement of the 2005 capital programme to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19582/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for considering new capital proposals or progressing those in the health capital programme.

The detailed capital funding programme for 2005 is currently being finalised in the context of the Capital Investment Framework 2005-2009. This process is not yet fully concluded as it must take account of non-capital funding implications arising in future years. However, I expect to be in a position to make an announcement in this regard very shortly.

Tobacco Controls.

Liam Twomey

Question:

257 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason Ireland has not yet ratified the WHO framework convention on tobacco control; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19601/05]

I intend to bring a motion before the Oireachtas shortly seeking approval to the ratification by Ireland of the framework convention on tobacco control.

The convention is an initiative of the World Health Organisation in response to the global epidemic of tobacco addiction. The treaty, which was adopted unanimously by the World Health Assembly in May 2003 and signed by Ireland in September 2003, provides an agreed approach to tobacco control at a global level.

This will be the first binding international treaty that addresses all aspects of tobacco control, namely the traditional health interventions such as advertising and sponsorship bans, passive smoking and retail licensing. It also addresses economic and trade issues including taxation policy, international trade and smuggling. Other areas include product specification and issues of compensation and liability.

Ireland is a strong advocate of effective tobacco control policies and of the framework convention on tobacco control and has consistently pressed these policies nationally and internationally in order to protect public health and reduce deaths from tobacco related illness.

To enable the treaty to come into force ratification by 40 states is necessary and this figure was achieved at the end of last year. Ireland is committed to effective tobacco control policies. Our smoke-free workplace initiative which commenced in March 2004 has drawn favourable comment from public health authorities around the world as an effective public health instrument in tackling the negative health effects of tobacco smoking. A number of other jurisdictions are using the Irish experience as a basis for similar type health interventions.

Health Service Staff.

Liam Twomey

Question:

258 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if public health and community medicine doctors are discriminated against in interviews for promotion; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19602/05]

Appointments to Health Service Executive posts in public health medicine are made through the Public Appointments Service. The Public Appointments Service was established in October 2004.

The Public Appointments Service is the centralised provider of recruitment, assessment and selection services for the Civil Service. It also provides recruitment and related human resource advisory services to local authorities, health boards, the Garda Síochána and other public bodies.

The Public Appointments Service is committed, in partnership with its clients, to compete successfully in the labour market and to provide excellent recruitment and selection services, based on merit and equality, which support and facilitate the delivery of public services.

The Public Appointments Service is committed to a policy of equal opportunity in its recruitment practices and selection methods. The Civil Service, as an employer, pursues an active policy of non-discrimination on grounds of sex or martial status.

The Public Appointments Service is committed to the principles of best recruitment practice. Fairness and impartiality are absolute essential values to which it adheres as it strives to ensure that the best candidate for a vacancy is selected to fill the position. All candidates for positions recruited by the Public Appointments Service are assessed solely on their merits and against the requirements for the particular job.

As a once-off initiative, and in accordance with the Public Health Doctors Agreement 2003, a number of public health medicine posts were set aside to be filled by internal promotion within the Health Service Executive. These posts could only be filled by candidates with the required qualifications, experience and expertise. As the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Ambulance Service.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

259 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a 24 hour ambulance will be located in areas of Mayo (details supplied) in view of the fact that this has been a priority of the HSE West for some time and there is no ambulance base within the national accepted guidelines of distance from ambulance base; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that lives are being lost and put in jeopardy due to the considerable time lapse which is involved in an ambulance arriving to take the ill person to hospital; when an ambulance base will be provided in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19622/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

260 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a report of an MRI scan of a person (details supplied) cannot be found; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19633/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Staff.

Liam Twomey

Question:

261 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to permanent registration for section 7.6 doctors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19645/05]

Officials from my Department and from the Medical Council recently met a delegation of the doctors concerned. This issue relates to a sponsorship scheme, the timescale for which has now elapsed. The officials listened to the concerns of the doctors and are now reflecting on the issues raised. They will revert to the doctors as soon as consultations with the relevant bodies, the Medical Council and College of Anaesthetists, are completed.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

262 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the financial help which is available to a person for medical treatment in England when that treatment is not available here; and the way in which this funding is assessed. [19785/05]

Where an individual requires specific treatment which is necessary and which cannot be provided in Ireland, the Health Service Executive may refer the person to another member state for treatment. Under EU regulations, the executive issues a form E112 to the person being referred to establish his or her entitlement to such treatment and to imply a commitment by the HSE to pay the full cost of the treatment. My Department has issued guidelines which set down the criteria to be used by health boards when assessing applications for approval of forms E112, as follows; the application to refer a patient abroad must be assessed before the patient goes abroad except in cases of extreme urgency; medical evidence must be provided by a hospital consultant giving details of the condition from which the patient suffers and of the type of treatment envisaged and it must be certified by the consultant that: the treatment concerned is not available in this country, there is an urgent medical necessity for the treatment, there is a reasonable medical prognosis, the treatment is regarded as a proven form of medical treatment and the treatment abroad is in a recognised hospital or other institution and is under the control of a registered medical practitioner.

In the case where a person's E112 application has been approved the HSE may provide assistance towards the cost of travel and subsistence expenses. The decision in relation to the provision of such assistance is a matter for the HSE.

Arrangements which are made privately for the treatment of a patient in any country abroad, must be regarded as outside the terms of the EU regulations and the HSE has no obligation to meet any part of the cost involved.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

263 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when BreastCheck will be extended to the Waterford constituency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19787/05]

New facilities for the national expansion of BreastCheck are included in the Health Capital Investment Framework 2005-2009. My Department recently gave approval to BreastCheck to advertise for the appointment of a design team to produce detailed plans for the design and construction of the clinical unit at the South Infirmary Victoria Hospital, Cork. The catchment area of that centre will include Waterford. Discussions on manpower requirements are currently taking place involving BreastCheck, the Health Service Executive and my Department. I am confident that the target date of 2007 for the commencement of the national roll-out will be met.

Community Care.

Michael Ring

Question:

264 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be assessed for home help. [19824/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Adoption Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

265 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when an adoption assessment (details supplied) is likely to commence. [19839/05]

My Department has been in contact with the HSE regarding this matter and I understand a reply will be issued to the Deputy this week.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

266 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to appoint specialist psychiatric posts for persons suffering from chronic eating disorders. [19840/05]

The expert group on mental health policy is currently preparing a national policy framework for the further modernisation of the mental health services, updating the 1984 policy document, Planning for the Future. The expert group, which is currently examining the future direction and delivery of all aspects of our mental health services, has a number of sub-groups looking at specialist issues in mental health services, including eating disorders. The group is expected to complete its work and publish its report later this year.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

267 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the procedures available to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare for a hearing test and hearing aid. [19861/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Dan Neville

Question:

268 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will be renewed for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick. [19868/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Michael Ring

Question:

269 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called for an eye procedure. [19874/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

270 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of respite beds occupied in County Monaghan; the number required; if she proposes to further develop this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19961/05]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

271 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of respite beds occupied in County Cavan; the number required; if she proposes to further develop this service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19962/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 270 and 271 together.

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

272 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number and details of reports into acute hospital services commissioned by the former North Eastern Health Board; the action taken on foot of any report’s recommendations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19963/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Iodine Tablets.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

273 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether the €2.2 million cost of distributing iodine tablets to households here was justified; the length of time the tablets will maintain their efficiency; if she proposes to repeat the exercise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19964/05]

In 2002, as part of the National Emergency Plan for Nuclear Accidents, 12.6 million tablets were distributed by post to households across the country, a packet of six tablets to each household. A further 1.6 million tablets were distributed to health boards for persons who did not receive a supply of tablets or who did not receive a sufficient number of tablets via the postal distribution. The tablets had an expiry date of March 2005.

A representative sample of tablets was tested recently to determine whether the expiry date could be extended. The results indicate that the tablets have maintained their efficacy. A public notice was placed in national newspapers in March 2005 advising people to continue to store the tablets in a cool, dry place in their original sealed packaging, out of the reach of children.

In recent years the threat to Ireland has significantly reduced due to the closure of a number of the older reactors in the UK, in particular the Calder Hall reactors at Sellafield. A programme of further closures over the next five years is planned.

A review group established by my Department, chaired by Dr. Barry McSweeney, chief science adviser to the Government, is currently examining the continued use of iodine tablets as a countermeasure under the national emergency plan for nuclear accidents. One of the issues being considered is the projected expiry date of the tablets. The group has had two meetings to date and is expected to make its recommendations later in the year.

Hospital Acquired Infections.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

274 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has noted the results of an international survey which placed Ireland, with 119 cases of MRSA per million of population, highest in Europe for hospital acquired infections; if she proposes to hold an audit of HAIs on an individualised hospital basis; the protocols she proposes to put in place to reduce the incidence of such infections; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19965/05]

My Department is aware of the recent report published by the Irish Patient's Association on hospital-acquired infections, or HAIs. Effective infection control measures, including environmental cleanliness and hand hygiene, are central to the control of HAIs including drug-resistant organisms such as MRSA. Improving the standards of cleanliness in hospitals is a priority. One of the specific actions identified in the ten-point plan to improve the delivery of accident and emergency services refers to the need to address this particular issue.

The Deputy will be aware that operational issues in relation to the services provided by acute hospitals now rests with the Health Service Executive, HSE. The prevention and control of HAIs is a priority issue for the HSE. My Department understands that the director of the National Hospitals Office intends to have a hygiene audit of hospitals carried out this summer by external consultants. The results of the audit are expected to inform the national standards for infection control and cleaning.

Suicide Prevention.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

275 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she plans to set up a national co-ordinating authority to develop guidelines and strategies in the area of suicide prevention; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19966/05]

As the Deputy is aware, work is now well under way on the preparation of a national strategy for action on suicide prevention. This strategy, which involves the project management unit, Health Service Executive in partnership with the national suicide review group supported by the Department of Health and Children will be action-based from the outset and will outline the priority initiatives for suicide prevention and mental health promotion across the country for the coming years. The national strategy for action on suicide prevention, to be published in September of this year, will provide us with a targeted, measurable action plan for tackling this serious social problem in a coherent and integrated fashion, involving all relevant stakeholders.

Health Service Staff.

Liam Twomey

Question:

276 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the remuneration, allowance, superannuation and additional advisers package proposed by Professor Drumm as a prerequisite for his appointment as chief executive officer of the HSE was submitted to the Department of Finance for consent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20051/05]

My approval to the remuneration package negotiated between the Health Service Executive, HSE, and Professor Drumm was given with the consent of the Minister for Finance, in accordance with the provisions of section 17(5)(b) of the Health Act, 2004. The additional human resources sought by Professor Drumm did not form part of the terms and conditions of his proposed appointment as the first chief executive officer of the HSE.

Rights of the Child.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

277 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) has been the subject of administrative proceedings over the past year or more which come under the ambit of Article 12 of the UN Convention on the rights of the child; if there are prima facie conflicts of interest on the part of Irish State parties who to date have been involved in the case, as against the interests of the child; if the person is entitled under the aforementioned conventions to be independently represented; if such entitlement exists in respect of the current administrative proceedings, and therefore is not contingent on any judicial proceedings being brought in the future, such as in relation to the persons adoption or citizenship; if the Attorney General will apply to the High Court for an Order appointing an independent representative for this person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18881/05]

This is a most complex and highly sensitive case. The Government is actively engaged in seeking to find a solution. At all times the best interests of the child have been, and will remain the primary consideration.

High Court proceedings against the adoptive parents of this child have been instigated by the Attorney General in his role as protector of the unprotected. As the matter is before the court it is not appropriate to comment further.

Disabled Drivers.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

278 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when a decision will be made in the case of an application for appeal regarding a medical certificate for disabled drivers to the Health Service Executive in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19019/05]

I have no direct responsibility for the day to day operation of the medical board of appeal for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme. Queries on individual cases may be addressed to the secretary of the disabled drivers medical board of appeal, c/o National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin or alternatively by telephone at 01 2355279.

The Deputy may be aware that there were a number of operational difficulties with the board of appeal and these have now been resolved. The new chairperson of the board, whom I appointed on 14 March 2005, has been asked to address the backlog of appeals as a priority. To facilitate more frequent meetings of the board, I brought in new regulations on 7 April 2005 allowing for the appointment of up to ten medical practitioners to the board of appeal. There are currently seven medical practitioners on the board of appeal, and I hope to make further appointments shortly. It is intended that these improvements will substantially reduce the current waiting time for an appeal.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

279 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance the reason for the delay in determining an appeal in relation to the sanctioning of a medical certificate for a disabled driver (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19069/05]

I have no direct responsibility for the day to day operation of the medical board of appeal for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme. Queries on individual cases may be addressed to the secretary of the disabled drivers medical board of appeal, c/o National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin or alternatively by telephone at 01 2355279.

The Deputy may be aware that there were a number of operational difficulties with the board of appeal and these have now been resolved. The new chairperson of the board, whom I appointed on 14 March 2005, has been asked to address the backlog of appeals as a priority. To facilitate more frequent meetings of the board, I brought in new regulations on 7 April 2005 allowing for the appointment of up to ten medical practitioners to the board of appeal. There are currently seven medical practitioners on the board of appeal, and I hope to make further appointments shortly. It is intended that these improvements will substantially reduce the current waiting time for an appeal.

Computerisation Programme.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

280 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide a description of the configuration of the Government’s data VPN in the Kildare Street and Government Buildings area; the capacity of the Oireachtas data connection to the VPN; the capacity of the VPN data connection to the Internet; his plans to enhance the data capacity of the Government VPN; his further plans to provide additional data capacity and resilience for the VPN connection to and from the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19352/05]

My Department has installed a fibre-based campus network operating at 1 Gbps in the Government Buildings complex, providing connectivity to the Departments of the Taoiseach; Arts, Sport and Tourism; Finance; Agriculture and Food; Enterprise, Trade and Employment; the Office of the Attorney General; the Office of the Revenue Commissioners; the National Museum; the National Library; and the Houses of the Oireachtas. This campus network is, in turn, connected diversely to the Government VPN at 100 Mbps. These diverse connections are shared by all interconnecting bodies resulting in bandwidth availability that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive. The Government VPN has a number of diverse and resilient connections to the Internet, each operating at 100 Mbps. Another such connection is being installed at present and should be available in the near future. Capacity upgrades to Internet connectivity are planned and implemented on the basis of continuous usage monitoring.

The Houses of the Oireachtas are connected to the campus network in Government Buildings using fibre capable of operating at 1 Gbps. The capacity of this connection is a matter for the Houses of the Oireachtas and is not determined by my Department. However, the current capacity is greater than need and is therefore unlikely to require upgrading in the forseeable future. Resilience of connectivity to the campus network in the Government Buildings complex and on to the Government VPN is also a matter for the Houses of the Oireachtas. However, my staff are currently working with staff from the ICT function in the Oireachtas to plan and implement such resilience.

Planning Issues.

Marian Harkin

Question:

281 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Finance if a licence has been applied for by or granted to a mobile telephone company to erect a mobile telephone mast at the location of the Pension Services Office, College Road, Sligo. [19380/05]

The Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland have granted a licence to a mobile telephone company to install telecommunications equipment at the location specified.

Pub Licences.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

282 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the number of active pub licences in the country; the breakdown of the figures by county; the number of dormant licences and the conditions attached to same; [19472/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners as follows in relation to the information requested on the number of active pub licences in the country; the breakdown of the figures by county; the number of dormant licences and the conditions attached to same.

County

Active Pub Licence

Dormant Licences

Breakdown of Dormant Licences

Condition of Dormant Licence

Carlow

114

8

8

No Circuit Court Certificate

Cavan

242

23

9

No Circuit Court Certificate

6

No Tax Clearance Certificate

2

Deceased

6

Not Trading

Clare

379

52

42

No Tax Clearance Certificate

5

Not Trading/Demolition

5

Deceased

Cork

1,272

40

8

No Circuit Court Certificate

32

No Tax Clearance Certificate

Donegal

506

28

3

No Bord Fáilte Certificate

25

No Circuit Court Certificate/No Tax Clearance Certificate

Dublin

815

14

14

Not Trading

Galway

701

20

1

Deceased

1

Certificate of Transfer

14

No Tax Clearance Certificate

4

No Bord Fáilte Certificate

Kerry

504

50

40

No Tax Clearance Certificate

5

Not Trading/Demolition

5

Deceased

Kildare

239

5

3

No Circuit Court Certificate

2

Cheque Validation

Kilkenny

241

11

11

No Circuit Court Certificate

Laois

172

3

1

No Circuit Court Certificate

1

Cheque Validation

1

Objection

Leitrim

149

8

8

Not Trading/No Tax Clearance Certificate

Limerick

485

70

56

No Tax Clearance Certificate

7

Not Trading/Demolition

7

Deceased

Longford

106

8

8

Not Trading/No Tax Clearance Certificate

Louth

241

1

1

Not Trading

Mayo

584

36

2

No Bord Fáilte Certificate

34

No Circuit Court Certificate

Meath

255

3

2

No Circuit Court Certificate

1

Cheque Validation

Monaghan

131

17

7

No Circuit Court Certificate

5

No Tax Clearance Certificate

5

Not Trading

Offaly

162

4

4

Not Trading

Roscommon

256

3

1

Deceased

2

No Tax Clearance Certificate

Sligo

210

3

3

Not Trading/No Tax Clearance Certificate

Tipperary

560

34

33

No Circuit Court Certificate

1

Cheque Validation

Waterford

292

10

8

No Circuit Court Certificate

1

Cheque Validation

1

Objection

Westmeath

205

8

8

Not Trading

Wexford

346

6

4

No Circuit Court Certificate

2

Cheque Validation

Wicklow

219

3

3

No Circuit Court Certificate

In some counties, the information in respect of the conditions of the dormant licences has not been fully disaggregated e.g. not trading or no tax clearance certificate. The Revenue Commissioners will forward a complete list to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Disabled Drivers.

Pat Breen

Question:

283 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding an appeal for the disabled drivers allowance for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19786/05]

I have no direct responsibility for the day to day operation of the medical board of appeal for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme.

Queries on individual cases may be addressed to the secretary of the disabled drivers medical board of appeal, c/o National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin or alternatively by telephone at 01 2355279.

Tax Refund.

Phil Hogan

Question:

284 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance when the necessary tax refund will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18941/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the refund in respect of medical expenses for 2004 issued to the taxpayer on 15 April, 2005.

Jack Wall

Question:

285 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be issued with a statement of their tax contributions for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18998/05]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a PAYE balancing statement for 2004, showing details of earnings and tax deductions, issued to the taxpayer on 8 June 2005.

Tax Code.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

286 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the amount of revenue which would be raised on an annual basis if his Department was to implement the recommendation contained in the NESC report on housing regarding a separate tax on second homes if such a tax was set at an annual rate of 0.5% of the value of the second home. [19063/05]

There are no reliable estimates of the number of second and additional residential properties in the State. Consequently, it is not possible at this point to assess the amount of tax that would be raised by charging a residential property tax on all second and additional residences at 0.5% of the value of such homes.

Richard Bruton

Question:

287 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Revenue Commissioners have started to tax small payments made to cover supervision of voluntary study period at school; if he has received submissions from schools that this is likely to result in the discontinuation of this facility which is not covered by the Department of Education and Science provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19079/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that payments for school supervision of voluntary study are taxable in the same way as an individual's other employment income. This is not a new tax treatment or practice. There has been no change in tax law in this respect nor did any new instruction in this regard issue from the Revenue Commissioners.

It is a general principle of taxation that, as far as possible, income from all sources should be subject to taxation, and this can include income such as additional payments made in respect of supervision of voluntary study periods in schools.

The general thrust of the Government's policy in relation to personal taxation has been to broaden the tax base while lowering rates, widening bands and increasing credits. Thus, as a result of budgetary changes made since this Government came into office in 1997, the burden of taxation has reduced for all categories of income earner in recent years.

My Department has no record of any submissions from schools on this matter.

Flood Relief.

David Stanton

Question:

288 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance if he has received a request to provide funding to enable Fermoy flood plan to be undertaken; if so, the amount requested; if he will make funding available as a matter of urgency in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19085/05]

The Office of Public Works plans to place the proposals to alleviate the flood risk on the Munster Blackwater River in Fermoy on formal public display, as required under the Arterial Drainage Acts, in the autumn of 2005.

In recent months, the OPW has concentrated on the development of the early flood warning system for the Munster Blackwater River catchment. The warning system is vital for the proposed scheme in Fermoy, as there is extensive use of demountable defences proposed there.

Progression of the scheme will, to some degree, depend on the observations received during the exhibition period. Construction of an acceptable scheme will depend on the availability of funds and the prioritisation of the large number of schemes that are required in various locations.

Tax Code.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

289 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if the owners of the Leas Cross Nursing Home benefited from the nursing homes tax incentive scheme; if so, the amount of tax foregone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19109/05]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

290 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons who have availed of the nursing homes tax incentive scheme; the cost of this scheme to the public finances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19110/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

306 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of nursing homes that have availed of capital tax allowances each year since this tax shelter was introduced. [19350/05]

Paul McGrath

Question:

307 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of nursing home beds provided each year under the capital tax allowances scheme since this scheme was introduced. [19351/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 289, 290, 306 and 307 together.

The Revenue Commissioners are not in a position to estimate the number of nursing homes which have benefited from this tax incentive. This is because the normal self-assessment tax return form does not distinguish between capital allowances claimed in respect of private nursing homes from those claimed in respect of other buildings entitled to capital allowances. Consequently it is not possible for Revenue to indicate the level of take-up of this specific incentive. With regard to this issue my Department and the Revenue Commissioners have been working closely recently to investigate data capture issues with a view to improving data quality and transparency without overburdening compliant taxpayers. Arising from this work, provisions were included in Finance Act 2004 introducing a number of changes to the tax return forms which will yield additional information regarding various tax reliefs. The preliminary data should become available from early 2006 after the returns for 2004 are filed in October 2005.

Capital allowances for private nursing homes were introduced in Finance Act 1998 with effect from 3 December 1997. The latest information from the Department of Health and Children is that the number of beds in private nursing homes increased from 6,932 at the end of 1997 to 13,178 in December 2003. An estimated 8,527 persons in these nursing homes receive direct Exchequer support of one form or another for their fees. The new capital allowances incentive for nursing homes would have caused some of this increase in bed capacity but the Department of Health and Children does not have any information on this matter.

As regards the names of individuals who have availed of this tax relief, the Revenue Commissioners' obligation to observe confidentiality for taxpayers and small groups of taxpayers would preclude them from giving this information, if this were available to them.

Public Private Partnerships.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

291 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance if he has reviewed the effectiveness of public private partnerships throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19119/05]

The Government is committed to developing the PPP process as a viable procurement option for appropriate projects within the overall context of public investment in infrastructure and public services.

The role of my Department is to facilitate the PPP process, to develop the general policy framework within which PPPs operate and to provide central guidance to Departments and other State authorities in that context. As capital investment projects, PPP projects are subject to the requirements of the guidelines for the appraisal and management of capital expenditure proposals in the public sector. In addition, my Department prepares and issues PPP-specific guidelines for Departments and State authorities in regard to the assessment, approval, audit and procurement of such projects, taking into account the experience of projects to date and any further relevant information.

Within a particular sector, a decision on the suitability of any individual project for the PPP procurement approach is a matter for the relevant Minister or State authority in the first instance. The value for money achieved or effectiveness of such projects is also a matter for the accounting officer in the Department or office sponsoring the project. While the performance of individual PPP projects is a matter in the first instance for the relevant Minister or accounting officer as appropriate, lessons learned which are of general application are shared or incorporated into guidelines issued by my Department.

In September 2004 the Comptroller and Auditor General published his first value for money study of a PPP project — in this case the bundled schools project which was one of the early pilot projects. This is a helpful report which will assist the development of PPPs into the future. The development of PPP procurement is an evolving process which we will continue to keep under review.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

292 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance if he has given consideration to the effect on the economy of the release of funds from maturing SSIA accounts between 2006 and 2007; if he proposes to provide another savings vehicle for re-investment of SSIA savings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19120/05]

The SSIA scheme opened on 1 May 2001 and entry to it closed on 30 April 2002. The accounts are due to mature between May 2006 and April 2007. A total of 1.17 million accounts were opened during the period outlined.

The impact of maturing SSIA funds on the economy in 2006 and 2007 is subject to ongoing consideration within my Department. The impact on consumer demand is difficult to estimate and will depend on how the accumulated savings are spent or saved, how that portion of an individual's income that was previously saved in SSIAs is used, and the extent to which savings are rolled over into other investment products. The economic effect will also depend on the state of the economy in 2007, when the bulk of SSIA funds, or around 55%, mature. To date, a number of reports have been prepared regarding the impact of the SSIAs by, amongst others, Goodbody Stockbrokers, Lansdowne Market Research, the Irish Mortgage Corporation and the Bank of Ireland. However, there is no consensus in these reports as to how these funds may be used. It is inevitable that there will be a lot of uncertainty about the likely outcomes. As a scheme such as the SSIA has not existed previously, it is not possible to draw on experience as a basis for anticipating the impact the maturing accounts will have on the economy.

As regards a further scheme, the specific goal of the SSIA scheme was to encourage people to save over a period of at least five years. Its effect has been to stimulate such savings over varying income ranges which is evident in the extensive take-up by many low income earners. The scheme has been a success in those terms. The scheme has a specific duration. Any proposals for tax-based incentives for the re-investment of SSIA savings or continuation of savings would be considered as part of the normal annual budgetary process taking account of public policy objectives and Exchequer cost implications. The use to which the moneys arising on maturity of the SSIAs are put is ultimately a matter for the individual account holder.

Tax Code.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

293 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance if he proposes to introduce a carbon tax in the foreseeable future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19121/05]

The Government decided in September 2004 not to introduce a carbon energy tax. A great deal of work went into examining how a carbon energy tax could be implemented and its likely effects in environmental, economic and social terms. In this respect the Government decided that a carbon tax was not an appropriate policy option and that, instead, it would intensify action on the non-tax measures under the national climate change strategy, for the following reasons.

First, the Government concluded that the environmental benefits of such a tax would not justify the difficulties that would arise, particularly for households, from the introduction of such a tax. In this respect, the carbon energy tax would have imposed price increases on many products already suffering sharp increases, partly as a result of recent increases in international oil prices.

Second, in considering the introduction of such a tax my Department carried out an extensive consultation process in which 117 written submissions were received. Over half of those who expressed a view on the carbon tax were against it including a number of significant representative bodies. Even some of those who had no difficulty with a carbon tax in principle sought exemptions for various sectors and purposes.

Decentralisation Programme.

Pat Breen

Question:

294 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance the status of and progress made in the planned decentralisation of an office of the Revenue Commissioners and debt management work from the Collector General’s Office to Kilrush, County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19138/05]

In accordance with the Government's decentralisation programme the Revenue Commissioners will decentralise 50 posts to Kilrush. The decentralisation implementaion group, or DIG, which was established to drive forward the implementation of the programme requested all decentralising organisations to prepare and submit implementation plans.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they have, as requested, prepared and submitted an implementation plan to the DIG for Kilrush and that this plan is being progressed.

An analysis of first preference applications from the central applications facility indicates that there are 65 applicants for Kilrush.

Internal information seminars with regard to the transfer of work from the Collector General's Office to the new locations in the mid-west region, which includes Kilrush, have been completed. Letters of offer for transfer to Kilrush were issued to staff on 10th June 2005. In relation to property acquisition, I understand that negotiations regarding a suitable location are ongoing with the Office of Public Works.

Tax Code.

David Stanton

Question:

295 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance the incentives in place to support the provision of child care by employers and business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19182/05]

There are two tax incentives within the tax code to support the provision of child care by employers and business, an exemption from a benefit-in-kind charge where employers provide free or subsidised child care for their employees and capital allowances available for expenditure on child care facilities.

The benefit-in-kind exemption where employers provide free or subsidised child care for their employees applies whether the employer provides the facilities "in-house" or in a premises made available by the employer in another location. The exemption also applies if an employer provides child care facilities jointly with others, for example, with other employers. The exemption also covers situations where an employer makes a contribution to the capital costs of an independent supplier of child care facilities.

Capital allowances are available for expenditure incurred on or after 2 December 1998 on child care facilities which meet the required standards for such facilities as provided in the Child care Act, 1991. The allowances apply to expenditure incurred on the construction, extension and refurbishment of a building or part of a building used as a child care facility as well as to expenditure on the conversion of an existing building or part of a building for use as a child care facility. For expenditure incurred on or from 1 December 1999, 100% capital allowances are available in year one. There will be a clawback of the allowances, in the form of a balancing charge, if the building ceases to be used as a child care facility within ten years.

I would point out that this Government remains firmly committed to supporting working parents with their child care needs through increased capacity, choice and service quality. These aims are the hallmark of the Government's child care strategy. To this end considerable progress has already been achieved, in terms of increasing the supply of centre based child care places, through the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006.

The current equal opportunities childcare programme, a seven year programme, has both an equal opportunities and social inclusion focus and facilitates the further development and expansion of childcare facilities to address the needs of parents, in reconciling their family life with their participation in employment, education and training. It aims to increase the supply of centre based child care places by 55% by the end of the programme.

The programme provides funding for small scale self-employed providers and larger commercial providers as well as community and not-for-profit consortia of private and community groups towards the building, renovation, upgrading or equipping of child care facilities.

Since it was launched in 2000, the funding for the programme for the 2000-2006 period has increased from €317 million to €499.3 million or by 57%, the most recent increase being €50 million in budget 2005. The multi-annual capital envelopes announced on budget day also included the injection of a further €40 million in additional capital funding into child care between the end of the programme and 2009.

It is expected that the total funding committed under the programme to date will lead to the creation of 33,946 new child care places, and will support another 29,556 existing places. Of the new child care places being created, 24,636 places had been put in place by December 2004, an increase of 43% in the supply of child care places in four years. These new places offer parents greater access to child care throughout the country as they balance their work and family needs.

Ministerial Travel.

Bernard Allen

Question:

296 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Finance the most up to date information on his travels abroad for the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations; the persons who travelled with him in his official party; the duration of the visit; and the total cost. [19186/05]

I visited Savannah and Atlanta, in the United States, for the St. Patrick's Day celebrations and to attend at a number of other events promoting Ireland abroad. My wife, Mary, and my special adviser, Mr. Gerry Steadman, travelled with me in my official party. The visit covered the period 13 March to 20 March. While all invoices have not yet been received it is estimated that the cost of the visit, including the costs of flights, hotels, subsistence and car hire, will amount to approximately €33,000.

Freedom of Information.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

297 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance when Bord Gais will be covered under the Freedom of Information Act 1997. [19206/05]

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

Disabled Drivers.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

298 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance if an early assessment will be made by the disabled drivers medical board of appeal in respect of an appeal made by a person (details supplied) in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19211/05]

I have no direct responsibility for the day to day operation of the medical board of appeal for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme.

Queries on individual cases may be addressed to the secretary of the disabled drivers medical board of appeal, c/o National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin or alternatively by telephone at 01 2355279.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

299 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance if an early assessment will be made by the disabled drivers medical board of appeal in respect of an appeal made by a person (details supplied)in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19213/05]

I have no direct responsibility for the day to day operation of the medical board of appeal for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme.

Queries on individual cases may be addressed to the secretary of the disabled drivers medical board of appeal, c/o National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin or alternatively by telephone at 01 2355279.

Tax Code.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

300 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the cost to the State in terms of lost revenue of Section 23 tax relief in each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19278/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, until recently, claims for section 23 relief were aggregated in tax returns with other claims and were not separately identifiable. Details of tax relief claimed for investment in these schemes were not captured by the Office of the Revenue Commissioners in such a way as to provide a specific basis for compiling estimates of the total annual cost to the Exchequer. Claims for these reliefs were aggregated in tax returns with other claims, such as with industrial buildings allowances generally or with other capital allowances, and did not distinguish between the reliefs claimed in respect of the different schemes.

My Department has been working closely with the Revenue Commissioners to examine how information capture in this area could be improved and the Revenue Commissioners have recently introduced changes to the income tax returns forms which are intended to yield additional information on the take-up of a range of reliefs claimed by individuals. This would include information on claims in respect of section 23 reliefs. This information will begin to become available from late 2005. Corresponding changes have been made to the corporation tax return form which will produce similar information for accounting periods ending in 2005 and subsequent years.

State Property.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

301 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance if the OPW has acquired a site for the new Garda divisional headquarters in Wexford town; the location of the site and the amount paid; if the views of local public representatives were taken into account in deciding on the best site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19301/05]

The Commissioners of Public Works are considering the purchase of a new site for a divisional headquarters Garda station in Wexford town. As soon as the formal approval of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda authorities is received, the legal formalities will be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Debt Cancellation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

302 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the campaign for the sale of IMF gold to fund debt cancellation; if he supports this campaign; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19339/05]

I refer the Deputy to my replies to the House on a number of occasions between 8 March and 20 May 2005, on the subject of the use of IMF resources such as gold to fund debt relief in developing countries.

Adequate financing for debt relief is an essential precondition if such relief is to make a real difference in reducing poverty in many parts of the world. It is important to adequately finance the relief of debts owed to the International Monetary Fund so that the fund can continue to play a role in the poorest countries.

At the recent spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank there was preliminary discussion of key issues regarding proposals for further multi-lateral debt relief and its financing options. The meeting called for further discussion with shareholders and examination of the issues, including the possible use of IMF resources, by the time of annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank in the autumn. Financing the development agenda remains a significant challenge and substantial increases will be needed in order to progress to the targets of the millennium development goals.

I welcome the progress in relation to proposals for debt cancellation announced over the weekend following the G8 finance Ministers' meeting, in preparation for the G8 summit to be held in Gleneagles in July. It is understood that the G8 proposals to fund debt cancellation will be put to the annual meetings of the international financial institutions.

Tax Yield.

Phil Hogan

Question:

303 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance if he will provide aggregate data on the total amount of corporation tax received from the retail and wholesale grocery sector during each of the tax years from 2002 to 2004; if corporation tax is levied on companies that operate from an unlimited liability structure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19340/05]

Corporation tax is charged on the profits of companies, including unlimited companies.

As regards corporation tax receipts, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the latest relevant information available is the corporation tax liability in respect of accounting periods ending between 1 January 2002 and 31 December 2003. To the extent that the figures relating to the retail and wholesale grocery sector can be separately identified they are set out in the following table.

Corporation Tax Liability of Wholesale and Retail Sector.

Accounting periods ending 31st December

Corporation tax liability €m

2002

170

2003

164

The figures include the total tax liabilities of certain retail outlets which trade simultaneously in groceries and other types of goods at common locations. The grocery element of these cannot be separately identified on tax records. The above estimates must be regarded as very tentative.

Tax Code.

Paul McGrath

Question:

304 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons aged over 65 years who pay tax at 20% only and 42%. [19348/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that on the basis of income tax returns received for 2002, the latest year for which the relevant figures are available, it is estimated that some 24,200 income earners aged 65 years and over were liable to income tax at the 20% rate and a further 18,500 income earners aged 65 years were liable to tax at the 42% rate. In addition to these numbers, some 93,100 in the same age group were exempt from income tax altogether and a further 13,300 were liable to tax at the marginal relief rate of taxation which applies to incomes which are not greatly in excess of the age exemption limits.

It should be noted that in the case of social welfare pension income, the extent to which taxation actually arises in a given case depends on the amount of other income that the social welfare recipient, or the recipient's spouse, has in the particular tax year. If there is no other income in addition to the social welfare payment, the existing exemption limits or tax credits can be expected to ensure that there is no tax to be paid on the social welfare income itself. A married couple who has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

Paul McGrath

Question:

305 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the amount of income tax collected in the past tax year from old age pensioners. [19349/05]

Entitlement to the old age pension, whether contributory or non-contributory, arises from the age of 66 years. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that their income tax statistics do not generally distinguish between the amounts of tax that arise from pensions and from other sources. However, it is tentatively estimated that for 2002, the latest year for which information is available, the total tax liability on the combined pension and other income of income earners aged 65 years or over was of the order of €220 million.

In the case of social welfare pension income, the extent to which taxation actually arises in a given case depends on the amount of other income that the social welfare recipient, or the recipient's spouse, has in the particular tax year. If there is no other income in addition to the social welfare payment, the existing exemption limits or tax credits can be expected to ensure that there is no tax to be paid on the social welfare income itself.

Questions Nos. 306 and 307 answered with Question No. 289.

Flood Relief.

Pat Breen

Question:

308 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Finance the reason Ennis was not included in the flood relief measures announced in May 2005 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19386/05]

The Commissioners of Public Works have prepared a flood relief scheme for the town of Ennis and it is intended to bring this scheme to statutory public exhibition stage before the end of the year. In the light of observations received arising out of the exhibition process, the scheme will be further reviewed and amended, if necessary, and the sanction of the Minister for Finance to proceed to detailed design and tender stage will then be sought.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

309 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the amount of funding which is required to implement the recommendations of the coastal study on the Dodder; the amount of funding which is required to improve the defence between London Bridge Road and Newbridge Avenue on the east side of the river; and if his Department will release this funding to Dublin City Council. [19452/05]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

310 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the amount of funding which is being given to Dublin to improve its flood protection; and the criteria by which this is allocated. [19453/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 309 and 310 together.

Since the major flooding in 2002, the Office of Public Works, OPW, in co-operation with Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council and Meath County Council, has been implementing flood alleviation measures recommended in the River Tolka flooding study that was under way at the time. In carrying out those works in Dublin, the OPW and Dublin City Council have pursued a policy of completing work in areas where there was the highest risk of flooding. Those works have now mostly been completed.

The OPW has to date allocated funding of €1.6 million to Dublin City Council to construct flood barriers along a portion of the Dodder river, following the severe flooding event in Dublin in February 2002. The OPW has had preliminary discussions with city council officials regarding the need for further works on the Dodder. It is not possible at this stage to say what funding will be required for those works.

The Dublin coastal flooding protection study which was commissioned by Dublin City Council and part-funded by the OPW and the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources which has responsibility for coastal and tidal flooding examined the causes and impacts of flooding from Portmarnock to Booterstown. A draft report was received by the OPW some months ago, and preliminary discussions have taken place with Dublin City Council officials and officials from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. A further revised version of the draft report has been received from Dublin City Council in the past few weeks. The draft report is a very detailed document and is currently being examined, but that will take some time because of its size and complexity.

The flood defence proposals contained in the draft report are estimated to cost over €100 million. It is anticipated that the measures recommended will need to be carried out on an incremental basis over several years. Requests for funding from the OPW for measures where the risk of flooding arises from a combination of tidal and fluvial influences will have to be carefully considered and prioritised in the context of the OPW's annual budget for flood relief projects, the large number of flood alleviation projects currently being advanced by the OPW and the urgency attaching to the various measures recommended in the coastal study report.

Tony Gregory

Question:

311 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 267 of 10 June 2003, if a decision has yet been made by the OPW regarding the remaining sections of the river wall at the rear of houses on Tolka Road, Dublin 3, which have not been strengthened and at which protective railings need replacement. [19480/05]

The OPW is undertaking the Tolka flood relief works on behalf of Dublin City Council. All works requested by the city council regarding the protection of houses on Tolka Road arising out of the flooding of the River Tolka in November 2002 have now been completed by the Office of Public Works. I will bring the Deputy's question to the attention of city council officials.

Tax Collection.

Tony Gregory

Question:

312 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 will be allowed six months to pay an outstanding amount of stamp duty without penalty interest being charged. [19481/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they previously received representations on this matter when it was agreed to grant the taxpayer a period of 21 days from 25 April 2005 to pay the balance of stamp duty due without incurring penalties and interest.

The taxpayer completed the purchase of a house on 17 November 2004. The solicitors acting in the case were issued with an assessment for stamp duty due of €10,125 on 1 December 2004. The taxpayer's solicitors presented the sum of €9,450.50 as a payment on account on 2 December 2004 in this case. However, the balance due of €674.50 remains outstanding to this date.

Daily interest is charged at the rate of 0.0273% from 1 April 2005 and at the rate of 0.0322% prior to 31 March on any outstanding amount of stamp duty. The objective of the interest element is to compensate the Exchequer for the loss of the use of the funds from the tax that had not been paid on time. A further penalty arises of 10% of the outstanding duty where the delay in payment is between one and six months, 20% where the delay is between six and 12 months, and 30% where the delay is more than 12 months. Those further penalties are to encourage compliance to have deeds presented for assessment and stamping within the time required.

As stamp duty is a statutory charge on legal documents, there are no provisions for the reduction or waiver of the duty properly payable and already determined by letter of assessment issued on 1 December 2004. The legal instrument that gives rise to the charge for stamp duty cannot be used for registration purposes unless it is fully and properly stamped.

Pension Provisions.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

313 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance if he has approved an amendment to the superannuation scheme of University College Cork to permit an employee to extend their compulsory retirement age to 68.5 years; if so, the terms and conditions of this amendment; the implications for the compulsory retirement age of other staff at the same university, at other universities and in the public sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19483/05]

Under the Universities Act 1997, any amendment to the superannuation scheme of University College Cork requires the approval of the Higher Education Authority and the consent of the Minister for Education and Science and the Minister for Finance. In my capacity as Minister for Finance, I recently consented to an amendment to the superannuation scheme of University CollegeCork. The amendment provided that the present holder of the office of president of University College Cork shall hold office for a period of ten years from 26 January 1999. By making such provision, the amendment removed the requirement to retire at age 65 from the present holder of the office. The text of the amendment is contained in statute J of UCC. I understand that, as required under the provisions of the Universities Act 1997, the statute will be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas in due course, as a statutory instrument, by my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science.

The Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 removed the requirement to retire on age grounds from most public servants who were appointed on or after 1 April 2004. The compulsory retirement age for staff in the education sector who were appointed before that date is primarily a matter for the Minister for Education and Science.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

314 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons who are qualifying for the home carer’s credit; the aggregate cost of this credit; and the cost of increasing this credit by €500, €1,000 and €1,500 respectively. [19484/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the numbers of taxpayers availing of the home carer tax credit for the income tax year 2005 is estimated to be 108,000, at a full-year cost to the Exchequer of the order of €80 million. The full-year cost to the Exchequer of the increases of €500, €1,000 and €1,500 mentioned by the Deputy is estimated at approximately €45 million, €87 million and €125 million, respectively. Those figures are provisional and may be subject to revision.

The figure given for the cost of the home carer tax credit is a downward revision of a figure provided in reply to a previous related question given on 19 April last. The revision was necessitated by new information becoming available in the interim.

Richard Bruton

Question:

315 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the distribution of taxpayers between single, widowed, one-parent family, married, one-income and married two-income units. [19485/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated distribution of income earners for 2005 across the various categories mentioned by the Deputy is as shown in the following table.

Income Earners

Married, one spouse earning

Married, two spouses earning

Single with children

Single no children

Widowed with children

Widowed no children

Total

Liable to income tax

229,100

320,000

44,500

631,400

5,900

22,900

1,253,800

Exempt from tax

132,300

48,300

44,800

391,700

4,300

35,100

656,500

Total

361,400

368,300

89,300

1,023,100

10,200

58,000

1,910,300

Figures are rounded to the nearest 100. A married couple that has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

Those figures are provisional and are subject to revision.

Richard Bruton

Question:

316 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the cost of increasing the married one-income standard rate cut-off point from €38,400 to €58,800. [19486/05]

I assume that what the Deputy has in mind is a band structure where: the value of the married one-earner band would be €58,800; the value of the married two-earner band would also be €58,800, with no restriction on transferability between spouses; the value of the single band would be €29,400; and the value of the lone or widowed parent band would be €33,400. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the estimated cost of such a band structure would be about €640 million in a full year.

John Perry

Question:

317 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance his plans to include tax incentives with particular references to thatched premises in the tourism sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19510/05]

There are no proposals to introduce tax incentives with particular reference to thatched premises in the tourism sector. Funding is, however, available through a grants scheme operated by my colleague, Deputy Roche, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, whereby assistance is available in respect of the cost of preserving and restoring thatched roofing. I am satisfied that this grants scheme is the appropriate mechanism for encouraging the preservation and renovation of thatched roofing, rather than the introduction of a specific tax incentive scheme.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

318 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance the reason the VAT annual return of trading details continues to relate to the year commencing on 6 April in view of the general change in the tax year in order to relate to the calendar year; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the co-existence of different accounting years causes inconvenience to taxpayers; and when he will arrange for the realignment of the VAT annual return period with the calendar year commencing on 1 January. [19511/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the VAT annual return of trading details is not specifically related to the year commencing 6 April. In the case of a sole trader, the taxpayer decides on the 12-month period to be covered by the return, and the Revenue Commissioners issue the relevant form for completion accordingly. In the case of a company, the period for the return of trading details is aligned to the accounting period used by the company for corporation tax purposes.

Given the flexibility available to taxpayers as outlined, there is no need for realignment of the VAT annual returns period with the calendar year. However, if the Deputy is aware of a particular taxpayer who wishes to change his or her selected VAT return period, the necessary arrangements can be made by contacting the Collector General's Office, Sarsfield House, Limerick.

National Development Plan.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

319 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance the expenditure shortfall to date in the BMW region under the NDP; his plans to make up this shortfall in the remaining years of the national development plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19621/05]

The national development plan, NDP, provides an indicative expenditure profile for each of the seven operational programmes, for the Border, midlands and western, BMW, and southern and eastern regions for each year from 2000 to 2006. Those profiles were set in 2000 when the operational programmes were prepared. The levels of resources allocated annually are determined by public expenditure ceilings set by the Government, taking account of the wider budgetary considerations and the requirements of economic stability. European Structural Funds are profiled to ensure consistency with the EU budget commitments of such funds to each operational programme for each year of the NDP. However, expenditure under the EU-funded elements of the operational programmes continues until the end of 2008. To ensure consistency of reporting, progress on expenditure is reported against the original profile of expenditure.

The table below sets out the expenditure reported for the BMW region to the monitoring committee for each operational programme to the end of 2004 — the latest period for which completed reports are available. In the case of measures funded by the Structural Funds, expenditure has been profiled for each year from 2000 to 2006, even though spending on those will continue to the end of 2008 in the BMW region.

Operational Programme

BMW Profile 2000-2004

BMW Expenditure 2000-2004

Expenditure versus Profile

€m

€m

%

Economic and Social Infrastructure

4,775

4,291

90

Employment and Human Resources Development

3,102

2,921

94

Productive Sector

1,796

602

34

Border, Midlands and Western Region

2,880

1,761

61

PEACE II and Technical Assistance

144

66

49

Total

12,697

9,641

76

Includes all NDP sources of funding; Exchequer, EU and Private.

I have already acknowledged that expenditure in the BMW region is behind the indicative target set out in the plan. I expect expenditure to show an increase in the BMW region over the remaining years of the NDP.

The responsibility of my Department is to ensure that resources are made available to meet the Government's objectives and to secure full draw-down of Ireland's allocation of Structural Funds. It is my objective that, as major projects are completed, more funds will become available over the remainder of the NDP for investment in the BMW region in order that progress can be made on rectifying the existing imbalance. I am confident that sufficient expenditure will be incurred to draw down the structural funds allocation for the BMW region.

Tax Collection.

Jack Wall

Question:

320 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare received all of their tax allowances for each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19637/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that PAYE balancing statements for the years 2002, 2003 and 2004, granting all tax credits due to the taxpayer, will issue in the coming days.

Tax Yield.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

321 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the tax revenue raised by the financial services sector here for the Exchequer in each of the past five years. [19838/05]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that figures for the estimated corporation tax paid in the years 2000 to 2004, inclusive, by banks, their Irish subsidiaries, banking activities in the IFSC, insurance companies and building societies are shown in the following table.

Year

Estimated corporation tax yield from the financial services sector

€m

2000

965

2001

1,080

2002

1,280

2003

1,100

2004

1,300

The amounts do not include foreign tax paid by Irish financial institutions in respect of their overseas operations, which is likely to be significant. Specific annual contributions to the Exchequer of €103.2 million in 2003 and €102.8 million in 2004 were also made by certain deposit-taking institutions.

Other taxes remitted by the banking sector such as PAYE, DIRT on deposit interest and stamp duties on credit cards, ATM cards and cheques are not included in the figures given, since the tax liability is not on the banks themselves.

Decentralisation Programme.

Dan Neville

Question:

322 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding decentralisation of the Revenue Commissioners to Newcastle West, County Limerick. [19869/05]

In accordance with the Government's decentralisation programme, the Revenue Commissioners will decentralise 50 posts to Newcastle West. The decentralisation implementation group, DIG, which was established to drive forward the implementation of the programme requested all decentralising organisations to prepare and submit implementation plans. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they have, as requested, prepared and submitted an implementation plan to the DIG for Newcastle West and that this plan is being progressed.

An analysis of first preferences applications from the central application facility indicates that there are 81 applicants for Newcastle West.

Internal information seminars with regard to the transfer of work from the Collector General's Office to the new locations in the mid-west region which includes Newcastle West have been completed. Letters of offer for transfer to Newcastle West were issued to staff on 10 June 2005.

Further progress on decentralisation of Revenue staff to Newcastle West is dependent on the availability of accommodation. A site has been acquired, and the Office of Public Works is considering a design and build solution.

National Development Plan.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

323 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance if he proposes to introduce a new national development plan post-2006; the range and prioritisation of projects contained therein; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19978/05]

I will be putting proposals to Government shortly on the issue of a successor to the current national development plan, NDP, which will run until the end of 2006. As the Deputy is probably aware, previous NDPs have been a requirement of the European Commission to enable Ireland to draw down its allocation of Structural and Cohesion Funds. Unlike previous occasions, there is no requirement under the draft Structural Funds regulations for the period from 2007 to 2013 to prepare a national development plan.

An important new factor in this context is the introduction of the five-year rolling multi-annual capital envelopes in budget 2004. That is a major innovation and provides a medium-term financial framework for public capital investment. That gives Departments and implementing agencies relative financial certainty to plan capital programmes and projects in the medium term.

As regards project prioritisation, that is already generally delegated to Departments and agencies which must exercise that responsibility within the programme budget for the areas agreed by the Government and within the framework set out in my Department's guidelines for the appraisal and management of capital expenditure.

National Minimum Wage.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

324 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance the effect that the increase in the national minimum wage to €7.65 per hour will have on restoring persons on the minimum wage to the tax net; if he has plans to exempt such persons from the tax net in future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19979/05]

Since the Government introduced the minimum wage in April 2000, it has increased in value by almost 37%, taking account the latest increase on 1 May 2005. We now have one of the highest minimum wages in Europe. On an annualised basis, it stands at €15,515, based on a 39-hour week.

The present entry point to income tax is €14,250 per annum for a single person aged under 65. The Revenue Commissioners provisionally estimate that there will be roughly 37,000 income earners in an income range which would bring them into the tax net if their annual earnings reflected fully the increase in the national minimum wage. However, that group will of necessity include part-time workers earning more than the minimum hourly wage, and certain pensioners whose earnings are in the equivalent range. The 37,000 should therefore be seen as the upper band for any estimate of the number who may ultimately come into the tax net on a full year basis as a result of the minimum wage increase.

The Government is committed to having the minimum wage exempt from tax. However, we are also committed to sustaining economic growth and keeping the public finances in a healthy condition. The question of restoring the position which applied after budget 2005, where those earning the minimum wage were removed from the tax net, will be a matter for consideration in the context of the annual budgets in the next few years, consistent with the Government's overall economic and budgetary strategy.

Harbours and Piers.

Pat Breen

Question:

325 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will provide funding for a feasibility study as sought by Clare County Council regarding the future extension of Doonbeg Pier, County Clare, which will include site investigation and a full report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18958/05]

The position in relation to the provision of funding for Doonbeg Pier is as outlined in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 250, dated 26 April 2005.

Pat Breen

Question:

326 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will provide funding in conjunction with Clare County Council to upgrade and dredge silt from the slipway at Seafield, Quilty, County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18959/05]

Seafield Pier, Quilty is owned by Clare County Council, and responsibility for its repair and maintenance rests with the local authority in the first instance.

The Department has not, to date, received an application from Clare County Council to upgrade and dredge silt from the slipway at Seafield Pier, Quilty. The question of providing funding for the works in question will depend on the amount of Exchequer funding available for works at fishery harbours generally and overall national priorities.

Fisheries Protection.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

327 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of salmon and trout tags his Department purchased in red, green, white, blue and orange in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18985/05]

The management of the salmon and trout tagging scheme is the responsibility of the Central Fisheries Board and the regional fisheries boards. It has not been possible within the time available to gather the information sought by the Deputy from the boards. I have, however, asked the chief executive of the Central Fisheries Board to compile the information sought by the Deputy for the years in question and to forward it directly to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Offshore Exploration.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

328 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in relation to the development of the Corrib gas field; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19116/05]

The development of the Corrib gas field is progressing. While my Department has issued all consents for the project, the pipeline consent to construct was essentially permission in principle to proceed with the design process for the pipeline. That has now been done. At present my Department is considering an application for consent to install the on-shore pipeline, which was a condition attaching to the consent to construct a pipeline. I expect to be in a position to make a decision shortly with regard to that application.

Work is also under way on the development of the terminal, including the movement and relocation of peat to the Srahmore peat deposition site. First gas is expected early in 2007, and my specific consent is required for it.

Telecommunications Services.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

329 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his observations on the low uptake of broadband Internet access; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19117/05]

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

336 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the estimated cost of providing a guaranteed full broadband service to all towns in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19269/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 329 and 336 together.

The latest figures from EUROSTAT relate to 2004 and are now almost six months old. They show, however, that Ireland is placed 20th of 26 countries in respect of broadband connections for all enterprises. The figure in respect of large enterprises is 79%, placing Ireland in 16th place. EUROSTAT also reports that 92% of all Irish enterprises have access to the Internet, which is ninth in the table, while for large enterprises the figure for Internet access is 100%.

The level of Internet access for households is 40%, or 11th place in the table, and 3% have a broadband connection. The number of broadband customers in Ireland is increasing rapidly and now stands in the region of 160,000. For comparison, the January 2004 figure was 35,000. The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg.

The rate of broadband uptake is dependent on a combination of factors. Those include access by service providers to suitable infrastructure, as well as competition between broadband service providers and the market demand for broadband in the economy. The Government is acting on the broadband penetration figures in a number of areas. The regional broadband programme is addressing the infrastructural deficit, in co-operation with the local and regional authorities, by building high speed, open access metropolitan area networks, MANs, in 120 towns and cities nationwide, using the European Regional Development Fund and Government funding under the National Development Plan 2000-2006.

The MANs programme is being rolled out on a phased basis, and the 19 networks completed to date have come in on time and within budget. Work is currently under way on seven MANs, and construction of a further 82 will commence during the next 12 months. Full details of the regional broadband programme can be found on my Department's website, www.dcmnr.gov.ie.

For smaller towns and rural communities, my Department offers grant aid of up to 55% of set-up costs to enable local groups to become self-sufficient in broadband, using the most suitable technology for their area. Full details of the county and group broadband scheme are on www.gbs.gov.ie. Under the broadband for schools project, every one of the 4,200 primary and post-primary schools in the country will be provided with broadband by the end of this year.

According to ComReg, there are over 45 different broadband offerings across a variety of technologies, including digital subscriber lines, fibre, cable, leased lines and satellite technology. In essence, there are broadband technologies that can deliver broadband to any broadband consumer in Ireland. The Government's broadband target is to be within the top half of EU countries by the end of 2007. The MANs infrastructure is being put in place by the State and will remain State-owned, offering open access to the industry that will enable it vigorously to market broadband in all areas. I have set the industry a target of 500,000 broadband customers by the end of 2006. That means a market penetration of around 14% of the overall population which I feel is within reach when account is taken of all the technology options available.

Television Reception.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

330 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position with regard to his discussions with UK authorities regarding the broadcasting of Irish television channels in the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19118/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 89 of 5 February 2005.

Fishing Vessel Licences.

John Perry

Question:

331 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if, in the event of the sale of the Atlantic Dawn fishing trawler with the quota of 14,000 tonnage, it will revert back to the State; and, if not, will the State be compensated for it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19169/05]

In the event of the sale of a fishing boat entered on the fishing boat register, the former owner is required to apply to have the vessel removed from the register. Upon de-registration, the former owner retains the entitlement to the capacity of the vessel. The capacity of the vessel in question is subject to these provisions in the same way as any other fishing boat. However, it should be noted that particular conditions attach to the capacity of the vessel in question which would also attach to a replacement vessel, including a restriction on the number of days the vessel may operate in EU waters.

Ministerial Travel.

Bernard Allen

Question:

332 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the most up-to-date information on his travels abroad for the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations; the persons who travelled with him in his official party; the duration of the visit; and the total cost. [19187/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 396 on Tuesday, 12 April 2005. I can confirm that this is the definitive information.

Offshore Exploration.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

333 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason independent consultants hired by his Department to review the safety of the Corrib gas onshore pipeline are part-owned by the project’s major shareholder (details supplied); if he will defer any decision to grant consent to install and commission the Corrib gas pipeline in the interest of the health and safety of the Erris residents; if the only option available is an offshore oil terminal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19199/05]

I gave a commitment in the Dáil in March 2005 to undertake a review of the developer's quantified risk assessment, QRA, for the Corrib gas field upstream onshore pipeline. Tenders for the QRA were invited from four companies with requisite competencies. The company which was successful following this tendering process was British Pipeline Agency Limited, BPA.

Following media queries on 25 May 2005, my Department became aware that the company selected to undertake the QRA review is owned jointly by BP Oil UK Limited and Shell UK Oil Limited. Notwithstanding the fact that BP Oil UK and Shell UK Oil Limited own the company jointly, BPA remains of the view that there is no conflict of interest. While I accept that BPA has completed the review in a fully professional and objective manner, I remain conscious of the association of Shell UK Oil Limited with BPA by means of its 50% ownership of the company, and I regret that this situation ever arose. In the interest of ensuring confidence in the independence of the process of evaluation of the safety aspects of the pipeline as addressed by the QRA version F, and considering the public concerns and sensitivities on the issue, I instructed officials of my Department to initiate a further review of the QRA. I can confirm that my Department has engaged a consultant to carry out a further review of the QRA and that the consultant's report, when to hand, will be put into the public domain.

A decision on the developer's application for consent to install the onshore pipeline is at an advanced stage but is not yet finalised. I will make a decision when the report has been assessed.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

334 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of natural gas-related explosions which have taken place in the past ten years on a yearly basis. [19207/05]

I am advised by Bord Gáis Éireann which maintains such records that the number of such explosions in the last ten years is as follows.

Year

Number of explosions

1995

1

1996

2

1997

2

1998

1

1999

1

2000

3

2001

2

2002

2

2003

1

2004

0

Total

15

Consultancy Contracts.

Martin Ferris

Question:

335 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the amount a person (details supplied) was awarded for consultancy work conducted on behalf of his Department in relation to the Corrib project in 2002. [19246/05]

The amount paid in respect of this consultancy in 2002 was €32,879.84.

Question No. 336 answered with QuestionNo. 329.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

337 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if a target for energy consumption based on 20% renewable energy by 2010 is achievable; if additional Exchequer funding will be required to achieve such a target; if so, the amount of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19270/05]

Within the electricity market, a target has been established to increase the amount of electricity consumed from renewable energy sources to 13.2% by 2010. That is regarded as a challenging target to achieve. Currently we have 660 MW of renewable capacity connected to our system, and to reach the 2010 target we will have to more than double the present renewable capacity. The current industry build rate shows that the required level is achievable.

The question of what higher target can be set, and in what timeframe, is one that requires further analysis and technical input, largely but not exclusively regarding grid and associated economic issues.

Offshore Exploration.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

338 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on restoring the State’s 50% stake in all oil and gas finds; the likely cost of such a move; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19271/05]

The Deputy is referring to the conditions of State participation under the 1975 licensing terms. I believe that the restoration of the 1975 terms would not make a positive contribution to petroleum exploration and development in offshore Ireland. In the context of a commercial find it would impose a substantial up-front capital contribution, while the State's share of income from such an investment would be received piecemeal over a protracted timeframe, e.g. up to 20 years.

The 1992 terms and fiscal regime were introduced to address a situation of declining exploration in offshore Ireland, especially on the Atlantic margin. Water depths here are up to ten times greater than the North Sea and make the costs of both exploration and development significantly greater than those in the North Sea. The costs are also affected by the lack of infrastructure, e.g. pipelines, platforms, terminals, which are generated by commercial finds.

The 1992 licensing terms and the fiscal regime for petroleum were introduced to address and achieve the risk-reward balance which reflects Ireland's circumstances and acknowledges the realities of competition for internationally mobile exploration and production investment. The terms and fiscal regime have been supported and implemented by every Government since their introduction.

It is difficult to offer accurate costs without disclosing confidential information. It is estimated that if the State were to acquire 50% participation in the combined estimated costs of appraisal and development for both the Seven Heads and the Corrib gas fields, the cost to the State would be of the order of several hundred million euro.

Fishing Vessel Licences.

Michael Ring

Question:

339 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 244 and 245 of 31 May 2005, the location at which the capacity assignment form referred to in the Parliamentary Question can be obtained. [19277/05]

A capacity assignment form is available from the licensing authority for sea-fishing boats, Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Leeson Lane, Dublin 2.

Fisheries Protection.

John Perry

Question:

340 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the Lough Foyle oyster beds are protected under the Irish fisheries legislation. [19299/05]

Under Irish legislation, measures are in place which control the movement of oysters and other shellfish from bays around the coast, including Lough Foyle, in line with the requirements of EU fish health regulations.

The Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources is engaged in detailed discussions with the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture and Rural Development regarding a Bill which will confer additional powers on the loughs agency of the Foyle and Carlingford Irish Lights Commission, as envisaged in the British-Irish Agreement Act 1999.

Fishing Vessel Licences.

Martin Ferris

Question:

341 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will make a statement clarifying the situation regarding the presence on board fishing vessels of a logbook for vessels between ten and 17 metres in length who are out from port for less than one day (details supplied). [19337/05]

All fishing vessels greater than 10 m are required to keep a European Communities fishing logbook on board the vessel.

Commission Regulation 2807 of 1983 did grant an exemption to those fishing vessels of between 10 m and 17 m that make fishing voyages of a maximum duration of 24 hours. However, that exemption was rescinded by Article 1 of Commission Regulation 1965 of 2001.

European legislation now requires that all fishing vessels greater than 10 m keep on board and complete a European Communities fishing logbook, that the master of such fishing vessels record the quantities of all species of fish retained on board in amounts greater than 50 kg and that the logbook be completed not later than midnight or at the time of arrival in port. In the event of any inspection taking place at sea, the logbook must also be completed at the time of inspection.

Natural Gas Grid.

Michael Ring

Question:

342 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the extremely dangerous 345 bar Rossport pipeline of a company (details supplied) runs alongside the public road over significant portions of its length despite there being no precedent worldwide for such a pipeline passing through inhabited areas. [19355/05]

Michael Ring

Question:

343 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that, with respect to version F of the risk assessment concerning the Rossport section of pipeline, it relates specifically and only to onshore, that is, refined, depressurised gas pipelines and is therefore entirely inadequate and inappropriate to gas-field pipelines operating at extremely high pressures and containing obstructive slugs such as are proposed at Rossport, that the HAZID hazard identification model employed was developed specifically for onshore pipelines and is therefore entirely inadequate and inappropriate for that which is proposed at Rossport and that the two risks which give rise to the gravest fears, that is, explosion of the pipeline and failure of the umbilical, have entirely and specifically been excluded from analysis in the risk assessment. [19356/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 342 and 343 together.

The quantified risk assessment, QRA, version F, which was carried out on the onshore Corrib gas pipeline that will be carrying unprocessed gas to the terminal, does take into account the pressure and nature of fluids that the pipeline will carry. That QRA addresses the onshore pipeline for the Corrib gas project. That QRA was not prepared for an onshore refined gas pipeline.

To clarify the position regarding pipeline pressures, the normal operating pressure at the start of production will be 120 bar, and the absolute maximum operating pressure will be 150 bar. The design pressure is 345 bar, as this is the initial reservoir pressure, and if production is shut in at the terminal and the sub-sea and subsurface valves in the field fail to close properly, the pipeline pressure could eventually rise to that figure, although it would probably take some time for that to happen.

The capacity of 345 bar was allowed for the purpose of providing the best emergency responses in the unlikely event of emergencies arising with the transportation of gas from the field to the terminal.

Michael Ring

Question:

344 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if, in view of his consent for the Rossport section of pipeline being founded on the original risk assessment and Johnston report, both of which are now defunct, he will acknowledge that said consent is consequently invalid and that the compulsory acquisition orders relevant thereto are null and void. [19357/05]

Mr. Johnston's report on the pipeline design and the quantified risk assessment, QRA, based on that design are not defunct, and therefore any consents given by my predecessors for the pipeline and the compulsory acquisition of rights over land remain valid.

The QRA, version F, was submitted in support of the developer's application for consent to install and commission the onshore pipeline. That QRA is the updated version of the original series of QRAs prepared for the onshore pipeline. It does not depart in any relevant or material manner from the original version.

Question No. 345 resubmitted.

Harbours and Piers.

Michael Ring

Question:

346 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when funding will be provided for Lecanvey Pier in County Mayo. [19431/05]

Lecanvey Pier is owned by Mayo County Council, and responsibility for its repair and maintenance rests with the local authority in the first instance.

The Department co-funded with Mayo County Council and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs a report entitled, An Assessment of Piers, Harbours and Landing Places in County Mayo. Lecanvey Pier is identified in that report as a marine leisure facility and is rated as category 2, a medium-term priority, where development and repairs should be considered as resources become available.

The funding available to the Department under the port infrastructure improvement programme of the National Development Plan 2000-2006 is directed at projects that improve infrastructure and facilities at key strategic fishery harbours and the construction and improvement of berthage and related facilities at smaller harbours and landing places, with a key role in maintaining jobs in fishing, aquaculture and ancillary activities. The proposed works at Lecanvey Pier do not come within the scope of that programme. There is no other funding available in the Department for marine leisure projects.

Tax Code.

Paul McGrath

Question:

347 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of applications he has received in response to his advertisement for expressions of interest for excise duty exemption for rapeseed oil and other such products in the context of his plans to reduce excise duty on same; the number of such applications from persons, registered companies and established oil suppliers; the criteria to be used in assessing those applications; the projected time scale for a final decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19435/05]

The bio-fuels mineral oil tax, MOT, relief scheme was publicly advertised as a competitive "call for proposals" on 20 April 2005, and the closing date for receipt of applications was 13 May 2005. Under the scheme, mineral oil tax relief may be granted for pilot projects producing up to 6 million litres of pure plant oil, 1 million litres of bio-diesel and 1 million litres of bio-ethanol.

A total of 34 applications were received under the call for proposals by the closing date. Applications were received from four individuals, 27 registered companies and several established oil suppliers operating on their own or as part of a consortium. My Department and Sustainable Energy Ireland are currently evaluating the proposals. Details of the evaluation criteria were outlined in the application form, and supporting documentation provided for prospective applicants. Those are: the technical excellence and quality of the proposal; the appropriate level of project management in methodology and utilisation of resources and appropriate skills of the project team; the extent to which the proposal achieves the least-cost path for carbon dioxide equivalent emissions reduction; the approach to the dissemination of results; the market impact potential of the proposal, including its capacity to address market barriers and its capacity for replication; the approach to addressing complete supply-chain issues, including feedstock and market introduction of bio-fuels; the approach to the achievement, monitoring and maintenance of quality standards; the approach to the evaluation of market impact with respect to performance of bio-fuels; and the contribution of international competence in the field.

It is anticipated that my Department will be in a position to make recommendations to the Department of Finance by the end of June. The Department of Finance will then consider those recommendations and revert to my Department with a decision, at which stage my Department will be in a position to revert to all applicants.

Harbours and Piers.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

348 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position in relation to an application to upgrade a crane at a pier (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19436/05]

Portaleen Pier in Glengad is owned by Donegal County Council, and responsibility for its repair and maintenance rests with the local authority in the first instance.

Donegal County Council recently submitted an application to upgrade the existing crane at Portaleen Pier in Glengad at an estimated total cost of €33,000. The question of providing funding for the works in question will depend on the amount of Exchequer funding available for works at fishery harbours generally and overall national priorities.

Foreshore Licences.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

349 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of times a restaurant (details supplied) in County Donegal was refused a foreshore licence or asked for additional information; the length of time such applications go back; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19502/05]

An application was made in October 1998 to purchase or lease an area of foreshore at Rathmullen to provide extra car parking spaces for a proposed restaurant extension. Consideration of the application was deferred until the application for planning permission for the proposed development had been determined, as it is more appropriate that the necessary consent under the planning process be obtained before the foreshore application is dealt with.

The applicant reapplied in December 2001 for a lease for the purpose of constructing a car park, a wastewater treatment system, and a sea wall with rock armour. Processing of that application was deferred, as further information had to be requested from the applicant's adviser.

The applicant subsequently reduced the area that he was applying for, and that necessitated another new application. That application was received in January 2004. While examining the application, the Department's engineering division expressed some concerns about the effluent treatment aspect of the proposal and requested additional information on that matter. The applicant and his advisers subsequently met the Department's engineers. At the meeting, the applicant agreed to change from the originally proposed percolation treatment to a connection to the Rathmullen sewerage scheme. Donegal County Council agreed to that change.

In light of that modification of the proposal, and having considered all other relevant aspects of the project, including its possible amenity implications, the Department recommended to me that a foreshore lease should be granted. I accepted that recommendation, and the applicants have been notified accordingly.

Marine Safety.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

350 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has been informed of a decision of the board of the Port of Waterford Company to privatise the pilot boat service for the port; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19512/05]

The Port of Waterford Company informs the Department that it has made no decision regarding the future of the pilot boat service.

ESB Conservation Measures.

John Perry

Question:

351 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the ESB conservation division is involved directly or indirectly in the commercial extraction of eels from its weirs on the Shannon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19562/05]

John Perry

Question:

352 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the ESB conservation division is involved directly or through third parties in the commercial extraction of eels from its weirs on the Shannon; the financial arrangements of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19563/05]

John Perry

Question:

353 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the mechanisms in place in order that glass eels entering the estuary will safely reach the upper reaches of the Shannon system; if he proposes to introduce a restocking programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19564/05]

John Perry

Question:

354 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his Department’s plans to carry out an investigation into the activities of a company (details supplied); if so, if he intends to publish the findings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19565/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 351 to 354, inclusive, together.

I am advised that the ESB commissions a brown eel monitoring programme on the Shannon under the scientific direction of NUI Galway. The purpose of that programme is to ensure that eel stocks are monitored and conserved in accordance with best practice. The ESB has no commercial interest in the disposal of any eels caught as part of the brown eel programme.

A contractor is employed to remove the eels at Killaloe, where the ESB operates eel weirs, to protect them from potential damage from the turbines at Ardnacrusha. A large proportion of the eels removed are reintroduced to the river beyond the turbines to ensure adequate escapement for spawning.

The extraction of eels at Killaloe is carried out by contract under normal ESB tendering arrangements. Juvenile eels reaching the dam at Ardnacrusha are called elvers. It is the responsibility of the ESB to ensure that juvenile eels can access the Shannon catchment above the hydroelectric power station at Ardnacrusha.

The ESB has undertaken several programmes to facilitate the capture and distribution of glass, or juvenile, eels. In recent years, licences have been issued only to the Shannon Regional Fisheries Board in partnership with the ESB to capture juvenile eels. The ESB, in partnership with the Shannon Regional Fisheries Board, has sought in recent years to trap glass eels and elvers, by a variety of experimental means, in the Shannon Estuary and transport them upstream to assist in the restocking of the upper Shannon. The ESB also has a trap at the hydroelectric power station at Ardnacrusha at which it traps elvers.

Glass eels and elvers returning to the Shannon have been in decline in recent years, as is the case throughout Europe, and therefore numbers of juvenile eels caught are down. The Shannon Regional Fisheries Board and the ESB will review their juvenile eels programme in advance of the 2005-06 season.

I am not aware of any reason the Department should investigate the activities of the company referred to by the Deputy, which ceased trading in 1996.

Wild Salmon Stocks.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

355 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will publish all the scientific information he has in regard to the state of the north Atlantic wild salmon stocks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19605/05]

The latest scientific advice that I have received on Irish wild salmon stocks is that provided by the standing scientific committee to the National Salmon Commission in November 2004, which I understand was widely disseminated at that time.

This advice and a full description of how it is formulated is reproduced in the Irish wild salmon fishery fact sheet which is available on the Department's website www.dcmnr.ie. While it has not been the practice for the National Salmon Commission to formally publish this information in the past, it is my intention to request the incoming commission to ensure that the standing scientific committee’s report is published from this year onwards.

Harbours and Piers.

Michael Ring

Question:

356 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the amount of funding his Department provided for the publication of a report (details supplied). [19616/05]

The Department provided funding of €33,000 for Mayo County Council in 2002 towards the cost of the report entitled, An Assessment of Piers, Harbours and Landing Places in County Mayo.

Land Reclamation.

Richard Bruton

Question:

357 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has commissioned a preliminary environmental impact statement on the Dublin Port application to reclaim land from Dublin Bay; if this has been released to Dublin Port; if it has been released under the Freedom of Information Act 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19640/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

359 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if Dublin Port has sought a lease of any part of the foreshore from the State; if the granting of such a lease would alter the basis on which permission is granted for reclamation or development of the foreshore; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19643/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 357 and 359 together.

Several leases and licences have been granted over the years to Dublin Port Company under the Foreshore Acts. However, the application by the company for consent to the proposed reclamation of an area in Dublin Bay was made in accordance with sections 10 and 13, as amended, of the Foreshore Act 1933, on the basis that the company claims ownership of the area concerned.

Issues arose concerning the company's title to the area in question and these are being actively pursued by the State's legal services and the company's legal advisers. The outcome of this process will determine the basis for the further consideration of the company's application.

An environmental impact statement was submitted with the company's application and has undergone an initial evaluation by consultants engaged by the Department. The results of this initial evaluation were communicated to the company but have not been released under the Freedom of Information Act 1997. I am advised that the deciding officer who dealt with the request under that Act for access to the document concerned determined that its release would be premature pending the making of a decision as to the suitability or otherwise of the environmental impact statement submitted by the company.

Port Development.

Richard Bruton

Question:

358 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the existing capacity of ports on the east coast; the projected capacity needs of these ports to 2014; the key projects to add to capacity within that timeframe which have been communicated to him by the respective ports and the amount of additional capacity proposed in each case; and the terms of reference for the proposed consultancy on criteria for project evaluation and prioritisation. [19642/05]

In 1998, 2000 and again in 2004 the Department commissioned consultants to prepare an inventory of current and projected future capacity of Ireland's commercial ports. The most recent study which takes into account economic growth projections and looks at capacity up to 2014 found that while there were likely to be surpluses of capacity at certain ports, there were also going to be significant shortfalls at some of the major ports, particularly in relation to unitised trade.

Looking to 2014, the study found that projected traffic will increase by approximately 16 million tonnes, some 35% over tonnage handled in 2003, and that there will be a shortfall in capacity of approximately 12 million tonnes overall, of which some 4.4 million tonnes will be in unitised trade, unless action is taken. In the east coast ports of Greenore, Dundalk, Drogheda, Dublin, Dún Laoghaire, Wicklow and Rosslare the capacity in 2003 was estimated to be 36.3 million tonnes overall and the additional capacity requirement for these ports to 2014 was estimated to be 5.3 million tonnes, of which 3.6 million tonnes was estimated to relate to unitised trade. The Department recognises that these studies are not necessarily an exact science, and their implications will need to be checked against actual experience at individual ports.

When launching the ports policy statement, I indicated that the Department would consult the commercial ports concerned to determine their view of port capacity and how they intended to deal with the projected capacity requirement. As an initial step, the Department has sought information from the commercial ports which handle unit load cargo on key projects identified by them as essential to deal with anticipated capacity deficiencies to 2014 and beyond, and whether the ports see these being funded from their own resources or in partnership with the private sector.

Information on project proposals have been received in respect of four of the ports referred to, namely, Greenore, Drogheda, Dublin and Rosslare. The initial information received from the ports concerned to date does not allow for a definitive response to the Deputy's question about timeframes and additional capacity proposed. However, the indicative figures for additional capacity proposed for unitised trade are 5.7 million tonnes at Dublin, 4 million tonnes at the proposed new port facility at Bremore and 3 million tonnes at Greenore. In addition, the Department of Transport informs the Department that Rosslare Europort is to commission a scoping study that will identify the measures required to address the depth constraints at Rosslare Harbour.

As indicated in the ports policy statement, it is intended to prioritise a range of projects catering for unitised traffic at our commercial ports from an overall economic national and regional perspective, as opposed to the perceived requirements of individual ports. To that end, the Department will procure expert and independent assistance from consultants to refine the criteria for project evaluation, to draw up a uniform template for submission of detailed project proposals and to evaluate and rank the projects submitted as a basis for the Department's recommendation to Government. The terms of reference for the proposed consultancy are being prepared by the Department.

Question No. 359 answered with QuestionNo. 357.

Richard Bruton

Question:

360 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will explain his statement of 25 November 2004 that the development of port facilities on the east coast which remove pressure to expand Dublin Port will have no bearing on Dublin Port’s application to reclaim land in pursuit of its port expansion ambitions. [19644/05]

The Government's ports policy statement which I launched in January 2005 addressed, among other things, the issue of future seaport capacity requirements. When launching the ports policy statement, I indicated that one of the key challenges ahead was the timely provision of adequate in-time port capacity.

As an initial step, the Department has sought information from the commercial ports which handle unit load cargo, including Dublin Port, on key projects identified by them as essential to deal with anticipated capacity deficiencies to 2014. As indicated in the ports policy statement, it is intended to prioritise a range of projects catering for unitised traffic at our commercial ports from an overall economic national and regional perspective, as opposed to the perceived requirements of individual ports. To that end, the Department will procure expert and independent assistance from consultants to refine the criteria for project evaluation, to draw up a uniform template for submission of detailed project proposals and to evaluate and rank the projects submitted as a basis for the Department's recommendation to Government.

Dublin Port Company applied in March 2002 for ministerial consent for the reclamation of 21 hectares of foreshore in Dublin Bay. The assessment of this application under the foreshore legislation is independent of the process outlined above for the evaluation and ranking of port capacity projects.

Coastal Erosion.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

361 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he has allocated or intends to allocate funding to halt the coastal erosion and remediate the old landfill site north of Bray Harbour that straddles the administrative boundaries of Wicklow and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Councils; the works already undertaken to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19826/05]

Responsibility for coastal protection rests with the property owner, whether it be a local authority or a private individual. In July 2002 the Department requested all coastal local authorities to submit proposals, in order of priority, for consideration in the context of the 2003-06 national coast protection programmes. The Department did not receive a proposal for coastal protection works to the old landfill site north of Bray Harbour from Wicklow County Council or Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. The question of funding the works in question will depend on the amount of Exchequer funding available for coastal protection works in the future and overall national priorities. The Department is not aware of any coastal protection works carried out at this location in the past.

Questions Nos. 362 to 369, inclusive, resubmitted.

Common Fisheries Policy.

John Perry

Question:

370 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason the statistics regarding the level of penalties imposed for fishery offences here were not included in a report (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19904/05]

The statistics to which the Deputy refers were required to be included in the report to the European Commission by reference to individual instances of the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy having been seriously infringed. Ireland's data could not be broken down into that level of detail. The data available to the Department did not give a breakdown of the penalty imposed by the court for individual infringements in a case where a vessel was convicted for more than one infringement. The Department has been in consultation with the Attorney General's office to arrange for more detailed records to be kept in order that Ireland can contribute more fully to future reports.

John Perry

Question:

371 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason the burden of penalties here (details supplied) is so high, thus placing Irish fishermen at a considerable disadvantage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19905/05]

The Commission has drawn up a report on behaviours which seriously infringed the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy in 2003. The statistics were required to be included in the report to the European Commission by reference to individual instances of the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy having been seriouslyinfringed. Ireland's data could not be broken down into that level of detail. The data available to the Department did not give a breakdown of the penalty imposed by the court for individual infringements in a case where a vessel was convicted for more than one infringement.

The average fine imposed in 2003 in Ireland in respect of infringement of the Common Fisheries Policy was €4,871 per individual prosecution — some of which involve several infringements — in respect of 25 successful prosecutions. The EU report on serious infringements for 2003 shows that the average fine varied from member state to member state and involved a wide range of penalties, in the United Kingdom the average fine was €77,922. In addition, a system of confiscation of gear and catch applies in some member states. In Ireland, on conviction on indictment, the catch and gear on board a vessel is automatically forfeited.

The procedures for fisheries offences are provided for in legislation. Under the Fisheries Consolidation Act 1959, as amended, penalties for fisheries offences are financial and imprisonment does not arise. Under EC regulations a person who commits a breach of the European law must be deprived of any financial benefit of his actions and in addition the penalty imposed must be both a deterrent and dissuasive. The fines imposed under the Fisheries Acts 1959, as amended, were determined by the legislature as appropriate.

Fisheries Offences.

John Perry

Question:

372 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if procedures for dealing with infringements (details supplied) will be simplified and streamlined to be more speedy and effective and more cost effective for the taxpayer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19906/05]

The procedures for fisheries offences are provided for in legislation. Under the Fisheries Consolidation Act 1959, as amended, penalties for fisheries offences are financial and imprisonment does not arise. Under EC regulations a person who commits a breach of the European law must be deprived of any financial benefit of his actions and in addition the penalty imposed must be both a deterrent and dissuasive. Given the considerable value of fish which can be landed from one trip, the potential level of financial penalties for those breaking the law can be substantial and such persons must be accorded the full protection available in law should they wish to contest the case. Delay in disposing of a case is often at the instigation of the accused while mounting a defence or considering how to deal with the case.

It is not correct to say that considerable amounts of personal bail are required to keep a fisherman out of jail. The master of the fishing vessel is usually the party charged with the offence and he is required to enter a personal bond to ensure his appearance at the trial but such personal bail is usually fixed at a modest amount. The legislation provides that in addition to any personal bond the fishing vessel itself may be detained until the trial but the owner — who may not be the accused but is frequently a limited company — can post a bond in an amount fixed by the court in order to have the vessel released. The Act provides that the bond can take into account the value of the forfeitures and fines and the costs in the event of a conviction.

Pelagic Fisheries.

John Perry

Question:

373 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the status regarding landing times at pelagic ports here; if he has resolved the industrial relations issues which seem to be at the heart of this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19907/05]

As I have previously advised the House, new EU control requirements for pelagic fisheries were introduced in 2004. The requirements created onerous obligations for member states to ensure all landings of pelagic fish over ten tonnes were weighed in the presence of controllers. During extensive discussions with the industry on the implementation of the new EU procedures my Department acceded to industry requests to allow landings at a variety of ports. In order to implement this decision with the available resources it was necessary to restrict the landing times in the designated pelagic ports. The new controls were extended to the south and east coast with the inclusion of the Celtic Sea and Irish Sea herring fisheries from 2005 onwards.

While I accept it is desirable to provide 24-hour cover for major ports, where possible this must be balanced by the legal obligations which the State carries to ensure adequate control presence at those ports when they are open. In this respect, I recognise the need to augment the Department's resources to permit effective control for longer opening times at the key ports.

My Department is pursuing a case for the necessary additional resources, which is the primary obstacle to longer opening times at the key ports. I hope to announce the opening of the ports on a 24-hour basis as soon as the outstanding difficulties are resolved.

John Perry

Question:

374 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if, in view of the safety and quality issues involved, small vessels targeting mackerel and herring off the Mayo coast this coming winter will be permitted to land their catches in Achill as was traditionally the case, rather than having to steam to either Killybegs or Rossaveal as is the case under present regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19908/05]

The EU arrangements for the control of certain pelagic fisheries — horse mackerel, mackerel and north west herring fisheries — which came into effect during 2004 and were revised and extended for 2005 provide for, inter alia, the weighing in the presence of a controller of all quantities in excess of ten tonnes landed of any of these species. During the course of 2004, extensive consultations took place with industry representatives about the implementation of the EU regulation. The five designated ports, Killybegs, Rathmullen, Dingle, Rossaveal and Castletownbere, were chosen on the basis of landing patterns for the species concerned and the resources available to comply with the requirements of the regulation.

The scope of the 2005 Council regulation is wider than that of the 2004 regulation. The 2005 EU regulation requires monitoring of landings of Celtic Sea herring in addition to the other pelagic fisheries subject to these controls in 2004. In this context the provision of the resources needed to meet our obligations under this regulation is even more challenging.

My Department is pursuing a case for additional control resources and in the context of the outcome of that case I am prepared to look again at the ports to be designated for pelagic landings.

Fishing Vessels Decommissioning.

John Perry

Question:

375 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will provide a realistic package for the decommissioning of whitefish vessels (details supplied) with a budget of up to the €30 million required to make a significant impact; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19909/05]

Taking all matters into account including the funding available to me, my priority is to address the current imbalance between fishing capacity and fishing opportunities in key fisheries subject to restrictive quotas such as monkfish, hake and cod. Accordingly, I announced, on 27 April 2005, a new grant aid scheme to remove excess capacity from the whitefish sector of the fleet. The funding of €8.8 million available will deliver significant results in terms of removing capacity which is targeting these stocks.

British Government Honours List.

Finian McGrath

Question:

376 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the procedures regarding Irish citizens accepting knighthoods or OBEs from the British Government; and if there are any restraints on these outside awards. [18944/05]

Article 40.2.2° of the Constitution states that "No title of nobility or of honour may be accepted by any citizen except with the prior approval of the Government". The interpretation by the Office of the Attorney General of this article has been that a title is an award that entitles the recipient to use a prefix such as "Sir" or "Lord" before his or her name. An award which provides for the use of letters or marks of distinction after the name such as OBE or MBE is not regarded as a title of nobility or of honour in this context.

It is the normal protocol for a foreign Government which wishes to make an award to an Irish citizen to inform the Government and any such requests are considered on a case by case basis to see if they are subject to Article 40.2.2° of the Constitution. Most of these requests are of a routine nature and in the absence of any constitutional or legal requirement are dealt with at official level.

International Conventions.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

377 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government, through permitting the use of Shannon Airport for the refuelling and servicing of two aeroplanes used for the extraordinary renditions programme of the US intelligence services, which may have had on board prisoners being delivered for interrogation which involved the use of torture, has lent itself to a breach of the international convention outlawing torture; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19394/05]

I refer the Deputy to replies to parliamentary questions on 2 February, 22 March, 27 April and 28 April 2005.

The Government has on several occasions made clear to the US authorities that it would be illegal to transit prisoners for rendition purposes through Irish territory without the express permission of the Irish authorities, acting in accordance with Irish and international law. The US authorities have confirmed that they have not done so and would not do so without seeking the permission of the Irish authorities. No request for such an authorisation has been received from the US authorities.

European Constitution.

Jack Wall

Question:

378 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding France’s “No” vote in relation to the future of the EU; if there are any contingency plans made; if he was expecting such a decision; if France will follow Ireland’s lead and have a second vote in view of the fact that the result is awkward; if the European support for the EU is worsening; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18983/05]

The Government has expressed its regret at the outcomes of the referendums in France and The Netherlands. Despite the fact that "No" votes had been predicted by most opinion polls, they were nevertheless disappointing.

It has been apparent for some time that there is a degree of disconnection between the European Union and citizens in many member states. Clearly, this poses serious questions which have not yet been adequately addressed. However, the significant contribution of the Union to peace, prosperity and stability must not be downplayed. I am confident that most Irish people appreciate its fundamental importance to our national development.

The Government has made clear that it remains committed to the European constitution and continues to make the necessary preparations for its ratification. The situation, however, is difficult and complex and requires collective discussion among all member states. The European Council is to hold such a discussion at its meeting later this week. This will inform the future approach to this matter in Ireland and elsewhere in the Union.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

379 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the basis for his comments in March 2005 that discrimination against Northern Nationalists had disappeared; the evidentiary basis for his comments; the person or persons from whom he took advice which led him to express this view; if his attention has been drawn to the British labour force survey statistics for 2003-04 which indicate that the opposite is true, that there has been no significant improvement in the unemployment differential in 30 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19017/05]

The protection of human rights and the promotion of equality is at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement. This was collectively affirmed by the parties in the commitment within the Agreement to "the mutual respect, the civil rights and the religious liberties of everyone in the community". This included, in particular "the right to equal opportunity in all social and economic activity, regardless of class, creed, disability, gender or ethnicity."

In the media interview to which the Deputy refers, the exact comment that I made was:

matters have changed dramatically in the North in such a way, the difficulties in certain areas of the North are more to do with the socio-economic difficulties, the type of discrimination that took place in previous decades, all of that has disappeared.

This comment accurately reflects the fact that discrimination on the basis of religion, political belief, and a number of other key grounds, is now comprehensively outlawed in much legislation in effect in Northern Ireland. This includes the Fair Employment and Treatment Order 1998; the Race Relations Order 1997 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. European directives, legislation and other international obligations also offer protection against discrimination.

Moreover, Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 places a duty on public authorities to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity, including "between persons of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group, age, marital status or sexual orientation", in carrying out their functions. Those who experience illegal discrimination now have a range of avenues open to them in order to seek redress. The Government keeps such cases under review and raises them and other equality issues, as appropriate, through the framework of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

The Good Friday Agreement contained a clear commitment to a range of measures aimed at combating unemployment and progressively eliminating the differential in unemployment rates between the two communities by targeting objective need. Encouraging progress was made by the devolved administration to eliminate this differential, including through the task force on employability and long-term unemployment and the procurement review. The commitment to the progressive elimination of the differential was reaffirmed in the joint declaration, published by the Irish and British Governments in May 2003. Recent meetings of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference have reviewed progress on the implementation of this commitment, and the issue will again be discussed at the next meeting of the conference which is due to take place towards the end of this month.

Foreign Conflicts.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

380 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement regarding the extent to which Ireland will participate in the European Union integrated rule of law mission for Iraq. [19127/05]

The EU integrated rule of law mission for Iraq — EUJUST LEX — was established by a Council joint action in March 2005 and aims to address the urgent requirements in the Iraqi criminal justice system through providing training for high and mid-level officials in senior management and criminal investigation. The aim of the training is to improve the capacity, co-ordination and collaboration of the different components of the Iraqi criminal justice system, including the Iraqi police. A planning and co-ordination team for the mission, based in Brussels, has been established and the training courses which will be of three to four week duration and will take place in a number of different EU countries are due to commence in July 2005.

Twenty of the 25 EU member states contribute to the mission, either through hosting training courses, providing trainers and-or members of the planning and co-ordination team or providing financial assistance. The question of Ireland's participation in the mission is under active consideration.

Ministerial Travel.

Bernard Allen

Question:

381 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the most up-to-date information on his travels abroad for the St Patrick’s Day celebrations; the persons who travelled with him in his official party; the duration of the visit; and the total cost. [19188/05]

As outlined in my response to a parliamentary question on 12 April 2005, I travelled to the United States from 11 to 18 March to represent the Government at St. Patrick's Day events in Boston before accompanying the Taoiseach to Washington. The cost of the visit, including transatlantic and internal transport and accommodation, will be approximately €50,000.

Visa Applications.

Michael Ring

Question:

382 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when a visa will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; when all documents will be returned to another related person (details supplied). [19204/05]

The visa application to which the Deputy refers was received in the Department of Foreign Affairs on 15 April 2005 and referred to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for decision. The decision was received in my Department on 3 June, and the visa was immediately endorsed in the passport and forwarded, by registered post, with all the documents that had been submitted to the same address as that to which the Deputy refers.

Overseas Development Aid.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

383 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if Lesotho will remain a priority country for Irish official development assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19329/05]

Ireland's programme of development co-operation with Lesotho began in 1975, making it the longest running of our bilateral country programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. Our programme has expanded significantly in recent years, with the budget increasing from €6 million in 1999 to almost €11 million in 2005. A sharp focus on poverty reduction underlies all our activities in Lesotho. The main components of the programme are rural water supply, education, health, HIV-AIDS and governance.

The Lesotho programme has been in place for 30 years and, in comparison to the other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where Ireland operates bilateral programmes, the country is relatively well placed on the current UNDP human development index, ranking 145 out of 177 countries. Thus, for example, indicators for levels of absolute poverty, access to basic education, mortality rates for children under five and access to health services in Lesotho, while low, are better than any of Ireland's other bilateral programme countries.

Ireland's support to Lesotho is set out in country strategy papers which are agreed with the Government of Lesotho every three years. A country strategy covering the period 2005-07 was approved at the beginning of this year. The programme will focus on policy development in the areas of health, education and HIV-AIDS, improved governance and the strengthening of systems to enhance the delivery of basic services to the poor. Consideration will also be given to the long-term and to examining ways to meet the ongoing needs of Lesotho other than primarily through direct bilateral support. Options to be considered include channelling of assistance through regional structures and programmes, NGOs and community-based organisations.

The Government of Lesotho holds Ireland in high regard for the quality and duration of our assistance, and for the fact that, unlike some other bilateral donors, it maintained a presence in the country after the ending of apartheid in South Africa. We are conscious of the need to proceed in a manner which takes the special friendship between the two countries into account and continues to meet the development needs of the people of Lesotho.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

384 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the contacts he has had with the new Northern Secretary with regard to the peace process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19330/05]

Mr. Peter Hain MP was appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland following the Westminster election in May. Shortly afterwards, I spoke to him by telephone to offer my congratulations and to arrange for an early meeting.

On 18 May I met Mr. Hain in Dublin. This meeting provided a valuable opportunity to discuss the situation in Northern Ireland and to affirm our shared goal of securing the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. We are in complete agreement on the need for an early and definitive response from the IRA and, in tandem, a real commitment by Unionism to inclusive partnership government.

I look forward to working closely with the Secretary of State in the same spirit of partnership that defined my working relationship with his predecessor, Paul Murphy. His previous poli