Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies received from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 11, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 12 to 47, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 48 to 55, inclusive, answered orally.

Bilateral Agreements.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

56 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if Ireland has contracted, or is planning to enter into, bilateral agreements with African states which would permit the return of third country nationals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33502/05]

I take it the Deputy is referring to readmission agreements with African countries involving reciprocal undertakings in relation to the return of illegal residents to their countries of origin and related immigration matters.

Such agreements take two forms — bilateral agreements between Ireland and another country and agreements negotiated by the European Commission with third countries on behalf of member states. The latter form part of the European Union's broader aim of developing a balanced, coherent and common approach towards immigration and asylum.

Nigeria is the only African country with which Ireland currently has a readmission agreement. A bilateral agreement on immigration matters, including readmission, was concluded in 2001 between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. While the agreement has not yet been officially ratified by the Nigerian side, both sides are operating in the spirit of the agreement, particularly in the area of repatriation. I refer the Deputy to the reply I gave to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 3, 14 and 60 on Thursday, 20 October 2005 for further details about this agreement.

Between 2000 and 2002 the European Council mandated the Commission to negotiate readmission agreements with 11 third countries-entities on behalf of member states, including two north African countries, namely, Morocco, 2000, and Algeria, 2002.

The Commission reports that negotiations with Morocco are well advanced and a draft agreement is expected to be agreed by the end of this year. Negotiations with Algeria are advancing at a slower pace with first round discussions expected to commence shortly.

Community readmission agreements fall within Title IV of the Treaty of the European Union, Amsterdam treaty, and therefore do not automatically apply to Ireland, or the UK. The specific approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas is required before Ireland can participate in such measures and a decision on participation in any agreements with Morocco and Algeria will be made when these negotiations have concluded.

While the agreed procedures set out in readmission agreements greatly facilitate the smooth return of persons, the absence of such agreements does not prevent returns being made to other countries.

Data Collection.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

57 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends to make legislative changes to provide for the recording of soft information regarding people who have been identified as a risk to children but who do not have a criminal conviction for child abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35762/05]

The question of placing on a statutory basis the recording and use of the type of information referred to in the question which may be in the possession of the Garda Síochána arises in the context of an examination being carried out in my Department concerning the placing of the Garda vetting unit procedures on a statutory basis. This is a comprehensive exercise which will take into account the legal and constitutional issues that will arise when deciding on the type of information that can be made available, and the circumstances in which it can be made available, by the vetting unit. I cannot give an accurate estimate at present as to when the examination will be complete.

Parental Leave.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

58 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2004 does not make provision for the introduction of payment in respect of parental leave. [31453/05]

The Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2004 provides for a range of improvements to the existing parental leave legislation which will offer greater flexibility to working parents. The main provisions of the Bill are as follows: raising the maximum age of the eligible child from five to eight years; an increase in the maximum age of the eligible child to 16 years in the case of children with disabilities; extension of parental leave entitlements to persons acting inloco parentis in respect of an eligible child; a statutory entitlement to take the 14 weeks parental leave in separate blocks of a minimum of six continuous weeks, or more favourable terms with the agreement of the employer; an employee who falls ill while on parental leave and as a result is unable to care for the child may suspend the parental leave for the duration of the illness following which period the parental leave recommences.

The question of introducing paid parental leave was considered by the working group on the review of the Parental Leave Act 1998 in 2001 which was convened under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness social partnership agreement. However, the working group, which comprised representatives from the relevant Departments and the social partners, did not reach agreement on the principle of paid parental leave.

In the course of the working group's deliberations, some members of the group expressed concerns in relation to the adoption of any new measures which would result in increased costs for employers, particularly small employers and the need to maintain international competitiveness. In subsequent negotiations on the Sustaining Progress partnership agreement, no agreement was made by the social partners on paid parental leave and the Government does not propose to introduce legislative change which one side of social partnership cannot accept. Consequently, the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2004 makes no provision for paid parental leave.

Garda Deployment.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

59 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he proposes to have his 1,000 strength traffic corps established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35735/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the total number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as at 19 October 2005 was 574 — all ranks. A further seven gardaí — all ranks — are attached to the Garda national traffic bureau based at Garda headquarters. The personnel strength of the Garda Síochána includes personnel assigned to the Garda traffic corps. While the members of the traffic corps are specifically dedicated to traffic duties, all gardaí have responsibility, to deal with,inter alia, traffic duties as they arise.

Last November I announced the establishment by the Commissioner of a Garda traffic corps with a dedicated budget and staff structure. Furthermore, as a result of the Government's approval of my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members, the Garda Commissioner will be in a position, as each cycle of recruit training is completed, to assign additional new members to the areas of greatest need with particular regard to certain priorities. These priorities will include the traffic corps.

The personnel strength of the Garda Síochána stood at 12,301 — all ranks — on 19 November 2005. Between now and 2008, the traffic corps will increase its numbers to a complement of 1,200 on the following phased basis: 2006 — 805; 2007 — 1,030; 2008 —1,200.

In relation to Garda resources generally, the accelerated recruitment campaign to reach a record force strength of 14,000, in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. In this regard, a total of 1,125 trainee gardaí were inducted into the Garda college to commence training during 2005. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of 2006. A further 2,200 student gardaí will be recruited to the Garda Síochána in 2006 and 2007, that is, 1,100 in each of those years.

Garda Communications.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

60 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that gardaí cannot be contacted by e-mail; his proposals to remedy the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35710/05]

The roll-out of e-mail to the Garda Síochána is underway. It is now available to all chief superintendents and higher grades and is currently being extended to superintendent level. The gardaí have plans for significant further extension of the system next year. Members of the public who wish to make a general comment or submit a general query by e-mail concerning the Garda Síochána can do so from the Garda website.

Prison Building Programme.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

61 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent and cost of associated infrastructure works required to facilitate the construction of a prison at Thornton Hall in relation to road widening, provision of mains, sewerage, water, electricity, broadband and gas supply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35718/05]

Preliminary estimates of the cost of providing various services to the Thornton Hall site were prepared as part of the site evaluation process which was carried out by engineering consultants prior to the decision to purchase the site. The report estimated the cost of providing various services, such as mains water, foul sewer, and power including gas and electricity to the site at approximately €8.5 million.

On the question of road access, the existing road serving the site has been assessed as adequate by the engineers engaged to carry out the site evaluation. However, they recommend some improvements to and upgrading of the road which is currently being examined by a team of technical consultants appointed by the Prison Service. Consultation will take place with the appropriate authorities in due course.

Garda Strength.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

62 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that even in the event of the extra 2,000 gardaí promised, which have not as yet materialised, there will still remain a serious under-strength in the Garda Síochána in view of the demographic changes that have taken place in the past number of years with particular reference to large areas of new urbanisation which does not have policing levels in keeping with the population increases and best practise in other jurisdictions; his proposals to increase Garda strength further to meet such requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35701/05]

At the outset, I recall that in October 2004, the Government approved my proposal to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 in line with the commitment contained in An Agreed Programme for Government. I subsequently announced the time-table for implementation of the expansion of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 at a press conference at Garda headquarters on 14 October 2004. The timetable published by me at that time showed clearly and unambiguously what was committed to, how it will be done and when it will be done.

I am pleased to say that the timetable for the expansion of the force, which takes into account the numbers likely to retire, is right on target. It will be delivered in full. The number of fully attested members of the Garda Síochána and recruits in training will exceed the figure of 14,000 in December 2006, only 13 months away, with a fully attested strength of 14,000 by 2008. The expansion of facilities at Templemore to facilitate the increased intakes is also taking place within the envisaged timeframe.

I have also on two occasions amended the Garda Síochána (Admissions and Appointments) Regulations to broaden the eligibility criteria for entry to the force. This has resulted in an increase in the maximum age for entry to the force from 26 to 35 years of age, and more recently, changes which will give greater possibilities for entry to the Garda Síochána from members of ethnic and religious minorities to ensure that the composition of the force can be fully representative of the community it serves. The second recruitment competition under this accelerated programme is currently being processed by the Public Appointments Service in conjunction with Garda human resource management. This will provide a continuous stream of high quality Garda recruits to meet this ambitious programme of quarterly intakes of approximately 275 over the lifetime of this project.

I note the party of which Deputy Durkan is a member did not give any commitment to increase the force in 1997 or 2002. Indeed when his party was last in Government the strength of the force actually decreased from 10,827 to 10,804. The proposal to increase the strength of the force to the level of 14,000 members took full account of — and indeed was in considerable part motivated by — projected population increases, particularly in growing urban areas. Taking into account projected population increase between now and 2008, the increase in the force strength to 14,000 members, which at over 16% will far exceed the increase in population, will yield a significant improvement in the police:population ratio.

As regards the specific deployment of these very significant additional resources, both in growing urban areas and generally, the Garda Commissioner will target the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in An Agreed Programme for Government. The programme identifies in particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences but it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to very significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic duties as part of the new Garda traffic corps. One thing I have already promised is that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties. They will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing. They will have a real impact. In addition to the expansion of the force outlined above, I have separately outlined my intention to supplement further the operational capacity of the force by way of establishment of a voluntary Garda reserve, as provided for in the Garda Síochána Act 2005. The purpose of the Garda reserve, which is a standard feature of policing in many other common law countries, will be to assist the Garda Síochána in the performance of its functions. I have asked the Garda Commissioner to submit proposals to me for the reserve, addressing all relevant recruitment, training and development issues. As I announced in last week's Estimates, it is my objective that 900 members of the reserve will be recruited and trained by September 2006.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

63 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he has taken to address the escalating problem of gang warfare with particular reference to what appears to be a general acceptance that organised crime seems to be able to go about its business with impunity; his views regarding the likely knock-on effect whereby the next generation or would-be criminals are influenced by these developments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35702/05]

Liz McManus

Question:

100 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether gangland killings have spiralled out of control in 2005; his further views on whether his remarks in October 2004 regarding the last sting of the dying wasp were ill advised; if the new special unit set up by the Commissioner is properly resourced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35721/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63 and 100 together.

I refer the Deputies to my detailed reply to Priority Questions Nos. 48 and 49 of today. In particular, I would draw attention to the financial and legislative resources already in place or being put in place to tackle serious crime and the fact that measures to tackle serious crime are kept under continuing review.

Garda Resourcing.

Dan Boyle

Question:

64 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the resources that are available to gardaí through his Department, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Revenue Commissioners and other agencies to tackle the financial, accounting and money-laundering aspects of gangland crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35766/05]

The National Bureau of Criminal Investigation is the Garda specialist unit tasked with the role of tackling organised crime. It carries out this role by conducting intelligence-driven operations in close co-operation with other specialist units specifically, the national criminal intelligence unit, the Garda national drugs unit, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Criminal Assets Bureau.

The Criminal Assets Bureau, headed by a chief superintendent, is a multi-agency unit comprising personnel drawn from the Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation has responsibility for the investigation of fraud-related crime on a national basis, including money laundering offences. The bureau's money-laundering investigation unit is actively involved in the recording, evaluation, analysis and investigation of disclosures relating to suspicious financial transactions.

The following table summarises the total Garda strength of each of the Garda national units investigating serious crime as at 18 October 2005. The Revenue Commissioners continue to support the work of the Garda Síochána in combating organised crime, in particular through the work of the Criminal Assets Bureau. In this regard, Revenue has recently assigned an additional officer to work full time with the bureau. Revenue has also established excellent co-operation with the relevant Garda National Units. This ensures that when Revenue's investigation, prosecution and enforcement activity, particularly in the areas of drugs and cigarette smuggling and oil frauds, identifies linkages to organised-gangland crime these are made known to the gardaí and the individuals concerned are pursued with the financial, including illicit profits, and money-laundering aspects of their activities being fully explored.

Revenue officers engaged in investigation, enforcement and prosecution related work are increasingly aware of and alert to the possibilities of identifying financially based criminal activity or linkages to it and of the need to liaise with and support the Garda Síochána and the Criminal Assets Bureau in its work.

Unit

Garda Personnel as at 18 October 2005

National Bureau of Criminal Investigation

90

Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation

57

Criminal Assets Bureau

28

Garda National Drugs Unit

48

Firearms Offences.

Jack Wall

Question:

65 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of murders in which firearms were used, the number of such cases in respect of which proceedings were initiated, the number of such cases in which murder convictions were secured in respect of each year since 1998; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35731/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of murders in which firearms were used in respect of each year from 1998 to 2004 are set out in the following table. I am informed by the Garda authorities that murders involving the use of firearms tend to have lower conviction rates than other murders. This is not unique to Ireland. The number of violent deaths, murder and manslaughter, recorded in 2004 is 45, the lowest number recorded in ten years, despite our population increasing by 400,000 during the same period. I am assured by the Garda Commissioner that the highest priority is given by the Garda Síochána to the investigation of murders and the detection of those responsible.

As the Deputy is aware, the Director of Public Prosecutions is statutorily independent in the performance of his functions and it would, therefore, be inappropriate for me to comment on his decisions. Furthermore, judges are independent in the exercise of their judicial functions and subject only to the Constitution and the law. It would therefore be inappropriate for me to comment on their decisions also.

As the Deputy will be also aware, the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 provides for a comprehensive package of anti-crime measures which will enhance the powers of the gardaí in the investigation and prosecution of offences. In the context of the Criminal Justice Bill 2004, I propose to bring forward, on Committee Stage, a series of measures to increase sentences for the more serious range of firearms offences, including the introduction of mandatory minimum sentences in some cases. I will also introduce a new offence of illegally modifying a firearm by, for example, sawing off a shotgun barrel, and the imposition of severe penalties for this offence.

Murders involving Firearms 1998 to 2004.

Year

Recorded

Detected

Proceedings Commenced

Convictions

1998

4

3

2

1

1999

12

7

7

5

2000

12

6

5

2

2001

9

4

2

2

2002

10

4

3

2

2003

20

10

4

1

2004

9

6

5

1

Garda Strength.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

66 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the fact that at the end of 2005 there will be less gardaí relative to the population of the State than in each of the previous five years; his plans to rectify same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35751/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of the Garda Síochána at the end of each year from 2000-2004, inclusively, and as at 19 November 2005 is as set out in the following table.

Year

Strength

2000

11,640

2001

11,815

2002

11,895

2003

12,017

2004

12,209

19/11/05

12,301

The last rainbow Government allowed the number of gardaí to fall from 10,827 to 10,804 and neither Labour, Fine Gael nor the Green Party gave any commitment to increase the level in 1997 or 2002. Indeed, they criticise my proposal to increase the force to 14,000. The 2002 census of population calculated the national population at 3,917,203, giving a police:population ratio of 1:329. In 1996, the police:population ratio was calculated at 1:336.

As I publicly stated when announcing Government approval for my proposals in October 2004, the phased increase in the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 will lead to a combined strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of 2006, with a fully attested strength of 14,000 by 2008. As part of the accelerated recruitment campaign to facilitate this process, 1,125 Garda recruits were inducted to the Garda college this year and it is intended to induct 1,100 for the next two years, by way of intakes to the Garda college of approximately 275 recruits every quarter. I should add that this accelerated recruitment process is fully on target.

I am fully aware of population increases over recent years and the proposal to increase the strength of the force to this level took full cognisance of — and indeed was in considerable part motivated by — projected population increases. Taking into account projected population increases, the increase in the force strength to 14,000 members will yield a very significant improvement in the police:population ratio.

Drugs Offences.

Billy Timmins

Question:

67 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people who are in prison on drug or drug-related offences; the number who were in prison in October 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35570/05]

On 22 November 2005 there were 527 persons serving prison sentences for drug offences including, possession of drugs for the purpose of sale, unlawful possession of drugs, unlawfully importing or exporting controlled drugs and unlawfully producing a controlled drug. There are no corresponding figures available for October 1997.

Garda Investigations.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

68 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made by the gardaí into the major money-laundering operation uncovered in early 2005; if a file has been sent to the DPP; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35743/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda investigation remains ongoing. When the investigation is completed, a file will be submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Deputy will be aware, however, that the Garda Síochána publicly confirmed the link between the money-laundering operation and the proceeds of the Northern Bank robbery. As the Garda investigation is still continuing, a further, detailed comment on the matter would be appropriate.

Legal Aid Service.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

69 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is intended to expand the availability of services from the Legal Aid Board beyond family law cases; the extent of funding to the Legal Aid Board at present; his plans to increase the resources available to the Legal Aid Board in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35747/05]

I can advise the Deputy that the high proportion of the Legal Aid Board's work which comes within the family law field reflects the nature of the demand for its services from clients. The scope of the Civil Legal Aid Act, which governs the work of the Legal Aid Board, is in fact broader than this and law centres undertake other civil law work, including medical and professional negligence cases, as well as contract and debt matters.

In so far as resources are concerned, there has been a very substantial increase in the board's core funding this year to €21.362 million and a further increase has been provided for 2006. I understand that the board is satisfied that this level of funding is adequate to meet demands for legal services in a timely manner.

Drugs Seizures.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

70 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cocaine, heroin and cannabis seizures by the Garda Síochána in each county for each year since 2000; the value of the seizure in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35716/05]

It has not been possible, within the timeframe available, to collate the information required by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy directly when the information is to hand.

Garda Diversion Programmes.

John Gormley

Question:

71 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied that the juvenile diversion programme has sufficient resources to address the issues that come under its remit; if he will provide figures for its staffing levels and finance in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35756/05]

The Children Act 2001, which came into law in May 2002, gave a statutory basis to the Garda diversion programme, which includes a restorative justice aspect. This programme has proven to be highly successful in diverting young people away from crime by offering guidance and support to juveniles and their families. In the more serious cases, juveniles are placed under the supervision of Garda juvenile liaison officers, who are specially trained members of the Garda Síochána responsible for administering the programme at the local level. I am informed by the Garda authorities that in the year 2003, the Garda national juvenile office received 19,915 referrals under the programme relating to 17,043 individual offenders. The number of juvenile referrals processed by the national juvenile office in 2004 was 20,607. Early assessments indicated a very high level of satisfaction from those involved in the process.

The diversion programme is in place on a nationwide basis. Resource implications are constantly under review and applications for additional resources are made on a case by case basis when and where necessary. In addition to the programme, there are in existence more than 60 Garda youth diversion projects targeted towards at risk youngsters around the country.

These Garda youth diversion projects, which along with the diversion programme operate under the aegis of the national juvenile office, are a community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiative aimed at diverting young persons from becoming involved — or further involved — in anti-social and-or criminal behaviour, by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development, promote civic responsibility and improve long-term employability prospects. By doing so, the projects also contribute to improving the quality of life within communities and enhancing Garda-community relations. The number of such projects has grown from 12 in 1997 to 64 at present — a process made possible, in part, by funding under the National Development Plan 2000-06. I am committed to the continuing development and, as resources permit, the expansion of such projects. Proposals made by the Garda Síochána to my Department on establishing further projects are examined within the context of available resources.

In publishing the details last week of the Abridged Estimates for 2006, I outlined a 14-point package of initiatives in line with the commitment of considerable additional financial resources to the Garda Vote. One of these initiatives involves an extra €1.2 million to be allocated to the various youth diversion projects, bringing the total available for these highly successful interventions to €6.6million. I have now asked the Commissioner to bring forward proposals for further community-based initiatives in this area in the light of the additional funding announced today. It is intended to extend further these schemes across the country over the next two years. The target is to have established 100 of these schemes nationwide by end 2007.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that in 1999 there were 84 gardaí employed operationally as juvenile liaison officers, JLOs, in the various divisions throughout the country. Two additional posts have since been created in July 2004 and May 2005 to bring this number to 86, together with eight JLO sergeants. In addition, the national juvenile office has a staff of one superintendent, two inspectors and two sergeants. The administration in the office is carried out by these two sergeants and four civilian staff.

The national juvenile office is one of four constituent elements that make up the national community relations section. As the annual budget for the national community relations section is not divided between the four units it is not possible to determine the 2005 budget for the national juvenile office. Furthermore, certain related expenditure items, such as the provision of motor vehicles, information technology and other support services, are accounted for on a centralised national basis. In addition, the salary costs of the 86 JLO gardaí and eight JLO sergeants working in the various divisions throughout the country are accounted for centrally within the Garda Vote and are not reflected in the above figure of €2.75 million. Consequently it is not possible to provide, for any particular year, budget details on an individual Garda unit basis for those additional nationally provided services.

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

The Garda authorities and I remain strongly committed to the principle and practice of diversion in the criminal justice system, a commitment warranted by consistent findings of national and international criminological research. Although the Garda diversion programme and other youth diversion projects are not appropriate for all juveniles or in all situations, they nevertheless provide an important intervention in the lives of those juveniles who have taken a wrong turn in the process of maturing into young adults. Research indicates that of all those formally diverted from prosecution, some 88% do not come to the attention of the Garda Síochána again by their 18th birthday.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

72 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of young persons involved in the Garda Youth Diversion programmes; the type of diversion programmes available; the success rate of the programmes; his plans to expand those programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35742/05]

Garda youth diversion projects are community based, multi-agency crime prevention initiatives which seek to divert young people from becoming involved, or further involved, in anti-social and-or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development, promote civic responsibility and improve prospects of employability. The projects are funded by my Department and administered by the community relations section of the Garda Síochána. Currently, 64 projects are being funded. In addition to the Garda youth diversion projects, there are seven mainstreamed local drugs task force projects which are associated with Garda youth diversion projects. They seek to educate and divert young people who are at risk of becoming involved in substance misuse. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the projects cater for approximately 2,500 participants per annum.

Garda youth diversion projects are a tangible measure of crime prevention and reflect the commitment of my Department and the Garda Síochána to multi-agency partnerships in tackling crime and anti-social behaviour at community level. The role of the youth diversion projects is to bring about conditions whereby the behavioural patterns of young people towards law and order can develop and mature through positive interventions and interaction with the project.

The primary project target group, which forms the majority of project participants, are young people who have entered the Garda juvenile diversion programme and are considered at risk of remaining within the justice system.

The secondary project target group are young people who, although they have not been officially cautioned, have come to the attention of the gardaí, the community or local agencies as a result of their behaviour and are considered at risk of entering the justice system at a future date.

My Department commissioned a study by TCD, The Impact and Effectiveness of the Garda Special Projects, Bowden and Higgins — May 2000. The study found that 83% of those participants surveyed reported that they had learned and 62.7% reported a personal change from their participation in the projects. The study commented that "The positive impact that the projects have made overall does, of course, justify their retention provided that there is a shift to a more strategic approach."

Following the recommendation of the report to provide a more strategic framework, my Department commissioned the centre for social and educational research at the Dublin Institute of Technology, Rathmines, to prepare comprehensive guidelines for the establishment, operation, management and administration of the projects. The guidelines were launched in May 2003 and are now fully operational.

My Department also commissioned DIT to conduct an examination of risk factors with regard to the participants in the projects. The risk profile developed focuses on various aspects of the young people's lives, including socio-economic factors, young people's general life styles, young people's perception of education and their levels of educational attainment, the nature of young people's relationships with family and friends and history of offending.

My Department is planning to commission a further study or survey of participants in Garda youth diversion projects in the near future. The purpose of the survey will be to ascertain the progression of participants in terms of recidivism and full time education.

The budgetary allocation of funding for the 64 Garda youth diversion projects, together with the seven local drug task force projects, for 2005 is €5.471 million. As part of my ongoing commitment to law enforcement and crime prevention, I have recently announced a new 14-point nationwide policing programme. I have secured an increase in funding of €146 million for the Garda Síochána in 2006. Some €1.2 million of this additional funding is being allocated to Garda youth diversion schemes, bringing the total available to €6.6 million. I have asked the Commissioner to bring forward proposals for further community based initiatives in this area in the light of the additional funding. It is my intention to further extend these schemes across the country over the next two years. The target is to have established 100 schemes by the end of 2007.

Migrant Workers.

Seán Ryan

Question:

73 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the state of the Garda investigation into the circumstances in which 11 immigrant workers were reported to have been abandoned off an island near Skerries in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35733/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 122 of Thursday, 17 November 2005 on the matter.

Garda Strength.

Seán Ryan

Question:

74 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of personnel who have qualified as full members of the Garda Síochána since June 2002; the number of members who have retired, resigned or otherwise left the force in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35732/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of Garda resources, including personnel, that 1,914 recruits have graduated from the Garda college since 6 June 2002. I am further informed that a total of 1,525 members — all ranks — have resigned, retired or otherwise left the Garda Síochána since 6 June 2002. Garda management also states that a total of 2,078 recruits have been attested to the Garda Síochána since 6 June 2002.

Garda trainees are attested to the force on successful completion of phase three of their training. On attestation, Garda trainees become serving members of the force. Thus the serving strength of the force at any given time includes those who have been attested following completion of phase three of their training but have not yet formally graduated — formal graduation takes place following the completion of the fifth and final phase of training. The strength of the force has therefore increased by 553 members since June 2002.

The timescale for achieving the target strength of 14,000 members of the Garda Síochána in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government is still as when I announced the Government approval in October 2004 for my proposals to achieve this objective. The phased increase in the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 will lead to a combined strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of 2006, with a fully attested strength of 14,000 by 2008. As part of the accelerated recruitment campaign to facilitate this process, 1,125 Garda recruits were inducted to the Garda college during 2005. It is to continue to induct 1,100 recruits for each of the next two years, by way of intakes to the Garda college of approximately 275 recruits every quarter. This project is fully on target and will be achieved.

Garda Operations.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

75 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps that are being taken by the Garda Síochána to address the alarming number of road deaths in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35652/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that during the period 1 January to 31 October 2005, there were 26 road traffic fatalities in the Donegal Garda division. There were also 26 road traffic fatalities during the same period in 2004.

In response to recent road traffic fatalities in the Inishowen area, the Garda Commissioner has set up a specialised dedicated traffic unit there. The unit, which is based in Burnfoot, commenced a three month pilot operation in the Donegal division on 20 October 2005. Thereafter it will be reviewed and evaluated to determine its degree of effectiveness. This unit has been established as part of the Garda Síochána's commitment to road safety and is in addition to the traffic units located at Donegal Town and Letterkenny. Currently the Donegal divisional traffic unit comprises three sergeants and 23 gardaí solely dedicated to traffic policing duties. One sergeant and four gardaí are allocated on a temporary basis to the dedicated Inishowen traffic unit.

Each traffic unit is deployed at key locations or hot spots where problems recur, challenging inappropriate driving behaviour and adopts proactive intelligence led traffic policing techniques. The Donegal divisional traffic unit augments the patrolling of the division performed by the core policing units of each of the division's five districts. The divisional traffic unit is committed to continue to work in partnership with all of the groups who have an interest in road safety, including the broader community.

Mary Upton

Question:

76 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the gardaí test motorists for drugs as well as drink when they are perceived to be driving erratically; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35746/05]

The Road Traffic Act 1994 provides that a member of the Garda Síochána may, where he or she is of the opinion that a person in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place is under the influence of a drug or drugs to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of that vehicle, require that person to go to a Garda station and further require that person submit to a blood test or to provide a urine sample which will then be subject to analysis by the medical bureau of road safety. This applies to circumstances where a member of the Garda Síochána is dealing with a person whose driving has been erratic. Dependent upon the circumstances, this sample will be analysed for alcohol and-or drugs.

I am informed that the medical bureau of road safety, which is under the aegis of the Department of Transport, is keeping abreast of the development of devices which are being developed for the purpose of carrying out roadside drug testing.

Asylum Applications.

Dan Boyle

Question:

77 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the main countries of origin of those refused entry here from January 2005 to end October 2005; the number of persons seeking asylum who were refused entry; the grounds on which they were refused leave to enter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35765/05]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

107 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons refused leave to enter at the country’s ports of entry from January 2005 to end October 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35763/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 77 and 107 together.

The grounds on which an immigration officer may refuse leave to land to a person arriving in the State are set out in section 4(3) of the Immigration Act 2004. Some 3,732 persons were refused leave to enter the State at the country's ports of entry from 1 January 2005 to 31 October 2005. The main countries of origin of those refused entry during that period are as follows: Brazil, Nigeria, Romania, China and South Africa. Persons seeking asylum are not refused entry to the State. In accordance with section 9(1) of the Refugee Act 1996, as amended, any person making an application for asylum is given leave to enter the State.

Prison Population.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

78 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners in each of the State’s prisons for each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35728/05]

The following table sets out the average number in custody in each institution for each year since 1997.

Institution

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

Arbour Hill Prison

139

139

138

139

137

137

138

138

Castlerea Prison

25

109

195

190

N/A

193

195

210

Cloverhill Prison

213

386

386

375

392

Cork Prison

268

262

271

267

272

267

268

274

Curragh

72

94

93

94

100

92

98

8

Fort Mitchel

101

101

100

89

96

84

94

6

Limerick Prison (Male)

132

182

212

212

173

171

169

247

Limerick Prison (Female)

12

12

14

13

15

16

16

13

Loughan House

70

48

56

66

70

70

71

72

Midlands Prison

340

350

375

384

439

Mountjoy Prison (Male)

650

729

756

664

502

441

460

485

Mountjoy Prison (Female)

51

59

70

59

83

88

81

84

Portlaoise Prison

164

155

148

167

148

137

128

123

St. Patrick’s Institution

208

187

194

193

203

179

188

198

Shanganagh Castle

48

41

39

28

25

23

Shelton Abbey

47

47

46

25

27

47

50

49

Training Unit

85

85

87

89

89

91

86

87

Wheatfield Prison

350

360

368

368

368

368

375

374

The Deputy will be interested to note that on 17 November 2005 there was a total of 110 persons or 3% of the prison population on temporary release, excluding day release. The corresponding figure in October 1996 was 550 which accounted for 19% of the prison population at that time.

It is my intention to replace outdated prison accommodation with new facilities which will eliminate the practice of slopping out and also seek to eliminate the practice of doubling up in cells which is prevalent throughout the system.

As part of this process, I can confirm that a total of 150 new spaces are being provided in the new Portlaoise C block which is due to be completed in 2007. I can also advise the Deputy that estimates of future space requirements are being refined by the Irish Prison Service in the context of planning for the development of the new prison complexes at north county Dublin and Spike Island.

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

79 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he and the Garda Commissioner have implemented the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights which reported on the first and second Barron reports and which are pertinent to their area of responsibility; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35729/05]

In respect of the joint committee's final report on the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings, the primary recommendations relate to the establishment of a further inquiry into certain aspects of the State's handling of the bombings. In response, the Government, with the Taoiseach as sponsoring Minister, established a Commission of Investigation, the work of which is ongoing.

In respect of the joint committee's final report on the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin Bombings of 1972 and 1973, chapter 12 sets our diverse recommendations and suggestions for any further necessary action. In respect of the relevant recommendations of the two reports, implementation, as appropriate, has occurred and is occurring, including: the enactment of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 and the establishment of implementation arrangements thereon; continued support for the forensic science laboratory; the ongoing development of departmental arrangements to facilitate comprehensive implementation of the National Archives Act 1986; the ongoing development of proposals for the establishment of a group of independent academics to advise on access to undisclosed files; and continued support for the Remembrance Commission.

Commissions of Investigation.

Willie Penrose

Question:

80 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposal for the inquiry into the Grangegorman murders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35740/05]

On foot of my proposal, which was made with the approval of the Minister for Finance, the Government decided yesterday that a commission of investigation should be established into the making of a confession by the late Dean Lyons about the tragic deaths of Ms Mary Callinan and Ms Sylvia Shiels in March 1997 in Grangegorman, Dublin 7.

Arrangements will now be made to have the relevant draft order and statement of reasons for establishing the commission laid before each House of the Oireachtas for approval as required by the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004. Thereafter the order establishing the commission will be made by Government.

While the formal terms of reference will be set by me once that process has been completed I intend to ask the commission to examine and report on the circumstances arising from the making of a confession by Dean Lyons, deceased, about the deaths of Ms Mary Callinan and Ms Sylvia Shiels in March 1997 in Grangegorman Dublin 7; the adequacy of the Garda assessment of the reliability of Mr. Lyons's confession, both before and after he was charged with murder; and the adequacy of information provided by the Garda Síochána on the morning of 27 July 1997 to the Director of Public Prosecutions and in particular whether any additional information should have been provided at that time. The commission will be headed by Mr. George Birmingham SC and will be independent with full statutory powers to summon witnesses and take sworn evidence.

While the commission's terms of reference will focus on the specific circumstances of the Dean Lyons case I also intend to establish an expert group to conduct a more general review of relevant Garda practices, including training, protocols, regulations and procedures — as existed in 1997 and as exist now. I intend to publish the reports of both the commission and the expert group.

Garda Stations.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

81 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations in Cork county and city; the number of gardaí allocated to each Garda station over the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35711/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 475 of 22 November 2005 on this matter.

Ombudsman Commission.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

82 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he proposes to establish the Ombudsman Commission; the reason for the delay of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35715/05]

I will bring my proposals to establish the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission before the House in the near future.

Garda Strength.

Billy Timmins

Question:

83 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the ratio of gardaí per head of population in each Garda district; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35569/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of each Garda district as at 18 November 2005 is as set out in the following table. Corresponding population figures sourced from the CSO 2002 census of population are also included.

District

Pop.

Strength

Abbeyleix

18,791

39

Anglesea Street

36,657

293

Ashbourne

37,838

65

Askeaton

22,423

41

Athlone

36,375

63

Bailieboro

27,152

55

Balbriggan

38,448

57

Ballina

27,574

52

Ballinasloe

23,942

54

Ballyconnell

12,780

45

Ballymote

12,134

32

Ballyshannon

22,204

95

Baltinglass

31,484

54

Bandon

32,344

54

Bantry

19,519

87

Belmullet

9,136

27

Birr

21,975

45

Blackrock

83,499

185

Blanchardstown

106,099

318

Boyle

12,512

37

Bray

68,658

183

Bridewell

23,033

174

Bruff

22,017

40

Buncrana

28,664

80

Caherciveen

18,757

41

Cahir

18,512

45

Carlow

47,590

84

Carrick-on-Shannon

14,692

48

Carrickmacross

24,855

75

Castlebar

26,040

65

Castlerea

14,007

42

Cavan

24,386

70

Claremorris

18,932

41

Clifden

10,162

30

Clonakilty

25,578

43

Clondalkin

68,190

190

Clonmel

38,614

64

Cobh

35,247

53

Coolock

110,594

206

Crumlin

59,513

157

Donnybrook

42,262

181

Drogheda

52,078

109

Dún Laoghaire

72,169

199

Dundalk

477,793

144

Dungarvan

23,675

48

Ennis

50,237

163

Enniscorthy

30,758

46

Ennistymon

17,017

32

Fermoy

27,640

71

Fitzgibbon Street

37,626

212

Galway

73,277

195

Glenties

19,925

47

Gorey

38,068

78

Gort

13,669

32

Granard

17,725

42

Gurranabraher

49,798

90

Henry Street

68,110

254

Kanturk

21,851

40

Kells

22,637

44

Kevin Street

42,505

210

Kildare

54,278

72

Kilkenny

42,545

74

Killaloe

18,018

35

Killarney

40,130

72

Kilrush

14,420

37

Letterkenny

44,736

155

Listowel

26,670

48

Longford

20,669

55

Loughrea

18,547

46

Lucan

69,292

187

Macroom

22,967

38

Mallow

28,774

57

Manorhamilton

10,711

53

Mayfield

36,507

102

Midleton

33,222

64

Milford

22,046

48

Monaghan

27,036

124

Mullingar

36,436

88

Naas

69,110

121

Navan

52,886

66

Nenagh

21,514

41

New Ross

25,063

43

Newcastle West

23,165

46

Pearse Street

17,972

333

Portlaoise

40,289

123

Raheny

86,504

173

Rathmines

55,273

170

Roscommon

18,711

62

Roxboro Road

43,781

104

Salthill

45,775

68

Santry

55,595

244

Sligo

39,013

135

Store Street

12,485

277

Swinford

21,903

38

Tallaght

128,412

250

Templemore

19,356

50

Thomastown

23,378

34

Thurles

24,789

76

Tipperary Town

22,289

38

Togher

86,084

128

Tralee

43,587

105

Tramore

22,769

42

Trim

23,507

41

Tuam

25,077

53

Tullamore

38,717

73

Waterford

60,436

150

Westport

19,691

35

Wexford

40,674

90

Wicklow

32,647

56

I should point out that in relation to divisional headquarters and the population figures, it must be noted that this relates to the resident population only and would not include people who socialise, shop or work in that city centre area.

In relation to Garda resources generally, the accelerated recruitment campaign to reach a record force strength of 14,000, in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of 2006. The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources, and in this context the needs of the Garda Síochána will be fully considered.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

84 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the relevant section of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 will be activated to ensure that alcohol sold in off licences is traceable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35705/05]

Joan Burton

Question:

86 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will introduce revenue traceability stamps on all non-draught alcohol products for sale here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35708/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 84 and 86 together.

The position is that section 22 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 provides for the making of regulations specifying particulars which are adequate to enable the licensee and the licensed premises concerned to be identified to be affixed to containers in which intoxicating liquor is sold for consumption in off licensed premises.

While the labelling of containers in which intoxicating liquor is sold with a view to combatting under-age consumption of intoxicating liquor is an attractive idea, significant challenges would need to be overcome in order to render it effective in practice. These challenges arise under two headings.

Practical difficulties will be encountered where several individual containers are packaged together in advance for retail sale, for example, a six-pack of bottles; a plastic-wrapped tray of cans; or a nailed wooden box containing bottles of wine. This raises the important issue of whether identification labels should be attached at the point of sale or earlier in the distribution chain. Attaching labels at an earlier stage might be simpler but it could create logistical difficulties for importers and distributors and this would lead in turn to increased distribution costs. Moreover, in the case of imports from other EU member states, it is likely that such additional labelling requirements would be regarded as infringing internal market rules.

From an enforcement perspective it is clear that possession by an underage person of a labelled container does not in itself constitute proof that the intoxicating liquor in the container had been illegally supplied to that person by the licensee whose particulars appear on the container. It may have been taken from the family home or have been sold to a person over the age of 18 in good faith by the licensee before being passed on to the underage person. Indeed, a labelled container may have passed through several hands before finding its way into the hands of an underage person.

Issues relating to the evidential value of being found in possession of a labelled container were raised during consultations on implementation of section 22 of the 2003 Act and my Department subsequently raised them with the Office of the Attorney General. The Attorney General's office has expressed serious doubts about the evidential value of being in possession of a labelled container and doubt is, therefore, cast on the utility of any regulations that might be made under section 22 of the 2003 Act.

One option that could possibly be considered in the context of future legislation would be a presumption that any intoxicating liquor container found in the possession of an underage person had been purchased by that person from the licensee identified on the container until the contrary was proved. However, the Attorney General's office has also advised that such a proposal would raise serious constitutional issues and would run the significant risk of being found to be inconsistent with Article 38 of the Constitution.

For these reasons, I do not, as I have already stated on a number of occasions, intend to make regulations under section 22 of the 2003 Act at this time. I will, however, give serious consideration to any reasonable and workable proposal that would deal with this matter without giving rise to the practical, enforcement and evidential difficulties that I have already outlined. The introduction of tax stamps for containers in which intoxicating liquor is sold is a matter for the Minister for Finance and the Revenue Commissioners.

Presidential Pardons.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

85 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether the scheme of Presidential pardons that he has proposed will mean that terrorists will be able to roam free and unchecked here; if, unlike a release on licence, there will be no recourse to imprisonment if such individuals re-offend. [35800/05]

There is no question of the scheme which will operate in this jurisdiction in relation to the handful of what have become known as on the runs meaning, as the Deputy puts it, that terrorists will be able to roam free and unchecked here.

In this context, on the runs mean people who, if they had been serving sentences for particular offences at the time of the Good Friday Agreement, would have been released under the terms of the Agreement. As I have stated previously, an eligibility body will be established to determine whether individuals are qualifying persons. A person can only be determined to be a qualifying person subject to the condition that the person is not affiliated to, nor supports, an organisation which is not maintaining a complete and unequivocal ceasefire. Details of the operation of the powers under Article 13.6 of Bunreacht na hÉireann will fall to be determined on a case by case basis but, in any event, it is, of course, the case that should persons in question reoffend they will be subject to the full rigours of the criminal law in relation to any such offences, including imprisonment.

The Deputy will already be aware that I have made it clear publicly that there is absolutely no question of this scheme benefitting persons wanted in connection with the killing of Garda Jerry McCabe or the wounding of Garda Ben O'Sullivan.

Question No. 86 answered with QuestionNo. 84.

Drink Driving Offences.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

87 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of drivers who have tested positive for drink driving to date in 2005; the number that have been prosecuted; the number of convictions that have been obtained; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35736/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the medical bureau of road safety has responsibility for the analysis of blood, urine and breath specimens. The medical bureau of road safety collates and maintains a record of the results of each analysis.

I am further informed that in the period 1 January to 18 November 2005, there are 11,110 recorded incidents of driving while intoxicated, including intoxicated while in charge of a vehicle. Statistics are not compiled in such a way as to distinguish between incidents where blood, urine or breath samples in these cases exceeded the legal limit or where there was a failure or refusal to provide a blood, urine or breath specimen.

The number of prosecutions and convictions currently emanating from these 11,110 incidents is not readily available and would require a considerable amount of Garda time to compile.

Independent Inquiry.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

88 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress which has taken place in the inquiry into the death of a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35734/05]

The independent statutory inquiry process established by me pursuant to section 12 of the Dublin Police Act 1924, as applied and amended, has been underway for some time following the appointment of Mr. Hugh Hartnett SC on 14 September 2005 to conduct same. Mr. Hartnett decided that the inquiry was to be held in private and he is not, under his terms of reference, required to report to me on a regular basis in relation to any of its aspects, although he is required to report to me with his findings and conclusions which I intend to publish. That said I have had no indication from either Mr. Hartnett or any other party that progress is not being made.

Asylum Support Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

89 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposal for the establishment of a one-stop-shop for dealing with all immigration matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35739/05]

In March 2005 the Government approved the establishment, on a non-statutory basis, of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, INIS, as an executive office within the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. It is intended to provide a one-stop-shop approach to services relating to the admission of migrants. This decision provides a platform for the establishment of the service. A director general has recently been appointed to the new service and work is underway on the new arrangements and structures which should come fully into operation over the coming year.

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

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

The service will include a new immigrant integration unit to promote and co-ordinate social and organisational measures across the whole spectrum of Government, for the acceptance of lawful immigrants into Irish social and cultural life. The proposed new structure will have significant benefits from the point of view of customer service and the strengthening of the effectiveness and integrity of the State's immigration system, specifically: a single contact point or one stop shop for applications for entry to the State — combining the current work permit and visa application processes; a clearer system involving more streamlined processes; improved sharing of information in linked systems to simplify decision making; improved service times as applications will not have to be submitted to a number of organisations; and improved control and enforcement mechanisms.

Gangland Killings.

Jack Wall

Question:

90 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gangland killings in each year since 1990; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35730/05]

All killings, regardless of the circumstances involved, are the subject of rigorous investigation by the Garda Síochána. While the term "gangland killings" tends to be widely used in the media in referring to the nature of certain unlawful killings and speculation in this respect is understandable, this does not correspond to the manner in which the Garda Síochána classifies crime or particular offences. Caution is necessary in ascribing particular motives to any particular incident as, potentially, this might jeopardise the procedures which need to be followed for the proper investigation and prosecution of offences. Data provided by the Garda authorities in respect of all murders recorded in the period 1996 to 2005 to date is summarised in the following table.

Murders recorded from 1990 to 2005, to date.

Year

Recorded Murders

2005*

50

2004

37

2003

45

2002

52

2001

52

2000

39

1999

38

1998

38

1997

38

1996

42

1995

41

1994

25

1993

23

1992

25

1991

23

1990

17

* Provisional.

Asylum Applications.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

91 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has examined the difficulties facing aged-out non-Irish minors who have applied for leave to remain here; his plans to address the cases of the relatively small number of persons in theses circumstances who wish to continue making a contribution to society here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35754/05]

I refer the Deputy to the reply I gave to Parliamentary Question No. 61 on Thursday, 20 October 2005. A total of 413 unaccompanied minors, who have now reached the age of 18 years, have been refused refugee status since 1 January 1999. Some 211 of these have been decided to date under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended resulting in 108 deportation orders, 72 grants of conditional leave to remain under the Irish born child scheme 2005, eight grants of temporary leave to remain on other grounds, seven voluntary returns, three grants of residency under family reunification, four grants of residency under marriage to an Irish national, six grants of residency under EU treaty rights, two subsequently became EU nationals on 1 May 2004 and one is deceased. The remaining 202 cases have yet to be considered by me.

There is no catch all policy be it to deport, or allow to remain in relation to unaccompanied minors who have reached the age of 18 years. All such cases will continue to be considered on their individual merits.

Crime Levels.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

92 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will attend the next meeting of the Montpelier-Arbour Hill-Bricin’s residents on 7 December 2005 in St. Bricin’s community centre to hear their concerns regarding prostitution in their area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35714/05]

I regret that due to prior commitments I am unable to attend the meeting of the Montpelier-Arbour Hill-Bricin's residents on 7 December 2005. However, I will arrange for officials from my Department to meet with the group should they wish for that.

Garda Stations.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

93 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to upgrade services at Bunbeg Garda station, County Donegal (details supplied). [35653/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of Bunbeg Garda station as at 22 November 2005 was six, all ranks. I am further informed that while Bunbeg Garda station is not open on a 24-hour basis, 24-hour Garda cover is provided in the area. The policing service at Bunbeg is augmented by members attached to Annagry and Dungloe Garda stations. Additional patrols are provided by the Glenties district patrol car and the district detective unit when required.

Garda management report that there are currently no plans to extend the opening hours of Bunbeg Garda station to a 24-hour basis as the extension of the opening hours of Garda stations, in general, necessitates the employment of additional personnel on indoor administrative duties who may be more effectively employed on outdoor policing duties. Garda management state that they will continue to monitor and appraise the policing and administrative strategy employed throughout the area with a view to ensuring that an effective Garda service is maintained.

In relation to Garda resources generally, the accelerated recruitment campaign to reach a record force strength of 14,000, in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of 2006. The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources, and in this context the needs of the Glenties district and Bunbeg Garda station will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of Garda districts and stations throughout the country.

Paternity Leave.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

94 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when paid paternity leave will be introduced here. [31452/05]

There is no statutory entitlement to paternity leave. However, many employers in both the public and private sectors have arrangements in place providing short periods of paid paternity leave. Paternity leave was considered in the context of a review of the Parental Leave Act 1998 conducted by a working group chaired by my Department. The working group comprised the social partners, relevant Departments and the Equality Authority. The report of the working group on the review of the Parental Leave Act 1998 was published on 29 April 2002.

Paternity leave was considered by the working group taking into account the following issues: reconciliation of work and family life and balanced participation of men and women in work and family life; cost to employers; and comparative situation in EU member states. While acknowledging that a statutory arrangement to provide an entitlement to time off for fathers at the time of childbirth would enhance arrangements for the reconciliation of work and family life, the working group could not reach consensus on the issue. Subsequently, no agreement was reached on paternity leave by the social partners in the context of the negotiations on the Sustaining Progress partnership agreement.

Garda Recruitment.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

95 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of members of the Garda Síochána at the latest date for which figures are available; the number expected to be recruited in 2005; the anticipated membership at the end of 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35722/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of Garda resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of the Garda Síochána as at 19 November 2005 was 12,301 — all ranks. I am further informed that a total of 1,125 trainee gardaí were inducted into the Garda college to commence training during 2005. It is anticipated that a further 1,100 student gardaí will be recruited to the Garda Síochána in each of the years 2006 and 2007. The following table sets out the projected strength of the force as announced by me in October 2004.

Projections 2004-2008.

Year Ending

New Entrants

Organisational Strength Attested & Unattested

Organisational Strength Attested

2004

523

12,743

12,220

2005

1,096

13,388

12,292

2006

1,096

14,044

12,948

2007

1,097

14,627

13,530

2008

661

14,661

14,000

In relation to Garda resources generally, the accelerated recruitment campaign to reach a record force strength of 14,000, in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of 2006. The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources, and in this context the needs of the Garda Síochána will be fully considered.

Law Enforcement.

Joan Burton

Question:

96 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the legislation governing the use of gaming machines; the steps his Department will take to ensure that the law is not being broken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35707/05]

The Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956 to 1986 is the legislation governing the use of gaming machines. All gaming, except that which is specifically provided for under the terms of the Act, is prohibited. The Act sets out the definition of a gaming instrument, the stake and prize limits for gaming machines and the premises on which these type of machines are permitted.

An extensive review of the Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956 to 1986 was carried out in 2000 by an interdepartmental group which made recommendations for legislative amendments in this area. Draft legislation is being prepared in my Department to update key elements of the provisions relating to gaming. These new provisions will focus in particular on the area of gaming stake and prize money limits. The Garda Síochána enforces the provisions of the gaming and lotteries legislation on a continual basis.

Garda Investigations.

Joe Costello

Question:

97 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received the report into the death of a person (details supplied); if he will publish the report; if an inquiry under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 into the circumstances surrounding the person’s death will be established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35712/05]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Parliamentary Question No. 2 of 20 October 2005 and Parliamentary Question No. 520 of 15 November 2005. The Garda investigation into the death of the person named in the question is ongoing and it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this juncture.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

98 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends to resurrect his ill-fated café bar proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35709/05]

The position is that the Government legislative programme published on 27 September last makes provision for publication of a Bill to codify the licensing laws in mid-2006. This Bill will repeal the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2004, as well as the Registration of Clubs Acts 1904 to 2004, and replace them with provisions more suited to modern conditions.

When I launched a consultation process in relation to the general scheme of the draft Bill earlier this year, I stated that I would take account of submissions received from interested parties and individuals. That remains my intention. As regards the proposal to create a cafe bar licence, I have already indicated my intention to proceed instead with a radical reform of the licensing rules for restaurants.

Parental Rights.

David Stanton

Question:

99 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if safeguards will be put in place to protect the rights of fathers to have access to their children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30831/05]

Under the law as it stands, married parents living together are joint guardians and custodians of their child. If they separate, the custody is normally with the parent with whom the child primarily resides, but the other parent still remains a guardian. An unmarried father may apply to the court to be appointed a guardian of his child. Alternatively, where there is agreement between the parents, they can make a statutory declaration under section 2(4) of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964, as inserted by section 4 of the Children Act 1997, appointing the father as a guardian of his child, without having to go to court. Under section 11 of the 1964 Act, as amended by the Status of Children Act 1987, a father, whether married to the child's mother or not, may apply to the court for its direction on any question affecting the welfare of the child, including the right of access.

In all family law proceedings relating to the upbringing of a child, the court must always regard the child's welfare as the first and paramount consideration. Where appropriate and practicable, the court will also take into account the child's wishes in the matter having regard to the age and understanding of the child.

In addition, the law now places an emphasis in terms of recognising the rights of the child to the society of both of his or her parents. Section 11D of the 1964 Act, inserted by the 1997 Act, obliges the court in proceedings relating to the welfare of a child to consider whether the child's best interests would be served by maintaining personal relations and direct contact with both his or her father and mother on a regular basis.

The 1997 Act also provides for an emphasis on counselling and mediation as alternatives to court proceedings concerning the custody of and access to children. It encourages couples who are in dispute to think in terms of agreeing to the custody of and access to their children, without the need for court interventions. Before instituting proceedings for guardianship, custody or access, a solicitor must discuss with the parent the possibility of engaging in counselling and mediation to assist in effecting an agreement between the parties. The court may adjourn any proceedings for the purpose of enabling attempts to be made by the parties to reach agreement, with or without the assistance of a third party, on some or all of the issues in dispute. An agreement in writing between parties relating to custody, access or maintenance can be made a rule of court and thus become enforceable in the same way as if it were a court order.

These legislative provisions are extensive. They permit the court in cases of disagreement to decide on arrangements for the child's care and upbringing, including access rights, having regard to the welfare of the child which is always paramount. I am aware of the concerns of fathers regarding access rights and the issue of enforcement. Operation of the law in this whole area is being kept under review in my Department.

Question No. 100 answered with QuestionNo. 63.

Law Enforcement.

Mary Upton

Question:

101 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the proposal to establish a lap dancing club in Parnell Street by a person (details supplied); if the gardaí are satisfied that such clubs are not used for trafficking and exploitation of women; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35745/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that local Garda management have met management of the proposed lap-dancing club referred to by the Deputy and that an application for a public dancing licence for the premises is listed for hearing in early December 2005, at which time Garda submissions will be entered.

I am further informed that investigations carried out under Operation Quest have targeted this type of establishment. At this time, Garda management do not have evidence to suggest that such clubs are used for trafficking or illegal exploitation of women. However, the situation continues to be monitored by them.

Garda Deployment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

102 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the 2001 commitment to civilianise 496 Garda posts has not been fulfilled; the steps which have been taken to comply with this promise; the number of gardaí which have been moved under this scheme; when the programme is likely to be complete; and the amount the civilianisation will cost. [35726/05]

I refer the Deputy to my response to Parliamentary Question No. 557 of 8 November 2005. I remind the Deputy that the civilianisation programme approved by the Government in 2001 is to be implemented on a phased basis over a number of years. The programme provided for the civilianisation of certain posts in the short, medium and long-term; the transfer of the finance function from Garda district clerks to civilian staff; and the transfer of civilian staff from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to the Garda Síochána as civil servants of the State.

While my reply of 8 November sets out the position in relation to progress made to date, I also want to point out that the significant increases in funding recently approved by Government for the 2006 anti-crime programme will provide for a further acceleration of the civilianisation programme for the Garda Síochána. Already my Department is in the process of redeploying surplus staff from the Department of Agriculture and Food to staff the new Garda information services centre based in Castlebar. This initiative alone will result in the equivalent of 300 full-time gardaí being freed up for frontline outdoor policing duties. This initiative will go nationwide in 2006. This is also, of course, in keeping with the general policy that civilianisation allows certain jobs to be done at a more economic cost and allows gardaí to focus on work more suited to their training and skills, thereby increasing overall operational capacity within the Garda Síochána.

Ombudsman Commission.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

103 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he intends to take following the suggestion from the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, Ms Nuala O’Loan, for co-operation between her office and the soon to be established Garda Ombudsman office to be put on a statutory footing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35768/05]

I will shortly bring to Government and the House proposals for the nomination of the three members of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. I am sure that the Ombudsman Commission will be anxious to liaise and co-operate with the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and equivalent bodies in other jurisdictions to the fullest extent possible within the legal framework that applies in the relevant jurisdictions.

The Garda Síochána Act 2005 provides for the circumstances in which information obtained by the Ombudsman Commission may be disclosed, in or outside the State, to other persons. Specifically, the Ombudsman Commission may itself authorise disclose of information in any case. Under the provisions of the Act, therefore, it is a matter for the Ombudsman Commission to decide in each case to whom it will disclose information.

Prison Building Programme.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

104 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an archaeological excavation of the Thornton Hall site selected for the new prison complex is likely to take place; the estimated cost of such an undertaking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30377/05]

An archaeological survey of the Thornton Hall site is currently underway. The contract was awarded following a competitive tender process. The extent of excavation, if any, eventually to be decided upon will depend on a number of factors including the results of initial work and what parts of the 150 acre site are to be built upon. It is not possible therefore to give an estimate of the overall cost at this time as it is much too early in the process.

Proposed Legislation.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

105 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amendments he intends to introduce to the Criminal Justice Bill to reflect one of the key recommendations in the Ferns Report which would provide for a law on reckless endangerment as is in existence in the state of Massachusetts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35758/05]

The Government has accepted in principle the recommendations in the Ferns Report and has given a commitment to their implementation by all relevant Departments and agencies. A specific suggestion in the Ferns Report is that consideration should be given to the introduction of a new criminal offence which would apply to situations where any person "wantonly or recklessly engages in conduct that creates a substantial risk of bodily injury or sexual abuse to a child or wantonly or recklessly fails to take reasonable steps to alleviate such risk where there is a duty to act". I am at present giving priority to the preparation of appropriate provisions giving effect to that suggestion which I will introduce on Report Stage of the Criminal Justice Bill currently before the House.

Garda Operations.

Liz McManus

Question:

106 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the length of time Operation Anvil has been in existence; the length of time it will remain in existence; the number of overtime hours allocated to Operation Anvil in each of the Garda stations which have participated in Operation Anvil; the average payment to each Garda who has participated in Operation Anvil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35720/05]

Joe Costello

Question:

179 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the length of time Operation Anvil has been in existence; the length of time it will remain in existence; the number of overtime hours allocated in each of the Garda stations which have participated in same; the average payment to each Garda who has participated; the number of arrests that have been made, broken down by offence; the number of prosecutions initiated as a result of Operation Anvil, broken down by offence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35950/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 106 and 179 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Operation Anvil commenced in the Dublin metropolitan region on 17 May 2005. Operation Anvil is an ongoing operation. The primary focus of this intelligence driven operation is the targeting of active criminals and their associates involved in serious crime by preventing and disrupting this criminal activity. This is achieved through extensive additional overt patrolling and static checkpoints by uniform mobile and foot patrols, supported by armed plain-clothes patrols. I am further informed that this operation involves a large number of gardaí who are attached to the Dublin metropolitan region and other specialist sections in crime and security branch and the national support services branch.

The amount of overtime being worked by gardaí attached to stations in the Dublin metropolitan region and the specialist sections is not fixed and depends upon operational requirements. Consequently, to maintain operation flexibility, there is no absolute allocation to each Garda station. The Garda authorities inform me that the total number of overtime hours worked on this operation up to the roster ending 23 October was 180,672. The total cost of the operation up to this date amounted to €6,422,684 and for the reasons stated above it is not possible to give the average payment to each Garda involved in this operation.

As with all Garda initiatives introduced in response to circumstances at a particular time, the Commissioner keeps the operation under constant review in the context of the purpose for which it was introduced. However, I am pleased to inform the House that the 2006 Estimates published last week are making available to the Garda Commissioner funding to continue Operation Anvil as long as it is deemed necessary in operational policing terms, and, significantly, to extend the operation to Garda divisions outside Dublin. The Garda authorities inform me that the number of arrests that have been made under Operation Anvil in the Dublin metropolitan region are set out in the following table.

Operation Anvil 17 May 2005 to 20 November 2005.

Offence

Number of Arrests

Burglary

475

Robbery Offences

186

Murder

7

Serious Assaults

221

The above figures are exclusive of the first two weeks of the operation as no provision was made to collect this specific data in the statistical template provided for the first two weeks. Information in relation to the number of prosecutions is not readily available, and I will revert to the Deputy when the information is to hand.

I should emphasise that Operation Anvil, while proving very successful, is just one part of a multi-faceted strategy to deal with the problems which it seeks to address. I take great satisfaction in the Government's landmark decision in October 2004 to approve my proposal for the recruitment of 2,000 additional gardaí so as to increase the strength of the force to 14,000. One thing I have already agreed with the Garda Commissioner is that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties but will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing such as Operation Anvil.

The Garda Síochána is now better resourced than at any one time in its history. The Garda budget in 2006 will be at an historic high of over €1.29 billion, representing an increase of 109% over the 1997 provision which stood at just under €600 million and an increase of 13% on the amount for 2005.

Question No. 107 answered with QuestionNo. 77.

Judicial Ethics.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

108 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for a judicial ethics; and his views on whether the present situation of judicial self-regulation is workable. [35727/05]

I presume that the Deputy is referring to the proposed Judicial Council Bill which will provide for the establishing of a judicial council with responsibility for a number of matters, including the devising of a code of ethics for the judiciary and the investigation of alleged breaches of that code.

It is not true to suggest, as does the Deputy's question, that there is in place at present a system of judicial self-regulation. By law, regulation of judicial behaviour lies exclusively with the Oireachtas as regards judges of the Superior Courts, by virtue of Article 35.4.1° of the Constitution, and as regards judges of other courts, by statutory provisions modelled on the lines of that Article. The impeachment process under those provisions is suitable only for dealing with cases where the matter is so serious as to warrant considering the removal of the judge in question from office. There is nothing at present available to address breaches of ethics where that ultimate sanction would be inappropriately severe and it is that lacuna that the proposed legislation is designed to fill.

It is my intention that the Judicial Council Bill will provide for a scheme to deal with such breaches that will involve the management by the proposed judicial council of a process, to be set out in the Bill, for the investigation by judges, with lay, that is, non-judge, non-lawyer, participation, of complaints about judicial misbehaviour. Of course the legislation will not limit in any way the functions exclusive to the Oireachtas regarding removal from judicial office where that ultimate sanction is appropriate. Work is advancing on the development of the Bill and I am engaged in consultations with the Attorney General and other relevant stakeholders in that regard.

Prisoner Transfers.

Joe Costello

Question:

109 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a prisoner (details supplied) in County Longford who was transferred from Castlerea Prison to Wheatfield Prison after they had instituted legal action against the State whose agents had alleged that they had been involved with republican paramilitaries; if the prisoner has been refused privileges and entitlements as a result; if the allegations still stand due to those allegations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35704/05]

I am informed by the Irish Prison Service that the person referred to by the Deputy was transferred from Castlerea Prison to Wheatfield Prison in order to allow him access to the therapeutic services available there. It is, of course, open to this person to apply for a return to Castlerea Prison. I understand, however, that no such application was ever received.

I am also informed that this prisoner is involved in a number of legal actions against the State; that he has appealed an unsuccessfulhabeas corpus application to the Supreme Court and that he has a further case pending before the High Court relating to sanctions imposed by the governor of Wheatfield Prison following a breach of prison discipline.

There is no question that any privileges or entitlements were refused or withdrawn from any prisoner simply because he or she availed of his or her constitutional right to take issues up in the courts. I categorically reject any suggestion that this occurred in this case. I can inform the Deputy that my position on subversive prisoners is that persons serving prison sentences who are considered to be members of the Real IRA are held in a maximum security environment, that is, Portlaoise Prison. The person referred to was never detained in such a setting.

Garda Deployment.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

110 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations in County Mayo; the number of gardaí allocated to each of those Garda stations in each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35706/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of each Garda station in the Mayo division as at 31 December in each year since 1997 and as at 19 November 2005 is as set out in the following table.

Station

97

98

99

2000

01

02

03

04

19/11/05

Castlebar

58

59

58

59

56

61

62

58

57

Ballyvary

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Ballyglass

1

1

1

1

2

1

1

1

1

Balla

2

2

2

2

1

2

2

2

2

Partry

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

Glenisland

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Tourmakeady

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Ballina

33

34

33

31

38

36

37

37

38

Killala

2

2

2

1

2

2

2

2

1

Ballycastle

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Bonniconlon

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Crossmolina

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

2

3

Lahardane

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Enniscrone

4

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

Easkey

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

Belmullet

20

18

16

16

16

19

19

19

19

Blacksod

1

1

1

2

2

2

2

1

1

Bellacorrick

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Bangor Erris

3

4

4

3

3

3

3

3

3

Ballycroy

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Glenamoy

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

2

2

Claremorris

25

25

23

21

22

23

23

21

21

Kilmaine

2

2

2

1

1

1

0

1

1

Ballindine

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Knock

4

4

4

4

4

3

4

4

4

Ballinrobe

7

7

8

8

8

9

11

11

11

Cong

1

1

1

1

1

1

0

1

1

Shrule

2

3

2

2

3

1

1

1

1

Hollymount

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Swinford

19

20

22

22

19

22

24

24

21

Kiltimagh

3

3

3

3

4

3

4

4

3

Charlestown

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

2

Kilkelly

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

1

Ballyhaunis

10

10

10

10

9

9

10

9

8

Foxford

3

3

3

3

3

2

2

2

2

Westport

21

24

26

24

24

27

27

27

25

Newport

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

Achill Sound

4

4

5

5

5

4

5

4

4

Mulranny

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

Louisburgh

3

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

Keel

1

1

1

1

0

1

1

1

1

Garda management states that the information sought in relation to the strength of each Garda station in the Mayo division in 1995 and 1996 is not readily available and can only be obtained by the disproportionate expenditure of Garda time and resources relative to the information sought.

In relation to Garda resources generally, the accelerated recruitment campaign to reach a record force strength of 14,000, in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength of both attested gardaí and recruits in training of 14,000 by the end of 2006.

The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources, and in this context the needs of the Mayo division will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of Garda divisions throughout the country.

Dublin-Monaghan Bombings.

Finian McGrath

Question:

111 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of compensation which has been paid out to the families of the 1972 and 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30220/05]

As the Deputy may be aware, following on from undertakings given by the Government in the Good Friday Agreement, a review of the services and arrangements in place in this jurisdiction to meet the needs of those who have suffered as a result of violent action arising from the conflict in Northern Ireland was conducted. As a result of this review, the Remembrance Commission and the scheme of acknowledgement, remembrance and assistance for victims in this jurisdiction of the conflict in Northern Ireland was established on 29 October 2003. The scheme was further amended in October 2004.

Payments which are made to victims or their families in accordance with the terms of the amended scheme are in respect of a death, economic hardship grounds, medical expenses and also towards the provision of counselling expenses. In addition the commission funds support groups working with victims of the conflict and their families.

To date over €3 million has been allocated from the scheme and paid to victims, to bereaved families and to victim support services as a result of the conflict in Northern Ireland. This includes a donation of €1.25 million to the Northern Ireland memorial fund. In addition to money paid out under this scheme, awards were made in the past to victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and their families by the criminal injuries compensation tribunal, which was established in 1974.

Taken together, the total amount paid to date in respect of those who were either killed or injured in the 1972 to 1974 Dublin and 1974 Monaghan bombings and also to the support services dealing with the victims and their families, is €1,982,339.

Garda Programmes.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

112 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the aims of the Garda schools programme at both primary and secondary level; the level of staffing for this programme in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35767/05]

The Garda schools programme — primary — was launched in 1991. The Garda secondary schools programme was piloted in 2003 and officially launched in November 2004. The aim of the Garda schools programme is to teach children sensible and responsible patterns of behaviour in order that they may: lessen the risks they may face through crime; be safer on the roads and at home; positively contribute towards crime prevention; know what the role of the gardaí is; and develop positive attitudes towards the gardaí and the job they do. Both programmes focus on the safety of children in every aspect of their lives. The following table details the number of gardaí trained in both courses for each year.

Number of gardaí trained in Garda schools programme.

Year

Primary

Secondary

2001

173

2002

220

2003

101

38

2004

235

58

2005

165

232

Totals

894

328

Garda Recruitment.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

113 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if Garda recruits are still required to pay for their uniform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35741/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Garda recruits do not pay for their uniform. I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that student gardaí are informed prior to commencement of training that they are required to purchase items of clothing, footwear and bedding for their own personal use. They are also informed that these items may be purchased at the Garda college at an approximate cost of €400.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

114 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of non-nationals who applied to join the Garda Síochána in the recent recruitment drive; the number who fulfil the criteria for recruitment; the breakdown by ethnic groups; when the first trainees will start in Templemore; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35738/05]

The recent recruitment competition which was advertised by the Public Appointments Service in September and October 2005 followed new regulations which I made in September 2005 with the approval of Government to alter the rules governing entry to the Garda Síochána. These changes included clarification on nationality and residence requirements and removed the requirement to hold a qualification in both Irish and English in the leaving certificate or equivalent, in favour of a requirement instead to hold a qualification in two languages, at least one of which must be Irish or English.

Irish society is increasingly multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. My changes to the eligibility criteria will open up entry to the Garda Síochána to persons from all of our multi-ethnic and multi-national communities. This is a hugely significant step which will help to ensure that future intakes of recruits to the Garda Síochána reflect the composition of Irish society, to the benefit of the force and the people it serves.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that of the new applications received for this competition 1,345 have voluntarily disclosed that they are of foreign origin, while seven applicants have indicated that they are members of the Traveller community. The number of applicants who fulfil the criteria for recruitment is not yet known. The assessment of eligibility criteria is not completed until after the written examinations which are currently underway. The first recruits to be taken from this recent competition will be included in the second quarterly intake of 275 recruits to the Garda college in 2006 scheduled for the first week of May 2006.

Departmental Funding.

Tom Hayes

Question:

115 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when funding will be made available to the Coeliac Society for the compilation of food lists for members and for the upkeep of Carmichael centre, Dublin. [35785/05]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that on 10 May 2005, I approved a grant of €30,000 to the Coeliac Society from my Department's 2005 allocation of national lottery funds towards the cost of compiling and printing a book of gluten free manufactured products and the mailing of it to all members; advising members of changes to products throughout the year via the website and also towards the cost of newsletters. My Department has no record of an application from the Coeliac Society for national lottery funding for the upkeep of the Carmichael centre.

Health Services.

John Perry

Question:

116 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene with the Health Service Executive north west region to ensure that home help is granted to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35786/05]

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.

John Perry

Question:

117 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene with the Health Service Executive north west region to ensure that the domiciliary allowance is granted to a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35787/05]

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.

John Perry

Question:

118 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene with the Health Service Executive north west region and have a person (details supplied) called for their hip operation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35788/05]

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.

Attention Deficit Disorder.

Liam Twomey

Question:

119 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of children on psycho-stimulants here who have a diagnosis of ADHD; if this number has increased over the past three years, especially in pre-school children; the number of children under 18 years on antidepressants or psychotropic medicines; and if this number has increased over the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35811/05]

The information requested by the Deputy is not routinely collected by my Department. I have therefore requested the parliamentary affairs division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Commissions of Investigation.

Liam Twomey

Question:

120 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she intends using the Commissions of Investigation Bill 2004 to inquire into the non-notification of donors infected with the hepatitis C virus as promised following discussions with groups (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35812/05]

The Finlay tribunal of inquiry, which reported in 1997, noted that between November 1991 and December 1993, blood donors in the Munster region, who had tested positive for hepatitis C, were not immediately notified of their test results. The tribunal acknowledged that these donors were eventually informed by the then Blood Transfusion Service Board of their diagnosis between late 1993 and February 1994 and offered appropriate counselling and support at that time.

During 2004 the board of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service commissioned an independent review of donor records in the period in question, by Dr. Bernard Kubanek, a German haematology expert. Dr. Kubanek's report was presented to the board of the IBTS in March this year and it confirmed that there was a delay in notifying 34 donors about their hepatitis C infection in the Munster region in the period in question.

Dr. Kubanek found that different criteria were used to notify donors in the Dublin and Cork centres. One of his main recommendations was that the whole process of providing safe blood components to the health system should be uniform in the IBTS and directed by one responsible person and under one quality system. He also recommended that testing of donations should be performed identically under one quality system in all locations of the IBTS. The report was also given to Positive Action and Transfusion Positive which represent persons infected by hepatitis C from blood and blood products administered within the State.

Following this there was ongoing discussion between the IBTS and the groups in relation to the report. The groups also separately met Professor Kubanek to discuss his work and the content of his report. In August this year the IBTS apologised to the groups for the pain and suffering caused to donors and their families as a consequence of not being informed about their diagnosis in a timely fashion.

Dr. Kubanek's report provided a comprehensive investigation into and analysis of donor notification practice in the period 1991 to 1994. There have been significant improvements in the IBTS in recent years, including the adoption of a single national quality assurance system and implementation of new technologies including a blood donation system with electronic recording at all donation clinics. In light of Professor Kubanek's work, I do not believe there is a need to have another investigation of this issue.

Legal Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

121 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the name and address of solicitors retained to provide legal advice to the ten former health boards including the former Eastern Regional Health Authority for the years 2002, 2003 and 2004; the tendering process for each of these contracts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35813/05]

Section 5 of the Health Act 1970 and section 7 of the Health (Eastern Regional Authority) Act 1999 states that the health boards and ERHA were corporate bodies prior to the enactment of the Health Act 2004. In view of this the provision of legal services and advice to these bodies was a matter solely for them and my Department had no role to play. I have forwarded the question to the Health Service Executive for direct response to the Deputy.

Liam Twomey

Question:

122 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the name and address of solicitors retained by the Health Service Executive; the tendering process that the Health Service Executive have used to date in 2005 for awarding contracts to legal firms to provide advice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35814/05]

Section 6 of the Health Act 2004 states that the Health Service Executive is a corporate body. In view of this the provision of legal services and advice to these bodies was a matter solely for them and my Department had no role to play. I have forwarded the question to the Health Service Executive for direct response to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Liam Twomey

Question:

123 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of public patients who are waiting for a public MRI scan at Beaumont Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35815/05]

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.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

124 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if funding will be provided for the SATU in Kerry General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35853/05]

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 have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Denis Naughten

Question:

125 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she is taking to roll out tele-medicine and remote diagnostic services within the health service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35854/05]

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 have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Denis Naughten

Question:

126 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim will be called for a procedure at Sligo General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35860/05]

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.

Michael Noonan

Question:

127 Mr. Noonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the plans of the Parkinson’s Disease Association in the mid-west region to develop a rehab unit including a hydrotherapy pool at St. Camillus’s Hospital in Limerick; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that this association has a commitment of significant private funds for this project; if the proposal will be examined with a view to providing the balance of the capital required and make a commitment that the Health Service Executive will fund the ongoing running costs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35868/05]

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 executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

128 Mr. Howlin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in relation to cancer patients, her attention has been drawn to the fact that the survival rate at the five year mark is halved where there is a delay of eight weeks or more from prescription to provision of radiotherapy and chemotherapy; if her attention has further been drawn to fact that without dedicated transport facilities, it is not feasible for some patients to access critical cancer treatments entailing multiple, and sometimes daily, journeys to far distant treatment centres; the specific measures which have been put in place since the publication of the Hollywood report in 2003 to improve transport facilities for patients who must travel far distances to access critical cancer treatment; the status of the innovative transport initiative promised on publication of the Hollywood report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35869/05]

There is a significant responsibility on our health services to ensure that patients, particularly cancer patients, are adequately supported clinically and, where necessary, in relation to proper transport arrangements. As I have previously indicated to the House, I consider that appropriate transport arrangements for oncology patients should be made available, where necessary, by the Health Service Executive, HSE. My Department has raised this matter with the HSE to ensure that appropriate transport arrangements are put in place on a national basis for patients who are required to travel. Transport solutions are already a feature of the current provision of oncology services. My Department has asked the HSE to advise the Deputy directly in relation to current and proposed transport arrangements for oncology patients nationally.

Medical Cards.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

129 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the estimated annual cost per recipient of the medical card. [35915/05]

On the basis of the figures contained in the 2004 annual report of the former General Medical Services (Payments) Board, now the Health Service Executive, shared services, primary care reimbursement service, the average annual cost in 2004 of providing general practitioner and pharmacy services, drugs and medicines per recipient of the medical card was €954.26 per person.

There would, of course, be other benefits to medical card holders under the dental and ophthalmic schemes. The estimate does not take account of fee increases which apply under the terms of the Labour Relations Commission's recommendations of 20 June 2005 and any additional costs which might result from future industrial relations negotiations.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

130 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the estimated annual cost per recipient of the general practitioner only card. [35916/05]

On the basis of the figures contained in the 2004 annual report of the former General Medical Services (Payments) Board, now the Health Service Executive, shared services, primary care reimbursement service, it is estimated that the annual cost of providing general practitioner services to holders of the GP visit card is €261.53. The estimate does not take into account fee increases applied under the terms of the Labour Relations Commission's recommendations of 20 June 2005, the agreed registration fee of €35 in respect of the first 200,000 GP visit cards issued, or any additional costs which might result from future industrial relations negotiations.

Hospital Staff.

Jack Wall

Question:

131 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of consultants attached to the Health Service Executive that specifically deal with a health problem (details supplied); the hospitals that the specialists are attached to; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35917/05]

Jack Wall

Question:

132 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of cases of an illness (details supplied) that have been treated by the Health Service Executive in each of the past three years; the action taken by her Department to highlight the dangers attached to the illness; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35918/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 131 and 132 together.

The Deputy's questions relate to aspects of the treatment of asbestosis which is 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 these matters investigated and to reply directly to the Deputy.

The Deputy may wish to note that the Health and Safety Authority is responsible for the general control of asbestos in the workplace. Information relating to the dangers of and handling procedures for asbestos is available from their website atwww.hsa.ie.

Medical Cards.

Richard Bruton

Question:

133 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has made provision in the 2006 Estimates for increases in the terms and conditions for medical cards and doctor only cards; and the values which will apply after 1 January 2006. [36039/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

134 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has made provision in the 2006 Estimates for the normal discretion of the Health Service Executive to increase the income guidelines for medical cards and doctor only cards in line with annual moneys in the value of the consumer price index from 1 January 2006. [36040/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 and 134 together.

The Government is committed to providing an additional 30,000 people with medical cards and a further 200,000 people with GP visit cards. Funding of €60 million has been provided in 2005 to the Health Service Executive, HSE, for these measures and this will be maintained in 2006.

These initiatives will assist in overcoming barriers to accessing GP services, particularly for people on low incomes. They will also help in removing poverty traps and disincentives to people taking up work or progressing to better paying work. Taking into account both of these initiatives, 230,000 additional people, including children, will be able to access their general practitioner free of charge.

In January 2005, I increased the income guidelines used in the assessment of medical card applications by 7.5%. In June, it was apparent that the effect of rising income in our successful economy meant that the target of 30,000 additional medical cards was not going to be achieved. At this time I simplified the means test for both medical cards and GP visit cards. It is now based on an applicant's and spouse's income after tax and PRSI, and takes account of reasonable expenses incurred in respect of rent or mortgage payments, child care and travel to work. This is much fairer to applicants.

I announced on 13 October 2005 that the income guidelines for both medical cards and GP visit cards would be increased by an additional 20%. This means the income guidelines are now 29% higher than this time last year. My Department and the HSE will continue to monitor the number of cards issued with the intention of putting in place the required measures to ensure that the coverage targets are achieved.

Hospital Charges.

Richard Bruton

Question:

135 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has made provision in the 2006 Estimates for changes in the charges for casualty, outpatient visits, a public ward, a semi-private ward and a private ward; and the charges and the ceilings which will apply in 2006. [36041/05]

As announced following the publication of the Abridged Estimates Volume on 17 November 2005, the cost of visiting accident and emergency, where the person concerned has not been referred by a medical practitioner, will increase by €5 from €55 to €60 in 2006. The pubic hospital inpatient charge will also rise by €5 from €55 to €60 per night, up to a maximum of ten nights, in any 12 consecutive months. There will also be an increase of 10% in the charges raised by hospitals from private beds, income which will support the services provided in these hospitals. The details are as follows:

Hospital Category

Private Accommodation

Semi-private Accommodation

Day Care

2005

2006

2005

2006

2005

2006

Regional, Voluntary and joint region teaching hospitals

501

551

393

432

361

397

County and Voluntary non-teaching hospitals

418

459

336

369

299

328

District Hospital

179

197

153

168

133

146

The combination of these increased bed charges and the accident and emergency charge will yield some €25 million in a year.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

136 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has made provision in the 2006 Estimates for any change in the excess which applies in respect of the drug refund scheme; and the value which will apply in 2006. [36042/05]

The current threshold for the drugs payment scheme, which came into effect in January 2005, is €85. No provision has been made in the recently published Abridged Estimates volume to alter this threshold in 2006.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

137 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has made provision in the 2006 Estimates for changes in the maximum subvention payable to different levels of dependency, the income disregard for means testing, the savings disregard, the element of the value of a family home which is disregarded, the treatment of rented income from a family home which has been at or in the terms on which enhanced subvention can be obtained under the nursing home subvention scheme; and the provisions which will apply in 2006. [36049/05]

Provision has not been made in the recently announced 2006 Estimates for the health service for changes in the private nursing home subvention scheme. Increases in the thresholds which apply to the subvention application process are being considered and it is expected that an announcement will be made shortly.

Health Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

138 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has made changes in terms and conditions under which home care package can be obtained in the 2006 Estimates; the terms which will apply in 2006; and if the scheme will be subject to a ceiling on the number of participants. [36050/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

139 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has made changes in the terms and conditions under which home help will be made available in the 2006 Estimates; the provisions which will apply in 2006. [36051/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138 and 139 together.

Provision of home help and home care packages are an operational matter for the Health Service Executive. The level and volume of services to be provided in 2006 will be set out by the executive in its service plan for 2006. This will be framed in accordance with the resources available to the executive for 2006. The report of the long-term care working group, established earlier this year by the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, and the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Brennan, may also inform this process. The report will be submitted to the Government shortly.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

140 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has made changes in the charges which will be made in public nursing homes in the 2006 Estimates; and the charges which will apply in 2006. [36052/05]

There are no plans to make changes in the charges being made in public nursing homes.

The charging for long-stay care under the Health (Amendment) Act 2005 is being implemented by way of the Health (Charges for In-Patient Services) Regulations 2005. These regulations were signed on 14 June 2005 and reinstated charges for inpatient services. The regulations were prepared following extensive consultation with the Health Service Executive and others.

The regulations provide for the levying of a charge in respect of the maintenance of persons in receipt of inpatient services. Section 51 of the Health Act 1970 defines inpatient services as meaning "institutional services provided for persons while maintained in a hospital, convalescent home or home for persons suffering from physical or mental disability or in accommodation ancillary thereto".

Section 53 of the Health Act 1970, as amended by the Health (Amendment) Act 2005, provides,inter alia, for the levying of a charge where inpatient services have been provided for a period of not less than 30 days or for periods aggregating not less than 30 days within the previous 12 months. The regulations, in keeping with section 53 of the Health Act 1970, as amended, have provided for two different classes of persons on whom charges can be levied.

Class 1 refers to people in receipt of inpatient services on premises where nursing care is provided on a 24-hour basis on those premises. In this case, a weekly charge can be levied of €120 or the weekly income of that person less €35, whichever is the lesser. Class 2 refers to people in receipt of inpatient services on premises where nursing care is not provided on a 24-hour basis on those premises. In this situation, a weekly charge can be levied of €90, or the weekly income of that person less €55 or 60% of the weekly income of that person, whichever is the lesser.

These regulations provide for the maximum charge to be levied on either class of person. Under the regulations, only the Health Service Executive has the power to levy a charge. The executive has the power to reduce or waive a charge on the grounds of "undue hardship". Under section 1(b) of the Health (Amendment) Act 2005, the Health Service Executive can examine a person’s overall financial situation in view of the person’s reasonable expenditure on themselves or their dependants, if any. It is a matter for the Health Service Executive, based on its own legal advice and taking into account the individual circumstances as well as the service being provided, to make a decision on charges levied.

The management and delivery of health and personal social services are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. It is a matter for the executive, based on its own legal advice and taking into account the individual circumstances as well as the service being provided, to make a decision on any charges levied.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Willie Penrose

Question:

141 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Longford will be admitted for a CAT scan at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36065/05]

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 Accommodation.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

142 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she plans to take to overcome the shortage of inpatient beds at a hospital (details supplied) in County Kildare which is causing patients to be treated for lengthy and extended periods of time on hospital trolleys; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36079/05]

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.

Vehicle Registration Tax.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

143 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Finance the length of time persons can drive European registered cars on roads here while living and working here; his views on whether both these issues are causing significant frustration amongst drivers of all nationalities here who are paying tax and insurance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35914/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that as a general rule all vehicles imported for an indefinite period into the State must register for vehicle registration tax purposes within 24 hours of arrival. This rule applies equally to vehicles imported by EU and non-EU persons. However, section 135(a) of the Finance Act 1992 permits a European or other foreign registered vehicle, which is temporarily brought into the State by a person established outside the State, to be exempted from the requirement to register for vehicle registration tax purposes for a period normally not exceeding 12 months from the date upon which the vehicle concerned was brought into the State. These provisions are in line with Article 39 of the EU treaty which provides for the free movement of workers within member states.

The Deputy may wish to note that a reciprocal arrangement is also in place for Irish residents in the other EU member states.

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

144 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the length of time it has taken to plan for the much promised and eagerly awaited new Garda station at Leixlip, County Kildare; if there has ever been such a long drawn-out process; the cost associated to date in 2005 with the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35968/05]

Following the acquisition of a site in late 2002 for the proposed new Garda station at Leixlip, County Kildare, a sketch scheme, prepared by the Office of Public Works design team and based on the Garda brief of requirements, was forwarded to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in 2003 for approval. The Department sought significant additional requirements and these requirements effectively required a bigger building. It was not possible to meet the increased requirements due to the restricted nature of the site.

The Office of Public Works opened negotiations with Kildare County Council to acquire an additional piece of land. In May 2005, following protracted negotiations, agreement was received from Kildare County Council to transfer this plot of land to the Office of Public Works. A revised sketch scheme was forwarded to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in September 2005 for approval and changes were again requested by the Garda authorities. Discussions are continuing between the Office of Public Works and the Garda authorities on these changes and when an agreement is obtained the Part 9 planning process will proceed.

Costs to date are estimated at €50,000, primarily expended on fees related to design. It is expected that construction work on the new station, which will take 12 to 15 months to complete, will commence in 2006.

Tax Code.

Michael Ring

Question:

145 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance his views on abolishing VAT on home alarm systems (details supplied) for elderly people. [35872/05]

The position is that the VAT rating of goods and services is subject to the requirements of EU VAT law with which Irish VAT law must comply. Under the Sixth VAT Directive, member states may retain the zero rates on goods and services which were in place on 1 January 1991, but cannot extend the zero rate to other goods and services. As the supply of home alarm systems was not subject to the zero rate on 1 January 1991, it is not possible to apply the zero rate to these goods or services. There is no provision in EU VAT law that would allow for the abolition of VAT on home security systems.

However, under the Value Added Tax (Refund of Tax)(No. 15) Order 1981, it is possible to obtain a VAT refund in respect of the purchase of a pendant alarm system, as it is considered a medical device for the purpose of this refund order. Monitoring and maintenance fees are not recoverable. Applicants should contact the Revenue Commissioners, VAT Repayments (Unregistered Section), Kilrush Road, Ennis, County Clare.

A scheme of community support for older people is operated by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The purpose of the scheme is to encourage and assist the community's support for older people by means of a community-based grant scheme to improve the security of its older members. Funding under the scheme can be provided for small scale security equipment designed to strengthen points of entry to the dwelling; for security lighting; for smoke alarms and for the once-off cost of installing socially monitored personal alarm systems. Annual monitoring fees or maintenance fees associated with socially-monitored alarm systems are not provided for under the scheme.

The VAT refund for the purchase of a personal security alarm by or on behalf of a disabled or elderly person combined with the scheme of community support for older people outlined above are important measures that go towards ensuring those who are most in need of security systems can avail of them.

Decentralisation Programme.

John Deasy

Question:

146 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Finance the situation regarding the decentralisation of the Ordnance Survey Office to Dungarvan, County Waterford; if the site has been acquired by the Office of Public Works; if an advanced unit is being planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36075/05]

As part of the decentralisation programme, it is intended that 210 posts of Ordnance Survey Ireland will decentralise to Dungarvan, County Waterford. Initial data from the central applications facility indicate that while 15 staff of Ordnance Survey Ireland have applied to decentralise to Dungarvan, there are a further 47 expressions of interest in decentralising to Dungarvan, Ordnance Survey Ireland, by civil servants.

In accordance with the requirements set out in the decentralisation implementation group's progress report of June 2005, all organisations, including Ordnance Survey Ireland, not previously identified as early mover organisations are now in the process of preparing a deeper iteration of their original decentralisation implementation plan. This more detailed plan will include material on all issues to be addressed in terms of people, property and business planning. The matter of an advance unit is being considered by Ordnance Survey Ireland in the context of this report.

I understand from the Office of Public Works that agreement has been reached on terms for the purchase of a town centre site for Ordnance Survey Ireland in Dungarvan. Contracts for sale have been received from the vendor and are being processed by the Chief State Solicitor's office.

Fisheries Protection.

Joe Walsh

Question:

147 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to introduce management measures for horse mackerel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36070/05]

I am examining proposals that have been submitted to me by the fishing industry. I hope to complete this examination within the next few weeks with a view to the introduction of appropriate management measures from the beginning of next year.

Electronic Communications Infrastructure.

Joe Walsh

Question:

148 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the steps he intends to take to roll-out the metropolitan area network to additional towns throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36072/05]

The provision of telecommunications, 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 Government is addressing the infrastructure deficit by building high-speed open access metropolitan area networks in 120 towns and cities nationwide, on a phased basis in association with the local and regional authorities. Phase 1 has delivered fibre optic networks to 27 towns and cities, which were built on time and under budget. The programme has been extended to over 90 towns in various locations nationwide. Design and procurement has already commenced in several regions and construction is due to start early in 2006. It is expected that these networks will be completed during 2006 and 2007.

The Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources also offers funding assistance for smaller towns and rural communities to become self-sufficient in broadband through the county and group broadband scheme. To date, over 150 projects have been approved for funding under this programme. Full details of the regional broadband programme can be found on the Department's website,www.dcmnr.gov.ie.

Job Creation.

John Curran

Question:

149 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding investment and job creation projects for the mid-west of Dublin in 2006-2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35816/05]

Support for job creation and investment is a matter for the industrial development agencies. Under the Industrial Development Acts, I may give general policy directives to IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland but I am precluded from giving directives regarding individual undertakings or from giving preference to one area over others.

In terms of attracting foreign direct investment to west Dublin, IDA Ireland has had considerable success over the years. This year I announced an expansion of both the Xilinx and Colgate Palmolive facilities at Citywest Business Campus which will create over 500 new jobs in the next five years. Takeda Chemical Industries major new investment in Ireland will complete construction this year at Grangecastle, Clondalkin and will employ over 60 people upon completion. Wyeth Biopharma, which employs 900 highly skilled people at its facility in Grangecastle, has been granted government assistance for major investment which will create 1,300 jobs and will be in full production later this year.

Enterprise Ireland is focused on the retention in existing companies and creation of new jobs in the area. Since 2002 the agency has approved almost €11 million and paid over €9.5 million in support of companies in south County Dublin, which includes the Dublin Mid-West constituency. The agency also works closely with the Institute of Technology in Tallaght in encouraging the commercialisation of research. It has supported the development of a business incubation space at the college to the amount of €2.54 million. This facility, when completed, will generate quality start-up enterprises. Enterprise Ireland has supported the development of community based enterprise centres in Bawnogue and Neilstown, Brookfield, Bolbrook, Killinarden and Main Road Tallaght, all of which are contributing to job creation in new microenterprises.

The South Dublin County Enterprise Board is one of the State agencies responsible for the economic development in the south County Dublin, including the Mid-West constituency. Since its inception, the board has approved just over €7.6 million to businesses based in this area. These grants and other financial supports have assisted in the creation and maintenance of 870 jobs.

I am satisfied that the strategies and policies being pursued by development agencies are producing real and sustainable results for the people of west Dublin in additional investments and jobs. I am confident that this will continue to be the case in the future.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

150 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the property holdings of IDA Ireland in the Cork South-West constituency, with particular reference to the Kinsale area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35824/05]

IDA Ireland is an autonomous statutory agency established under the Industrial Development Acts 1986 to 2003. The agency operates in accordance with the provisions of the Acts and under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The management of IDA Ireland's industrial property portfolio is a day-to-day operational matter for the agency as part of the statutory responsibility assigned to it by the Oireachtas and not a matter in which I have any function.

From inquiries, I understand IDA Ireland has a total of 75.24 hectares of available lands in the Cork South-West constituency, of which 2.08 hectares are in Kinsale. I have been informed there are two sales ongoing in respect of the Kinsale property. The agency has available buildings totalling 5,130 sq. m. in the constituency but there are no available buildings in Kinsale.

IDA Ireland continues to actively promote all available land and buildings in the county and works closely with local developers and service providers to ensure the provision of top quality infrastructure and services. In addition, IDA Ireland continues to invest significantly in the development of its utility intensive sites and business and technology parks in the county.

Redundancy Payments.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

151 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when the final redundancy payments due to former employees of IFI will be made. [35857/05]

Lump sums were paid from the social insurance fund to the former employees of IFI from 22 November 2002 to 27 October 2005. If the Deputy has further information concerning statutory redundancy payments for former employees of this company, he should pass it to the Minister who will ensure officials of the Department will follow up on the matter.

Community Employment Schemes.

Pat Carey

Question:

152 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if it is the policy of his Department that community employment scheme places for crèches and child care centres in disadvantaged areas remain ring-fenced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35922/05]

Following a review of FÁS employment schemes, including community employment, job initiative and social economy programmes, on 10 November 2004, I announced that the current ring fencing and prioritisation for essential child care services would be maintained.

Approximately 2,200 child care places are provided to disadvantaged areas under community employment schemes. With reference to Dublin, there are 294 places in north Dublin city, 212 places in central Dublin and 440 places in south and west Dublin, bringing the total number of child care places available in the Dublin region to 946. No variation in the implementation of this policy has been brought to the attention of FÁS.

Social Insurance.

Richard Bruton

Question:

153 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the provision which he has made in Estimates 2006 for increase in the ceiling for social insurance payments, the threshold before social insurance is paid and the limit for exemption from payment of social insurance; and the values which will apply in 2006 in respect of these items. [35983/05]

The employee PRSI ceiling is reviewed annually in accordance with the legislative stipulations of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 1993. The legislation requires the Minister to take into account any changes in the average earnings of workers in the transportable good industries as recorded by the Central Statistics Office.

The 2006 Abridged Estimates assumes an increase in the employee PRSI ceiling from the current €44,180 figure to €46,600 per annum. The 2006 Abridged Estimates assumes no increase in the PRSI thresholds or exemption limits. The question of changes to PRSI exemptions, thresholds and the ceiling are considered in a budgetary context. Any such changes would be announced in the forthcoming budget.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Seamus Healy

Question:

154 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the free schemes will be amended to allow pensioners at 65 years and over qualify for these schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35792/05]

The household benefits package, which comprises the electricity-gas allowance, telephone allowance and television licence schemes, is generally available to people living permanently in the State, aged 66 years or over, who are in receipt of a social welfare type payment or who satisfy a means test.

The package is also available to carers in receipt of a carer's allowance and to people with disabilities under the age of 66 years who are in receipt of certain welfare type payments. People aged over 70 years can qualify regardless of their income or household composition. Widows and widowers aged from 60 to 65 years whose late spouses had been in receipt of the household benefits package retain that entitlement to ensure households do not suffer a loss of entitlements following the death of a spouse. Further extensions to the household benefits package could only be considered in a budgetary context and taking account of the financial and other needs of those not covered by the existing arrangements.

David Stanton

Question:

155 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason the fuel allowance to residents (details supplied) in Dublin 9 has been reduced due to the fact that residents are still making a payment for heating costs; his views on reversing this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35878/05]

The aim of the national fuel scheme is to assist householders that are in receipt of long-term social welfare or Health Service Executive payments towards their additional heating needs during the winter season. As a long-standing policy within the scheme, fuel allowances are not payable in cases where a person has access to their own fuel supply, or is benefiting from a subsidised heating service, such as those provided by Dublin City Council at several of its housing complexes.

In the course of a routine review of fuel allowance payments, the Department recently ceased fuel allowance entitlement which had been paid in error in several cases where recipients were in local authority accommodation with subsidised heating. The allowances were withdrawn in these cases with effect from the start of the winter heating season but no overpayments are being assessed against them.

Fuel allowances were paid in error to these people in previous years. In some instances, fuel allowance was awarded because the applicants indicated that their heating costs were not being subsidised. The non-payment arises purely from the proper application of conditions for the scheme. It would not be equitable to retain the fuel allowance in these cases when neighbouring tenants in the same circumstances are not eligible and are managing their budgets accordingly. Nonetheless, I am conscious of the particular circumstances which apply in the cases concerned and I am reviewing the position to see if there is scope to resolve their situation.

Richard Bruton

Question:

156 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the present terms on which widows are eligible for partial unemployment or sickness benefit; and if he has made provision for charges in these terms in Estimates 2006. [35984/05]

Under social welfare legislation a person who is in receipt of a widow's or widower's contributory pension may qualify for half rate unemployment benefit or half rate disability benefit subject to satisfying the normal conditions for entitlement to payment. To be entitled to payment of unemployment benefit a person must be unemployed, be under 66 years of age, be capable of and available for work, be genuinely seeking employment, have sustained a substantial loss of employment, prove unemployment in the prescribed manner and satisfy the contribution conditions. To satisfy the contributions conditions a person must have 39 paid or credited PRSI contributions in the relevant tax year or 26 paid PRSI contributions in the relevant tax year and 26 paid PRSI contributions in the tax year before the relevant tax year. Classes A, H, and P contributions are qualifying contributions. Unemployment benefit may be paid for up to 156-312-390 days of unemployment. The duration of benefit varies according to the age of the person, the class of qualifying contribution, number of total contributions paid since entry into insurance and the circumstances of the claim.

A widow or widower who is claiming disability benefit and getting widow's or widower's contributory pension at half the personal rate of disability benefit may receive payment for up to 15 months. Widow's contributory pension recipients who have less than 260 paid reckonable PRSI contributions may be paid disability benefit at half the personal rate for up to 12 months. Widow's contributory pension recipients who have more than 260 paid reckonable PRSI contributions may be paid disability benefit at half the personal rate for up to 15 months.

Following exhausting his or her entitlement to disability benefit, a recipient may re-qualify for payment of same if they have paid 13 reckonable PRSI contributions following the date he or she exhausted his or her entitlement to disability benefit. Classes A, E, H, and P contributions are qualifying contributions.

The Abridged Estimates for the Department of Social and Family Affairs were published last week. It would not be usual to provide for any changes to the current arrangements relating to widows or widowers. Any improvements for this group fall to be considered in a budgetary context.

Richard Bruton

Question:

157 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the income which is assessed against a young person living at home on account of their parents’ income; and if provision has been made for changes in the Estimates 2006. [35985/05]

For unemployment assistance purposes, the assessment of means for non-householders resident in the parental home has always taken into account the yearly value of any benefit and privilege enjoyed by him or her by virtue of residing with a parent or step-parent. In practice, this is taken to mean the value of free board and lodging to a claimant and such value is ascribed having regard to the level of parental income.

The 1986 Commission on Social Welfare examined the then operation of the benefit and privilege arrangements. The commission recommended the abolition of the concept of benefit and privilege for those aged 25 years and over. In reaching this conclusion, the commission stated:

The reason for this cut-off point (25 years) is that by that age young adults would normally have become financially independent of the parental home. The minority, however, unable to obtain employment by that age or those who become unemployed at a later age should also be entitled to financial independence and it can be argued that such persons should, therefore, be entitled to a payment in their own right, irrespective of parental means. Payment at the full basic rate is appropriate in such cases.

In the 2003 budget, the assessment of benefit and privilege for unemployment assistance claimants aged 29 years and over was abolished. The 2004 budget abolished the assessment for those aged 27 and 28 years of age. In the 2005 budget, I further reduced the age above which the assessment of benefit and privilege does not apply to 26 years of age. Any further change in these arrangements would fall to be considered in a budgetary context, as distinct from the Estimates.

Richard Bruton

Question:

158 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the income which is assessed against a person in respect of the earnings of their spouse; and if provision has been made for changes in Estimates 2006. [35986/05]

The maximum qualified adult dependant increase is payable where the adult dependant's gross weekly earnings do not exceed €88.88. Regulations provide for the tapered, or gradual, withdrawal of the qualified adult allowance for claimants of most welfare payments where the person's spouse-partner is earning over €88.88 and finally withdrawn at earnings of €220 per week.

Since the Government came into office, several changes to these tapered arrangements have been introduced with a view to ensuring the impact of increases in earnings are not negated for families where the spouse is the sole earner and is in low-paid employment. The range of income over which the qualified adult allowance is withdrawn has been progressively extended. Provision was made for the deferral of the loss of half the child dependant allowance until the earnings of the spouse-partner exceeds the upper bound of the income range. In addition, the qualified adult weekly rates have been increased annually in each budget package. From January 2005, the weekly personal and maximum qualified adult allowance rates of the lowest payment rates were increased by €14.00 and €9.30 respectively.

As is normal, the Abridged Estimates volume recently published does not provide for any enhancements to social welfare schemes. Any further changes in income limits in respect of qualified adults would have to be considered in a budgetary context and in the light of competing priorities.

Richard Bruton

Question:

159 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the income which is disregarded in calculating a person’s eligibility for rent supplement, distinguishing the treatment of maintenance payments, part-time earnings, pensions and so on; the provisions which have been made for changes in any of these in Estimates 2006. [35987/05]

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive, a weekly or monthly rent or mortgage interest supplement is available to assist eligible people who are unable to meet their immediate accommodation needs through their own resources. The scheme is subject to statutory means test rules contained in the third schedule, Part IV of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 1993, as amended, and regulations made thereunder. The details of the disregards referred to by the Deputy are outlined below.

Under standard supplementary welfare allowance assessment rules, rent supplements are calculated to ensure that an eligible person, after the payment of rent, has an income equal to the rate of supplementary welfare allowance appropriate to his or her family circumstances, less a minimum contribution of €13 which each recipient is required to pay from his or her own resources. Family income supplement is disregarded in the standard means test. In addition, in cases where the applicant has part-time employment, that is, fewer than 30 hours per week, up to €60 of weekly earnings is disregarded.

Social welfare programmes aim to be responsive to the needs of those who depend on income maintenance support while providing incentives to assist people to become more independent financially, particularly through employment. In this regard, a number of measures have been introduced in recent years to remove disincentives to taking up employment and to assist in the transition from welfare to work. These measures include employment support schemes such as the back to work programme and special means disregards and tapered withdrawal of benefits as earnings increase.

People are entitled to retain certain social welfare and other secondary benefits in total or in part for the duration of the employment scheme, subject to certain conditions. For most people, the most significant secondary benefit is rent or mortgage interest supplement, which is paid under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. An income limit of €317.43 per week applies to the retention of these supplements. No income limit applies to the back to work allowance itself.

While this rent supplement retention income limit has not changed since its introduction, significant other improvements have been made to the means test subsequently. Back to work allowance and family income supplement, in cases where one or both of these are in payment, are disregarded in the assessment of the €317.43 weekly income limit. PRSI and reasonable travelling expenses are also disregarded in the means test.

Under these special arrangements, rent supplement may be retained for up to four years on a tapered basis, that is, 75% of supplement in year one, 50% in year two and 25% in years three and four. In addition, the maximum payment limit of €317.43 per month on the amount of supplement payable was abolished for people on the approved schemes.

In effect, this means that people who commence employment through a back to work scheme or community employment following a period of unemployment can have a weekly household income significantly in excess of the €317.43 limit and still qualify to retain 75% of their rent or mortgage interest supplement. For example, in the first year of his or her participation in the back to work allowance scheme, a single person can have combined income from the back to work allowance and wages of €429 while a couple with two children can have a combined income of €528.25. In addition, the separate maximum payment limit of €317.43 per month on the amount of supplement payable was abolished for people on the approved schemes.

People availing of an employment support scheme may opt to be assessed under either standard supplementary welfare allowance rules or under the special retention rules and will be entitled to receive payment under whichever is the more favourable option for them. A person on a community employment scheme or other back to work scheme whose household income is above the €317.43 weekly limit for retention of secondary benefits may still qualify for rent supplement under the standard rules. In that context, I introduced amending regulations in January 2005 to increase the income disregard in the standard rules of the scheme from €50 to its current level of €60 per week.

Half of any maintenance payments a lone parent receives can be disregarded as means for the purposes of assessing a person's entitlement to one-parent family payment. The means test for this and certain other social assistance schemes also provides for a disregard of up to €95.23 per week of maintenance payments in instances where applicants have rent or mortgage interest obligations on their family homes. Given that up to €95.23 per week of maintenance payments has already been disregarded in the means test for the primary scheme payment purposes to allow for housing costs, maintenance income up to this weekly amount is assessable in determining the appropriate level of rent supplement payable. However, depending on the particular family housing cost, up to €60 per week of maintenance in excess of this €95.23 amount can be disregarded for rent supplement means assessment purposes to ensure that the family has the benefit of the extra maintenance income up to that level before it affects their rent supplement entitlements.

In the past, in the specific situation where budget increases in rates of payment were granted to old age pensioners at amounts higher than which applied to supplementary welfare allowance, a special income disregard was introduced to ensure that the people concerned received the full benefit of their budget increase. The amount of income in excess of the basic supplementary welfare allowance rate that can be disregarded in the means test for rent supplement for people aged 65 or over who are in receipt of a social welfare pension or equivalent payment from another country is now €26 per household. The 2006 Abridged Estimates made no provision for changes in rent supplement eligibility, entitlements or rates of payment. Any such change in the scheme would be a matter for consideration in the context of the forthcoming budget.

Richard Bruton

Question:

160 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if provision has been made for changes in the provision for supplements to meet the cost of a prescribed diet in Estimates 2006; and the terms and conditions for this scheme which will prevail. [35988/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

161 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if provision has been made in Estimates 2006 for changes in terms under which the back to work allowance can be claimed; and the terms and conditions which will apply in 2006. [35989/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

162 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if provision has been made in Estimates 2006 for changes in the terms under which the back to education allowance can be claimed; and the terms and conditions which will apply in 2006. [35990/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

164 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if provision has been made for change in the concessions under different categories of service which make up the free schemes or in the terms for eligibility in the 2006 Estimates; and the terms which will apply. [35992/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 160 to 162, inclusive, and 164 together.

The 2006 Abridged Estimates, as normal, made no provision for changes in eligibility, entitlements or rates of payment for any of the schemes administered by my Department. Improvements across the range of social welfare schemes are being considered at present in the context of the forthcoming budget.

Richard Bruton

Question:

163 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the circumstances in which persons on disability benefit, unemployment benefit and unemployment assistance can qualify for the national fuel allowance and are exempted for the requirement to have 13 paid stamps to qualify. [35991/05]

Fuel allowances are paid for 29 weeks from the end of September to mid-April each year. Some 274,000 customers — 151,000 with basic fuel allowance and 123,000 with smokeless fuel supplement — benefit under the scheme at a cost of €85.4 million in 2005. Under the scheme, a fuel allowance of €9 per week is paid to eligible households during this 29-week winter heating period. An additional €3.90 per week is paid to eligible households in the designated urban smokeless fuel zones, bringing the amount payable in these areas to €12.90. The allowance is available to pensioners and other categories of long-term social welfare payments and to all other applicants on the basis of a means test. There are no social insurance contribution requirements for eligibility under the scheme.

People in receipt of short-term social welfare payments such as unemployment benefit, unemployment assistance, disability benefit or occupational injuries benefit are not normally eligible to receive a fuel allowance. However, there is a special arrangement in place to pay the smokeless fuel allowance element — €3.90 per week — to people who live in one of the designated urban smokeless fuel areas and who have been receiving one of these social welfare payment types for 13 weeks or more. To be eligible for this supplementary fuel allowance, applicants must satisfy the other standard conditions of the fuel allowance scheme, in particular that the combined weekly household income must not be more than €51 above the reference old age contributory pension rate applicable to the family size. As with the standard fuel allowance, only one smokeless fuel allowance is payable per household. Applications for this smokeless fuel allowance should be made through the local social welfare office.

Question No. 164 answered with QuestionNo. 160.

Michael Ring

Question:

165 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be approved the carer’s allowance. [36066/05]

The person concerned applied for carer's allowance in respect of two carees on 4 October 2005. The principal conditions for receipt of the allowance are that full-time care and attention is required and being provided and that the means test that applies is satisfied. Additionally, the requirement to be habitually resident in Ireland was introduced as a qualifying condition for certain social assistance schemes including carer's allowance with effect from the 1 May 2004.

Having examined all the facts in her case, a deciding officer decided that she does not satisfy the habitual residence condition. She was notified of this decision, the reason for it and the right to an appeal on 21 November 2005. Under social welfare legislation, decisions regarding claims must be made by deciding officers and appeals officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Road Safety.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

166 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Transport the laws regarding cars that are literally blacked out with tinted glass; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35914/05]

It is a requirement for the registration and entry-into-service of new cars in the EU that they have EU whole vehicle type approval, EU-WVTA. In order to receive EU-WVTA, a car must meet the technical specifications for a range of items, including the glazing and the field of vision of drivers, which are set down in a series of separate directives. It is not open to a member state to prohibit the sale or entry-into-service of a car which has EU-WVTA. Under the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963, which specify vehicle in-service standards, a vehicle must be constructed so that the driver can at all times have such a view of the road and of other traffic on the road as is necessary to enable the vehicle to be driven safely. It is a requirement under these regulations for a windscreen to be fully transparent so as not to distort the driver's view. Enforcement of the regulations is a matter for the Garda Síochána. I have concerns about modifications to windscreens and side-windows which result in excessively blacked-out windows and I am considering making such modifications, subject to the NCT. To do so would require amendments to the existing NCT regulations and the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations.

Transport Initiatives.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

167 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the costings in respect of Transport 21; if his Department accepts the total cost at €34.4 billion has been reached on the basis of accurate assessment and predictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33155/05]

Joan Burton

Question:

171 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport the role his Department will play in the organisation and delivery of the Transport 21 initiative announced on 1 November 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33044/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 167 and 171 together.

Transport 21 is a fully costed programme. The €34.4 billion is based on the aggregate costs of the constituent projects and these are in turn primarily based on costs provided by the transport agencies. The agencies have confirmed that the costs and underlying assumptions are as rigorous as possible, taking account of the various stages of development, design and implementation of the projects. A greater degree of certainty can be attached to those projects that are already at an advanced stage of development. The difficulty in making accurate assumptions on final outturn costs for later projects has been addressed by providing contingency within individual projects where appropriate. On this basis I am satisfied that the total funding of €34.4 billion is sufficient for the full implementation of Transport 21.

My Department will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of Transport 21 by the various transport agencies and local authorities. A monitoring group is being established and will chaired by the Department of Transport. The group will include representatives of the Departments of the Taoiseach and Finance and other relevant Departments and agencies. It will be responsible for the high-level monitoring of Transport 21 and reporting annually to Government on issues such as financial and physical progress.

I am convinced that we also need a new approach to transport in the greater Dublin area, delivered through a single authority, with real powers to ensure joined up thinking and delivery across all the transport modes. A team, chaired by Professor Margaret O'Mahony and reporting directly to me, has been appointed and charged with finalising a structure for the new transport authority, detailing its remit and responsibilities as well as identifying the human resources which are critical to the success of the body, taking into account best practice and best experience internationally.

Parking Regulations.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

168 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether it is true that disabled parking spaces provided by local authorities are free of charge with no time limit applying; when all car parks will have free parking for disabled drivers with a parking permit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30443/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 401 of 25 October 2005. That reply is set out as follows and the position remains unchanged. If it would assist the Deputy, my office would be happy to arrange for the Deputy to discuss these issues with the relevant officials from my Department.

Traffic and parking regulations made in 1997 under section 35 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 provide that the only vehicles that may stop or park in a disabled person's parking bay are those in which a disabled person's parking permit is displayed, provided the vehicle is being used for the convenience of the person to whom the permit was issued. The prohibition on parking in disabled person's parking bays applies at all times of the day and may not be restricted to particular periods. Equally there is no provision in the regulations for the imposition of a charge for permit holders using the disabled person's parking bays.

The provisions contained in the traffic and parking regulations apply in respect of the use of public roads only. Section 101 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 provides that local authorities may make by-laws in respect of the use of car parks they provide. The determination of the provisions in such by-laws is a matter for the elected members of the local authority.

My Department is engaged in a consultation process with groups representing the interests of disabled persons which are engaged in the issue of the disabled person's parking permits, the Garda Síochána, local authorities and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government regarding the regulatory provisions made under the Road Traffic Acts that relate to the operation of disabled person's parking permits and the use of disabled person's parking bays.

Road Safety.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

169 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Transport his views on implementing mandatory breathalyser testing at the scene of all serious and fatal car accidents here in view of the fact that the gardaí have discretionary powers with regard to this and in further view on the constant incidences of serious and fatal car accidents on roads; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35808/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 440 of 8 November 2005. That reply is set out as follows and the position remains unchanged. The Road Traffic Acts provide that a member of the Garda Síochána may require a person in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle to provide a preliminary breath specimen where the vehicle is involved in a road collision, where a garda considers that a road traffic offence has been committed or where a garda forms the opinion that the person has consumed alcohol.

The purpose of preliminary roadside breath testing is to provide the gardaí with a facility to assist them in determining whether a person in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle has consumed alcohol. However, the Road Traffic Acts provide that a person may be arrested for a drink driving offence without recourse to a preliminary breath test. In particular, there may be circumstances, especially in the context of a road collision, where it may not be possible for a member of the Garda Síochána to require that a person submit to a preliminary breath test. Garda discretion regarding the use of preliminary roadside tests is an integral and important element of the enforcement provisions relating to the laws applying to drink driving and I do not propose to alter that position.

Transport Initiatives.

Joan Burton

Question:

170 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport if, in regard to his announcement of 20 October 2005 that from now on there will be ex-ante evaluations including economic cost-benefit appraisal for all projects above €30 million, his views on if the various projects as part of the Transport 21 initiative announced by the Government on 1 November 2005 were subject to such evaluation prior to their announcements; if not, if it is intended that these projects will be subjected to such evaluation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33041/05]

The projects within Transport 21 will be subject to normal statutory procedures where required, capital appraisal in line with the Department of Finance guidelines and the value for money initiatives set out in the Minister for Finance's speech of 20 October last. Some elements of the overall investment programme, including metro north and the rail investment programme for the greater Dublin area, have had business cases prepared for them by their promoting agencies. These business cases included an economic evaluation.

Question No. 171 answered with QuestionNo. 167.

Community Development.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

172 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the RAPID programme will be extended to the town of Ardee, County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35810/05]

I have no plans at present to extend the areas covered by the RAPID programme. However, as I have stated previously, I am examining an apparent anomaly with regard to Ballyfermot, which despite meeting the criteria for inclusion in strand I of the programme, was omitted due to its inclusion in the URBAN II programme.

Dan Neville

Question:

173 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when further information will be available on the programme of grants for locally based community and voluntary organisations. [35874/05]

Care of the Elderly.

Richard Bruton

Question:

174 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the provision which has been made in the Estimates 2006 for locks, alarms and so on for pensioners through local voluntary groups; the categories of pensioners who will be eligible; and if the scheme will be placed on a year-round basis. [35981/05]

Provision is made for grants for community and voluntary service under subhead K1 on my Department's Vote as published in the 2006 Abridged Estimates Volume. A total of €37.134 million — an increase of 9% on the corresponding 2005 allocation — has been provided for a number of programmes including the scheme of community supports for older people — under which funding for security devices for older people is made available. The final allocations between the programmes operated by my Department under this subhead will be published in the Revised Estimates Volume.

The scheme is open to people aged 65 and over who have a genuine need for assistance under this scheme and is administered by community and voluntary organisations throughout the country on an annual basis with support provided by my Department. Having a closing date for receipt of applications allows my Department to assess the amount of funding sought under the scheme in a given year and ensure that the funding available is distributed as equitably as possible to all applicant organisations, be they small wholly-voluntary operated or larger well resourced organisations.

Community Development.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

175 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his Department’s policies regarding the civic and social life of urban and suburban areas; the policies which are in place regarding community development in areas experiencing a rapid level of housing development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36068/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 420 on 15 November 2005 in which I provided a comprehensive breakdown on the programmes and schemes operated by my Department. The primary focus of area-based programmes, such as the local development social inclusion programme, is communities experiencing disadvantage and isolation rather than a specific focus on the rate of housing development, which in my view is not of itself necessarily an indication of disadvantage.

Grant Payments.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

176 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason an application for the installation aid scheme by a person (details supplied) in County Galway has been rejected; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that out of a total land holding of 47.63 hectares, only 3.04 hectares or 6% is held in joint ownership with their spouse; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that the applicant is a full-time farmer; if in view of the set of circumstances this case will be reopened with a view to having the installation aid payable to the applicant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36048/05]

The terms of the installation aid scheme provide that, in cases of joint ownership or leases jointly held, all of the parties must be under 35 years on the date of set-up. This provision is not complied with in the case of this applicant at present. Were the land ownership conditions of the scheme to be fully respected, the Department will reconsider the application.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

John Cregan

Question:

177 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if some type of compensation will be made available by her Department to farmers who joined the early retirement scheme and subsequently sold quota in 2001, resulting in a loss of entitlements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36076/05]

The sale of quota was one of a number of options that were open to participants in the early retirement scheme in 2001. Only milk quota held on 31 March 2005 may be used to claim entitlements under the single payment scheme. On the question of compensation for participants in the early retirement schemes, there is no provision for additional payments to scheme participants over and above those specified in the governing EU regulations.

Departmental Contracts.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

178 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the next tendering process will be held for the supply of cattle ear tags; if it is intended that only one supplier will be given the entire contract due to the fact that there are a number of suppliers involved in supplying sheep tags which seems to have the effect of keeping the price of sheep ear tags very low; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36078/05]

A request for tenders for the supply of cattle ear tags and bovine registration documents for the 2007 season and later years is expected to issue by the Department early in 2006. It is the intention to seek tenders for a range of alternative supply arrangements including multiple suppliers. Ultimately, the decision to approve more than one service supplier will depend on the quality of the proposals received, including, in particular, the suitability of the ear tags submitted by tenderers and their demonstrated ability to provide the services requested in the tender.

Question No. 179 answered with QuestionNo. 106.

Asylum Applications.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

180 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has examined the difficulties facing aged-out non-Irish minors who have applied for leave to remain here; his plans to address the cases of the relatively small number of persons in these circumstances who wish to continue making a contribution to Irish society; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35980/05]

I refer the Deputy to the reply I gave to Question No. 61 on Thursday 20 October 2005. A total of 413 unaccompanied minors, who have now reached the age of 18 years, have been refused refugee status since 1 January 1999. A total of 211 of these have been decided to date under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, resulting in 108 deportation orders, 72 grants of conditional leave to remain under the Irish born child scheme, 2005, eight grants of temporary leave to remain on other grounds, seven voluntary returns, three grants of residency under family reunification, four grants of residency under marriage to an Irish national and six grants of residency under EU treaty rights. Two individuals subsequently became EU nationals on 1 May 2004 and one individual is deceased. The remaining 202 cases have yet to be considered by me.

There is no catch all policy — be it to deport or allow to remain — in relation to unaccompanied minors who have reached the age of 18 years. All such cases will continue to be considered on their individual merits.

Rehabilitation of Offenders.

Barry Andrews

Question:

181 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will consider legislation to allow for the expunging of sentences along the lines of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 in the UK. [35790/05]

In general, there is no provision in Irish law allowing for the expunging of criminal convictions from the Garda criminal records. However, with the introduction of the Children Act 2001, provision was made for a limited "wiping of the slate" in respect of most offences committed by persons under 18 once certain conditions have been met. The provision in the Children Act, which came into operation on 1 May 2002, limits, as far as possible, the effects of a finding of guilt where the relevant conditions have been met by treating the person for all purposes in law as a person who has not committed, been charged with, prosecuted for, found guilty or dealt with for an offence.

The second programme of the Law Reform Commission for the period 2000 to 2007 proposes, as part of an examination of the law on privacy, to consider longevity of criminal records and expunging of certain offences from the records. I understand that the Law Reform Commission intends to prepare a consultation paper examining the complex range of issues surrounding the matter of spent convictions. Such consultations papers normally encompass an analysis of legislation and practice in other jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom. I will consider any recommendations which the Law Reform Commission may make on the matter.

Garda Strength.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

182 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans which are in place both in the short term and long term to provide an increased Garda presence in a town (details supplied) in order to tackle the recurrence of crimes such as burglary and car theft; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35822/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of the Carlow-Kildare division as at 21 November 2005 was 331 across all ranks. The personnel strength of the Garda station at Kill, County Kildare as at 22 November 2005 was three across all ranks. The local Garda management is satisfied that the current policing arrangements at Kill are adequate to meet the present policing needs of the area.

I am informed by the Garda Commissioner who has responsibility for the deployment of policing resources that Garda personnel assigned throughout the country, together with the overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided in order to tackle the recurrence of crimes such as burglary and car theft.

On Garda resources generally, the accelerated recruitment campaign to reach a record force strength of 14,000, in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of 2006. The Garda Commissioner is drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources, and the needs of Kill, County Kildare and the Carlow-Kildare division will be fully considered within the overall context of policing needs throughout the country.

Crime Levels.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

183 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there has been an increase in the instance of crimes such as burglary and car theft in recent years; if so the plans in place both to prevent such crimes and to apprehend and prosecute offenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35823/05]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

184 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of incidents of burglary and car theft in a town (details supplied) in County Kildare which have been reported to the Garda each year since 1999; the number of these crimes which have resulted in the apprehension and subsequent prosecution of offenders; if he has satisfied himself that sufficient resources have been made available to the Garda to police the town concerned effectively and to investigate crimes of this nature; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35828/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 183 and 184 together.

The Garda authorities inform me that there has been a decrease in the recorded instances of burglary and car theft from 831 in 2000 to 822 in 2004 in the Naas Garda district, which includes Kill. I am further informed that the personnel strength of Kill Garda station as at 22 November 2005 was three across all ranks. Kill Garda station is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily. When the station is not open the public access call box, PACB, and call diversion systems enable access to the district headquarters at Naas.

Local Garda management is satisfied that the current policing arrangements at Kill are adequate to meet the present policing needs of the area. Numbers of Garda personnel, together with overall policing arrangements and operational safety, are continually monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and the best possible Garda service is provided to the general public.

The following tables detail the number of unauthorised taking of vehicles and burglary offences recorded in the Naas Garda district from 2000 to 2004. Statistics for 1999 are not available for a full year at the level of Garda district. Figures provided for 2004 are provisional, operational and liable to change. Proceedings commenced are lower in the years 2000 and 2001 due to the phased implementation of the new computer crime recording system. The first full year captured on the new system is 2002.

Naas Garda District

2004 Recorded

Detected

Proceedings Commenced

Aggravated Burglary

3

0

0

Burglary

558

90

74

Unauthorised Taking (Vehicles)

261

28

23

Total

822

118

97

Naas Garda District

2003 Recorded

Detected

Proceedings Commenced

Aggravated Burglary

1

0

0

Burglary

556

98

68

Unauthorised Taking (Vehicles)

231

20

15

Total

788

118

83

Naas Garda District 2002

Recorded

Detected

Proceedings Commenced

Aggravated Burglary

3

0

0

Burglary

558

71

55

Unauthorised Taking (Vehicles)

273

29

19

Total

834

100

74

Naas Garda District 2001

Recorded

Detected

Proceedings Commenced

Aggravated Burglary

4

1

1

Burglary

540

73

17

Unauthorised Taking (Vehicles)

416

20

11

Total

960

94

29

Naas Garda District 2000

Recorded

Detected

Proceedings Commenced

Aggravated Burglary

11

5

0

Burglary

471

59

1

Unauthorised Taking (Vehicles)

349

10

1

Total

831

74

2

Registration of Title.

Finian McGrath

Question:

185 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the previous request by a person (details supplied) in County Galway for an amendment of site boundary. [35830/05]

I have requested the Land Registry to contact the Deputy directly concerning the position of the application in question.

Garda Strength.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

186 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed by the local Garda Representative Association member in Tralee concerning the level of Garda manpower in County Kerry; the measures he proposes to put in place to ensure that all parts of the country have adequate Garda cover; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35856/05]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of the Kerry division as at 22 November 2005 was 266 across all ranks. I have been further informed that the personnel strength of Tralee Garda station as at 22 November 2005 was 87 across all ranks. Garda management will continue to monitor and appraise the policing and administrative strategy employed throughout the country with a view to ensuring that an effective Garda service is maintained.

I am not aware of specific concerns expressed regarding the level of Garda manpower in County Kerry. However, on Garda resources generally, the accelerated recruitment campaign to reach a record force strength of 14,000, in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of 2006. The Garda Commissioner is drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources, and the needs of County Kerry will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of Garda areas throughout the country.

Ground Rents Abolition.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

187 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the abolition of ground rents; the Government’s plan to deal with issues of expired leases on dwelling houses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35879/05]

As regards the abolition of ground rents, a High Court challenge to the constitutionality of certain provisions of the existing ground rents legislation has been heard and judgment is awaited. In the circumstances, it would not be appropriate to proceed with proposals for further legislation in this area until the outcome of this case is known.

As regards expired leases on dwelling houses, the position is that the ground rent tenant may be entitled to acquire the fee simple: as a yearly tenant arising by operation of law or by inference, where rent has been paid to and accepted by the landlord after the expiry of the lease and the conditions in section 15 of the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rent)(No. 2) Act 1978 are satisfied; under section 13 of the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rent)(No. 2) Act 1978, where the application was made within 12 months of the commencement of the Act; or under section 3(2)(c) of the Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act 1967, as revived by section 73 of the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act 1980, where the lease was a building lease or a propriety lease.

Road Safety.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

188 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when tenders to provide and operate safety cameras on roads here will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35923/05]

A working group chaired by my Department and representing the Department of Transport, the Garda Síochána and other relevant agencies, carried out an in-depth examination into the engagement of private sector interests in the provision and operation of speed cameras. On the basis of the group's report, my colleague the Minister for Transport and I presented proposals to Government in July for the outsourcing to the private sector of the provision and operation of speed cameras under the supervision and direction of the Garda Síochána. Our proposals were accepted by Government and work has commenced on their implementation.

The proposals will require the introduction of changes to the current Road Traffic Acts. The Department of Transport is currently preparing legislative provisions necessary to support those recommendations and on the completion of that work those provisions will be included in an appropriate Bill for the consideration of the House. The Garda Síochána, as the traffic law enforcement agency in the State, will be responsible for the outsourcing project. The Garda authorities inform me that they have commenced preparatory work with regard to the tendering process. My Department and the Department of Transport are participating in this work.

Selection of an outsource provider will be made by way of an open and competitive tendering process, and a request for tender document will issue in due course. In accordance with EU and national procurement guidelines this request for tender will be published in theEU Journal and on the Government’s procurement website. All tender proposals received will be evaluated on an individual basis in accordance with the criteria set down in the request for tender.

Prison Building Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

189 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the proposed development at Thornton Hall has passed the preliminary PPP appraisal stage and been approved by the NDFA as suitable for PPP procurement. [35924/05]

The Government has approved in principle the development of a new prison complex on the Thornton site on a value for money PPP basis. The Prison Service is currently preparing a detailed assessment of the project in accordance with the Department of Finance guidelines for the provision of capital projects through public private partnerships which will result in a detailed business case being provided. The National Development Finance Agency is advising the Prison Service in these matters.

Joan Burton

Question:

190 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent and cost of associated infrastructure works required to facilitate the construction of a prison at Thornton Hall, specifically in relation to road widening, provision of mains sewage, water, electricity, broadband (details supplied) and gas supply. [35925/05]

Preliminary estimates of the cost of providing various services to the Thornton Hall site were prepared as part of the site evaluation process which was carried out by engineering consultants prior to the decision to purchase the site. The report estimated the cost of providing various services, such as mains water, foul sewer, and power including gas and electricity to the site at approximately €8.5 million.

On the question of road access, the existing road serving the site has been assessed as adequate by the engineers engaged to carry out the site evaluation. However, they recommended some improvements to and upgrading of the road which is currently being examined by a team of technical consultants appointed by the Prison Service. Consultation will take place with the appropriate authorities in due course.

Joan Burton

Question:

191 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if Part 8 planning will be required to compulsory purchase land from residents in the area around the proposed prison site and on all approach roads to the site to facilitate road widening and provision of services; if so, the number of residents that will be affected and the amount same will cost. [35926/05]

I am advised by the director general of the Prison Service that the existing access road serving Thornton Hall has been assessed as adequate by the consulting engineers who evaluated the site when it was offered to the Prison Service. The consultants, however, recommended some improvements and upgradings to the road which will be pursued following consultations with the appropriate authorities. It is too early at this stage to indicate the likely outcome of the process as the various engineering surveys on this matter are not yet complete.

I have no plans at this time to acquire any additional land in the area bordering the site acquired. I do not have a statutory power for the compulsory purchase of land for the purposes referred to by the Deputy.

Joan Burton

Question:

192 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is envisaged that other services will be provided at Thornton Hall or will the excess land be sold; the reason it was necessary to purchase such a large site and his plans to develop the site further. [35927/05]

The size of the site purchased will provide for and enable the development to be carried out in a manner which is consistent with best practice. It will also facilitate the provision of an integrated prison complex with ample recreational and therapeutic facilities. In addition, in line with a recent Government decision a site will be made available for the replacement of the Central Mental Hospital but this is ultimately a matter for the Minister for Health and Children. There are no plans to dispose of any portion of the site or to provide for facilities other than those which have already been indicated.

Joan Burton

Question:

193 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the persons on whose orders and instructions Thornton Hall has been boarded up; the reason various outbuildings on the grounds of the house have been destroyed and the position regarding the stone; his plans with regard to cutting down trees on the site; if he proposes to effectively demolish Thornton Hall and its outbuildings and the trees surrounding same; the cost to date in 2005 of these works and if they were the subject of public tender process. [35929/05]

Following the transfer of the property to the Prison Service a specialist contractor was employed to secure the residence and site against vandalism and unauthorised access. This instruction was issued by the Prison Service. The works involved included securing the windows of the residence in a non-destructive manner which preserved intact all of the features of the property, as well as the installation of CCTV and alarm systems, etc. No buildings were demolished or removed following the transfer of ownership of the property. Three trees were removed for safety and security reasons and did not require a tree felling licence. There are no plans in hand at present for the demolition of any buildings or any further tree felling and any such works will only be undertaken in compliance with the relevant planning and or other statutory provisions. The cost of works carried out to date amounts to approximately €23,000. Some of the works involving the CCTV were procured by means of an existing public tender in place with the Prison Service. The cost of the work to the residence and other areas was negotiated with a specialist contractor by consultant quantity surveyors and certified on completion by consultant engineers retained by the Prison Service.

Gangland Killings.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

194 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals to deal with the serious escalation of organised crime in the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35932/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

209 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which those involved in crime including organised crime are allowed to operate freely; if any effort has been made to deal with this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35947/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

212 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the necessity to commit seriously large numbers of gardaí to the task of fighting organised crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35952/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 194, 209 and 212 together.

I refer the Deputy to my detailed reply to Questions Nos. 48 and 49 of today.

Court Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

195 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has allocated sufficient funds to the Courts Service to facilitate current and anticipated requirements with particular reference to the repair and maintenance of courthouses and the administration of the service; if he has received requests for increases under any, all or none of these areas; if he has indicated a willingness to improve the situation or otherwise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35933/05]

Under the Courts Service Act 1998, the Courts Service, which is responsible for the day-to-day management of the courts, is independent in the performance of its functions. I am responsible for ensuring that the service is adequately funded and, in this regard, €96.7 million was provided in 2005. The 2006 Estimates for the service provide for an increase of €3.84 million in respect of current expenditure, as well as €140,000 in capital IT expenditure. Negotiations are ongoing with the Department of Finance in respect of a further capital allocation for courthouse construction, repair and maintenance. I expect to be in a position to make an announcement in this respect on budget day. The tendering and procurement process for the new criminal court complex at Infirmary Road, Dublin, is under way and construction work on the project is expected to commence next year. Furthermore, I recently announced a further public private partnership package of some €50 million under which a number of courthouse projects will be undertaken. I am confident that the overall funding package provided to the service is adequate, not only to maintain existing levels of service but also to provide for improvements in services and court accommodation.

Criminal Assets.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

196 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of properties or businesses known to be in the hands of or funded by criminal gangs or in the course of acquisition; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35934/05]

As the Deputy will appreciate, it is not possible for the Garda to quantify, at any given time, the number of properties or businesses which are in the hands of or funded by criminal gangs or in the course of acquisition by such gangs. The Garda continues to take a proactive and integrated approach to the investigation of all serious crime. The Criminal Assets Bureau continues, under its statutory remit, to target assets including property which are known to have been acquired through criminal activity. Some data available from the Criminal Assets Bureau may be indicative, however. Between its inception in October 1996 and 31 December 2004, the Criminal Assets Bureau obtained interim and final restraint orders to the value of over €52 million and €23 million, respectively. In the same period, taxes and interest demanded exceeded €81.8 million.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

197 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of reported incidences of anti-social behaviour throughout County Kildare in each of the past five years; the number of prosecutions arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35935/05]

I regret that it has not been possible in the time available to obtain the information requested by the Deputy. I will be in contact with the Deputy about this matter when the information becomes available.

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

198 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he intends to extend the opening hours of the various Garda stations throughout County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35936/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

215 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to increase Garda strength at the various Garda stations throughout County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35955/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 198 and 215 together.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength of the Carlow-Kildare division on 19 October last was 332, all ranks. The personnel strength of the division on 31 December 1997 was 292, all ranks. Therefore, there has been an increase of 30, or 13%, in the number of personnel allocated to the division since that date. I have been advised by Garda management that it does not intend to extend the opening hours of any of the Garda stations in County Kildare. I have been further advised that the extension of the opening hours of any of the Garda stations in the county would necessitate the employment of additional personnel on indoor administrative duties who may be more effectively employed on outdoor policing duties. The accelerated recruitment campaign of 1,100 Garda recruits each year to reach a record force strength of 14,000, in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government, is on target. It will lead to a combined strength, of attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of 2006. The Garda Commissioner is drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage the additional resources. In this context, the needs of County Kildare will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of the Carlow-Kildare division and the other Garda divisions throughout the country.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

199 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he can confirm that all those deported to their homelands by his order have been properly treated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35937/05]

I refer the Deputy to the replies I gave to Question No. 143 of 19 May last, Question No. 139 of 20 October last and Question No. 497 of 25 October last. As I stated previously, I must in addition to the 11 factors contained in section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999, as amended, also have regard to section 5 of the Refugee Act 1996, prohibition ofrefoulement, when considering whether to deport a person. The safety of returning a person, or refoulement as it is referred to, is fully considered in every case when deciding whether to make a deportation order. This means that a person will not be expelled from the State or returned in any manner whatever to a state where, in my opinion, the life or freedom of that person would be threatened on account of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. The legislation requires that this consideration is given before the deportation decision is made. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform uses extensive country of origin information drawn from different independent sources, including the UNHCR, in evaluating the safety of making returns to third countries.

Law Enforcement.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

200 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the areas of law enforcements in respect of which his Department has achieved its greatest success rate and its lowest success rate in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35938/05]

My Department has no direct role in law enforcement which is primarily a matter for the Garda Síochána. However, a comprehensive series of performance indicators is contained in my Department's 2003-2005 strategy statement. These performance indicators are linked to the high level goals, objectives and activities of the Department. I intend to publish a new strategy statement shortly. The Department's 2004 annual progress report in respect of this strategy statement will be published later this year and placed in the Oireachtas Library.

I remind the Deputy of the Government's landmark decision of October 2004 to approve the recruitment of 2,000 additional gardaí to increase the strength of the force to 14,000. Clearly, the additional Garda resources will be targeted at the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies particular areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences, while it will be possible to address other priorities as well, such as the need to significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic law enforcement duties. One thing I have already promised is that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties but will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing.

I have secured an increase of €146 million, or 13% when compared with 2005. The Garda budget is now at an historic high of over €1.29 billion, representing an increase of 115% over the 1997 provision which stood at just under €600 million.

Strong provisions are already in place to combat all categories of crime including public order offences, other related offences and alcohol related violence. These provisions include the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 and the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003. The Criminal Justice Bill 2004 which is currently before the House will contain a range of anti-crime measures including legislative proposals to provide for anti-social behaviour orders, a proposal to provide for criminal offences in relation to participation in a criminal organisation and a series of measures to increase sentences for the more serious range of firearms offences, including the introduction of mandatory minimum sentences in some cases. I am also introducing a new offence of illegally modifying a firearm, for example, sawing off a shotgun barrel, and the imposition of severe penalties for this offence.

I believe that the new legislative provisions, together with the vastly increased Garda resources which were secured in the Estimates, announced last week, will assist greatly in dealing with the scourge of gun crime and organised crime.

International Co-operation in Law Enforcement.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

201 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the gardaí are receiving adequate co-operation from all other European and non-European police forces in the fight against drugs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35939/05]

I refer the Deputy to my detailed reply to Question No. 150 of 20 October 2005.

I understand that the Garda authorities are satisfied with the levels of international co-operation received in the fight against drugs. International co-operation has yielded tangible results, as exemplified by a number of recent successes, one of which was highlighted as recently as last week and was the subject of much publicity in the media.

Witness Intimidation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

202 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cases where persons have been arrested or charged in connection with the intimidation of witnesses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35940/05]

I regret that it has not been possible in the time available to obtain the information requested by the Deputy. I will be in contact with the Deputy in relation to this matter when it becomes available.

Security Industry.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

203 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the new initiatives which he proposes to take to crack down in infiltration of the security industry by criminals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35941/05]

My concern in relation to unacceptable elements entering the private security industry was one of the reasons I brought forward the Private Security Services Act 2004 to regulate the private security industry.

The Private Security Authority, which was established as an independent body in October 2004, commenced licensing contractors providing private security services in the door supervisor and security guarding sectors on 3 October this year, while licensing for suppliers and installers of intruder alarms commenced at the beginning of this month. I understand that the authority proposes to license all other sectors of the industry on a phased basis, during 2006 and 2007. Licensing for individuals employed in the private security industry will commence next April.

The authority has put in place stringent criteria to protect the industry from infiltration by criminals. All licence applicants will undergo criminal records checking by the Garda Síochána. This will apply to employees, principals and directors of private security companies. Contractors supplying private security services will be required to provide valid documentation in relation to the company, including, tax clearance certificates.

The PSA endorsed the National Standards Authority of Ireland IS999 as the required standard for licensing for the door supervisor, security guarding and event security sectors of the industry. Following on from this the NSAI has been contracted by the PSA to develop a suite of standards for all other sectors of the industry and work in this area is ongoing. Compliance with these standards will also be a prerequisite for the issuance of a contractors licence.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

204 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the amount of cash stolen in robberies since the beginning of 2005; the amount recovered to date in 2005; the extent of the number of successful prosecutions arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35942/05]

I regret that it has not been possible in the time available to obtain the information requested by the Deputy. I will be in contact with the Deputy in relation to this matter when it becomes available.

Crime Prevention.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

205 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extra number of gardaí and other resources which have been made available to combat street violence in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35943/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength of the Garda Síochána as at 31 October 2005 was 12,312. This represents an increase of 207 in the personnel strength, all ranks, of the Garda Síochána as at 31 October 2004.

In relation to Garda resources generally, the accelerated recruitment campaign to reach a record force strength of 14,000, in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of 2006.

Combating street violence, whether through community policing or through the wider use of Garda resources, is a core objective of the Garda Síochána. As the Garda Síochána policing plan for 2005 acknowledges, it is a specific Government policing priority for the Garda Síochána to continue to focus on crime prevention and reduction. In the achievement of this and other priorities, it is the responsibility of each divisional officer to assign personnel within his or her division to specific duties to ensure that the optimum use is made of all available resources and that the best possible Garda service is provided to the public.

In this context, I strongly support specialised and focused Garda operations, such as Operation Encounter, to counter late night disorder and I remain determined that the resources of the Garda Síochána and the criminal justice system in general are used effectively to combat street crime.

Sexual Offences.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

206 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of rape cases reported in each of the past three years; if charges and convictions have followed in all such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35944/05]

I regret that it has not been possible in the time available to obtain the information requested by the Deputy. I will be in contact with him in regard to this matter when the information becomes available.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

207 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of armed robberies reported in County Kildare in the past five years; the number of perpetrators who have been convicted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35945/05]

I regret that it has not been possible in the time available to obtain the information requested by the Deputy. I will be in contact with him in regard to this matter when the information becomes available.

Prisoner Releases.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

208 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which prisoners are currently released prior to completion of sentence other than on supervised day release; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35946/05]

On 17 November 2005 there was a total of 110 persons in the category referred to by the Deputy, a figure which represented 3% of the prison population. The corresponding figure in October 1996 was 550 which accounted for 19% of the prison population at that time.

Question No. 209 answered with QuestionNo. 194.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

210 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of arrests on foot of arrest warrants in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35948/05]

I regret that it has not been possible in the time available to obtain the information requested by the Deputy. I will be in contact with him in regard to this matter when the information becomes available.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

211 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has examined the underlying reasons for the dramatic increase in serious crime in the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35951/05]

It is not true to say there has been a dramatic increase in headline or serious crime in the past three years. For the Deputy's information, headline crime decreased by 3% in 2003 compared with 2002 and by 4% in 2004 compared with 2003. Furthermore, the Deputy should be aware that the crime rate per 1,000 of the population has fallen from 29 crimes per 1,000 in 1996 when the Deputy's party was in Government, to 24 crimes per 1,000 of the population in 2005.

The most recent headline crime statistics for the third quarter of 2005 furnished by the Garda Commissioner, which I published, show a decrease of 0.2% in the number of headline offences in the 12 months ended 30 September 2005 compared with the 12 months ended 30 September 2004. In the 12 months, some significant decreases were recorded: rape of a female was down 11%; unlawful carnal knowledge was down 15%; aggravated sexual assault was down 56%; theft from the person was down 19%; and robbery from the person was down 26%. However, there have been increases in a number of the most serious categories, including murder and manslaughter, which is up 17%, rape, section 4, which is up 45%, robbery of an establishment or institution, which is up 20%, and possession of drugs for sale or supply, which is up 18%. There was also an increase of 0.4% in the first three quarters of 2005 compared with the same period in 2004 and an increase of 5.5% in the third quarter of 2005 compared with the third quarter of 2004. There were, however, notable decreases in some of the more serious categories of crime in the figures for the first three quarters: manslaughter was down 63%; rape of a female was down 14%; aggravated sexual assault was down 57%; theft from the person was down 18%; and robbery from the person was down 27%.

Although the Garda Síochána this year has the highest level of resources ever in its history, all concerned, including this House, must continue to support its efforts in combating crime. The Government made a historic and most welcome decision in October 2004 to approve the recruitment of 2,000 additional gardaí to increase the strength of the force to 14,000. Clearly, the additional gardaí will be deployed in the areas of greatest need, as is envisaged in the programme for Government. The programme identifies, in particular, areas with a significant drugs problem and a large number of public order offences. It will also be possible to address other priorities, such as the need to significantly increase the number of gardaí allocated to traffic law enforcement duties. One thing I have already agreed with the Commissioner is that the additional gardaí will not be put on administrative duties but will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing.

The Garda budget is now at an historic high of over €1.29 billion, representing an increase of 109% over the 1997 provision which stood at just under €600 million and an increase of 13% when compared with 2005. This increase in funding will allow for,inter alia, Operation Anvil, which has been extremely successful since its inception last May, to continue as long as it is deemed necessary in operational policing terms and to extend it to Garda divisions outside Dublin.

Strong provisions are already in place to combat all categories of crime, including public order offences and other related offences and alcohol related violence. These provisions include the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003, and the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003. The Criminal Justice Bill 2004, which is currently before the House, will contain a range of anti-crime measures including legislative proposals to provide for anti-social behaviour orders, a proposal to provide for criminal offences in regard to participation in a criminal organisation and a series of measures to increase sentences for the more serious range of firearms offences, including the introduction of mandatory minimum sentences in some cases. I am also introducing a new offence of illegally modifying a firearm, for example, sawing off a shotgun barrel, and the imposition of severe penalties for this offence. I believe the new provisions, together with the vastly increased Garda resources secured in the Estimates which I announced last week, will assist greatly in dealing with the scourge of gun crime and organised crime.

Question No. 212 answered with QuestionNo. 194.

Garda Strength.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

213 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí available on the beat or in patrol vehicles between 12 midnight and 8 a.m. in the Dublin metropolitan division and throughout the greater Dublin area; his plans to increase this number in line with demographic changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35953/05]

I am informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources including personnel, that the personnel strength in all ranks of each of the six operational Garda divisions in the Dublin metropolitan region as at 21 November 2005 is as set out in the following table. Of course, the greater Dublin area now extends into areas which are the responsibility of the Louth-Meath, Carlow-Kildare or Wexford-Wicklow divisions. I am advised that for security and operational reasons, it is not Garda policy to disclose the number of personnel working in any particular area over any specific period of time. Garda management will continue to monitor and appraise the policing and administrative strategy employed throughout the Dublin metropolitan region with a view to ensuring that an effective Garda service is maintained.

Regarding Garda resources generally, the accelerated recruitment campaign to reach a record force strength of 14,000, in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government, is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of 2006. The Garda Commissioner will now draw up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources, and in this context the needs of the Dublin metropolitan region will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of Garda areas throughout the country.

Division

Strength

DMR East

567

DMR North Central

663

DMR North

623

DMR South Central

724

DMR South

577

DMR West

694

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

214 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he expects the 2000 extra gardaí promised before the general election of 2002 to appear on the streets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35954/05]

The timescale for achieving the target strength of 14,000 members of the Garda Síochána in line with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government is still as when I announced Government approval in October 2004 for my proposals to achieve this objective. The phased increase in the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 will lead to a combined strength, of both attested gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of 2006, with a fully attested strength of 14,000 by 2008. As part of the accelerated recruitment campaign to facilitate this process, 1,125 garda recruits were inducted to the Garda college during 2005. It will continue to induct 1,100 recruits for each of the next two years, by way of intakes to the Garda college of approximately 275 recruits every quarter. This project is fully on target and will be achieved.

Question No. 215 answered with QuestionNo. 198.

Crime Prevention.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

216 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the full extent of racketeering, money laundering, protection or other forms of money making by menace; his proposals to deal with the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35956/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

217 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent to which he is attempting to deal with the laundering of the proceeds of crime, racketeering or protection; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35957/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 216 and 217 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that criminal networks involved in the areas of criminality referred to by the Deputy are identified in a number of ways. Ongoing investigations and intelligence gathering by specialist national units working in collaboration with other national and international law enforcement agencies, including the customs service, result in the identification of the criminal activities in question.

The national units of the Garda Síochána operate under the direction of the Assistant Commissioner in charge of national support services and include the Garda bureau of fraud investigation, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda national drugs unit and the national bureau of criminal investigation, which includes an anti-racketeering unit. Ongoing investigations and activities by divisional and district personnel operating throughout the State also yield information and intelligence.

All of the above activities identify key organisations involved not only in money laundering but also in the trafficking and distribution of drugs and racketeering. Having identified the key players, the relevant units at both national and local level undertake targeted operations designed to reduce the levels of such criminality. These operations have resulted in significant detections, such as the fact that the anti-racketeering unit, operating in conjunction with local divisional and district units, seized in excess of €6 million worth of goods during the past two years.

Given the largely covert nature of the criminal activities in question and the emergence of new criminal networks over time, the Deputy will appreciate that it is not possible for the Garda to state, at any given time, that all sources of such activity have been identified. However, I am informed by the Garda authorities that many sources have been identified in the course of investigations. In addition to the pursuit of prosecutions, the Garda Síochána provides crime prevention advice and guidance to financial and other relevant institutions.

The Criminal Assets Bureau continues to use its powers under proceeds of crime and tax legislation to seize the proceeds of all criminal activity. I can inform the Deputy that Ireland has extensive legislation in place to tackle money laundering activities. The main provisions in Irish law relating to money laundering are set out in section 31 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994, as amended by section 21 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001, sections 32 and 57 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 and section 23 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001.

The legislation provides for the designation of certain bodies and persons for anti-money laundering purposes and for the prescribing of certain activities for the purposes of anti-money laundering. In addition, it also requires designated bodies to adopt measures to prevent and detect the commission of a money laundering offence, including the establishment of appropriate internal procedures and the provision of suitable training for employees, directors and officers. A money laundering steering committee established under the chairmanship of the Department of Finance oversees this aspect of the legislation and facilitates co-ordination, across all the relevant State bodies, of policy on countering money laundering.

The Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005 amended various provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 to extend anti-money laundering measures to terrorist financing. At a European level, during the past year Ireland participated in a working group to develop a third EU money laundering directive. This directive was adopted by Council on 20 September this year and its provisions are being examined to assess the legislative requirements necessary to allow for ratification by Ireland. This process will ensure that Ireland's already robust anti-money laundering legislation will continue to conform to the highest international standards.

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

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

218 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of unlawful shootings resulting in death in the past three years; if he has issued instructions or given directives with a view to combating this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35958/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

224 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of reported gun crime including killings in each of the past three years; the extent to which successful prosecutions have followed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35964/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 218 and 224 together.

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Parliamentary Question No. 65 of today. I regret that it has not been possible in the time available to obtain the other information requested by the Deputy. I will be in contact with the Deputy in relation to this matter when it becomes available.

Prison Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

219 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prison places currently occupied; the extent to which prison accommodation needs are currently being met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35959/05]

As of 18 November 2005 the maximum available bed capacity of the prison system was 3,352 and there were 3,142 persons in custody on that date. That does not, however, imply the existence of 200 readily available spaces. A significant proportion of these spaces were accounted for as follows: high security spaces in Portlaoise which are not suitable for the general prison population; remand spaces located at Cloverhill Prison; newly commissioned spaces in Loughan House; and protection spaces in the midlands prison. When this is taken into account the prison system currently operates at or in excess of full capacity for sentenced prisoners with some overcrowding remaining in certain prisons.

In my view, it is clear that there is a need for new prison spaces for a number of reasons including the need to eliminate overcrowding in a number of our committal prisons, in particular, Mountjoy Prison, the Dóchas centre, Cork Prison and Castlerea Prison. It is also my intention to replace outdated prison accommodation with new facilities which will eliminate the practice of slopping out and also seek to eliminate the practice of doubling up in cells which is prevalent throughout the system.

As part of this process, I can confirm that a total of 150 new spaces are being provided in the new Portlaoise C block which is due to be completed in 2007. I can also advise the Deputy that estimates of future space requirements are being refined by the Irish Prison Service in the context of planning for the development of the new prison complexes at north County Dublin and Spike Island.

Road Traffic Offences.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

220 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the monetary value accruing to the State through the imposition of penalty points throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35960/05]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 271 on Wednesday, 19 October 2005, in regard to the above.

Public Order Offences.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

221 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of public order incidents detected or reported in County Kildare in each of the past three years; the number of convictions arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35961/05]

I regret that it has not been possible in the time available to obtain the information requested by the Deputy. I will be in contact with the Deputy on this matter when it becomes available.

Missing Persons.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

222 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the recorded number of missing persons at present; the ongoing activity to identify their whereabouts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35962/05]

The Garda missing persons bureau is attached to Garda headquarters and is responsible for maintaining data relating to missing persons. It also has responsibility for maintaining the compilation and updating of data relating to missing persons, along with the administration in association with the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children of the Irish missing children's website —www.missingkids.ie — which I launched in September 2004.

The following table compiled by the Garda authorities shows the number of untraced persons by year recorded for the period 1990 to 2004. A figure for 2005 will be available after year end.

Year

Untraced

1990

10

1991

11

1992

7

1993

9

1994

12

1995

17

1996

10

1997

3

1998

10

1999

15

2000

20

2001

53

2002

57

2003

58

2004

43

When a person is reported missing, the local Garda superintendent takes direct responsibility for the investigation and appoints an investigation team to include any specialised unit deemed necessary, for example, the national bureau of criminal investigation or the Garda technical bureau. The Garda authorities have assured me that every effort is made to locate all missing persons and that they consider the current procedures for dealing with missing persons to be adequate. All files remain open and under continuous review. The procedures are also kept under constant review. The Garda authorities are continuously monitoring international developments in relation to investigations of missing persons in order to ensure that best practice is followed and are satisfied that adequate resources and staff are in place to deal with this issue and are in line with best international policing practice.

The Garda Síochána interacts fully and as appropriate with all of the media outlets — print, radio and TV — in highlighting cases involving missing persons. The services of other external agencies such as Interpol and Europol are also available to assist in such investigations. In addition, every Garda district has a specially trained search team that is familiar with that locality.

Garda Diversion Programmes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

223 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he has taken in the past three years to address the issue of juvenile crime with particular reference to the need for custodial or rehabilitative care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35963/05]

The Children Act 2001 provides the framework for the development of our juvenile justice system. The Garda juvenile diversion programme provides an opportunity to divert juvenile offenders from criminal activity. It operates under the supervision and direction of the Garda national juvenile office, Harcourt Square, and is implemented throughout all Garda divisions by 94 specially trained gardaí known as juvenile liaison officers.

Part 4 of the Children Act places the juvenile diversion programme on a statutory basis and incorporates into it, as new features, restorative cautioning and conferencing. In addition, under the Act, the age limit for inclusion in the programme was increased from 17 to 18 years of age. To facilitate these innovative developments, Garda juvenile liaison officers throughout the country have received a minimum of 60 hours mediation training and some have received advanced training to provide them with the extra skills required to deal successfully with the programme.

The programme is used to its greatest extent in relation to minor offences and-or for those with no or only one or two experiences of offending. One of the primary aims of the Children Act is to expand the options a court will have at its disposal when deciding on how to deal with a young offender. The community-based options provided for in the Act will allow effect to be given to the principle that detention for young offenders will be a last resort. Thus, the Act generally envisages committals to custody of young offenders being availed of only in situations where other alternative diversions and community-based options have been resorted to and have failed.

The Deputy will be aware that the Children Act 2001 is a complex and comprehensive piece of legislation and, for those reasons, provisions under the Act are being implemented on a phased basis, as was envisaged at the time of enactment.

In October 2004 the Government endorsed my proposals to examine the scope to rationalise and restructure the delivery of services in the youth justice area in accordance with the Children Act 2001. To this end, I established a project team within my Department to conduct this examination and to bring forward recommendations for any reform necessary.

The project team consulted widely within the statutory and non-statutory sectors and published a call for submissions in the national press. The team conducted a review of existing structures and also examined international best practice in the youth justice area.

The Minister of State at my Department, Deputy Brian Lenihan, who has responsibility for children, is currently examining the outcome of this review. The intention is to bring proposals arising from this examination to Government in the very near future, including proposals in the area of detention.

At present, provision for young offenders aged generally up to 16 years is made in five children detention schools. These facilities, four of which are located in the Dublin area and one in Clonmel, operate under the aegis of the Department of Education and Science. The schools provide residential care, education and rehabilitation for young people who have been convicted or placed on remand by the courts.

On admission, a comprehensive educational assessment is carried out on each student and an individual education plan is drawn up. The aim of the plan is to build upon the strengths and try to remediate the weaknesses of each individual young person. Educational programmes can range from intensive learning support in literacy and numeracy to a wide range of academic and practical subjects that can be studied up to state examination level. The children detention schools also have a drugs-alcohol misuse programme to educate young people of the dangers of taking illegal substances. In addition, to strengthen aftercare provision, step-down, pre-release units have been, or are in the course of being, established and aftercare programmes are also in place.

Regarding the need for custodial and rehabilitative care for juvenile offenders, I wish to advise the Deputy that, under the Children Act, I, as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, will be obliged to provide separate detention facilities for 16 and 17 year old boys and girls who are committed to custody by the courts, either on remand or under sentence. The primary objective of these detention centres will be to provide a secure but supportive environment in which young offenders can develop the personal and social skills necessary to avoid future offending.

My Department has taken further steps in this area. A pilot mentor project has commenced in the north Dublin area. The programme will serve as a model for the development of the mentor, family support, order. The probation and welfare service has also commenced a pilot parenting programme in south Dublin which is evidence based and focuses on parenting skills. The programme is a model for the parental supervision order.

I can also advise the Deputy that my Department through the probation and welfare service provides funding to 70 projects from voluntary bodies nationwide. Some 40 of these projects provide a range of rehabilitative services to offending children in their local communities, such as education, offender management programmes, residential accommodation, drug and alcohol abuse treatment, intervention and awareness programmes.

Garda youth diversion projects are community based, multi-agency crime prevention initiatives which seek to divert young people from becoming involved, or further involved, in anti-social and-or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development, promote civic responsibility and improve prospects of employability. The projects are funded by my Department and administered by the community relations section of the Garda Síochána.

Question No. 224 answered with QuestionNo. 218.

Garda Recruitment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

225 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applicants who have passed the Garda entrance examination; the number called for training; the number still awaiting such a call; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35965/05]

I presume the Deputy is seeking information on the outcome of the recently advertised Garda recruitment competition. The written examination stage of the recruitment process is being conducted at present at various centres throughout the country, the results of which are not yet known. The various stages of the recruitment process will be concluded by early 2006. The first recruits to be taken from this recent competition will be included in the second quarterly intake in 2006 of 275 recruits to the Garda college at Templemore, currently scheduled to commence training in the first week of May 2006. In the meantime, the Public Appointments Service and Garda management will continue to draw from the existing panel of successful candidates from the recruitment competition advertised in November and December 2004.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

226 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons arrested and released without charge; the number charged but not convicted and the number charged and convicted in respect of each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35966/05]

I regret that it has not been possible in the time available to obtain the information requested by the Deputy. I will be in contact with the Deputy regarding this matter when the data becomes available.

Garda Operations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

227 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the value of properties seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau, arising from criminal investigations; if it is intended to accelerate this programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35967/05]

The Criminal Assets Bureau takes civil proceedings focused on assets which are believed to be the proceeds of criminal conduct. These are civil investigations but will, in most cases, follow from earlier criminal investigations. The seizure of assets in criminal investigations or proceedings is carried out by the Director of Public Prosecutions under separate provisions.

The Criminal Assets Bureau takes actions under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996, as amended, to seize property which is shown in the High Court to be the proceeds of crime. From its inception in 1996 to 31 December 2004, the total value of orders obtained under section 3 of the aforementioned Act is €14,973,250, Stg £2,830,175 and US $5,472,747.

The bureau continues to pursue its statutory objectives and carry out its statutory functions and will continue to target the proceeds of criminal conduct and to seize the proceeds of such conduct. The amendments in the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment Act) 2005 have enhanced the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau in this regard.

Crime Prevention.

Billy Timmins

Question:

228 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in view of recent reports in Britain of the increased threat posed by foreign agencies attempting to obtain industrial secrets, the assurances he will give that the intelligence services here are making all efforts to protect Irish interests from foreign intelligence services which may be operating here (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36074/05]

I assure the Deputy that the authorities are fully aware of the potential damage that may be caused by unauthorised access to industrial secrets by non-national entities. In this context, every effort is made to identify any vulnerabilities that may exist and to guard against non-national entities potentially engaged in industrial espionage.

Judicial Investigations.

Joe Higgins

Question:

229 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason he stated he is not in a position to grant an inquiry to a person (details supplied) concerning his treatment by the justice system due to the fact that he has the details of the case from a meeting of his official and the individual concerned. [36082/05]

The courts are, subject to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions. There are also avenues open to the person concerned to make complaints against the Garda Síochána, the legal profession and others against whom he has a grievance.

Site Acquisitions.

Pat Breen

Question:

230 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of an application for a primary school (details supplied) in County Clare regarding the purchase of a site; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35781/05]

The property management section of the Office of Public Works has been requested to source a suitable site for the school referred to by the Deputy. To this end, the OPW had discussions with the relevant local authority and in light of these discussions and in consideration of the 2003 development plan for Ennis town and environs, it is clear that the current site is not considered suitable for the permanent development of a national school.

Officials in my Department are now considering a number of site options that have been submitted by the OPW.

Psychological Service.

Damien English

Question:

231 Mr. English asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Meath cannot be assessed for dyslexia by the NEPS in Navan, County Meath; the further reason the service does not have adequate cover in cases of employee leave; her plans to provide the cover necessary to maintain a normal service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35782/05]

The school in question receives a service from NEPS. However, the assigned psychologist is currently on maternity leave. Schools that do not have direct access to a NEPS psychologist for whatever reason, including employee leave, are eligible to 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 the 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. Also, in relation to all schools, NEPS processes applications on behalf of students with specific learning disabilities for reasonable accommodations in certificate examinations.

School Enrolments.

John Curran

Question:

232 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will provide enrolment figures for all post-primary schools in the Lucan area for the years 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and to date in 2005. [35817/05]

The enrolment figures for each year as requested by the Deputy for the four post-primary schools in the Lucan area are as follows.

Total enrolment for Schools in Lucan from 2000-2004.

Sch. No.

School Details

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

60264A

Coláiste Phádraig, CBS, Roselawn

567

535

546

577

520

60263V

St. Joseph’s College

802

801

813

815

809

70080T

Lucan Community College, Esker Drive

838

832

815

827

824

76065H

Coláiste Cois Life, Gleann an Ghrífín

84

120

167

201

224

John Curran

Question:

233 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will provide enrolment figures for all primary schools in Lucan from the years 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and to date in 2005. [35818/05]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table for all primary schools with an address in the Lucan area. If some schools in the area are not included here this can be provided by my Department. Enrolment figures are not available yet for 2005.

Roll No.

School

Address

Year

Boys

Girls

Total

00714P

Lucan BNS

Lucan, County Dublin

2000

523

0

523

2001

541

0

541

2002

546

0

546

2003

533

0

533

2004

541

0

541

12014D

St. Andrew’s NS

Lucan, County Dublin

2000

106

77

183

2001

107

82

189

2002

117

92

209

2003

118

97

215

2004

119

96

215

13447Q

Scoil Mhuire

Lucan, County Dublin

2000

0

620

620

2001

0

608

608

2002

0

608

608

2003

0

604

604

2004

0

634

634

19542R

St. Thomas’s Junior National School

Esker, Lucan

2000

218

172

390

2001

233

187

420

2002

244

197

441

2003

231

229

460

2004

246

220

466

19676P

Scoil Áine Naofa

Esker, Lucan

2000

207

173

380

2001

195

168

363

2002

214

175

389

2003

211

169

380

2004

208

182

390

19865S

Archbishop Ryan J NS

Balgaddy, Lucan

2000

245

240

485

2001

285

276

561

2002

303

323

626

2003

334

334

668

2004

244

232

476

20066S

Lucan Multidenominational NS

Bewley Way, Willsbrook

2000

121

95

216

2001

150

112

262

2002

179

130

309

2003

205

160

365

2004

228

194

422

20166W

Griffeen Valley Educate Together NS

Griffeen Glen Boulevard, Lucan

2002

8

14

22

2003

47

44

91

2004

113

101

214

20187H

Archbishop Ryan Senior NS, Balgaddy

Lucan

2004

150

140

290

Schools Building Projects.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

234 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science further to her announcement in July 2005 of the development of a new post-primary school for Gorey, County Wexford, the actions taken to date in 2005 to advance this proposal; the relevant local interests that have been contacted by her Department since July 2005; if discussions have taken place between her Department and a school (details supplied) in County Wexford; the timescale expected for the construction of the new school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35819/05]

The Deputy will be aware that the proposed new post-primary school for Gorey will be delivered by way of a public-private partnership. As I indicated in my statement of 29 September 2005 on this matter, it is my intention that the first bundle of schools under my Department's PPP programme will be offered to the market in the first half of 2006 and regularly thereafter in the period 2006 to 2009 to ensure a steady deal flow.

The precise make-up of the bundles in terms of the number of schools in each, the geographical spread and the timing for delivery will be determined by my Department in consultation with the centre of expertise that is being established within the NDFA.

With regard to the preliminaries for the new school in Gorey, my Department is in discussion with the local authority with regard to the identification of a suitable site for the school. At the appropriate time, it will engage with the authorities of the school to which he refers with regard to the process and arrangements that will be required to ensure a smooth transition from a one-school centre to a two-school centre. Part of this process will involve defining the enrolment policies and catchments areas that will underpin effective provision once Gorey becomes a two-school centre and the enrolment policy that should operate at the school in question during the transition period.

Inquiry into Child Abuse.

Mary Upton

Question:

235 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of complaints regarding physical abuse in an industrial school (details supplied) in Dublin 11 which were received in 1991 and 1992; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35825/05]

The Garda, in conjunction with the former Eastern Health Board, my Department and the management of the industrial school referred to by the Deputy were engaged in a look-back investigation into allegations of abuse at this school. This look-back investigation, which was initiated in 1996 and involved interviews with a sample of former residents, identified 41 allegations of abuse. However it is not clear how many of these allegations refer specifically to 1991 or 1992.

Arising from this investigation, files were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions regarding allegations of abuse at the industrial school. My Department provided every possible assistance to the Garda and made available all relevant records in this regard.

I would also like to confirm that relevant documentation held by my Department in relation to the sexual, physical and emotional abuse or neglect of children in industrial and reformatory schools was forwarded to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse in compliance with a discovery order from the Commission in June 2003.

Mary Upton

Question:

236 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will confirm that a statement regarding the industrial and reformatory schools which a person (details supplied) sent to her Department at the end of March 1988 has been provided to the Child Abuse Commission in its entirety; the date on which same was provided to the commission; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35826/05]

I can confirm to the Deputy that the statement referred to in her question was provided in its entirety to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse in June 2003.

Schools Building Projects.

Liz McManus

Question:

237 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in view of the long awaiting application for a sports hall by a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow, she will ensure that this much needed development will be included in the next round of building projects or at the earliest possible date; the date of the expected start of development; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35827/05]

The school planning section of my Department is in receipt of an application for major capital funding for a sports hall from the management authority of the school to which the Deputy refers. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large-scale projects. Progress on the proposed works is being considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme from 2006 onwards.

Departmental Funding.

John Curran

Question:

238 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount spent for the period 2004 and to-date in 2005 on Educate Together in Lucan; if she will provide figures for the amount spent on Educate Together in general throughout the country for the same period; if she is satisfied with spending on Educate Together. [35829/05]

The information requested by the Deputy is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

Youthreach Programme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

239 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will work with all other Departments in relation to support and funding resource hours for students at Bonnybrook Youthreach in Coolock, Dublin 17. [35831/05]

The Youthreach programme is the national response to the needs of unqualified early school leavers in the 15-20 age group. It is designed to offer courses of integrated general education, vocational training and work experience.

My Department already has criteria governing the recognition and funding of Youthreach centres. In this regard, an integrated district approach is implemented by the relevant VEC. It involves consultation with FÁS, area based partnerships and other statutory-voluntary training providers in the vicinity on local needs. The district approach ensures, as far as possible, complementarity with the activities of other agencies and avoids duplication of the core functions of Youthreach in order to get value for money.

My Department is committed to continue to allocate the necessary tuition hours to city of Dublin VEC for Bonnybrook Youthreach as the city of Dublin VEC has statutory responsibility for the day-to-day operations of this Youthreach programme.

Schools Building Projects.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

240 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science when she expects to give permission to a school (details supplied) in County Donegal to go to tender; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35855/05]

The proposed extension project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an early stage of architectural planning and is one of the 124 schools that I announced in April of this year to progress through architectural planning.

The brief for the planned extension currently consists of a total area of 1,450 m2 and was initially set to cater for a long-term projected enrolment of 750 pupils. However, in light of the significant increase in enrolments at the school since the initial brief for the extension was determined and in order to ensure that the extension will deliver accommodation appropriate to the school's future needs, my Department's school planning section is in the process of re-assessing the long-term projected enrolment.

When this up to date determination of the school's long-term enrolments has been completed, the stage 1 submission, site suitability and site survey with various design solutions, will be reviewed. My Department will then contact the school authorities in regard to the next steps required to progress this project. A decision on this project's progression to tender and construction will be considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme 2006-2009.

Higher Education Grants.

Joe Higgins

Question:

241 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15 will be permitted to receive a grant to enable them to study for a medical degree at Trinity College. [35861/05]

Under the terms of the third level student support schemes, clause 7.6 of the higher education grants scheme, maintenance grants are not payable to candidates who already hold an undergraduate degree and are pursuing a second undergraduate degree. Similarly, tuition fees are not payable in respect of a second period of college attendance at the same level.

I understand that the student referred to by the Deputy already holds a medical degree. He is, therefore, ineligible for a higher education grant and is also unable to benefit under the free fees initiative in respect of any further studies at undergraduate level. As the rules governing the schemes are of general application, exceptions cannot be made in individual instances. Tax relief is, however, available in respect of undergraduate fees paid in publicly funded colleges here and in other EU member states, as well as in private colleges in the State. This relief applies at the standard rate of tax and is available to full-time students and part-time postgraduate students. Further details and conditions in regard to this tax relief are available from local tax offices.

Departmental Funding.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

242 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will consider having additional funding approved in respect of a centre (details supplied) in County Cork. [35862/05]

An increase in funding to the project referred to by the Deputy has been granted under my Department's fund for the development of targeted educational responses to certain children at risk for 2005-06.

Early Retirement Scheme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

243 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will respond to queries raised by a person (details supplied) in a letter of 4 February 2005; her views on whether this person should be treated equally with other persons in their application for early retirement-strand 3; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35871/05]

The person to whom the Deputy refers applied to the Department to retire at the end of the 2004-05 school year under strand 3 of the early retirement scheme for teachers. The scheme specifies that strand 3 may be availed of by teachers in posts which are surplus to requirements, from which they may not be redeployed readily and which will not be filled should they leave the posts. The scheme requires that applications are supported by the relevant school authority and that the post held will not be replaced either in whole or in part. The application of the person concerned was not successful as the post in question was not surplus to requirements and would be required to be filled should the retirement be granted.

School Accommodation.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

244 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science the annual outlay on rental of prefabricated school buildings in County Wexford; if this is considered to be a cost-effective method of providing school accommodation by comparison with permanent school buildings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35873/05]

The information sought is not readily available in the format requested by the Deputy as the financial records which are maintained in respect of payments made to school authorities for rented temporary accommodation are recorded on a monthly basis and are not recorded on a county basis. However, if the Deputy wishes to request details on the annual cost of rented school accommodation on specific schools in County Wexford, officials will provide the required information.

In the five years since 2000 the Department has spent €39.2 million on the rental of temporary school accommodation, mainly in primary schools. In addition, the Department spent €73.5 million over the same period on the purchase of prefabricated buildings in the primary and post-primary sectors. This expenditure was for the supply and installation of prefabricated buildings including associated site works, and other costs such as for compliance with planning permission conditions, professional fees, connections for water, electricity and sewage and represents less than 5% of the total expenditure on school buildings over the five year period from 2000 to the end of 2004.

The demand for additional accommodation in schools has risen significantly over the last number of years mainly due to the rapid expansion in teacher numbers, particularly in the area of special needs, the growth in the school-going population in rapidly developing areas and the demands to cater for diversity through the recognition of new Gaelscoileanna and Educate Together schools.

The current focus within the Department is to empower schools to resolve their accommodation needs wherever possible by way of permanent accommodation. To reduce the amount of temporary accommodation at primary level a new initiative was launched in 2003. The purpose of this initiative is to allow primary schools to undertake a permanent solution to their classroom accommodation needs and to achieve the best value for money. The feedback from the 20 schools in that pilot initiative was very positive and the initiative was expanded to 44 primary schools in 2004 and over 70 schools were invited to participate in this initiative in 2005. As a result of this initiative the amount spent on the purchase of prefabricated buildings in 2004 was just half of what had been spent in 2003.

Special Educational Needs.

David Stanton

Question:

245 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the supports available to blind and visually impaired students at second level with regard to Braille; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35875/05]

David Stanton

Question:

246 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of visiting teachers available to blind pupils in both primary and secondary schools respectively; the role and function of the visiting teachers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35876/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 245 and 246 together.

The Department provides a range of supports to second level schools to enable them to cater for pupils with special educational needs including pupils with visual impairment. The supports in question include learning support and resource teaching support, special needs assistant support and funding for the purchase of specialised equipment.

Enormous progress has been made over the past number of years in increasing the number of teachers in our schools who are specifically dedicated to providing education for children with special educational needs including pupils with visual impairment.

At second level, approximately 1,621 whole-time equivalent additional teachers are in place to support pupils with special educational needs. This compares with the approximately 200 teachers that were in place in 1998 for such pupils. In addition, there are 532 whole-time equivalent learning support teachers and approximately 1,044 whole-time equivalent special needs assistants in our second level schools.

The National Braille Production Centre, which is fully funded by the Department, produces educational materials in Braille, large print format and text only for children who are blind or visually impaired. It is an essential service to these children and without it many such children would not be able to access mainstream education or be able to undertake the junior and senior cycle examinations.

There are 11 visiting teachers with responsibility for blind and visually impaired students supporting the needs of children-students in the primary and post-primary sectors. All 11 teachers can teach Braille but in the event that the demand for this service cannot be met by the visiting teachers themselves, arrangements are made by them for the provision of this service by an alternative competent person.

From pre-school through to third level, visiting teachers provide guidance, support and information to parents, pupils and school staff that is specifically geared to the nature of the sensory difficulties experienced by a pupil. Visiting teachers also provide tuition directly to pupils.

David Stanton

Question:

247 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science the supports available to students with disabilities in secondary schools; the extra support available to the principals of schools who have students with disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35877/05]

The Department provides a range of supports to second level school management to enable schools to cater for pupils with special educational needs. The supports in question include remedial and resource teaching support, special needs assistant support and funding for the purchase of specialised equipment.

There has been enormous progress made over the past number of years in relation to increasing the number of teachers in our schools who are specifically dedicated to providing education for children with special educational needs.

At second level, approximately 1,621 whole-time equivalent additional teachers are in place to support pupils with special educational needs. This compares with the approximately 200 teachers that were in place in 1998 for such pupils. In addition, there are 532 whole-time equivalent learning support teachers and approximately 1,044 whole-time equivalent special needs assistants in our second level schools.

The precise model of provision made available at second level will depend on the assessed needs of the pupils involved. Some pupils are capable of attending ordinary classes on an integrated basis with additional teacher and-or special needs assistant support. In other cases, placement in special dedicated classes or units attached to the school may be the more appropriate response. Such special classes operate at significantly reduced pupil teacher ratios. Pupils attached to these special classes may be facilitated in attending ordinary subject classes on an integrated basis wherever possible.

With effect from 1 January 2005, the National Council for Special Education has taken over key functions from the Department in special educational provision. The NCSE was formally established as an independent statutory body on the 1 October 2005 under the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2005. The council acts under the broad policy direction of my Department but has the resources and the remit to play the leading role in the delivery of education services to children with disabilities-special needs.

The NCSE co-ordinates with the health services, schools and other relevant bodies regarding the provision of education and related support services to children with disabilities-special needs. The responsibilities of the NCSE include deciding on applications for additional teaching support in respect of children with disabilities with special educational needs at second level; deciding on applications for special needs assistant hours; and processing applications for school placement in respect of children with disabilities with special education needs.

Under the new arrangements, the council, through the local special educational needs organiser, SENO, will process the relevant application for resources and inform the school of the outcome. It is important to note that in the case of decisions on additional teaching and SNA support, the SENO will outline the process to the school and parents, where appropriate, and will at the end of the process outline the basis on which the decision was made.

In addition, the Department's teacher education section has developed a strategy designed to meet the continuing professional development needs of personnel working with children with special educational needs. This involves a major expansion of the range of post-graduate professional training programmes available to teachers in the special needs area and the ongoing development of the special education support service to support schools staff locally.

The Department will continue to ensure that the necessary resources are made available for the education of children with special needs. I am confident that the advent of the NCSE will prove of major benefit in ensuring that all children with special educational needs receive the support they require, when and where they require it.

Educational Disadvantage.

Pat Carey

Question:

248 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Education and Science if a recently established and recognised school (details supplied) in Dublin 11 situated in a RAPID area, will be eligible for additional financial supports under any of the many initiatives to tackle disadvantage operated by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35919/05]

A key element of DEIS, Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools, the new action plan for educational inclusion is the putting in place of a standardised system for identifying levels of disadvantage in our primary and second-level schools for the purposes of qualifying for resources, both human and financial, according to the degree of disadvantaged experienced. This standardised system will replace all of the existing arrangements for targeting schools for participation in initiatives to address disadvantage. This process is being managed by the Educational Research Centre, Drumcondra, on behalf of my Department, assisted by an advisory group, and will be supported by quality assurance work co-ordinated through my Department's regional offices and the inspectorate.

As a result of the identification process which involved a new survey of all mainstream primary schools conducted by the ERC in May last and the updating by them of existing data sources on the levels of disadvantage in second-level schools, approximately 600 primary schools, comprising 300 urban-town and 300 rural, and 150 second-level schools will be included in a new school support programme. The SSP will bring together, and build upon, a number of existing interventions for schools and school clusters-communities with a concentrated level of educational disadvantage. Existing schemes and programmes will be integrated into the SSP on a phased basis over the implementation period. We anticipate being in a position to notify participating schools in relation to the outcome of the ongoing identification process by the end of the year.

The school to which the Deputy refers opened at the start of the 2005-06 school year and was not included in the recent ERC survey. However, my Department will be putting in place arrangements for the handling of exceptional cases that will arise in between identification processes early in 2006. The next identification process will be in 2009-10 and will continue thereafter on a three-year cyclical basis. This arrangement will include newly established schools.

Higher Education Grants.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

249 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science when a decision will be made as to whether the students participating in the Law Society professional practice course 1, evening course, will be eligible for the higher education maintenance grant; if students on this course will be dealt with in the same manner as their counterparts taking the day course; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35920/05]

My Department has received correspondence from the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland seeking approval for the inclusion of the winter streams of the professional practice course 1 under the higher education grant scheme for 2005-06. The application for course approval is under consideration within my Department.

Richard Bruton

Question:

250 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has made provision in Estimates 2006 for the increase in the income limits and in the maintenance payments under the higher education grant, in respect of standard applicants and applicants eligible for a special top up grant; the present values in respect of these and the proposed values. [35977/05]

The statutory framework for the maintenance grants scheme, as set out in the Local Authorities (Higher Education Grants) Acts 1968 to 1992, provides for means-tested higher education grants in order to assist students to attend full-time third level education. With regard to income thresholds prescribed under the student maintenance grant schemes, the practice in recent years has been to increase the reckonable income limits in line with movements in the average industrial wage for the relevant year. Similarly, with regard to the value of the grant, the practice in recent years has been to increase the maintenance grants annually at least in line with inflation as per the consumer price index.

The special rates of maintenance grant, usually referred to as "top-up" grants, payable to disadvantaged grant holders, were introduced with effect from the 2000-01 academic year. The annual income threshold for the special rates of maintenance grant is increased, in line with the relevant social welfare payments. The current income threshold for "top-up" is €15,626. The higher, non-adjacent special rate of maintenance is based on the maximum personal rate of unemployment assistance. The following tables provide details of the current reckonable income limits and grant rates.

Higher Education Grants Scheme 2005. Reckonable Income Limits for the ordinary rates of grant†

(For the period 1 January 2004 to 31 December 2004 — tax year 2004).

Number of Dependent Children

Full Maintenance and Full Fees

Part Maintenance (75%) and Full Fees

Part Maintenance (50%) and Full Fees

Part Maintenance (25%) and Full Fees

Part Tuition Fees (50%) only*

Less than 4

35,485

37,695

39,915

42,130

44,350

4-7

38,990

41,430

43,865

46,305

48,740

8 or more

42,335

44,980

47,625

50,265

52,910

* Full student service charge is paid where income is at or below this level.

†In the 2005-06 academic year where two or more children or the candidate's parent are pursuing a course of study listed below the reckonable income limits may be increased by €4,295 where there are two such children, €8,590 where there are three such children and so on, by increments of €4,295.

(i)attending full-time third level education;

(ii)attending a recognised PLC course, student nurse training or student Garda training;

(iii)participating in a Fáilte Ireland, formerly CERT, course of at least one year's duration;

(iv)attending a full time Teagasc course in an agricultural college;

(v)attending a recognised full-time further education course of at least one year's duration in Northern Ireland.

Maintenance grants rates.

Non-Adjacent Rate

Adjacent Rate

Full Maintenance

3,020

1,210

Part Maintenance (75%)

2,265

905

Part Maintenance (50%)

1,515

605

Part Maintenance (25%)

755

305

Special rates of maintenance grant for 2005-06.

Grant

Standard Grant

Top-Up Amount

Total Grant

Adjacent Rate

1,210

935

2,145

Non-Adjacent Rate

3,020

2,335

5,355

The Estimate provisions are only the first stage in the process of determining specific allocations, improvements and initiatives across all sectors of education. This process is continuing and I will convey the necessary details as decisions are taken. I envisage the same process will apply for the academic year 2006-07 in regard to changes to the thresholds for eligibility and the grant levels. The review of the income eligibility thresholds and rates of grant will take place in the first quarter of 2006 as soon as the relevant data are available.

Richard Bruton

Question:

251 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the month used for calculating the movement in prices and the movement in wages which is used by her Department for updating the value of maintenance payments and of income thresholds under higher education grants. [35978/05]

With regard to income thresholds prescribed under the student maintenance grant schemes, the practice in recent years has been to increase the reckonable income limits for the ordinary rate of grant by at least the annual increase in the average industrial wage in the 12 months to September of the year prior to the relevant academic year. Similarly, with regard to the value of the grant, the practice in recent years has been to increase the level of maintenance grants annually at least in line with inflation as per the consumer price index. The reference period used is the increase in the period to December of the year prior to the relevant academic year.

The special rates of maintenance grant, usually referred to as "top-up" grants, payable to disadvantaged grant holders, were introduced with effect from the 2000-01 academic year. The annual income threshold for the special rates of maintenance grant is increased, in line with the relevant social welfare payments. The current income threshold for "top-up" is €15,626. The higher, non-adjacent special rate of maintenance is based on the maximum personal rate of unemployment assistance. The following tables provide details of the current reckonable income limits and grant rates.

Higher Education Grants Scheme 2005 .Reckonable income limits for the ordinary rates of grant†

(For the period 1 January 2004 to 31 December 2004 — tax year 2004).

Number of Dependent Children

Full Maintenance and Full Fees

Part Maintenance (75%) and Full Fees

Part Maintenance (50%) and Full Fees

Part Maintenance (25%) and Full Fees

Part Tuition Fees (50%) only*

Less than 4

35,485

37,695

39,915

42,130

44,350

4-7

38,990

41,430

43,865

46,305

48,740

8 or more

42,335

44,980

47,625

50,265

52,910

*Full student service charge is paid where income is at or below this level.

†In the 2005-06 academic year where two or more children or the candidate's parent are pursuing a course of study listed the reckonable income limits may be increased by €4,295 where there are two such children, €8,590 where there are three such children and so on, by increments of €4,295.

(i)attending full-time third level education;

(ii)attending a recognised PLC course, student nurse training or student Garda training;

(iii)participating in a Fáilte Ireland (formerly CERT) course of at least one year's duration;

(iv)attending a full time Teagasc course in an agricultural college;

(v)attending a recognised full-time further education course, of at least one year's duration, in Northern Ireland

Maintenance grants rates.

Non-Adjacent Rate

Adjacent Rate

Full Maintenance

3,020

1,210

Part Maintenance (75%)

2,265

905

Part Maintenance (50%)

1,515

605

Part Maintenance (25%)

755

305

Special Rates of Maintenance Grant for 2005-06.

Grant

Standard Grant

Top-Up Amount

Total Grant

Adjacent Rate

1,210

935

2,145

Non-Adjacent Rate

3,020

2,335

5,355

The Estimate provisions are only the first stage in the process of determining specific allocations, improvements and initiatives across all sectors of education. This process is continuing and I will convey the necessary details as decisions are taken. I envisage the same process will apply for the academic year 2006-07 in regard to changes to the thresholds for eligibility and the grant levels. The review of the income eligibility thresholds and rates of grant will take place in the first quarter of 2006 as soon as the relevant data are available.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Richard Bruton

Question:

252 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has made provision in Estimates 2006 for changes in the terms and conditions of the back to education allowance; and the terms and conditions which will be applied. [35979/05]

The back to education allowance is administered by the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, not by the Minister for Education and Science. Changes in the conditions for receiving the allowance may, however, affect schemes under my Department, for example, students who qualify for the BTEA from the Department of Social and Family Affairs could also qualify for a maintenance grant from my Department. As a result, my Department monitors such changes and provision that might be needed to reflect the impact of these in our student support schemes.

Third Level Fees.

Richard Bruton

Question:

253 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has included in Estimates 2006 provision for increase in the registration charge for college students; the charge that will apply in 2006-07; and the categories which will be exempt from this charge. [35982/05]

The student charge is levied by third level institutions to defray the costs of examinations, registration and students services. The student charge is €775 for the 2005-06 academic year. All students who are eligible for means tested student support have the student charge paid on their behalf by the local authorities or the vocational education committees, in addition to any maintenance grant and tuition fee grant to which they are entitled. No decision has been made on the amount of the student charge for the 2006-07 academic year.

School Accommodation.

Joe Walsh

Question:

254 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Education and Science if an extension will be sanctioned to a national school (details supplied) in County Cork. [36071/05]

The school referred to by the Deputy has made an application for capital funding towards the provision of additional accommodation. The application has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria which were revised last year following consultation with the education partners. The project is being considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme 2005-09.

Schools Refurbishment.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

255 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science when funds will be allocated to repair the surface of the schoolyard at a school (details supplied) in County Kildare. [36073/05]

The school to which the Deputy refers has submitted an application for an upgrade to its external play area under the summer works scheme for 2006. The closing date for the receipt of such applications was 14 October last. All applications are currently being assessed and a list of successful applicants will be published when the assessment procedure has been completed.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

256 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Defence if financial recognition of service, whether by way of pension or ex gratia payment, is made by his Department to long-serving members of the FCA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35870/05]

An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil, now known as the Army Reserve, is the main component of the Reserve Defence Force or RDF and is essentially a part-time force in which service is given on a voluntary basis. Service in the RDF is therefore fundamentally different in nature from service in the Permanent Defence Force or PDF, in particular as regards the respective terms and conditions of service involved. Thus, the concept of pensionability which applies to service in the PDF would be inappropriate in relation to the RDF. In addition to the pay appropriate to their ranks, members who attend annual training are paid gratuities on account of losses and obligations arising from their membership of the RDF.

Garda Operations.

Joe Higgins

Question:

257 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Defence if inquiries will be made with the Police Service of Northern Ireland if it is, or was at any time, in possession of a general purpose machine gun, which was stolen from Clancy Barracks, Dublin in January 1973. [36080/05]

The question of such communication with the Police Service of Northern Ireland regarding criminal incidents is entirely a matter for the Garda Síochána.

Departmental Schemes.

John Perry

Question:

258 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 261 of 23 October 2005 the progress he has made with regard to introducing grant aid to home owners for the provision of radon barriers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35789/05]

I assume the question refers to the reply to Question No. 261 of 23 June 2005. As previously indicated, Government efforts and resources, together with those of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, are continuing to focus on highlighting public awareness of radon and on improving information to householders so as to enable and encourage them to address monitoring or remedial requirements effectively and economically. The Government has over the years, largely through the RPII, committed significant resources to assessing the extent of the radon problem throughout the country and to highlighting public awareness of radon and the health risks associated with prolonged exposure to high radon concentrations. For many years now, the RPII has been encouraging householders, particularly those in high radon areas, to have their homes tested for radon and to undertake radon remediation works where necessary. This approach is considered to be more effective than the introduction of a demand-led scheme of domestic radon remediation grants.

A recent European study shows that, for those exposed to similar concentrations of radon, the risk of contracting lung cancer is 25 times greater for those who smoke and that the vast majority of the radon-induced lung cancer cases occur among smokers and ex-smokers.

Private Rented Accommodation.

Sean Fleming

Question:

259 Mr. Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the year in which registration fees for landlords in respect of private rented residential properties were introduced; the legislation which covers this issue; the reason these fees were introduced; the powers of local authorities to collect these fees; if this work can be contracted out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35820/05]

The Housing (Registration of Rented Houses) Regulations 1996 introduced the registration requirement applying to tenancies in the general private rented sector. Article 5(4) specified the fee applying to the application for registration and article 8 provided for the payment of an annual fee in respect of a house that continued to be rented. The registration regulations and the fee requirement were introduced in order to assist local authorities in enforcing the standards and rent books regulations applying to the private rented sector. Failure to comply with the registration regulations was an offence.

The 1996 registration regulations, which were made under section 20 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992, were repealed by section 10(2) of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 and replaced with the registration system contained in Part 7 of the 2004 Act. Registration fees under the 2004 Act are payable by landlords to the Private Residential Tenancies Board. The level of registration fees is prescribed in the Act and the manner in which fees are collected is a matter for the board.

A proportion of registration fee moneys is being transferred from the board to local authorities, in recognition of their registration fee income foregone, to fund enforcement of the private rented accommodation regulatory requirements. From 2006 onwards, this transfer will be related to each authority's enforcement performance as evidenced by their statistical returns and the need to distribute income across the statutory four-year tenancy cycle. These arrangements mean that authorities continue to be specifically resourced for their regulatory functions with regard to the private rented sector.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Seán Ryan

Question:

260 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the support in the form of a grant which is available for an old age person living alone with no means other than their pension, who requires their house to be rewired. [35832/05]

The essential repairs grant scheme is designed to enable elderly people whose houses cannot be made habitable in all respects at a reasonable cost to have basic repairs carried out. Decisions in individual cases are a matter for the relevant local authority.

The special housing aid for the elderly scheme was established to provide assistance, by way of necessary emergency repairs, to improve conditions in the existing house of elderly persons living alone in unfit or unsanitary conditions. The scheme is administered by a task force under the aegis of my Department and is operated by the Health Service Executive. Decisions in individual cases are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. Some 4,414 jobs were completed under this scheme in 2004 at a cost of €10.8 million.

Local Authority Housing.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

261 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 425 of 16 November 2005, if he can make a statement regarding which local authorities have been found to be charging tenants attempting to purchase their rural cottage homes, under the tenant purchase scheme; the market value of their homes inclusive of the site cost, due to the fact that the site was provided free to the county council by the tenant at the time of construction. [35858/05]

As indicated in reply to Question No. 425 of 16 November 2005, the administration of the tenant purchase scheme is a matter for each local authority and my Department does not compile the detailed information sought. I have asked my Department to draw the attention of local authorities again to the terms of the current scheme which provide that, where the site of a dwelling has been provided to a housing authority for a nominal sum, the sale price should be reduced accordingly for the tenant purchaser.

Richard Bruton

Question:

262 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has made any provision in the 2006 Estimates for increases in the income limits for affordable housing, shared ownership or for social housing; and the limits that will apply in 2006. [35993/05]

Richard Bruton

Question:

263 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has made any provision in the 2006 Estimates for changes in the terms and conditions of shared ownership or affordable housing in relation to the deposit required, the subsidy towards repayments at different income levels, the maximum loan amount, loan proportion or the maximum house value; and the values which will prevail in 2006. [35994/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 262 and 263 together.

Funding for the affordable housing and shared ownership schemes in 2006 is partly included in the Abridged Estimates Volume published last week and partly included in the public capital programme, details of which will be published on 7 December, budget day. The total 2006 provision for both schemes will reflect the outcome of a review of the loan and income limits and levels of subsidy recently conducted by my Department. Details will be announced next month. While the setting of a maximum house value under the shared ownership scheme is a matter for local authorities, terms and conditions of both schemes are kept under continuous review.

In accordance with their scheme of letting priorities, local authorities have regard to the household income when assessing an application for social housing. However, the application of an income limit and the manner of its operation is a matter for individual local authorities but they must be satisfied that applicants have a long-term need for housing and are unable to provide it from their own resources.

Local Authority Funding.

Richard Bruton

Question:

264 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the rate of interest and of mortgage protection cost applied under local authority loans; the typical annual payments on a €100,000 loan at these rates; if he envisages any change in these rates during 2006; and the impact they would have on typical annual payments. [35995/05]

The interest rate on variable local authority loans is determined by the Housing Finance Agency by reference to prevailing rates in the financial market. The current variable rate is 2.95%. In addition, a mortgage protection charge of 0.598% and 1.65%, respectively, is applied to loans taken out on or after 1 July 1986 and pre-1 July 1986. Typical annual repayments today on a loan of €100,000 over 30 years would be €5,667. A rate increase of 0.25% would result in an annual increase in repayments of €166.

Prior to the introduction of variable rates in December 1987, certain fixed interest rate loans provided by local authorities would have carried rates in excess of these levels reflecting the cost of the long-term funds involved. Borrowers with such fixed rate loans are free to redeem, without penalty, and refinance in the private sector.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Richard Bruton

Question:

265 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he has made changes in the 2006 Estimates in respect of the grant percentage or the maximum value of grant in respect of adaptations to a home for a disabled person building a new home, essential repairs grant and any other grant in relation to the home of pensioners; and the values which will prevail in 2006. [35996/05]

Details of next year's capital funding for housing grants for disabled and elderly persons will be made available in the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2006 which will be published early in the new year.

A review of the disabled persons grant scheme is currently underway in my Department. On its completion, it will be possible to determine the changes, if any, required to the regulations governing the scheme to ensure that the funding available is directed at those persons in greatest need of such assistance. Given the interrelated nature of the disabled persons, essential repairs and the special housing aid for the elderly grant schemes, all of these are being considered in the context of the review.