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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 15 Dec 2005

Vol. 612 No. 4

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.

Third Level Education.

John Deasy

Question:

12 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of recommendations of the OECD report on third level education progressed to date in 2005 by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39559/05]

The OECD review of Irish higher education makes a series of far reaching recommendations for reform and development of the sector, against the backdrop of the crucial role which has been identified for it in helping to contribute to Ireland's strategic ambition of becoming a leading knowledge based society. Earlier this year, the Government approved the broad thrust of the OECD proposals and specifically approved the establishment of a strategic innovation fund to promote and support reform within the sector and the bringing forward of legislative proposals to transfer responsibility for management of the institutes of technology from my Department to the Higher Education Authority, HEA.

This week, I gave details of the strategic innovation fund, which will drive transformation of the higher education sector in the direction envisaged by the OECD, by promoting collaboration and change in pursuit of system wide excellence. The commitment to a guaranteed five year fund allows for genuinely strategic proposals for change to be brought forward. An initial €15 million will be available in 2006 in what is essentially a start-up year. This will grow to €60 million in 2007 and to €75 million per annum in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Awards under the fund will be made on the basis of a competitive call for proposals to be launched by the Higher Education Authority in 2006. An international panel of experts will be convened by the Higher Education Authority to consider the proposals submitted and to make objective recommendations on funding awards.

This new investment, together with the announcement of €900 million to be included in my capital envelope for 2006-2010 and devoted to the third level sector, represents a significant increase in funding for the sector, as recommended by the OECD, and a new milestone for the development of higher education in Ireland. It is clear evidence of my commitment, and that of the Government, to helping the higher education system to realise our national strategic objectives. I know that the sector is ready to face the major challenges that lie ahead.

Implementation of a number of the OECD recommendations requires legislative change, with the main one being the transfer of responsibility for the management of the institutes of technology from my Department to the HEA. This Bill is currently being drafted and effecting this transfer will be a key priority of my Department in the coming year. The bringing together of universities and institutes of technology under a common management structure will facilitate the development of a more strategic approach to higher education within a unified policy framework and the gradual devolution to the institutes of technology of greater academic and managerial autonomy.

Action on a number of other issues raised in the review is also already underway, in particular the proposal by the OECD that research and innovation issues should be co-ordinated across Government Departments and agencies. The interdepartmental committee on science, technology and innovation is now playing an active role in the preparation of the national research plan which will ensure that national objectives in this area are pursued and achieved in a "joined up" manner.

I view the OECD recommendations as a framework which will ensure that higher education institutions have the capacity to help Ireland's transition to the knowledge society. I have also made it quite clear that the final shape of future policy proposals for the sector will take account of the views of those working in and with it. To this end, I and my Department have already engaged in an extensive consultation process with stakeholders and I look forward to this dialogue as we move forward in this major change programme for the sector.

School Inspection Reports.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

13 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department will mandate all second level schools to produce an annual school report including information on a wide range of topics including exam results; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39566/05]

There is no requirement for second level schools to produce an annual report. However, the Education Act 1998 requires the board of management of a school to establish procedures for informing the parents of students in the school of matters relating to the operation and performance of the school. Such procedures may include the publication of a report on the operation and performance of the school in any school year. The methods by which such information is provided remains a matter for the board of management.

I understand that it is common practice in many schools that an annual report is prepared for the final meeting of the board of management each year. This normally makes reference to how successfully policies were implemented during the year, highlights particular achievements and states priorities for the next school year. Some schools may send a synopsis of this report to parents.

There is also a growing trend whereby principals give a report on the activities of the school in the previous school year, as well as indicating planned activities for the coming school year, to the AGM of the parents' association at the beginning of a new school year. Of course, many schools send a newsletter to parents at intervals during the year or at the end of the school year. In my address to this year's annual conference of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals I also spoke of the value of schools sharing the outcomes of their ongoing self review processes with parents and encouraged more to do so.

I am determined to provide more information, for parents in particular, about our schools in a way that ensures a fair and comprehensive picture of all the different activities in a school. As I have said on many occasions, I am strongly opposed to the publication of crude league tables based solely on examination or test results. Such tables provide an unbalanced and grossly limited indication of a school's performance.

In contrast to school league tables, I believe that school inspection reports from whole school evaluations, WSE, and other inspections, when read in their entirety, can provide balanced and well informed information on schools. The whole school evaluation process involves an examination of all the varied activities of a school — from the quality of teaching and learning to the availability of extra-curricular activities and the implementation of policies in areas such as bullying and health and safety. The inspection process also includes consultation with the school's board, parents and staff members, and, at second level, with the school's students.

Given the breadth of the contents of WSE reports, I believe that the publication of these and other school inspection reports could go a significant way to addressing the real needs of parents, students, teachers and others for better information on schools. The type of information provided in WSE reports will help parents who need accurate and balanced information.

I have already declared my determination to progress this matter in a sensible and responsible way. I intend to publish guidelines in this regard in January 2006 and to arrange that the inspections following the publication of the guidelines will be conducted on the basis that the resulting reports will be published. I am confident that the considered and responsible approach that I am taking to the publication of inspection reports will lead to much greater availability of information on schools without inadvertently pitting schools serving entirely different communities against each other in crude comparisons of academic performance alone. Whether intended or not, academic league tables would be a likely consequence of publishing exam results in an annual report for each school.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

14 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science the nature of the information with regard to individual schools that will be made available to parents in 2006; the timeframe for same; the number of schools which will be included in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39674/05]

During the summer, I announced that my Department would publish school inspection reports arising from the general programme of school inspections. Under this programme, a selected number of schools is inspected on a cyclical basis. The reports include whole school evaluation reports arising from the inspection of primary and post-primary schools and centres for education and subject inspection reports arising from the inspection of the teaching of individual subjects in post-primary schools and centres for education. In addition, the inspectorate produces reports arising from thematic and programme evaluations carried out by the inspectorate from time to time.

All of these inspections evaluate, as appropriate, the work of the school as a whole or the work of the school in delivering an area of the curriculum. The reports describe aspects such as the contributions of school management and school planning, as well as the quality of learning and teaching and learning outcomes. The findings of the evaluations presented in each report take cognisance of the context in which the school or subject team or subject teacher or teachers in the school is operating.

All of the above reports arising from the general inspection programme for schools and centres for education will be published in their entirety and in accordance with the principles and procedures described in "Guidelines on the Publication of School Inspection Reports". A draft of this document was circulated to the education partners for comment and the inspectorate is currently finalising the guidelines in the light of the written comments received from the education partners. I intend to publish the finalised guidelines in January 2006 and to arrange that inspections following the publication of the guidelines will be conducted on the basis that the resulting reports will be published.

The new procedures will provide the school with a right of response to the reports and it is intended that both the inspection report and the school response, where this is provided by the school's board of management, will be published simultaneously. Boards of management and teachers also have the right to seek a review of an inspection, so the timeframe must allow for the possibility of review as well as time for the school to prepare a response.

The planning of whole school evaluations and the other inspections to which I have referred, for the year 2006, is not yet completed and the numbers of inspections may vary depending on the other types of work that inspectors have to carry out. However, I understand that the numbers of inspections that will lead to published reports in 2006 is expected to be broadly similar to this year. Between whole school evaluations, subject inspections and thematic evaluations, it is expected that around 900 inspection reports will be issued.

Stay Safe Programme.

Simon Coveney

Question:

15 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools which do not offer the Stay Safe programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39529/05]

Gerard Murphy

Question:

29 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the Stay Safe programme has not been made mandatory in all primary schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39528/05]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

39 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has received updated information on the percentage of schools participating in the Stay Safe programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39656/05]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

102 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on whether schools in receipt of moneys from the Exchequer should be required to offer the Stay Safe programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39530/05]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

105 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Education and Science if the Stay Safe programme will be placed on the primary school curriculum to ensure that all schools offer the programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39531/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15, 29, 39, 102 and 105 together.

Child protection and the implementation of the Stay Safe programme for all children in every primary school are priorities for my Department. The Stay Safe programme, which is also known as the child abuse prevention programme, CAPP, is a primary school based approach to the prevention of child abuse. The programme aims to reduce vulnerability to child abuse through the provision of in-service training for teachers, parent education and personal safety education for children at primary school level. The Stay Safe programme is a four stage approach to preventing child abuse involving: children's safety education; teacher training; parent education; and community awareness.

The programme aims to give children the skills necessary to enable them to recognise and resist abuse/victimisation and teaches them that they should always tell an adult that can help of any situation which they find unsafe, upsetting, threatening, dangerous or abusive. Stay Safe is a personal safety skills programme which can be used with primary school children from senior infants to sixth class. It seeks to enhance children's self-protective skills by participating in lessons on safe and unsafe situations, bullying, touches, secrets, telling and strangers.

An initial one day in-service training seminar on the Stay Safe programme has been provided for all primary schools. Since the programme was introduced, 99.7% of primary schools have participated in this training. At present, based on a sample survey, approximately 80%-85% of primary schools are teaching the programme to their students but it should be recognised that the Stay Safe programme is not mandatory and schools can decide whether or not to introduce the programme.

Although 15% of primary schools do not offer the Stay Safe programme, it should be noted that the central elements of the programme — primarily personal safety strategies — and, more importantly, the overall issue of child protection are now taught as integral parts of the subject of social, personal and health education, SPHE, which is part of the curriculum taught in every primary school. Specifically, the strand unit entitled "Safety and Protection" provides material for teachers to explore with children appropriate strategies in personal safety, which incorporate elements of the Stay Safe programme. In addition, the implementation of my Department's child protection guidelines for all primary schools has given an additional impetus to the Stay Safe programme as well as the overall issue of child protection.

My Department does not have plans to introduce the Stay Safe programme as a stand-alone subject on the primary curriculum, nor is it a part of the programme of work of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA. However, social, personal and health education, SPHE, which includes the teaching of strategies for personal safety to primary pupils is already a mandatory part of the primary school curriculum.

In light of the current high level of take-up of Stay Safe, combined with the implementation of my Department's child protection guidelines, the incorporation of the central elements of the Stay Safe programme and the coverage of the overall issue of child protection within SPHE, which is very positive, I strongly encourage all schools to use the Stay Safe programme.

Question No. 16 answered with QuestionNo. 11.

Irish Language.

Michael Noonan

Question:

17 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of second level students who attempted the higher level Irish examination paper in the 2004 leaving certificate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39554/05]

A total of 55,222 candidates participated in the established leaving certificate examinations in 2004. Of this number, some 14,878 students sat the leaving certificate Gaeilge examination at higher level. This represented just over 30% of the total cohort of 48,962 candidates taking the Gaeilge examination that year. Gaeilge is offered at three levels in the leaving certificate — foundation level, ordinary and higher levels. The proportion sitting Irish at higher level remained consistent over the years 1998 to 2005 at 30-31%.

Measures have been taken in recent years to improve the leaving certificate Irish curriculum. A revised literature course for leaving certificate Irish was introduced in September 2004 for first examination in 2006. This has been widely welcomed as it allows literature to be taught using modern communicative approaches that appeal to young people and it affords a high level of choice to students and teachers: for example, it includes film, for the first time, as an option for students. The revised course is accompanied by comprehensive guidelines for teachers.

Major improvements are also being been made in regard to the provision of materials and resources for the teaching of Irish. An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscoilaíochta has been established to progress this area and to provide support services for schools.

With regard to evaluating current standards and making proposals for the future, several important initiatives are being undertaken. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA, is carrying out a review of languages in the post-primary curriculum and my Department is engaging with the language policy division of the Council of Europe which is conducting an analysis of language teaching and learning generally, including Irish, at both primary and post-primary level.

Finally, the Deputy will be aware that I believe more emphasis should be placed on oral Irish and have asked the NCCA to make recommendations in this regard as one of its next steps in developing its proposals for senior cycle reform.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

18 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the contentions of a number of former residents of mother and baby homes and their legal representations that the State had a duty of care, where babies were born or placed in these institutions, and therefore should have been included in the remit of the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39666/05]

The Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002 provides a statutory scheme of financial redress for persons who, as children, were abused while in residential institutional care. The scheme applies in respect of institutions specified in the Schedule to the Act. Section 4 of the Act provides that the Minister for Education and Science may, by order, insert additional institutions in the Schedule to the Act. For an institution to be considered under section 4, it must be an industrial school, a reformatory school, an orphanage, a children's home, a special school for children with a physical or intellectual disability or a hospital providing medical or psychiatric services to people with a physical or mental disability or mental illness. It must also be one in which children were placed and resident and in respect of which a public body had a regulatory or inspection function.

A total of 128 institutions were originally listed on the Schedule. Since the enactment of the legislation, my Department has been contacted by individuals and/or solicitors about various institutions not specified in the Schedule. Following consideration of the matter and consultation with relevant public bodies, I signed an order on 9 November 2004 which provided for the inclusion of 13 additional institutions in the Schedule. A further order was made on 1 July 2005 adding three institutions to the Schedule.

The Department of Health and Children and other relevant parties were consulted by my Department about certain mother and baby homes and these inquiries have indicated that these homes were privately operated and not subject to State inspection or regulation, or that they operated as hostel facilities which do not come within the scope of section 4 of the Act. As a consequence, it is not possible to give further consideration to the inclusion of these homes in the Schedule.

The redress scheme applies to industrial schools, reformatory schools and other such institutions for children where the State's duty of care arose from the fact that the children were separated from their families and were placed and resident in institutions over which the State had a regulatory or supervisory responsibility. This situation did not apply in respect of homes or hostels for mothers and their babies. The question of including additional institutions has now been fully considered by my Department in consultation with relevant Government Departments and it is not proposed to add any further institutions to the Schedule.

In the range of Government initiatives to address past abuse, the needs of those who suffered abuse in institutions not covered by the Redress Act is recognised and provided for and various measures have been put in place to assist them. These include the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and dedicated counselling and other support services for victims of abuse.

Irish Language.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

19 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps she is taking to implement the findings of the steering group established under the auspices of the commission on school accommodation to establish criteria and procedures for establishing and maintaining provision through the medium of Irish in second level schools or clusters of schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39342/05]

The report of the steering group of the commission on school accommodation, entitled Criteria and Procedures for Establishing and Maintaining Provision through the Medium of Irish in Second Level Schools or Clusters of Schools, presents a framework of key issues and makes a number of recommendations on the provision of second level education through the medium of Irish. The report is currently being examined in my Department in conjunction with another of the commission's reports on the Criteria and Procedures for the Recognition of New Second Level Schools. This is because many of the recommendations, particularly relating to the suggested procedure for recognition, apply equally to schools offering educational provision through the medium of English and through the medium of Irish.

A structured process for the recognition of primary schools is in operation and I am anxious to replicate in the post-primary sector the principles of openness, transparency and consultation under which that process operates. I expect in the coming months to be in a position to set out how the issues raised in the reports will be addressed, including how to provide a formal recognition process.

Third Level Education.

Richard Bruton

Question:

20 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the way in which new funding, announced in budget 2006, will be dispersed amongst third level institutions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39564/05]

In April 2005, as part of the Government's plans for implementing the programme of reform and development recommended by the OECD in its review of higher education in Ireland, I announced that I would establish a strategic innovation fund to drive transformation of the sector by promoting collaboration and change in pursuit of system wide excellence. The budget has now delivered the multi-annual commitment to allow this to happen.

The commitment to a guaranteed five-year fund allows for meaningful and far-reaching proposals for change to be brought forward. An initial €15 million will be available in 2006 in what is essentially a start-up year. This will grow to €60 million in 2007 and to €75 million per annum in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Awards under the fund will be made on the basis of a competitive call for proposals, to be launched by the Higher Education Authority in 2006. An international panel of experts will be convened by the Higher Education Authority to consider the proposals submitted and to make objective recommendations on funding awards.

The allocation of €900 million in my capital envelope for 2006 — 2010 and devoted to the third level sector has enabled me approve a further 35 major key priority projects across the sector. The approved projects, which were identified during the needs assessment and prioritisation work carried out by the Kelly review group, are in key strategic areas such as engineering, IT, science and technology, catering, tourism and the arts. A total of 18 of the projects will be delivered using direct Exchequer funding of €305 million and 17 projects will be delivered within a €270 million public private partnership programme.

A sum of €35 million of the funding will be used on completion of projects that I approved last year to support the significant expansion in recent years of teacher training places and projects aimed at addressing critical health skills shortages in a range of areas. A further €95 million will be allocated to cover commitments due in respect of the programme for research in third level institutions. A remaining balance of close to €200 million will be used to deal with emerging priorities in the context of overall national strategy.

These investments represent a new milestone for the development of higher education in Ireland. They make a resounding statement of the central importance of the sector to our national strategic objectives. The sector is ready to face the major challenges that lie ahead. I look forward to working with the Higher Education Authority, the universities and institutes of technology in delivering on the exciting potential for change and development that has now been created.

School Curriculum.

John Gormley

Question:

21 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the programme which exists to provide a suitable IT capability among students in all schools; the level of progress which has been achieved to date in 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39587/05]

There has been significant progress in the development of ICT infrastructure in schools, in enhancing teachers' skills and pedagogical practice and in the development of curriculum and learning resources, since the introduction of the ICT in schools initiative in 1998. My Department is currently examining the future priorities for the ICT in schools initiative and this work is being complemented by a further census of ICT infrastructure, in both primary and post-primary schools, which is being undertaken by the NCTE and an evaluation of the impact of ICT in teaching and learning in schools, in which my Department's inspectorate is currently engaged.

The major focus for my Department at present is the roll-out of broadband connectivity to all recognised schools. This project is being undertaken in partnership with industry, following the establishment of a three year €18 million joint Government-IBEC — TIF, Telecommunications and Internet Federation, fund to fund local connectivity at school level.

The broadband connectivity is being provided via a schools national broadband network supported by HEAnet, which will provide managed Internet access, e-mail, security controls and content filtering. A broadband support service is being managed by the National Centre for Technology in Education to assist schools with advice and information relating to the roll out and ongoing use of their broadband connectivity within the schools network.

Following a public procurement process last year, contracts have been agreed with six companies for the provision of access connectivity to some 4,000 schools involved. These companies are Digiweb, Smart Telecom, Irish Broadband, BT Ireland, Last Mile and HS Data. The contract for the provision of a broadband router at school level, where appropriate, was awarded to Eircom.

The roll-out process is now well under way and as of 12 December 2005, the number of schools who have had their basic connectivity service installed was 2,670 and the number of schools which have had their router installed, either separately or as part of the basic connectivity service, was 1,959. In this regard, the satellite provision for 347 schools contains the necessary functionality and does not require the provision of a separate router. It is expected that the roll-out will be fully completed by March 2006.

The overall costs of the schools broadband access programme, comprising the local connectivity at school level, the schools national broadband network and the support service, including the initial set-up and ongoing costs over the next three years, are estimated at some €30 million. The provision of always-on high speed Internet access for recognised schools presents a major development in the ICT in schools initiative to integrate technology into teaching and learning in our schools and to ensure that the ICT skills of our young people are developed to their full potential.

The roll out of broadband connectivity builds on the recent investment by my Department in providing grants to schools for the development of computer networking facilities. Since December 2004, over 3,700 schools have received grants to develop their networking facilities at a cost of some €20 million. The development of internal networking facilities in schools is critical to supporting schools' full exploitation of the potential offered by broadband connectivity and the efficient use of computer software.

Question No. 22 answered with QuestionNo. 11.

Traveller Education.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

23 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the failure to integrate Traveller children into the education system; the action her Department will take to ensure that Traveller children are not disadvantaged and deprived of educational opportunities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39672/05]

It is important, from the outset, to emphasise that the Traveller community is entitled to the same education provision as all others. The needs of the Traveller community are a high priority for me and my Department.

My Department provides additional resources to enhance the education of Traveller children. In 2003-04 my Department spent over €47 million on Traveller education over and above what is being provided through mainstream education. This expenditure makes special provision to enable members of the Traveller community to successfully access educational services.

This provision includes 45 pre-schools for Travellers, over 500 resource teachers for Travellers in primary schools, nearly 140 whole time equivalent posts for Travellers in post-primary schools, 40 visiting teachers for Travellers and enhanced capitation grants for Traveller pupils at primary and post-primary level. In addition, there are 33 senior Traveller training centres located throughout the country.

I am currently awaiting two reports that address Traveller education and the needs of Travellers to successfully integrate into our education system. The first is a report of the survey of Traveller education provision which is being prepared by my inspectorate. This survey is based on an extensive review of the participation and inclusion of Traveller pupils in 30 primary and six post-primary schools. The report will provide recommendations on policies and strategies to facilitate schools in enhancing the education provision for Travellers at a national level.

The second is the report on the recommendations for a five year Traveller education strategy. This report spans the full spectrum of lifelong learning from pre-school to adult and further education. It also emphasises the important role that Traveller parents have in their own education and that of their children. This report is being prepared by a joint working group which includes representatives from the advisory committee on Traveller education and the education disadvantage committee. In addition, in preparing the report there was an in-depth consultation process undertaken. The report is in the final stages of preparation. Inclusion is a core principle which is guiding the development of this report.

Both reports are due early in the new year. They are evidence of the importance which I and my Department attach to ensuring that meeting the educational needs of Travellers continues to be given high priority. It is important to note that in 2002, the Department published Guidelines on Traveller Education in Primary Schools and Guidelines on Traveller Education in Second Level Schools. These guidelines highlight the Department's policy on integration, give information on Traveller culture and provide advice on responding to the educational needs of the Traveller students.

In May this year, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment published "Guidelines on Intercultural Education in Primary Schools". This publication, along with the guidelines on Traveller education in primary and in second level schools, provide information and help to schools to increase their understanding of diversity. The NCCA is due to publish guidelines on intercultural education for post-primary schools in 2006.

These actions aim to ensure that Traveller children are not disadvantaged or deprived of educational opportunities. I will evaluate the recommendations in the two reports which are being finalised. I will also continue to evaluate the most appropriate ways of ensuring that Traveller children continue to integrate into the education system.

Recruitment of Teachers.

Shane McEntee

Question:

24 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Education and Science her proposals to encourage more men into the teaching profession; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39525/05]

Seymour Crawford

Question:

83 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Education and Science the approach she will take to tackling the gender gap in teaching; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39526/05]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

106 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science the changes she is proposing to make to encourage more boys to enrol in primary education teaching courses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39660/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 24, 83 and 106 together.

I am aware of the decreasing numbers of males entering the teaching profession and it is an issue that is of concern to me. I believe it is important to attract more men into teaching for a number of reasons, not least of which is the positive role models that teachers provide in children's lives and the desirability of having both male and female role models in our schools.

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

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

I recently launched the report of the primary education committee, Males into Primary Teaching. The primary education committee was established examine a range of issues with regard to males entering primary teaching, and to make recommendations on short-term and long-term strategies to increase the numbers. The report draws on the professional insight of key experts in this area as well as drawing on a number of relevant research studies. The report's findings will be of significant benefit in assisting the development of future policy in this important area.

One of the key recommendations in the committee's report is that a co-ordinated promotion campaign, which would encourage boys as well as girls to enter primary teaching, should be undertaken. A competitive process is currently underway to enlist the assistance of a professional agency in developing and managing this campaign. All other recommendations contained in the report are also currently receiving active consideration within my Department.

Youth Services.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

25 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made to date in 2005 in the implementation of the national youth work development plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39560/05]

The national youth work development plan, together with the Youth Work Act 2001, provides a framework for youth work in Ireland. The plan identifies four main goals and proposes some 50 action points to achieve these goals over a five year period. To date a number of priority action areas have been addressed, including the implementation of a child protection training programme for the sector, development of projects funded under the special projects for youth scheme and increased support to youth information centres and the youth information support partnership.

With regard to 2005, significant progress has been made this year in the progressive roll out of the actions recommended in the plan, including the establishment of ten new special projects for youth and the upgrade of 20 single worker special projects to two worker projects. In this regard, an additional amount of €920,000 has been spent on the expansion and development of this scheme which includes in its remit some of our most marginalised and vulnerable young people. This additional funding will serve to enhance the delivery of services at local level and will particularly benefit those young people who are socially or economically disadvantaged.

Furthermore in 2005, I established a development fund for youth work organisations to prepare themselves organisationally for the roll out of the Youth Work Act 2001. This fund focused on resourcing and developing the information and communications technology of youth work organisations, with some 30 organisations receiving grants of up to €15,000 each to support their work.

Another important area for development this year has been the enhanced support of the national child protection training programme for the youth work sector. A national child protection unit, which is housed within the National Youth Council of Ireland and is supported by my Department, has led and co-ordinated child protection training initiatives and assisted many youth organisations with the drafting of child protection policies and guidelines. Also, as proposed in the plan, a North-South endorsement panel for youth work training has been established. The purpose of this panel, which has been set up following agreement between the relevant parties in both jurisdictions, is to develop a comprehensive framework for accreditation and certification in youth work on an all-Ireland basis.

In addition, two major reviews, as recommended in the plan, were commenced this year and are nearing completion. These are a review of youth information provision and a review of funding of the youth work sector. I am also arranging for the establishment of a national youth work development unit, to be based within the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. This unit will work in conjunction with national youth work advisory committee and my Department and will spear head youth research and development in Ireland. The establishment of this unit will also pave the way for a number of further actions in the plan.

With regard to the appointment of an assessor of youth work, this post is being advertised today in the national press. The appointment of an assessor is a key priority for the sector and I anticipate a speedy appointment. I am confident that the progress made in the implementation of the actions recommended in the national youth work development plan will continue in 2006 and 2007.

Question No. 26 answered with QuestionNo. 7.

David Stanton

Question:

27 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science, further to the Youth Work Act 2001, her progress to date in 2005 in implementing the Act; the sections that have been implemented to date in 2005; the sections which remain unimplemented; her plans to bring the remaining unimplemented sections into force; the timescale of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39594/05]

David Stanton

Question:

31 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Education and Science her progress to date in 2005 in the implementation of the national youth work development plan; if the plan has been implemented in its entirety; if not, what remains to be implemented; the timescale of same; if she intends to progress the national youth work development plan in the future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39595/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 27 and 31 together.

The Youth Work Act 2001 provides a legal framework for the provision of youth work programmes and services to be organised by the Minister for Education and Science, the vocational education committees and national and regional youth work organisations. Section 1 of the Act provides for sections to be commenced at different stages. Sections 2-7, 17, 18 and 24 have been commenced to date.

A sub-committee of the national youth work advisory committee, representative of both statutory and voluntary sectors as well as my Department, has been steadily progressing the groundwork, including the development of detailed guidelines and procedures, which are vital for the further roll out of the Act in a planned and structured manner. As a priority for 2005, I identified the capacity development of youth work organisations to assist them in preparing themselves organisationally for the implementation of the Act. To this end, I established a development fund for youth work organisations on a once-off basis to help ensure that they can achieve the new standards for approval and engage effectively with the new structures arising from the Youth Work Act 2001. Some 30 youth organisations have received once-off grants this year ranging up to €15,000 to help develop their ICT capacity. Over €300,000 has been provided for this fund in 2005.

Another area for priority attention in 2005 was the capacity development of vocational education committees, VECs, to carry out their responsibilities as set out in the Act. Considerable progress has been made in this regard and this is a most important development which will enable VECs to assume specific new responsibilities, including the provision of youth work programmes and/or services in their areas by co-ordinating their plans, proposals and activities.

In addition, significant progress has been made with regard to the appointment of an assessor of youth work with the advertisement of the post today in the national press. This is viewed by all involved in youth work, both in the statutory and voluntary sectors, as an essential step in the process of the further implementation of the Act. Work in this regard will continue, with further sections of the Act being implemented as the necessary procedures are finalised and as resources, both human and financial, permit.

With regard to the national youth work development plan, this plan identifies four main goals and proposes some 50 action points to achieve these goals over a five year period. To date a number of priority action areas have been addressed. In 2003, €80,000 was spent on the implementation of a child protection training programme for the sector. In 2004, €500,000 was made available for the roll out of the plan and was spent on further support for the child protection training programme, development of projects funded under the special projects for youth scheme and increased support to youth information centres and the youth information support partnership.

Building on these initiatives, to date in 2005 further progress has been made in the following areas: the establishment of ten new special projects for disadvantaged youth; the upgrade of 20 single worker special projects to two worker projects; review of youth work funding; review of youth information provision; continued support of the child protection training programme; establishment of a development fund for youth work organisations; North-South youth work training endorsement panel; establishment of national youth work development unit in NUI, Maynooth.

Further action areas for development in 2006 and 2007 are being determined by my Department with the advice of the national youth work advisory committee.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

28 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of applications which have been received to date in 2005 by the Residential Institutions Redress Board; the number of payments made and the amount of payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39661/05]

The Residential Institutions Redress Board is an independent body established under statute in December 2002 to provide financial redress to persons who, as children, were abused while resident in industrial schools, reformatories or other institutions that were subject to State regulation or inspection. According to the most recent figures available to my Department, the board had on 9 December 2005 received approximately 6,900 applications in 2005 and a total of approximately 12,000 applications to date. The board has processed some 4,500 applications to date and the total cost of awards is approximately €332 million.

The redress scheme has now been in operation for almost three years and the board will accept applications up to midnight on 15 December 2005.

Question No. 29 answered with QuestionNo. 15.

Vetting Procedures.

Richard Bruton

Question:

30 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the position with regard to the vetting of all teachers and other staff by the central vetting unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39532/05]

Liz McManus

Question:

36 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science the categories of persons working in schools which are included under the Garda vetting programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39657/05]

Gay Mitchell

Question:

82 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will ensure that members of school boards of management will be vetted by the central vetting unit prior to appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39534/05]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

109 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science if all full and part-time teachers and other school staff will be vetted by the central vetting unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39533/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30, 36, 82 and 109 together.

Ensuring the protection, health and welfare of children is a key concern for the Government, for parents, for agencies that work with children and for society generally and the Government is determined to do all it can to keep our children and vulnerable adults safe.

In the education sector, vetting is available in respect of prospective employees working with children in detention schools as well as special needs assistants, SNAs, and bus escorts to children with special needs. My colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Brian Lenihan, has announced a doubling of the number of staff employed in the unit to ensure that they can handle a greater volume of requests from employers. The unit will commence the augmentation of its existing vetting arrangements upon decentralisation. It is expected that this will happen early next month. The provision of additional staff resources will enable the Garda Síochána's vetting services to be extended to all persons working with children and vulnerable adults. This will include teachers, caretakers, bus drivers and others working with children, whether on a full-time or part-time basis.

The issue of vetting of members of boards of management raises the wider issue of vetting of people who volunteer in the education sector. My view is that the determining factor in deciding whether or not such persons should be vetted is the extent to which they have unsupervised access to children or vulnerable adults. In consultation with the education partners, I intend to examine this issue closely as the Garda vetting service expands.

Question No. 31 answered with QuestionNo. 27.

School Transport.

Seán Crowe

Question:

32 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if it is her Department that sets out and administers the catchment boundary areas for school transport. [39155/05]

Martin Ferris

Question:

35 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science if changes have been made in the past 30 years to the catchment areas for school transport eligibility. [39159/05]

Seán Crowe

Question:

42 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if there have been changes to the catchment boundary areas for school transport in terms of the way in which they have been traditionally interpreted. [39154/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

47 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the case where her Department stepped in to tell the vocational educational committee it was wrong in its interpretation of the catchment boundary areas. [39161/05]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

71 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the cases where the vocational educational committee has said the catchment boundary covers one area and her Department has said it covers another. [39156/05]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

73 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department had to correct any catchment boundary areas which were incorrect; and if so, the reason therefor. [39157/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

75 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department has no responsibility for the catchment area boundaries. [39160/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32, 35, 42, 47, 71, 73 and 75 together.

Catchment boundaries have their origins in the establishment of free post-primary education in the late 1960s and were determined following consultation with local educational interests. For planning purposes the country was divided into geographical districts each with several primary schools feeding into a post-primary centre with one or more post-primary schools. The intention was and continues to be that these defined districts facilitate the orderly planning of school provision and accommodation needs.

Reviews of specific catchment boundaries may be carried out where appropriate. A number of reviews have been carried out over the years where, for example, a new post-primary school is established in an area where previously there was none or, conversely, where a "sole provider" school closes due to declining enrolment.

The area development planning initiative, involving an extensive consultative process carried out by the commission on school accommodation, will also inform future revisions to catchment areas. An area development plan takes account of demographic changes and projects future enrolments for existing schools and new schools if required. Catchment boundary changes will be made where the implementation of the recommendations in an area development plan requires such adjustments. Catchment boundaries have provided and continue to provide a very useful tool in facilitating the orderly planning of school provision and accommodation needs and the operation of the national school transport service.

Under the terms of my Department's post-primary school transport scheme, a pupil is eligible for transport if she or he resides 4.8 km or more from her or his local post-primary education centre, that is, the centre serving the catchment area in which she or he lives. The scheme is not designed to facilitate parents who choose to send their children to a post-primary centre outside of the catchment area in which they reside.

However, children who are fully eligible for transport to the post-primary centre in the catchment area in which they reside may apply for transport on a concessionary basis to a post-primary centre outside of their own catchment area — otherwise known as catchment boundary transport. These children can only be facilitated if spare seats are available on the bus after all other eligible children travelling to the post-primary centre in the catchment area in which they reside have been catered for. Children have to make their own way either to the catchment boundary or to the nearest pick up point within that catchment area.

The transport liaison officers, TLOs, administer the school transport scheme for post-primary schools at local level in consultation with school authorities and Bus Éireann. These officers report directly to my Department in so far as school transport is concerned. The vocational education committees do not have a direct function in the matter.

My Department is aware of a recent case where the map retained in the TLO's office varied with the map held in my Department's planning section. A copy of the Department's map has been forwarded to the TLO for the purpose of establishing eligibility under the terms of the school transport scheme.

School Curriculum.

Denis Naughten

Question:

33 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if she intends to make changes to the rules and programme for secondary schools before the start of the next school year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39541/05]

Damien English

Question:

66 Mr. English asked the Minister for Education and Science if the rules and programme for secondary schools will be amended in order that all pupils have a free choice in deciding the subjects to pursue to leaving certificate level; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39537/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 33 and 66 together.

In accordance with the rules and programme for secondary schools, the approved course for the established leaving certificate must include not less than five approved examination subjects, of which one must be Irish. The exception to this is where a student has been granted an exemption from the study of Irish. The rules and programme for secondary schools are updated from time to time, to take account of such matters as new and revised syllabi.

It is the intention of my Department to have them updated for the 2006-07 school year. No change is proposed, however, to the minimum course requirements outlined above for students following the established leaving certificate programme.

Area Development Plans.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

34 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science the proposed timeframe for the examination of the post-primary education needs of Limerick city and county; the nature of the investigation she intends to carry out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39662/05]

I have recently announced the carrying out of an area development plan for Limerick city and its environs. This will cover educational provision in the city and surrounding area factoring in the existing education provision in Shannon, Askeaton, Pallaskenry, Croom and Newport.

This new model for planning for educational infrastructure is designed to ensure that, in future, school provision will be decided after a transparent consultation process. In this regard, trustees, parents, sponsors of prospective schools and all interested parties from a locality will have the opportunity to have their voices heard in the process.

The process involves the publication of a draft area development plan of which the main components are: details of existing primary and post-primary provision; examination of the demographics of the area; commentary on the data; recommendations for the area into the future. Following publication of the draft area development plan, the commission on school accommodation will conduct a public engagement process to which all interested parties can make submissions. All of these submissions will be published. The process in each case culminates in the publication of a final area development plan against which all capital funding decisions will be made over the next decade.

Final area development plans have been published for the Mountmellick-Mountrath area and for the area around the N4 from Leixlip through Kilcock, Enfield, Longwood, Kinnegad and Rochfortbridge to Kilbeggan. The area development plan for Westport-Newport will be published shortly. It is intended to publish the draft plans for the north Kerry area and for the north Dublin, south Louth and east Meath area in the first part of next year. The Limerick draft area development plan will follow in the course of 2006-07.

Question No. 35 answered with QuestionNo. 32.
Question No. 36 answered with QuestionNo. 30.

Child Sexual Abuse.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

37 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the implications for her Department which arise from the recently published Ferns Report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39536/05]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

55 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the actions she is taking to implement the recommendations of the Ferns Report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39535/05]

Bernard Allen

Question:

308 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps she is taking in view of the findings of the Ferns Report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40085/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37, 55 and 308 together.

The Ferns Report provides practical and far reaching recommendations to strengthen child protection measures in organisations working with children and to ensure a speedy and effective response to allegations of abuse. The Government has accepted the report's recommendations in principle and is committed to their implementation by Departments and relevant agencies.

My Department is giving full consideration to the findings and recommendations contained in the report and is examining the implications for child protection in schools and other educational establishments under its remit. My Department will also participate fully in the review of compliance with the Children First guidelines which is being undertaken by the National Children's Office under the leadership of the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Brian Lenihan.

Clearly our educational institutions and policies have a key role to play in the protection of children and in the provision of a safe environment for their learning and development. Over the past 15 years we have brought in child protection guidelines for primary and post-primary schools and clearly defined procedures for reporting allegations or suspicions of child abuse. We have also sought to raise awareness of the issue in the curriculum through social, personal and health education and the Stay Safe programme. The commitment to implement the recommendations of the Ferns Report will contribute to the further strengthening of child protection measures in education.

Physical Education Facilities.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

38 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the physical education and sports grant continues to be withheld in view of increasing levels of obesity in schools; her plans to tackle this problem from an exercise, diet and sponsorship point of view; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39584/05]

My Department has provided in excess of €5.5 million in grant aid to primary schools to enable them to provide coaching, mentoring or purchase resource materials and equipment associated with the provision of physical education. Materials and equipment purchased by schools in previous years will generally be available to them for subsequent years. In addition, schools may use their general capitation funding to support the implementation of curricula including physical education.

Since 1997 the standard rate of capitation grant has been increased from £45 or €57.14 per pupil to €133.58 with effect from 1 January 2005. The grant is being further increased by €12 with effect from 1 January 2006, an increase of almost 155% in the period. The question of a further grant will be kept under review as part of the normal Estimates process in the coming years.

Our schools promote, support and encourage healthy eating and physical exercise in a range of ways. Physical education is part of the curriculum at primary and at post-primary level and plays a key role not just in giving students an opportunity to exercise during the school day but also in encouraging a positive attitude towards physical activity which students will hopefully carry with them into adult life.

With regard to educating students about making good food choices, a curriculum in social, personal and health education, SPHE, is mandatory for all primary students and its implementation is also being assisted by a full-time support service. Health and well-being along with food and nutrition are two areas dealt with under the "taking care of my body" unit of that curriculum. The objective is that by fifth and sixth class, pupils should be enabled to realise that they, as individuals, have some responsibility for adopting a healthy balanced diet and for taking regular and appropriate exercise.

All second level schools have been required to provide SPHE as part of the junior cycle curriculum since September 2003. The aims of this programme include preparing students for responsible decision making and promoting their physical, mental and emotional health and well-being.

Quite apart from curricular provision, schools can implement measures to encourage physical activity during school breaks and schools already play a major role in promoting the involvement of students in sporting activities in the wider community. Sports organisations such as the Gaelic Athletic Association, Basketball Ireland and the Football Association of Ireland, FAI, provide extensive opportunities for schools to participate in sport.

Together, the above initiatives ensure that children not only get opportunities to exercise at school but also learn about balanced nutrition and making good food choices. I believe that schools are playing their part in terms of promoting a healthy diet and adequate physical exercise for children. However, it is important to remember that children spend just 20% of their waking hours at school so schools can only do so much with regard to promoting exercise and healthy eating and the main role must rest with parents.

Question No. 39 answered with QuestionNo. 15.

Site Acquisitions.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

40 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding plans to provide a suitable replacement site for a school (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39583/05]

My Department has acknowledged the need for a replacement building to meet the future needs of the school referred to by the Deputy. It has also been established that the present site is unsuitable for further development. Therefore, prior to any progress being made on a building project for the school, a suitable site must be identified.

The board of management had previously indicated to my Department that it would be making proposals regarding an alternative site for the school. However, these proposals did not materialise. The property management section of the Office of Public Works, which acts on behalf of my Department in site acquisitions generally, will be asked to explore the possibility of acquiring an alternative site for the school.

Psychological Service.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

41 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of children given psychological assessments by the National Education Psychological Service for each year since its inception; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39561/05]

All primary and post-primary schools have access to psychological assessments, either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, or through the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, SCPA, full details of which are available on my Department's website.

In common with many other psychological services, NEPS operates a staged model of service to schools, whereby an initial referral usually leads to a consultation and provision of advice to teachers and parents on appropriate teaching and management strategies. Progress is kept under review and only those children who fail to respond to these interventions will need to see a psychologist. This allows the psychologists to offer early appointments to children who are in urgent need of support and early advice to teachers in respect to those children whose needs are perhaps less pressing but who still need additional help in school.

The following is the total number of assessments, by school year, carried out by NEPS psychologists for the years in question, not all of which involved full cognitive IQ assessments: 1999-2000, 3,051; 2000-01, 2,978; 2001-02, 4,536; 2002-03, 4,837; and 2003-04, 5,024. The figures for 2004-2005 are not yet available. In addition to those figures, it should be noted that the number of children assessed under the SCPA scheme since its inception in 2001 to the end of the calendar year 2004 was close on 12,000.

In 2004 NEPS was also involved in a verification process of over 5,000 children for additional resources prior to the appointment of special education needs organisers, SENOs, by the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, and prior to the new general allocation model put in place for schools in the context of additional teaching resources.

Question No. 42 answered with QuestionNo. 32.

Educational Disadvantage.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

43 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of extra teachers she expects to employ next year in the context of the DEIS programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39659/05]

Liz McManus

Question:

78 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Education and Science if the number of personnel working in the home, school and community liaison scheme will be increased in the context of the DEIS proposals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39663/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 43 and 78 together.

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.

The new action plan aims to ensure that the educational needs of children and young people, from pre-school to completion of upper second level education, that is from three to 18 years, from disadvantaged communities are prioritised and effectively addressed. It will involve an additional annual investment of some €40 million on full implementation and the creation of about 300 additional posts across the education system generally.

As a result of the identification process, 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, SSP. Home/school/community liaison services will be extended to all 300 urban primary schools and 150 second level schools selected to participate in the SSP that are not already participating in the scheme. Access to teacher/co-ordinator support will also be made available to rural primary schools in the SSP that do not already have access to such a service. It is anticipated that the identification process will be completed shortly and selected schools notified early in the new year.

School Transport.

Martin Ferris

Question:

44 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department will refund pupils who have been wrongly charged for transport due to a misinterpretation by her Department of the persons who should be covered by the catchment area boundary. [39158/05]

For the purpose of the post-primary education scheme, the country has been divided into catchment areas, each of which has its own post-primary centre. Pupils who live 4.8 kilometres or more from the post-primary centre serving the catchment area in which they reside are eligible for transport to that centre under the scheme.

The scheme is not designed to facilitate parents who choose to send their children to a post-primary centre outside of the catchment area in which they reside. However, children who are fully eligible for transport to the post-primary centre in the catchment area in which they reside may apply for transport on a concessionary basis to a post-primary centre outside of their catchment area, otherwise known as catchment boundary transport. These children can only be facilitated if spare seats are available on the bus after all other eligible children travelling to their own post-primary centre have been catered for. Such children have to make their own way either to the catchment boundary or to the nearest pick up point within that catchment area.

If the Deputy has any particular area in mind where children may have been charged for a service that was not provided I will be glad to have it investigated.

Disruptive Students.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

45 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science when she expects to receive the final report of the task force on student behaviour; if she will commence the implementation of its recommendations in 2006 and progress same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39679/05]

Shane McEntee

Question:

46 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Education and Science if the task force on student behaviour will report to her before the end of 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39553/05]

Billy Timmins

Question:

84 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Education and Science when the task force on student behaviour will report to her; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39552/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 45, 46 and 84 together.

The Deputies will be aware that, at the start of this year, I established a task force on student behaviour in second level schools. I have been particularly impressed with the ability of the task force to focus on the core issues. The task force has indicated to me that it is on target to produce a final report and detailed recommendations by the end of this year. I was greatly encouraged by the interim report, published last June, and I look forward to receiving the final report and its recommendations.

In establishing the task force on student behaviour, I stressed that this would not be a talking-shop and that the issue will be addressed. Of course providing the best possible learning environment at second level is important, as is the need to ensure a positive atmosphere in all of our schools and to have effective procedures in place to deal with negative student behaviour where it occurs.

I expect to receive the final report of the task force by the end of this month and will arrange for its publication in due course. I have made my determination to act very clear by providing €2 million in the 2006 Estimates to ensure that we can begin implementing its recommendations straight away. I am sure that this will be strongly welcomed by second level teachers who know that they have my support in creating the best possible environment in which to nurture the talents of all of their students.

Question No. 47 answered with QuestionNo. 32.

Education Welfare Service.

John Perry

Question:

48 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Education and Science the funding that will be allocated to the National Educational Welfare Board for 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39547/05]

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

The budget allocated to the NEWB for 2006 is €8.15 million, with the allocation to the board having increased by more than 25% since 2004 to support it in delivering on its key objectives.

The service is developing on a continuing basis. The total authorised staffing complement is currently 94, comprising 16 headquarters and support staff, five regional managers, 12 senior educational welfare officers, SEWOs, and 61 educational welfare officers, EWOs.

In deploying its service staff, the National Educational Welfare Board has prioritised the provision of services to the most disadvantaged areas and most at-risk groups. Five regional teams are in place, with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford, and staff have been deployed in areas of greatest disadvantage and in areas designated under the Government's RAPID programme. Towns which have an educational welfare officer allocated to them include: Dundalk, Drogheda, Navan, Athlone, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Bray, Clonmel, Tralee, Ennis, Sligo, Naas, Castlebar, Longford, Tuam, Tullamore, Letterkenny and Portlaoise.

In addition to the staff of the NEWB, there are some 490 staff in educational inclusion programmes whose work involves a school attendance element. My Department is anxious to ensure that the maximum benefit is derived from these substantial personnel resources. Consequently, work is ongoing to develop appropriate protocols for integrated working between the different services involved.

Multi-Denominational Schools.

Simon Coveney

Question:

49 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of multi-denominational schools here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39569/05]

The number of multi-denominational schools established in this country to date is 39. A list of multi- and other denominational schools, together with addresses and contact numbers, is available on my Department's website www.education.ie.

Psychological Service.

Enda Kenny

Question:

50 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the increase in funding to the National Educational Psychological Service which will be allocated for 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39544/05]

The National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, has been allocated funding of €15.325 million in the 2006 financial provision for my Department in the recently published Abridged Estimates Volume. This represents an increase of approximately €1 million, 8%, over the projected outturn for this service in 2005.

School Curriculum.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

51 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on whether an oral component for Irish should be introduced at the junior certificate examination; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39539/05]

Provision exists for an optional oral examination in Irish at junior certificate level. Where schools opt to provide such an examination, the State examinations commission issues assessment guidelines to them for use by class teachers in assessing candidates.

The optional oral Irish examination at junior certificate level is not assessed by the State examinations commission but by class teachers. Marks awarded by teachers are sent to the State examinations commission for processing without external assessment or monitoring. Candidates who take the optional oral Irish examination are marked out of 400 marks, whereas candidates who do not take it are marked out of 320 marks.

Adult Education.

Tom Hayes

Question:

52 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of students enrolled in further education courses nationally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39548/05]

The data requested by the Deputy are set out in the following tabular statement.

Further Education. Number of Learners.

Adult Literacy — part-time

33,873

Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme

5,512

Youthreach

3,282

Senior Traveller Training

1,084

Post Leaving Certificate

30,188

Back to Education Initiative, BTEI — part-time

16,372

Total

90,311

This Government is strongly committed to improving participation and achievement at every level of education. We have put the resources and supports in place to ensure that there is a wide range of course options available for people who wish to continue their studies after second level and for people returning to education later in life.

The Estimates include provision for the cost of the extra 100 teaching posts being provided for the post-leaving certificate courses in the current academic year. They also provide for an increase of 19% in the VTOS non-pay grant in 2006.

The Government has shown a sustained determination to expand and improve further adult education over recent years. We believe strongly in the value of this sector and will continue to prioritise it for resources and supports in the years ahead.

Education Welfare Service.

Joan Burton

Question:

53 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the alarming statistics published by the Education Welfare Board indicating that approximately 84,000 children up to the age of 16 miss at least 20 days of schooling per year; if the board will be adequately funded to employ enough education welfare officers to address the wide scale problem of absenteeism from school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39650/05]

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

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

The budget allocated to the NEWB for 2006 is €8.15 million, with the allocation to the board having increased by more than 25% since 2004 to support it in delivering on its key objectives. The service is developing on a continuing basis. The total authorised staffing complement is currently 94, comprising 16 headquarters and support staff, five regional managers, 12 senior educational welfare officers, SEWOs, and 61 educational welfare officers, EWOs.

In deploying its service staff, the National Educational Welfare Board has prioritised the provision of services to the most disadvantaged areas and most at-risk groups. Five regional teams are in place, with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford, and staff have been deployed in areas of greatest disadvantage and in areas designated under the Government's RAPID programme. Towns which have an educational welfare officer allocated to them include Dundalk, Drogheda, Navan, Athlone, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Bray, Clonmel, Tralee, Ennis, Sligo, Naas, Castlebar, Longford, Tuam, Tullamore, Letterkenny and Portlaoise. I understand that the NEWB provides an intensive service in the areas where educational welfare officers are located. All other areas receive an urgent service where the NEWB prioritises children who, for example, are out of school or where no school place exists for them.

In addition to the staff of the NEWB, there are some 490 staff in educational inclusion programmes whose work involves a school attendance element. My Department is anxious to ensure that the maximum benefit is derived from these substantial personnel resources. Consequently work is ongoing to develop appropriate protocols for integrated working between the different services involved.

I will be keeping the issue of the NEWB's staffing under review in the light of these and other developments.

State Examinations.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

54 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Education and Science when she will introduce standardised testing in primary schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39675/05]

Standardised testing on a systematic basis has great potential to enhance the quality of teaching and learning for our students at classroom level and to provide valuable information for parents about their children's learning. It is also clear that test results, provided on a sampling basis, can also guide policies aimed at improving performance and combating educational disadvantage.

I fully agree with the advice of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment that all pupils should take standardised tests in literacy and numeracy at the end of first class or at the beginning of second class, and at the end of fourth class or at the beginning of fifth class.

There is clearly important groundwork that must be put in place before committing to specific dates for the introduction of any requirements in this regard for schools and I am eager that this work be completed as soon as practicable.

In that context, I have asked the NCCA to prioritise the preparation of guidelines for schools on developing and implementing a policy on assessment, on assessment practice in classrooms and on reporting to parents. I understand that this work is at an advanced stage. I have also asked the council to advance the preparation of exemplars of pupils' work to guide teachers' judgments and also summaries based on the curriculum of what pupils should achieve at each level of their schooling. A national report card for recording and reporting data on pupils' attainment is also being developed, as is a national policy on the transfer of information from primary to post-primary schools. In tandem with this work, my Department is currently exploring potential implementation models in advance of entering into discussions with the education partners on the matter.

The question of providing training to teachers on standardised testing is also an issue which has to be considered in the context of any decision to be made on an implementation date.

My intention is that we will proceed carefully but as quickly as possible to ensure that the recommendations proposed by the NCCA are implemented in a way that has positive benefits for children, parents, teachers and the system as a whole.

Question No. 55 answered with QuestionNo. 37.

School Accommodation.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

56 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Education and Science if priority will be accorded to the provision of sports hall facilities to those schools which have been in excess of ten years on the waiting list; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35009/05]

Since 2003 my Department has published details of capital projects progressing through the system which have been prioritised in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large scale projects and put in place following consultation with the education partners.

All applications for capital investment, including applications for sports hall facilities, have been assessed in accordance with this criteria and will be considered In the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme 2005-2009.

Educational Disadvantage.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

57 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has completed the process of assessing which schools will qualify for support under the DEIS programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39658/05]

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 disadvantage experienced. This standardised system will replace all of the existing arrangements for targeting schools for participation in initiatives to address disadvantage.

The identification process involved a new survey by the Educational Research Centre of all mainstream primary schools and the updating by them of existing data sources on the levels of disadvantage in second level schools.

As a result of the identification process, 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, SSP. 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.

It is anticipated that the identification process will be completed shortly and selected schools will be notified early in the new year.

Tionscnamh Tógáil Scoile.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

58 D'fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta an bhfuil iarratas sa Roinn i gcomhair deisiú agus méadú a dhéanamh ar scoil (sonraí tugtha), an bhfuil an cás á mheas faoi láthair, cén uair a dhéanfar cinneadh i dtaobh dul ar aghaidh leis an obair agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [39386/05]

Ta an scoil a luaigh an Teachta ag céim luath den phleanáil ailtireachta.

Níos túisce i mbliana d'fhógair mé mionsonraí de 124 scoil a bhrostófaí tríd an gcéim phleanála ailtreachca agus ina measc siúd bhí an tionscadal le síneadh a chur leis an scoil seo. Scríobh oifigigh mo Roinne le húdaráis na scoile ar 31 Lúnasa den bhliain seo le hiliomad ceisteanna ar ghá dul ina gceann agus iad a chorprú in aighneacht chéim trí — mionphleananna/mionchostais. Bhí mo Roinn i dteagmháil le húdaráis na scoile agus is eol dúinn go raibh cruinniú ag an scoil lena bhfoireann dearaidh ar 23 Samhain seo caite d'fhonn freagra a phleanáil ar na ceisteanna a tógadh sa litir dar dáta 31 Lúnasa agus táthar ag feitheamh ar fhreagra.

Breithneofar brostú na dtionscadal ar aghaidh go dti tógáil i gcomhtheacs an chlár foirgnimh agus nua-chóirithe 2005-2009.

Weight of Schoolbags.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

59 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will introduce further measures to reduce the weight of schoolbags from both primary and post-primary students; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39673/05]

The report of a working group to examine potential problems caused by the weight of schoolbags, which was presented in July 1998, acknowledged that many of the solutions belong at local school level. One of the main recommendations of the report related to the need to heighten the awareness of the potential health hazards posed by excessively heavy schoolbags.

In this regard, my Department initiated an awareness-raising campaign by disseminating the report, with an accompanying circular, to all primary and post-primary schools. A further circular was issued this year, again highlighting the potential health hazard of heavy schoolbags and outlining a range of local measures that could be adopted to alleviate the problem. It is a matter for each individual school to choose those measures that would be most suited to its individual needs.

My Department is aware that positive action has been taken by many schools. Actions taken by some schools consist of a range of measures, including the provision of lockers, the arrangement of the timetable into double class periods, active liaison with parents and the co-ordination of homework by subject teachers.

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

The report of the working group was disseminated by the Department to the Irish Educational Publishers' Association, and it was asked to include consideration of the weight of school texts in its deliberations and liaise with teachers on finding solutions to the problem. It should be pointed out that the report highlighted that both teachers and pupils favoured the use of multilevel textbook production for ease of convenience and ease of access and cited a high demand for them.

Question No. 60 answered with QuestionNo. 7.

Drugs in Schools.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

61 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science if, in the context of the national drugs strategy, she supports drug testing of pupils in schools here; her views on whether such testing may reduce the incidence of drug misuse among young persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36931/05]

Under Action 43 of the national drugs strategy, guidelines for developing a substance abuse policy were drawn up by my Department in consultation with the Department of Health and Children and the former health boards. These guidelines were issued to all schools in October 2002 to assist them in the development of appropriate substance abuse policies.

The implementation of the guidelines is the responsibility of the relevant school authorities. However, the guidelines do not advise schools to undertake drug testing of pupils and I do not consider that the policy in this regard should be changed as there is no conclusive evidence that drug testing reduces the incidence of drug misuse among young people.

Drug testing of pupils in schools has not been proposed to my Department by the national drugs strategy team. Alternative strategies, involving education, discussion, counselling, extra-curricular activities and the building of trust between students and adults, need to be further developed to address this issue.

My Department will, however, continue to monitor the situation and take into account best international practice in dealing with this issue.

Special Educational Needs.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

62 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science when she expects to meet the full requirement in respect of special needs teachers and assistants in all schools throughout the country with particular reference to speech and language therapy requirements, remedial, resource or other special needs; the optimum number of positions awaiting to be filled in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39596/05]

My Department's policy is to ensure the maximum possible integration of children with special educational needs, SEN, into ordinary mainstream schools. Where mainstream provision is not appropriate children can be catered for in special schools which are dedicated to particular disability groups. There are 107 special schools in the country at present. These schools cater for children from four to 18 years of age and each school enjoys a significantly reduced pupil teacher ratio and other staffing supports. Additional special needs assistant, SNA, support is provided if deemed necessary. Special schools also receive increased rates of capitation funding.

Children with SEN can also attend special classes attached to ordinary mainstream schools. All special classes enjoy the same increased levels of staffing and funding as are made available to the special schools. Children with SEN attending special classes attached to ordinary schools may also, where appropriate, be integrated into ordinary classes for periods of the school day.

As the Deputy will be aware, a general allocation scheme has been introduced under which mainstream primary schools have been provided with resource teaching hours, based on enrolment figures, to cater for children with high incidence SEN such as dyslexia and those with learning support needs. All schools were notified of their general allocation for the 2005-06 school year last May.

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, through the local special educational needs organiser, SENO, is responsible for processing applications from schools for special needs supports such as resource teaching hours and SNA support for children with low-incidence SEN, on the basis of applications in respect of individual pupils. Once a school has been advised of its general allocation and the SENO has allocated hours and SNA support if appropriate in respect of pupils with low-incidence SEN, it is a matter for the school authority to recruit the relevant staff.

There has been enormous progress 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 SEN. At primary level there are now approximately 5,000 teachers in our primary schools working directly with children with special needs, including those requiring learning support. This compares with under 1,500 in 1998. Indeed, one out of every five primary school teachers is now working specifically with children with special needs.

At second level approximately 1,630 whole time equivalent additional teachers are in place to support pupils with special educational needs. This compares with the approximately 200 teachers who were in place in 1998 for such pupils. In addition, there are 532 whole-time equivalent learning support teachers 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 SNA 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 rations. Pupils attached to these special classes may be facilitated in attending ordinary subject classes on a integrated basis wherever possible.

Enormous progress has also been made in increasing the number SNAs in our schools which specifically cater for the care needs of children with special educational needs. There are over 7,200 whole-time equivalent SNAs in primary and second level schools supporting children with special needs.

I can confirm that I will continue to prioritise the issue of special needs education and, in co-operation with the National Council for Special Education and the education partners, ensure that all children with special needs are adequately resourced to enable them to meet their full potential.

Responsibility for the provision of therapy services rests with the Health Service Executive.

Adult Education.

Phil Hogan

Question:

63 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on the fact that less than 8% of those between the ages of 25 and 64 here are participating in education or training, compared with over 20% in the United Kingdom and over 35% in Sweden; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37869/05]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

98 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the ongoing comparatively low level of adult participation in life-long learning, which amounted to a mere 7.2% of those between the ages of 25 and 64 in 2004 compared with a corresponding figure of 27.6% and 21.3% in Finland and the UK respectively; and the measures she proposes to improve the situation. [37926/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63 and 98 together.

The figures mentioned in the questions appear in the report of a European Union labour force survey. Of the 27 countries surveyed, the other countries mentioned were among the five with the highest percentages of the population between the ages of 25 and 64 participating in education and training. The EU average was 9.9%.

For the purposes of the survey, education and training included initial education, further education, continuing or further training, training within the company, apprenticeship, on-the-job training, seminars, distance learning and evening classes. It included also courses followed for general interest and may cover all forms of education and training, such as language, data processing, management, art-culture, and health-medicine courses.

In the interests of both personal development and the national economy, I am anxious to increase participation rates in higher and further education, with a particular focus on disadvantaged people.

In the area of further and adult education the principal objectives of the measures and programmes funded by my Department are: to meet the needs of young early school-leavers; to provide second chance education for adults; and to provide vocational education and training for labour market entrants and re-entrants.

These objectives are pursued through such full-time programmes as Youthreach, the vocational training opportunities scheme, post leaving certificate courses, senior Traveller training, the part-time Back to Education initiative and the adult literacy and community education scheme. These courses are free and many of the participants are entitled to allowances and maintenance grants. Support in the form of guidance and child care is provided to participants in some further education programmes. For example, 35 local guidance services, which are available almost nationwide, seek to ensure that adults are aware of what is on offer for them.

A national database called Qualifax provides a range of data on each course of some 12,000 educational courses, including a description of the course, the qualification entailed, entry requirements, the institution in which it is offered, and relevant fees, grants and entitlements and application procedure. The database, which is relevant to adult learners, is continually being updated by the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, with funding from my Department.

The number of adults availing of education in further and higher education is increasing, for example, adult literacy client numbers have increased from 5,000 in 1997 to almost 34,000 per year in 2005. In 1995, 69% of students in the vocational training opportunities scheme were aged 25 or over. The figure is now 83%. In post-leaving certificate courses, the percentage of students in this category increased from 16.86% in 1996-97 to 30.18% in 2004-05. In 1993, just under 5% of students at third level were aged 25 or over. The corresponding figure in 2003 was 14%.

The launch of the national framework of qualifications in 2003 allows learners access to the point on the ten level scale that best responds to their needs. Progress to higher points is also facilitated. Hence, adult learners can start in a literacy class and progress through FETAC levels four and five to PLCs and on to higher education.

At third level, students are encouraged and supported in making the choice to participate in higher education by improvements in the student maintenance grant schemes, as well as the additional funding allocated through third level access fund. These measures include the awarding since 2000 of a higher or top-up level of grant to students from families on low incomes. There are also the student assistance fund, which is allocated to students in need through their higher education institution, and the millennium partnership fund, which supports the needs of students identified through area partnership and community groups.

A key area for progress identified in an action plan that was published last December by the Higher Education Authority is the development of a framework of access policies and initiatives ensuring that all disadvantaged schools, including primary and post-primary schools, areas and communities are linked to the access programmes and routes of entry of at least one higher education institution in their region. The national office for equity of access to higher education is in the process of developing this framework, a key element of which will be advocating and supporting continued and closer collaboration between a wide range of stakeholders nationally, including the higher education and community sectors.

Higher education institutions will be invited, under the recently announced strategic innovation fund, to submit proposals which are designed to promote access and progression, with the objective of underpinning the principle of life-long learning in higher education. A key part of the implementation of the strategic innovation fund, as well as the action plan for access, will be monitoring by higher education institutions and the HEA of targets and indicators of success and how measures are contributing to increased access and participation by under-represented groups, including adult learners.

The level of adult participation is rising but, as my response indicates, I am not being complacent on the matter and am, and will continue to be, proactive in ensuring that access, transfer and progress for adults in education, whether further or higher education, is a priority.

Child Sexual Abuse.

Seán Ryan

Question:

64 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science when the education board which has been established under statute to provide educational opportunities for survivors of child abuse will commence its operations; the way in which survivors will be informed regarding same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39676/05]

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Amendment) Act 2005 provides for the establishment of an education finance board to administer a statutory education grants scheme for former residents of institutions and their families. The board will have a fund of approximately €11 million at its disposal and this will be managed by the National Treasury Management Agency on behalf of the board.

On the 6 December 2005 I announced the membership of the board and I have arranged for details of this to be forwarded to the Deputy. I expect that the new board will hold an inaugural meeting early in the new year and I will also be setting a date for its formal establishment at this time. The present arrangements for the scheme administered by the national office for victims of abuse, NOVA, will remain in place until the new board is formally established. It will be a matter for the board to decide on the form of advertising and publicity in which it will engage to promote the new statutory scheme and to inform survivors of its operation. The main survivor support groups have been informed of the board's membership, which will include four former residents.

School Enrolments.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

65 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Education and Science, in the context of her exhortation to schools not to cherry pick students, the action she intends to take to ensure that all post-primary schools have equitable enrolment policies and practises; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39678/05]

I am aware that some second level schools do not appear to be doing as much as they could to ensure that students with special needs are as welcome in those schools as students without special needs. I expressed my belief in this regard at the annual conference of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals last October. However, this is a complex area, already governed by statute, and I am not sure that it would be amenable to resolution simply by the introduction of regulations.

The Education Act 1998 requires all schools to have in place an admissions policy, detailing admission to and participation by students with disabilities or who have other special educational needs. The Act also requires schools to ensure that as regards that policy the principles of equality and the right of parents to send their children to a school of the parents choice are respected.

My Department provides a range of supports to all schools to enable them to welcome students with special educational needs. My Department allocates additional teacher support and special needs assistant support to second level schools and VECs to cater for students with special with special educational needs. The nature and level or support provided in each case is based on the professionally assessed needs of the individual student. However, this requires a willingness on the part of schools to be proactive in this area and also a willingness on the part of parents to more actively assert their rights in terms of their choice of school.

The level of resources being made available to support students with special educational needs in the second level system has grown significantly in recent years. In the current school year, my Department has allocated approximately 1,614 whole-time equivalent teachers and 1,023 special needs assistants to second level schools to cater for pupils with special educational needs. This represents an increase of approximately 225 teaching posts and 391 special needs assistant posts on the previous school year.

Currently, under section 29 of the Education Act 1998, parents of a student who has been refused enrolment in a school may appeal that decision to the Secretary General of my Department. Such appeals are dealt with within 30 days of their receipt and where an appeal is upheld the Secretary General is empowered to direct the school to enrol the student.

The Deputy will also be aware that with effect from 1 January 2005, the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, has taken over key functions from my Department in special educational provision. 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.

Question No. 66 answered with QuestionNo. 33.

Schools Building Projects.

Joe Costello

Question:

67 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount of the school building programme funding allocation that has been spent to date in 2005; the amount that remains unspent; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39653/05]

Virtually all of the allocated funding for the school building programme has been expended. The remaining balance will be expended before the end of the year.

School Curriculum.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

68 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science the recommendations of the task force on physical sciences which have been implemented and which remain to be implemented; the timeframe for full implementation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39669/05]

There were some 39 recommendations in the report of the task force on the physical sciences, with costed proposals totalling an additional €244 million, of which €66.3 million would be a recurring annual cost. Progress has been made on implementing 25 of the recommendations and my Department continues to progress the recommendations as resources permit in collaboration and consultation with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, FORFÁS and industry.

Significant progress has been made in a range of areas. For example, a new science curriculum has been introduced at primary level supported by a resource grant in December 2004 of €1,000 per school plus €10 per pupil. A revised syllabus in junior certificate science was introduced in 2003 and will be examined for the first time next June. Revised syllabi in leaving certificate physics, chemistry and biology have also been introduced and examined within the last five years.

Work on the revision of the two remaining leaving certificate subjects — agricultural science and physics and chemistry combined — is well advanced. The introduction of each of the revised syllabi has been supported by comprehensive in-service programmes for teachers. Additional equipment grants have been provided to schools and laboratories continue to be refurbished as part of the ongoing school building programme.

In that context, €16 million was issued to schools in 2004 to support the implementation of the revised junior certificate science syllabus. A review of grading of subjects in the leaving certificate and initial reports on teacher training have been undertaken. A review of mathematics at post-primary level is being undertaken by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA. Investment in the programme of research in third level institutes, PRTLI, is continuing apace to enhance and promote world class standards in research, innovation and development. Between this programme, the various grants to the research councils and other sources, an estimated €102.5 million will be invested in third level institutions in 2005.

Teaching Qualifications.

Bernard Allen

Question:

69 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science if the standard entry requirements regarding Irish will brought into line with other subjects as they apply to teacher training colleges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39527/05]

My Department specifies the minimum academic requirements for entry to primary teacher training courses provided in the colleges of education. As part of these requirements all candidates, including school leavers, mature students and university graduates, must have secured a minimum of a grade C in higher level Irish in the leaving certificate or an approved equivalent. This requirement covers both the written and oral element of a student's proficiency in Irish.

My Department considers this required entry level to be the minimum standard in Irish necessary for students entering a teacher training course, which will equip them to teach Irish to pupils at all levels in primary schools. I have no plans to change the entry requirements to primary teacher training courses at present.

School Inspection Reports.

Phil Hogan

Question:

70 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Education and Science when further information on the operation of second level schools will be released; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39565/05]

During the summer I announced that my Department would publish school inspection reports arising from the general programme of school inspections. Under this programme a selected number of schools is inspected on a cyclical basis.

Reports arising from the general inspection programme for schools and centres for education will be published in their entirety and in accordance with the principles and procedures described in "Guidelines on the Publication of School Inspection Reports". A draft of this document was circulated to the education partners for comment and the inspectorate is currently finalising the guidelines in light of the written comments received from the education partners. I intend to publish the finalised guidelines in January 2006 and arrange that inspections following the publication of the guidelines will be conducted on the basis that the resulting reports will be published.

The new procedures will provide the school with a right of response to the reports and it is intended that both the inspection report and the school response — where this is provided by the school's board of management — will be published simultaneously. Boards of management and teachers also have the right to seek a review of an inspection. The timeframe must, therefore, allow for the possibility of review as well as time for the school to prepare a response.

Question No. 71 answered with QuestionNo. 32.

School Staffing.

Paul McGrath

Question:

72 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the additional teaching posts allocated to the further education sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39550/05]

Following my decision to provide for 100 extra post-leaving certificate, PLC, posts, my Department approved a total of 1,600 extra places in PLC courses for the 2005-06 school year. In this regard it was open to school authorities to apply for additional teaching resources to cater for this increased enrolment. School authorities that applied for this increased allocation have to date been granted additional posts amounting to approximately 74 whole-time teacher equivalents. Officials in my Department are in consultation with the relevant authorities to ensure in so far as possible any entitlement to new resources under this initiative is applied this year. I am anxious that the schools would take up these posts.

Question No. 73 answered with QuestionNo. 32.

School Accommodation.

Enda Kenny

Question:

74 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary schools with multi-purpose rooms; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39571/05]

Detailed information in the format requested by the Deputy is not available but, should the Deputy have a question in respect of a particular school, I would be happy to provide a response. In general, the provision of general purposes rooms and multi-purpose spaces for primary schools is considered within the design brief for new schools and-or renovation-extension school building projects. This is done in the context of available resources and having regard to the published criteria for prioritising school building projects.

Question No. 75 answered with QuestionNo. 32.

Physical Education Facilities.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

76 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools in Kildare North that have physical education facilities that are in use for this purpose; her plans to provide such facilities to schools in Kildare North that are operating without them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39343/05]

The information is not readily available in the format requested by the Deputy. However, regarding physical education, PE, facilities in schools generally, the PE curriculum has been designed on the basis that facilities in schools may vary. Many primary schools have a general purpose room and practically all schools have outdoor play areas that are utilised for teaching different aspects of the physical education programme. In addition, many schools use adjacent local facilities, including public parks, playing fields and swimming pools.

My Department fully recognises the key role of physical exercise within the school environment and continues to respond to the need to improve PE facilities. In this regard the provision of multi-purpose space and outdoor play areas for primary schools will continue to be considered within the design brief for new schools and renovation or extension projects. This will be done in the context of available resources and the published criteria for prioritising school building projects. At second level it is the policy of the Department to provide a PE hall to a school that does not already have such a facility. Again, this is considered as part of the design brief for new schools and for major renovation or extension projects within available resources and the overall published criteria for prioritising projects.

The Deputy may also be aware that the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism is currently undertaking a national audit of sports facilities in communities around the country, which will provide useful information on facilities available to schools.

Psychological Service.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

77 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of National Educational Psychological Service psychologists employed by the service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39542/05]

The number of National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, psychologists has increased almost threefold from 43 on establishment to 121 at present. The Public Appointments Service has recently established new recruitment panels for the NEPS. Regional panels are now in place and my Department is currently in the process of appointing ten psychologists. Priority will be given to filling vacancies in areas of greatest need. Any increase in the number of psychologists in the NEPS will depend on the availability of resources and must also take account of Government policy on public sector numbers.

Question No. 78 answered with QuestionNo. 43.

Schools Building Projects.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

79 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science if the provision of vending machines will be part of the next PPP contract for school building and management; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39568/05]

In the case of the existing five PPP schools, while the operator is responsible for the vending machines, the location, content and availability of vending machines were agreed through discussion between the operator and the school authorities concerned. For example, timers are fitted to all of the vending machines to ensure that students only have access to the machines at the appropriate times. It is my intention that under my Department's new PPP programme, should the contract provide for vending machines, the school authorities will have the final say on the location, content and availability of such machines.

Physical Education Facilities.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

80 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the grants available to primary schools to purchase physical education equipment; the moneys allocated under such grant scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39562/05]

My Department fully recognises the key role of physical exercise, PE, within the school environment and continues to respond to the need to improve PE facilities for all pupils attending primary and post-primary schools. The provision of such facilities is an integral part of the design process for new school buildings or where an existing school building is undergoing major refurbishment. In primary schools new PE equipment, such as balancing benches and gym mats, are funded as part of any major building programme. At post-primary level when a PE hall is built a range of equipment is provided to facilitate the teaching of many sports. This includes posts-goals and nets for basketball, netball, volleyball, badminton, football and hockey. Table tennis tables and some gymnastic equipment such as mats and springboards are also provided.

Regarding specific sports equipment grants, from 2000 to 2003 my Department provided in excess of €5.5 million in grant aid to primary schools specifically for this purpose to enable them to provide coaching or mentoring in connection with physical education or to purchase resource materials associated with the provision of physical education. Such materials and equipment would normally have a useful life of several years.

I would also like to point out that schools may use their general capitation funding to support the implementation of curricula, including physical education. Since 1997 the standard rate of capitation grant at primary level has been increased from £45 —€57.14 — per pupil to €133.58 in the current year, an increase of almost 134% in the period. At post-primary level the standard rate of capitation has also increased to €286 in the current year. In addition, post-primary schools with special classes receive an additional €200.62 per pupil attending the special class.

In 2006 the capitation grant at primary level will be increased by €12 per pupil to €145.58 and at post-primary level by €12 to €298 per student. Also, all primary schools with permanent recognition receive an annual minor works grant from my Department. Each school gets a standard rate of €3,809 together with a per pupil rate of €12.70. Special schools and schools with special classes receive an enhanced per pupil rate of €50.80. It is open to school management authorities to use this devolved grant for the purchase of equipment, including physical education equipment, provided it is not required for more urgent works.

Primary and post-primary schools that establish a class for special needs pupils receive a once-off grant of €6,500 per class to purchase equipment, including physical education equipment, that they feel best meets the needs of the pupils attending the class. My Department also considers applications for additional grant aid for such equipment where schools can demonstrate that the minor works grant funding is insufficient for this purpose.

Multi-Denominational Schools.

Joe Costello

Question:

81 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Education and Science if the crisis in funding of Educate Together will be addressed, which if not addressed will make it impossible for it to carry out the work it has been doing on behalf of the State as the patron body for multi-denominational national schools; if additional moneys will be allocated to it; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39652/05]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

88 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the funding allocated by her Department to the Educate Together organisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39570/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 81 and 88 together.

In making their case for funding to me Educate Together also raised the issue for support for newly establishing schools. To support such schools I am introducing a new grant of €10,000 payable in two instalments of €5,000 for the boards of management of newly establishing schools in respect of training of the boards of management and staff in their initial years. Schools established in the 2004-05 school year and that are now in their second year of operation will receive €5,000 as a training grant for boards of management. Those established in the current school year will qualify for both instalments of the grant. As a further measure to assist new schools I will be authorising the earlier appointment of principal teachers in these schools to assist in the establishment phase.

Regarding support for the ethical education programme in Educate Together schools I have asked my Department to establish a working group involving Educate Together to see how further support can be provided in this area. I am confident that the range of measures now being introduced, including the almost threefold increase in its grant, provides a comprehensive response to the request made for additional support for Educate Together and its schools.

Question No. 82 answered with QuestionNo. 30.
Question No. 83 answered with QuestionNo. 24.
Question No. 84 answered with QuestionNo. 45.

Third Level Education.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

85 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of PhD level students graduating from universities here and third level institutes on an annual basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39563/05]

The number of PhD graduations from the university sector in 2000-03, the latest year for which the figures are available, is as follows: 571 in 2000, 572 in 2001, 602 in 2002 and 611 in 2003. The Deputy should note that this refers to the university sector alone. The information for the institutes of technology, the Dublin Institute of Technology and other third level institutions is currently being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy shortly.

Irish Language.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

86 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department is planning to place more emphasis on the speaking of Irish in the curriculum and examination system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39668/05]

Tom Hayes

Question:

92 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on whether proposals for the significant amendment of the Irish curriculum at both junior and leaving certificate level should be brought forward; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39538/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86 and 92 together.

A number of activities are currently under way that will inform any review of Irish in the curriculum and examination system. The inspectorate of my Department has carried out an evaluation of the teaching and learning of Irish in the junior cycle in 10% of schools and a report on the findings will be published in 2006. In addition, my Department has invited the Council of Europe to carry out an analysis of language education in Ireland.

Irish is one of the specific areas for consideration in this process and a report is expected in 2006. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA, is also carrying out a review of languages in the post-primary curriculum and this includes a focus on Irish. I am anxious to have more emphasis placed on oral Irish and I have already asked the NCCA to make recommendations to me in this regard as one of its next steps in developing its proposals for senior cycle reform.

Adult Education.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

87 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science her views on whether further education should be established as an educational sector in its own right; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39551/05]

This Government is strongly committed to improving participation and achievement at every level of education. We have put the resources and supports in place to ensure that there is a wide range of course options available in the further and higher education sectors for young people who wish to continue their studies after second level and for people returning to education later in life.

Programmes within the further education sector funded by my Department are operated and managed primarily by the vocational education committees. National certification is provided by the Further Education and Training Awards Council. Within the framework of the priorities identified in the White Paper on adult education the principal objectives of the measures and programmes funded by the Department of Education and Science in the further and adult education area are to meet the needs of young early school leavers, provide vocational education and training opportunities for labour market entrants and re-entrants and alternative pathways to higher education and provide second chance education for adults.

These objectives are pursued through such programmes as Youthreach, senior Traveller training centres, the vocational training opportunities scheme, post-leaving certificate courses, the back to education initiative and the adult literacy and community education scheme. Government support for these different programmes is very significant. Regarding the PLC colleges, for example, we have increased the number of places available by 60% since 1996-97. Indeed, the number of PLC places approved for 2005-06 is up by over 1,600 on the 2004-05 level. The number of approved places in the sector now stands at 30,188.

Our commitment to enabling more people to access further education is evident not only in the expansion of approved places and teachers but also in the introduction of maintenance grants for students with effect from September 1998. Tuition fees for PLC courses are waived. The PLC maintenance grant scheme operates on the same basis as in higher education. There are nearly 8,000 PLC grant holders in 2005 and they will receive some £23 million in direct support.

The 2006 Estimates include provision for the cost of the extra 100 teaching posts provided for the post-leaving certificate colleges in the current academic year. They also provide for an increase of 19% in the VTOS non-pay grant in 2006 and for increased non-pay grants to senior Traveller and Youthreach centres also. This Government has shown a sustained determination to expand and improve further and adult education over recent years. We believe strongly in the value of this sector and will continue to prioritise it for resources and supports in the years ahead.

Question No. 88 answered with QuestionNo. 81.

School Curriculum.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

89 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department is planning to place more emphasis on the speaking of foreign languages in the curriculum and examination system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39667/05]

One of the general aims of modern foreign language syllabi at both junior and leaving certificate levels is to enable students to participate fruitfully in a range of everyday oral transactions in the target language both at home and abroad. This general aim is reflected in the communicative nature of the syllabi and in the fact that assessment of oral competence is given significant weighting in the certificate examinations. In the leaving certificate the oral examination is compulsory and the weighting is 25% of the total marks at higher level and 20% at ordinary level. In the junior certificate examination the oral examination, which is optional, is worth 20% of the total marks.

One of the recurring recommendations in evaluation reports on the teaching and learning of foreign languages prepared by the inspectorate of my Department is that teachers should make use of a wide range of teaching methodologies in order to increase oral participation by students and develop their spoken competence in the language concerned. Another common recommendation is that priority should be given to the assessment of students' oral proficiency at all stages of the teaching and learning process.

The NCCA is currently engaged in a review of languages in the post-primary curriculum. At the same time, my Department is working with the language policy division of the Council of Europe in reviewing Ireland's policies in the area of language education. Recommendations arising from these two reviews will be taken into account in planning for future developments in the syllabi for and the assessment of modern foreign languages.

Schools Building Projects.

Dan Boyle

Question:

90 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding plans for the early development of a new school site at Adamstown. [39586/05]

My Department has reserved three sites for the future provision of educational facilities in the Adamstown strategic development zone. It is planned that at least one of these sites will cater for a multi-school campus arrangement.

The school planning section of my Department has been engaged in discussions with the land owners of the sites concerned for some time regarding the issues of site acquisition and the optimum delivery method for school provision in the area. As a result of these discussions the development of a new primary and post-primary school is included as part of the 23 new post-primary schools and four new primary schools announced on the list of projects to be delivered under the Government's expanded public private partnership programme.

I am conscious that the delivery of educational infrastructure in Adamstown is central to the development of this new town and the school planning section of my Department is working to ensure that schools are provided in accordance with the phasing process set down in the planning scheme for the area.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

91 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department has detected obstacles that will prevent schools that were to have commenced construction under the school building programme in 2005 from going ahead; if so, the schools which are affected and the nature of the obstacles; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39654/05]

Major building projects cannot easily be delivered in a short period of time. A complex range of factors governs the life cycle of any potential building project from design through compliance with the planning process to construction.

New ways such as the devolved building initiatives for small rural schools, the permanent accommodation initiative and the summer works scheme show my Department's commitment to finding innovative and flexible solutions to the difficulties faced by schools seeking to refurbish their buildings or to provide additional accommodation quickly. There is minimal interaction with my Department and schools are fully empowered to drive the design and construction process.

Every effort is made to ensure that projects are got on site as soon as possible. Under the 2004 school building programme 168 major projects were approved to go to tender and construction. A total of 153 of these projects are either under construction or recently completed and a further six projects are due on site early in the new year. The balance of the projects is progressing through architectural planning with a view to getting them to tender and construction as soon as possible.

Under the 2005 school building programme, 124 projects were announced to go to tender and construction over a 15 month period. A total of 24 of these projects are currently on site and a further 15 are due on site early in the new year. The balance of the projects is progressing through architectural planning with a view to getting them to tender and construction as soon as possible.

Question No. 92 answered with QuestionNo. 86.

Third Level Education.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

93 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Education and Science the resources in place to ensure that bogus so-called universities cannot continue to use this title in contravention of the Universities Act 1997; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39670/05]

In November 2004, my Department conducted a major review of such organisations, with a view to securing their compliance with section 52 of the Universities Act 1997. Arising from this review, my Department has undertaken a number of actions including: agreement of new procedures with the Companies Registration Office, including the conducting of a rigorous review of applications for registration of limited companies and business names; requesting the Internet Domain Registry, a private company, to exercise caution when reviewing applications for domain names which include the titles "University", "Institute of Technology" and "Regional Technical College"; communicating with a number of such organisations requesting that they desist from using the term "university"; and publication on the Department's website of a list of State-aided third level institutions, or other colleges where programmes have been validated by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council.

In addition, my Department reported one of these companies to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, which is conducting an investigation based on this complaint. My Department is also seeking to have a number of business names removed from the register in the Companies Registration Office.

I wish to advise the Deputy that my officials are reviewing existing legislation with a view to strengthening its position in dealing with these organisations. My Department views these operations as mere commercial organisations with no educational standing, which are exploiting tenuous links with Ireland. Certainly, they have not been subject to any of the well-established rigorous accreditation or quality assessment procedures which exist here. Their existence is contrary to the interests of Ireland's higher education institutions, which have sought to preserve the high international standing and reputation which our system quite rightly enjoys. The Deputy can be assured that my Department will continue its efforts to press for compliance with legislation.

Residential Institutions Redress Scheme.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

94 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science if the transfer of properties and money from the religious congregations has been completed in the context of the indemnity agreement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39665/05]

Under the terms of the indemnity agreement reached with the religious congregations on 5 June 2002, the congregations agreed to make a contribution of €128 million towards the redress scheme. This was broken down as follows: a cash contribution of €41.14 million; provision of counselling services for €10 million; and property transfers of €76.86 million.

The congregations paid the cash contribution to the State by way of an initial payment of €12,654,000 on 5 June 2002. The balance was paid by four instalments of €7,121,500 in September and December 2002 and in February and May 2003 in accordance with the terms of section 7 of the agreement. A €10 million sum has been provided for expenditure by the congregations on counselling services for former residents of institutions for children.

The property contribution of the congregations is divided into two separate and distinct schedules of properties. The first schedule, schedule A, refers to properties to be transferred from the congregations to the State, State agencies or local authorities after the date of the signing of the indemnity agreement on 5 June 2002. The total value of these property transfers for the purposes of the indemnity agreement was set at €36.54 million. I can confirm that agreement in principle has been reached with the religious congregations on the transfer of 35 properties under this schedule to the amount of €38.24 million. This figure of €38.24 million includes €4.98 million in cash that was provided by the congregations in lieu of property.

The second schedule, schedule B, refers to properties transferred from the congregations to the State, State agencies, local authorities or voluntary organisations from 11 May 1999, the date of the Taoiseach's apology to victims of child abuse. The total value of these property transfers for the purposes of the indemnity agreement was set at €40.32 million. I can confirm that transfers of 29 properties to the value of approximately €36.21 million have been agreed in principle under this schedule. This includes a cash payment of €3.25 million made by the congregations in lieu of property.

Taking account the oversubscription on schedule A, and subject to final verification of certain property valuations, the net outstanding balance under the agreement is approximately €2.4 million. My Department is in discussion with the religious congregations on this matter with a view to concluding this aspect of the agreement.

Pension Provisions.

Willie Penrose

Question:

95 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science her response to the recent report of the Pensions Ombudsman, which included particular criticism of employers in the educational sector; the action she intends to take arising from the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37197/05]

The Pensions Ombudsman can investigate complaints referred to him by an actual or potential beneficiary of an occupational pension scheme or a personal retirement savings account, PRSA. These complaints can be against trustees, managers, employers, former employers or administrators.

The annual report of the Pensions Ombudsman for 2004, published earlier this year, raised issues regarding internal disputes resolution procedures and the respective roles of different Departments with respect to decision making in respect of pension schemes.

An internal disputes resolution procedure is essentially an internal appeal process under which a member or former member of a pension scheme may have a complaint or dispute regarding his or her entitlements under the scheme considered and determined. The aim is to resolve, where possible, the issues involved without the need to proceed to the Pensions Ombudsman.

There were some instances during 2004, the first full year of operation of the Pensions Ombudsman service, where my Department was unable to meet the timeframe allowed for internal disputes resolution. This was partly due to the complexities of the cases involved, including the need to consult with the Department of Finance as necessary, and partly due to the need, at the outset of this new service, to determine whether particular issues in regard to pensions were appropriate for determination by the Minister for Education and Science rather than the Minister for Finance.

The question of responsibility as between the Ministers has now been clarified and it is accepted that where a particular pension scheme provides for an appeal to the Minister for Finance, the internal disputes resolution is a matter for that Department and that, in all other cases involving the pension entitlements of education sector staff, the internal disputes resolution is a matter for my Department.

My Department recognises that the Pensions Ombudsman performs an important service for pension scheme members both in the public and private sectors and will continue to co-operate with that office on any cases that are within my Department's remit. A total of five complainants from the education sector referred their cases for determination by the Pensions Ombudsman during 2004.

Question No. 96 answered with QuestionNo. 9.

School Curriculum.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

97 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will consult with second level senior cycle students to ascertain their views in the context of the proposals by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment on the reform of the leaving certificate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39664/05]

The NCCA's proposals for the future development of senior cycle education in Ireland were drawn up following a widespread consultative process, in which students' opinions were heard in number of ways. The initial online survey offered the public at large an opportunity to respond to the issues raised in the discussion paper on senior cycle education which was circulated by the NCCA in advance. This survey was targeted at students and the majority of the 1,813 responses received were from students.

At a representative level, the NCCA sponsored and held seminars involving the Union of Secondary Students in Ireland and other student representative groups. The NCCA also hosted a presentation by representatives of Dáil na nÓg on the senior cycle proposals. In addition, the NCCA has conducted school-based research to inform its advice around senior cycle developments. This has involved NCCA staff working with groups of students, parents, teachers and school management in a representative sample of ten post-primary schools.

Question No. 98 answered with QuestionNo. 63.

Education Welfare Service.

Liam Twomey

Question:

99 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of education welfare officers employed by the National Educational Welfare Board; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39545/05]

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

The service is developing on a continuing basis. The total authorised staffing complement is currently 94, comprising 16 headquarters and support staff, five regional managers, 12 senior educational welfare officers, SEWOs, and 61 educational welfare officers, EWOs.

In deploying its service staff, the National Educational Welfare Board has prioritised the provision of services to the most disadvantaged areas and most at-risk groups. Five regional teams are in place with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford and staff have been deployed in areas of greatest disadvantage and in areas designated under the Government's RAPID programme. Towns which have an educational welfare officer allocated to them include Dundalk, Drogheda, Navan, Athlone, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Bray, Clonmel, Tralee, Ennis, Sligo, Naas, Castlebar, Longford, Tuam, Tullamore, Letterkenny and Portlaoise.

In addition to the staff of the NEWB, there are some 490 staff in educational inclusion programmes whose work involves a school attendance element. My Department is anxious to ensure that the maximum benefit is derived from these substantial personnel resources. Consequently, work is ongoing to develop appropriate protocols for integrated working between the different services involved.

Question No. 100 answered with QuestionNo. 11.

Psychological Service.

Michael Ring

Question:

101 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary and secondary schools covered by the National Educational Psychological Service; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39543/05]

The number of National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, psychologists has increased almost three-fold, from 43 on establishment to 121 at present. The Public Appointments Service has recently established new recruitment panels for NEPS. Regional panels are now in place and my Department is currently in the process of appointing psychologists. Priority will be given to filling vacancies in areas of greatest need. Any increase in the number of psychologists in NEPS will depend on the availability of resources and must also take account of Government policy on public sector numbers.

All primary and post-primary schools have access to psychological assessments for their pupils, either directly through National Educational Psychological Service, NEPS, psychologists or through the scheme for commissioning psychological assessments, SCPA, that is administered by NEPS. Schools that do not currently have NEPS psychologists assigned to them may avail of the SCPA, whereby the school can have an assessment carried out by a member of the panel of private psychologists approved by NEPS, and NEPS will pay the psychologist the fees for this assessment directly. Details of this process and the conditions that apply to the scheme are available on my Department's website.

The latest figures available indicate that NEPS psychologists provide a dedicated service to a total of 1,623 primary schools and to 563 post-primary schools. The latter figure does not include 46 Dublin city and county vocational education committee, VEC, schools that have a VEC educational psychological service. NEPS provides assistance to all schools and school communities that experience critical incidents, regardless of whether or not they have a NEPS psychologist assigned to them. Also, in respect of all schools, NEPS processes applications for reasonable accommodation in certificate examinations and responds to queries with regard to individual children from other sections of my Department and from the specialist agencies.

Question No. 102 answered with QuestionNo. 15.

Vending Machines in Schools.

Bernard Allen

Question:

103 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department has guidelines on the provision of food vending machines on school premises; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39567/05]

Schools are privately managed institutions which, although funded by the State, enjoy a large degree of autonomy. It is, therefore, primarily a matter for each school to devise guidelines on the types of food that are available on the school premises and such policies should be driven by the needs and welfare of the pupils. I know that many schools have developed healthy eating policies in co-operation with their parents' associations and I encourage others to do so.

Education Welfare Service.

Damien English

Question:

104 Mr. English asked the Minister for Education and Science the average caseload of each education welfare officer in the National Educational Welfare Board; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39546/05]

The Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 established the National Educational Welfare Board as the single national body with responsibility for school attendance. The general functions of the board are to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education.

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

The service is developing on a continuing basis. The total authorised staffing complement is currently 94, comprising 16 headquarters and support staff, five regional managers, 12 senior educational welfare officers, SEWOs, and 61 educational welfare officers, EWOs. Towns which have an educational welfare officer allocated to them include Dundalk, Drogheda, Navan, Athlone, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Bray, Clonmel, Tralee, Ennis, Sligo, Naas, Castlebar, Longford, Tuam, Tullamore, Letterkenny and Portlaoise. In addition, the board will follow up on urgent cases nationally where children are not currently receiving an education. I understand that the NEWB provides an intensive service in the areas where educational welfare officers are located. All other areas receive an urgent service where the NEWB prioritises children who, for example, are out of school or where no school place exists for them.

The board has indicated to my Department that the average caseload of each educational welfare officer as at December 2005 is approximately 110. This figure is similar to that which was last indicated by the board as at September 2005, that is, 108. The board is continuously reviewing its procedures for prioritising children and families who require intervention, in order to ensure that children with the greatest level of need gain maximum benefit from available resources, and to work with local agencies in prioritising children's and family needs.

In this regard, there are some 490 staff in educational inclusion programmes whose work involves a school attendance element. My Department is anxious to ensure that the maximum benefit is derived from these substantial personnel resources. Consequently, work is ongoing to develop appropriate protocols for integrated working between the different services involved.

Question No. 105 answered with QuestionNo. 15.
Question No. 106 answered with QuestionNo. 24.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

107 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the National Educational Welfare Board has not received the funding it requires to fully carry out its statutory duties. [39582/05]

The Education (Welfare) Act, 2000 established the National Educational Welfare Board as the single national body with responsibility for school attendance. The Act provides a comprehensive framework promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The general functions of the board are to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education. The service is developing on a continuing basis. The total authorised staffing complement is currently 94, comprising 16 headquarters and support staff, five regional managers, 12 senior educational welfare officers, SEWOs, and 61 educational welfare officers, EWOs.

In deploying its service staff, the National Educational Welfare Board has prioritised the provision of services to the most disadvantaged areas and most at-risk groups. Five regional teams are in place with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford and staff have been deployed in areas of greatest disadvantage and in areas designated under the Government's RAPID programme. Towns which have an educational welfare officer allocated to them include Dundalk, Drogheda, Navan, Athlone, Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Bray, Clonmel, Tralee, Ennis, Sligo, Naas, Castlebar, Longford, Tuam, Tullamore, Letterkenny and Portlaoise.

In addition to the staff of the NEWB, there are some 490 staff in educational inclusion programmes whose work involves a school attendance element. My Department is anxious to ensure that the maximum benefit is derived from these substantial personnel resources. Consequently work is ongoing to develop appropriate protocols for integrated working between the different services involved.

The budget allocated to the NEWB for 2006 is €8.15 million, with the allocation to the board having increased by more than 25% since 2004 to support it in delivering on its key objectives.

State Examinations.

Dan Neville

Question:

108 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of male leaving certificate students who achieved an honours grade in the higher level Irish examination in leaving certificate 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39540/05]

A total of 55,222 candidates participated in the established leaving certificate examination in 2004.

Of this number, some 14,878 candidates sat the leaving certificate Gaeilge examination at higher level. This represented just over 30% of the total cohort of 48,962 candidates taking the Gaeilge examination that year.

Gaeilge is offered at three levels in the leaving certificate, namely, foundation level, ordinary level and higher level. Of the 14,878 candidates who took the exam at higher level, 4,932 were male and 9,946 were female. A total of 3,919 of the male candidates attained a grade C3 or higher in the exam. This represented 79% of the total male cohort who sat the higher level exam. The equivalent honours rate for the female candidates was 85%.

Question No. 109 answered with QuestionNo. 30.

Health Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

110 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the additional details which are required to be provided by a person (details supplied) in County Meath to enable their means to be assessed and their needs evaluated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39798/05]

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.

Eoin Ryan

Question:

111 Mr. Eoin Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding whether married mothers within the State are allowed to register their children in maternity hospitals (details supplied) while unmarried mothers are not; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39951/05]

An tArd-Chláraitheoir, or Registrar General, is the person with statutory responsibility for the administration of the civil registration service in Ireland. I have made inquiries with him and I am informed that the position is as follows.

The provisions relating to births of the Civil Registration Act 2004 were commenced on 5 December 2005. These provisions govern the civil registration of all births occurring within the state and revoke the previous legislation applicable.

Under the old system, the majority of births occurring in maternity hospitals were registered by the occupier, or a staff member authorised to do so by the occupier, of the hospital, unless the parents specifically requested to act as qualified informants or the hospital did not have sufficient knowledge of all required particulars. In acting as qualified informant, the hospital was relying on the presumption of paternity on the part of a man married to a woman who had given birth, as provided for under the Status of Children Act 1987. No such presumption exists in law where the parents are not married and this is the basis on which the hospital would have acted.

Under section 19 of the new Act, there is now a duty on all parents, irrespective of their marital status, to attend before any registrar of births, deaths and marriages, to give to the registrar the particulars required to register the birth and to sign the register of births in the presence of the registrar, within three months of the birth.

The Act provides for a number of qualified informants, that is, persons with a duty to give the required particulars of a birth to a registrar. The primary responsibility to act as qualified informants rests with the parents and it is only if the parents are dead, or incapable of acting through ill-health, or fail or refuse to act within three months of the birth, that other qualified informants, such as the occupier of a maternity hospital, or a medical practitioner or midwife who attended the birth, are required to act. Where a birth has not been registered within three months and the registrar in whose functional area the birth occurred is unable to contact either parent of the child concerned, the registrar may give a notice to another qualified informant to register the birth.

The new arrangements are intended to involve all parents to a much greater extent in the registration process, to simplify and clarify the procedures and to enhance the depth and quality of the information contained in the register of births.

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

112 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she is satisfied regarding the extent and frequency of school medical examinations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40056/05]

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.

Clinical Indemnity Scheme.

Enda Kenny

Question:

113 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she intends to extend the clinical indemnity scheme to medical practices in the private hospitals that are to be built on the grounds of public hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39693/05]

At present the clinical indemnity scheme covers hospitals and other health service agencies which are funded in whole or in part by the Exchequer. It does not cover private hospitals which remain responsible for arranging their own public liability insurance which usually includes medical malpractice cover. Consultants who practise in private hospitals benefit from the caps which have been placed on the extent of professional indemnity cover that they are required to purchase. There are no plans to include private hospitals, whether built on the grounds of public hospitals or elsewhere, in the clinical indemnity scheme.

Health Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

114 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if services, for example, chiropody and physiotherapy can be made available in nursing homes in the north-eastern area to holders of medical cards; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39694/05]

The availability of services such as chiropody and physiotherapy is a matter for the Health Services Executive having regard to the availability of resources. My Department asked the HSE to respond directly to the Deputy regarding the availability of services of this kind for persons in nursing homes in the north-eastern area who hold a medical card.

Hospital Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

115 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be called to Beaumont Hospital, Dublin. [39695/05]

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

Health Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

116 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department will supply home help for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; her views on whether this is a deserving case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39730/05]

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.

Mental Health Services.

Dan Neville

Question:

117 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the allocation by her Department for the mental illness services for 2006. [39737/05]

The multi-annual investment programme for disability services, published last December by the Government, contains details of specific commitments regarding the provision of certain high-priority disability services, including mental health services, over the period 2006 to 2009. This programme, together with the enhancement of other support services, is a key factor in building the additional capacity required to put in place the new framework provided for in the Disability Act 2005 and the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004.

Under the multi-annual investment programme 2006, additional funding of €59 million is being made available to support and further enhance the service developments put in place as a result of the increase in the level of funding provided in 2005. A further €41 million is also being provided in 2006 to the disability and mental health services to enhance multidisciplinary support services for people with disabilities, with a particular focus on enhancing services for children.

As the Deputy may be aware, the Tánaiste launched "Reach Out: National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention 2005-2014" in September of this year. To oversee the implementation of this strategy, the national office for suicide prevention, NOSP, has recently been established by the HSE. An additional €1.2 million has been allocated to NOSP to support the implementation of the strategy in 2006.

Civil Registration Service.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

118 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department has come to a decision regarding the births, deaths and marriages registrars; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that these registrars are extremely unhappy with same and are unwilling to continue providing these services under this structure (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39741/05]

An tArd-Chláraitheoir, the Registrar General, is the person with statutory responsibility for the administration of the civil registration service. I have made inquiries with him and I am informed that the position is as follows. In the majority of registration offices around the country, the civil registration service is administered locally by registrars of births, deaths and marriages who are Health Service Executive, HSE, employees, employed on a substantive basis for this purpose. In addition to these employees, there are some 40 private registrars appointed under the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages Acts. The majority of these are private individuals who provide the service from private residences and private offices. Some private registrars are also HSE employees, such as community welfare officers and district medical officers, but they perform registration functions as an adjunct to their substantive appointments.

HSE staff employed as registrars on a substantive basis are remunerated by salary appropriate to their grade. Private registrars are remunerated, as applicable, by an annual allowance of €172.68 per designated registration district in respect of births, deaths and Catholic marriage registrations and by an allowance of €43.17 in respect of civil marriage registrations, giving a maximum total allowance of €215.85. A fee of €0.86 is paid per event registered. These payments are made by the HSE on foot of quarterly accounts submitted to and approved by the superintendent registrar. Private registrars retain the standard fees for issue of certificates of births, deaths and marriages — €10 per certificate; €8 per extra copy — that are paid by members of the public. These rates were last revised in 1987.

I understand that a number of private registrars, who are members of the IMPACT trade union, have expressed dissatisfaction with the current remuneration arrangements. My Department has received a letter from IMPACT seeking an increase in the fees payable to the members concerned and the matter has been referred to the HSE employer representative division. As this matter falls to be dealt with in an industrial relations context, it is not appropriate for me to comment further at this time.

Health Services.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

119 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason there is a waiting list for treatment for heroin use in Tallaght when the south-west area of the Health Service Executive will not use the spare capacity of 35 places at the community addiction response programme in Killinarden; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39780/05]

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 Parking Charges.

Bernard Allen

Question:

120 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she proposes to publish a national policy on parking charges at public hospitals. [39782/05]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

Pat Breen

Question:

121 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a refund will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare in respect of nursing home charges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39783/05]

The general rules and policy relating to the national repayment scheme have been set out in previous parliamentary questions. These can be made available to the Deputy should he require them.

As the Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the scheme, inquiries relating to individual cases are referred to its parliamentary affairs division. My Department has asked the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

National Drugs Strategy.

Joe Costello

Question:

122 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she proposes to follow the example of France and put warning labels on containers of alcohol; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39785/05]

A strategic task force on alcohol was established to recommend evidence based measures to prevent and reduce alcohol related harm and published two reports with over 100 recommendations, including a recommendation on labelling.

A working group on alcohol was recently established to help mobilise the stakeholders through social partnership to achieve a targeted and measurable reduction in alcohol misuse. The working group operates in the context of the special initiative on alcohol and drug misuse under Sustaining Progress.

The working group is comprised of the social partners, the relevant Government Departments, the Garda, the national drugs strategy team and the Health Service Executive. The working group is seeking to agree a programme of actions which can deliver targeted results in respect of underage drinking, binge drinking and drink driving. It is expected to produce a set of recommendations in late 2005.

A new EU alcohol policy is currently being developed. Ireland is playing a lead role in trying to gain consensus on many issues, including the labelling of alcohol containers. The issue of warning labels has also been discussed by the social partners at meetings of the working group on alcohol.

It should be stressed that while placing warning labels on beverage containers would have some effect in raising awareness, the international evidence suggests that this should not be a lead strategy to tackle alcohol related harm.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

123 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if home help hours will be restored in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny as they had 12 hours but have been reduced to 4.75 hours; the reason this cut was made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39800/05]

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

John McGuinness

Question:

124 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an appeal lodged to the Health Service Executive south-east area regarding nursing home fees will be expedited in the case of a person (details supplied); and if a response will be expedited. [39801/05]

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.

Grant Payments.

John McGuinness

Question:

125 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a motorised transport grant will be approved in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [39802/05]

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.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

126 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that the Health Service Executive north-east area, in its procurement of a consultancy to examine acute hospital services in the north east, will take on board the unanimous views of the consultant surgeons who are delivering the services on the ground in Cavan and Monaghan hospitals, and who indicated their unhappiness in a letter of 15 September 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39803/05]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

127 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the plans that the Health Service Executive north-east area has, in its procurement of a consultancy, to examine acute hospital services in the north east (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39804/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 126 and 127 together.

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

Care of the Elderly.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

128 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount allocated for sheltered housing in 2006; if the budgetary allocation of €500,000 to sheltered housing announced in the package for the elderly on 8 December 2005 means an extra €500,000 in addition to the existing budget of €428,000 or simply a €72,000 increase on the 2005 allocation; the sub-head in Estimates 2006 where same is provided for; her views on whether this is an acceptable commitment to sheltered housing services in view of the fact that she says she strongly supports the development of sheltered housing accommodation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39805/05]

As the Deputy will be aware the development of sheltered housing accommodation provides a real alternative to residential care and reflects the desire of older people to live with as much independence as possible. The total budgetary allocation in 2006 for sheltered housing is the existing allocation of €428,000 plus the extra funding of €500,000 announced on 8 December, resulting in a total of €928,000 for 2006. An additional €500,000 has also been provided for 2007.

This additional funding will help sheltered housing developments to give a comprehensive service and is a reasonable allocation to meet these objectives. The abridged Book of Estimates was published last month and therefore could not have provided for the announcement on sheltered housing which is part of the €150 million full-year package for older people and palliative care announced on budget day. The Revised Book of Estimates 2006 will provide for this funding.

While this Department is allocating current funding to provide health service supports for sheltered housing schemes, responsibility for sheltered housing falls within the remit of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Medical Cards.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

129 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to increase medical card and doctor only income guidelines in January 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39806/05]

In January 2005, I increased the income guidelines used in the assessment of medical card applications by 7.5%. In June, 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.

I have no plans at present to further amend the current income guidelines. However, my Department and the HSE will continue to monitor the operation of these guidelines with a view to ensuring that medical cards and GP visit cards continue to be available to those who require them.

Health Services.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

130 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the financial and staffing requirements of the Health Service Executive service plans prepared under sections 31 and 33 of the Health Act 2004 were fully funded by her Department; if not, the outstanding elements of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39807/05]

In accordance with the Health Act 2004 and in relation to 2005 the HSE submitted a national service plan which was approved by me. Similarly, following the recent publication of the Abridged Estimates Volume 2006, I contacted the HSE outlining the key elements of additional funding for 2006 and a national service plan has been submitted based on these figures. I am currently reviewing this and by 29 December 2005 the plan must be either approved or be subject to a direction to amend.

The national service plan must include reference to the type and volume of services to be provided in the year, any capital plans proposed, estimates of the number of employees of the executive and the services to which the plan relates. The national service plan must also comply with the policies and objectives of the Minister and the Government. It is imperative that the service plan is compiled with due regard to services being delivered in line with the funding provided in the published Estimates volume.

In my letter to the HSE I also reiterated the requirement for strict compliance with Government policy on controlling the numbers employed in the health service and the absolute necessity of putting in place a robust system for the effective management of employment levels in both the HSE and the wider public health service.

Approval of the national service plan is subject to, amongst other things, compliance with policies regarding service delivery within approved levels of funding and compliance with employment control procedures. Monitoring of the service plan will take place during 2006.

Michael Lowry

Question:

131 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 236 of 8 November 2005, when a response will issue from the Health Service Executive western area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39808/05]

My Department has been advised by the HSE that a response has recently been issued to the Deputy concerning the matter raised by him in Question No. 236 of 8 November 2005.

Michael Lowry

Question:

132 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 229 of 2 November 2005, when a response will issue relating to the north Tipperary area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39809/05]

My Department has been advised by the HSE that it is finalising the preparation of its reply to the Deputy in relation to the matter raised in Question No. 229 of 2 November and that this will issue to him as soon as possible.

Sean Fleming

Question:

133 Mr. Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the psychiatric report on a person (details supplied) in County Laois will be made available to the health professionals dealing with that person. [39810/05]

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.

Denis Naughten

Question:

134 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the waiting times for orthodontic assessment and treatment in each Health Service Executive area; the numbers on each waiting list; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39821/05]

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.

Denis Naughten

Question:

135 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of the application for a new health centre in Keadue, County Roscommon; if funding will be approved for the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39822/05]

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.

Denis Naughten

Question:

136 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if funding will be approved for a health centre in Strokestown, County Roscommon; the status of the application; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39823/05]

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.

Denis Naughten

Question:

137 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if funding will be approved for a full seven day residential service for the Brothers of Charity in south County Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39829/05]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

Denis Naughten

Question:

138 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if persons with an intellectual disability who availed of respite care and who were charged for this service are not eligible for a refund if they are in receipt of a medical card; if so, when this repayment will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39830/05]

The Government has agreed the key elements of a scheme for the repayment of long-stay charges for publicly funded residential care. In regard to persons with full eligibility who availed of respite care for a total of over 30 days in any 12 month period, it is possible that charges may have been wrongly applied in such circumstances. All those fully eligible persons who were wrongly charged and are alive and the estates of all those who were wrongly charged and died since 9 December 1998 will have the charges repaid in full. The scheme will not allow for repayments to the estates of those who died prior to that date. The repayments will include both the actual charge paid and an amount to take account of inflation, using the consumer price index, since the time the person involved was charged.

Draft heads of a Bill for a repayment scheme have been prepared and will shortly be submitted to Cabinet for approval. It is my intention to have legislation brought before the Oireachtas in the next parliamentary session and to have repayments commencing shortly after the Bill is approved and signed into law.

A national oversight committee has been appointed and has already begun its work. It will provide an independent input into the design of the scheme and will monitor the operation of the scheme in order to ensure that it is being implemented quickly and in the most equitable and effective way possible.

The scheme will be designed and managed with the aim of ensuring that those who are eligible for repayments receive them as soon as possible and with the minimum possible imposition in terms of bureaucracy. Priority will be given to those who are still alive. Many of those eligible for repayments have already been identified as a result of initial payments made following my announcement in December 2004. The scheme will include a transparent and thorough appeals process.

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

State Claims Agency.

Denis Naughten

Question:

139 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she intends to fulfil a written commitment to establish a no fault compensation scheme for psychiatric nurses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39842/05]

Following its consideration earlier this year of the report of the task force on assaults on psychiatric nurses the Government decided not to introduce a no fault compensation scheme for psychiatric nurses. Complex legal and financial issues had emerged in relation to aspects of the proposed scheme and their implications for the health service and the wider public service.

It was decided instead to request the State Claims Agency, SCA, to examine the possibility of amending the revised serious physical assaults scheme 2001 to include a fixed redress fund for physical injury caused by assault at work. My Department has requested the SCA to report on the feasibility, implications and estimated costs of this option. I understand that the SCA's report is almost complete and I expect to receive it in the coming weeks.

Upon receipt of the report from the SCA further consultations will take place with the Department of Finance and the Office of the Attorney General. The matter will then be again referred to the Government for further consideration.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

140 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there has been further progress in arriving at the costing requested under Question No. 241 of 8 November 2005. [39855/05]

BreastCheck in conjunction with my Department is currently preparing an estimate of the cost of extending the breast screening programme nationally to women over the age of 64. My Department expects to be in a position to advise the Deputy of an estimated figure early in 2006.

Health Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

141 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of County Kildare children who are included in the orthodontic waiting list of 559 as indicated in a reply of 18 November 2005 from the manager of the orthodontic services of the Health Service Executive south-western area. [39863/05]

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.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

142 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in issuing a response to Question No. 243 of 8 November 2005. [39871/05]

My Department has been advised by the HSE that a response is being issued to the Deputy today on the matter raised by him in Question No. 243 of 8 November 2005.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

143 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether it is acceptable that children under four years of age must wait eight months for a hearing test at the Newbridge clinic in County Kildare; the reason for such a delay; and her plans regarding same. [39872/05]

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.

Community Care.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

144 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the capital cost of providing the Maynooth community care unit; and the annual running cost of same. [39873/05]

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.

Health Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

145 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the review of the mobile hospital service for Carbury, County Kildare, has resulted in the loss of the doctor to the service in view of the understanding that there would only be minor adjustments to the service. [39874/05]

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.

Care of the Elderly.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

146 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in issuing a response to Question No. 247 of 8 November 2005. [39875/05]

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 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 in early November. The Department has again requested that the HSE investigate this matter. The HSE has confirmed that the matter is being investigated thoroughly and will reply to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

147 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in issuing a response to Question No. 296 of 8 November 2005. [39879/05]

My Department has been advised by the HSE that a response to the matter raised by the Deputy in Question No. 296 of 8 November 2005 is being finalised and that it will issue to him within the next few days.

Medicinal Products.

Tony Gregory

Question:

148 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there is a lack of availability of medication for a condition (details supplied). [39914/05]

The vitamin B12 product concerned was removed from the common list of reimbursable drugs and medicines when the manufacturer advised my Department that, due to problems in the manufacturing process, it had become temporarily unavailable both in Ireland and the UK. As soon as the manufacturers inform my Department that the problems have been resolved the product will be restored to the common list. In the meantime, my Department had inquiries made in the matter and I understand there is an alternative product available in community pharmacies for people who have been prescribed the original product.

Health Services.

David Stanton

Question:

149 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether a dedicated paediatric endocrinologist, one full-time diabetes nurse specialist, one part-time nurse specialist, a dedicated dietician, a psychologist and a dedicated multidisciplinary unit are needed in order to serve the growing numbers of children with diabetes in the Cork area; the action she has taken or intends to take on the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39916/05]

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.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Dan Boyle

Question:

150 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has received correspondence and a request for a meeting from a person (details supplied) in County Cork; if she has responded to this correspondence and this meeting request; and if not, if she intends to in the immediate future. [39935/05]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which would include the administration of the national repayments scheme for long stay charges which are the responsibility of the HSE under the Health Act 2004. The matter raised by the individual is appropriate to the Health Service Executive. My office has referred the correspondence in question to the executive and the individual concerned has been made aware of this.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

151 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a nursing home subvention or subvented health board bed can be provided to facilitate a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39976/05]

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.

Medical Cards.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

152 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a medical card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [39977/05]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

153 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a nursing home subvention will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39978/05]

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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

David Stanton

Question:

154 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange for a person (details supplied) in County Cork to be seen by a consultant orthopaedic surgeon in order to get on to the waiting list for a hip replacement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39979/05]

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.

Health Services.

David Stanton

Question:

155 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that a person (details supplied) in County Cork is receiving all the support and help from the Health Service Executive that is needed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39980/05]

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.

Private Hospitals.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

156 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the issues discussed, officials and other persons in attendance, and decisions made at the meetings between Dundalk based private hospital promoters and officials from her Department. [39981/05]

As I indicated in reply to a question from the Deputy on 24 November last, I had a meeting on 4 May 2005 with a group which proposes to develop a private hospital on a green field site in Dundalk. The group comprised Dr. Mary Grehan, Dr. Seamus Cassidy, Mr. Gabriel Grehan, Mr. James McClear and Mr. John Quinlivan. An official from my Department was in attendance.

No decisions were made at the meeting. The development of a private hospital on its own grounds is entirely a matter for the developers concerned.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

157 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she will meet with a delegation of Dundalk town council. [39982/05]

I refer to the parliamentary question of 24 November 2005 put down by the Deputy on this matter. My response to the Deputy at that time remains the same.

Hospital Accommodation.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

158 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of publicly funded acute hospital beds in Louth County Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in 1980, 1986, 1990, 1995, 2000 and to date in 2005. [39983/05]

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

Number of In-Patient and Day Beds*.

Year

Louth

Our Lady of Lourdes

1980

143

333

1986

145

338

1990

148

333

1995

136

315

2000

134

324

2005**

137

328

*Figures for the years 1980, 1986 and 1990 refer to the bed complement at 31 December whereas figures for later years refer to the average number of beds available over the year taking beds that were temporarily closed or opened into account.

**Covers the period January 2005 to September 2005. Provisional.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

159 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of public beds for older people in County Louth in 1984, 1994 and 2003. [39984/05]

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.

Primary Care Strategy.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

160 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of public money which has been spent under the primary care strategy since 2001. [39985/05]

Implementation of the primary care strategy is first and foremost about developing new ways of working and of reorganising the resources already available to the health service in line with the service model described in the strategy. The whole-system nature of the approach to implementation is such that change will be required in many sectors in the health service, and not solely within primary care itself. While certain funding has been provided specifically to support implementation, additional resources allocated to other sectors will also support the delivery of services in line with the aims of the strategy. This is, of course, in addition to the very substantial funding already used to enable the delivery of a wide range of primary and community care services to the population.

This year, the annual revenue funding provided specifically to support the implementation of the primary care strategy is €12 million. To date, capital funding of €2.725 million and a further €1.8 million in respect of ICT supports has also been provided for the initial primary care teams. These allocations have funded a range of primary care related initiatives, principally: service developments in specific locations; planning and mapping work by the HSE; a review of ICT needs in primary care; support to university departments of general practice and the Irish College of General Practitioners; and research fellowships in primary care.

My Department is providing additional revenue funding of €16 million for 2006. This tranche of funding will enable: the appointment of some 300 additional front-line personnel to work alongside GPs in between 75 and 100 teams in the improved delivery of community primary care services; the establishment of an additional 22 GP training places; and the further development of GP out-of-hours co-operatives to enable an estimated 350,000 additional persons to benefit from such services.

This means that €28 million will be available in 2006 specifically to support the implementation of the primary care strategy. However, other development funding will also be used to support the development of services in line with the principles of the strategy. I have recently announced very substantial increases in funding for services for older people, amounting to €150 million in a full year.

A significant proportion of this additional funding will be used to enable primary care and community-based services for older people, including a range of supports such as home care packages and home help services, to be expanded. This is in line with international trends and also reflects the growing desire of older people to be able to remain living in their own communities.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

161 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a clinic (details supplied) in County Dublin was offered public kidney dialysis patients to treat at €67,860 while the same treatment is available for a significantly lower rate in Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry; and if she has satisfied herself that this clinic offers value for money. [39986/05]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

162 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons in county Louth who are receiving subvention payments for private nursing home care. [39987/05]

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.

Hospital Staff.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

163 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the staffing issues will be resolved in order to allow a person (details supplied) in County Kildare to be transferred from an acute hospital bed to a more long-term solution. [39988/05]

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

Medical Cards.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

164 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Wexford who is a medical card holder has been charged for medical treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39989/05]

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

Hospitals Building Programme.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

165 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on selling land adjacent to St. John’s Hospital, Enniscorthy, to facilitate phase two of the hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39990/05]

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.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

166 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the Health Service Executive site requirements for the new replacement hospital for Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda; if the Health Service Executive will enter into negotiations with Drogheda United and the GAA regarding sites which they own adjacent to the existing hospital; the size and suitability of existing sites owned by the Health Service Executive in the Drogheda area, in particular a site owned at Cross Lanes, Drogheda, if her attention has been drawn to the fact that Drogheda Borough Council will assist the development of a new hospital in the Drogheda area in every possible way; if the Health Service Executive is seeking potential sites outside the Drogheda area for the new hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39991/05]

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.

Computerisation Programme.

John Gormley

Question:

167 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in respect of the iSOFT-Lorenzo computer system; if a person has been appointed with overall responsibility for the architecture of the system; if this person is a public sector employee or a consultant; if an overall architecture for the system has been drawn up; when an IT director will be appointed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39992/05]

I have been advised by the Health Service Executive, HSE, as follows. Overall responsibility for the iSOFT project rests at present with the HSE's national director of ICT. Responsibility for various aspects of current project work has been delegated to some senior staff within the ICT directorate, reporting to the national director. This arrangement is sufficient for the current phase of the project but as the project grows and develops further, involving more extensive roll out across the country, the governance arrangements will be revised accordingly. Senior staff within the national hospitals office and the ICT directorate will be assigned to take responsibility for the service and ICT elements of the project respectively, working to a project board.

In addition, a subcommittee of the HSE's senior management team will form an ICT steering committee to oversee all major ICT developments. Within the iSOFT project a person has not been appointed with overall responsibility for the architecture of the system. There are several different aspects to architecture and the detailed design of each will be the responsibility of the HSE's ICT directorate, working in close collaboration with the national hospitals office. Staff within these units of the HSE will carry out the work involved and it is not foreseen at this stage that any consultancy will be required.

To date the architecture and design work has concentrated on the immediate requirements of getting the iSOFT system into live use in a number of former health board regions which have an urgent need to replace their existing IT systems. The architecture and design work to date will be developed further during 2006 for the full national roll out of the system.

John Gormley

Question:

168 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, regarding the electronic health record proposed for the iSOFT-Lorenzo computer system, the design for the electronic health record has been completed and implemented in any jurisdiction; if a copy of the concepts and design document, or its equivalent, can be made available; the person or body who will be legally responsible for the accuracy of patient data under the proposed system; the person or body who will be responsible for reconciling discrepancies in the information; the way in which security of access to information will be implemented in the system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39993/05]

I have been advised by the Health Service Executive as follows.

Live deployments of full electronic health records on a wide scale jurisdiction are extremely rare. Many health systems have electronic records in parts of their services. Within hospitals these are typically referred to as electronic patient record systems. The concept of electronic health records brings together the various electronic records in different services-settings referring to each client-patient, for example, the amalgamation of records held by GPs with those held by other professionals in both community and hospital settings.

The iSOFT system was selected primarily for hospitals with the intention of initially deploying it to support core administrative processes and then to evolve its use over time into clinical support areas. As such it was seen as a means of achieving electronic patient records within hospitals and between hospitals. It was also seen as a key facilitator to achievement of electronic health records as it has potential for deployment in community care services also, which the Health Service Executive plans to do over time.

The achievement of full electronic health records in the Irish health service is a long-term goal. The concepts and design of such a system have not yet been developed and there is considerable work required over the next number of years to put the necessary foundations in place. The iSOFT system is an important element of this but there are many others.

The iSOFT system is being used extensively as a key element of building electronic health records in a number of other countries, for example, the UK and New Zealand. These are also long-term projects that are not yet completed and there are multiple suppliers involved.

Regarding responsibility for accuracy of patient data under the new system, the legal entity will be the Health Service Executive, or voluntary hospital or agency, as appropriate, which is accountable in law for compliance with data protection and other related legislation. Internal quality control procedures will be deployed to ensure a high level of accuracy of patient information.

Regarding reconciling discrepancies in the information, this will be a normal part of the operation of the new system and will be the responsibility of various staff involved in data recording and updating.

Regarding the way in which security of access to information will be implemented in the system, a security policy will be defined and implemented as part of the roll out of the system. The general principle will be that access to patient information will be on a need-to-know basis, consistent with job function and appropriate patient consent. It is recognised that there are huge patient-care benefits to ensuring that the right information is made available to the right person in a timely manner but this must be balanced against the need to ensure that inappropriate access does not occur either. All staff will log onto the new system on a personal name basis, thereby identifiable, and with their unique private access keys. All activity will be automatically recorded in an audit trail, thereby ensuring staff are accountable for whatever use or access they make.

John Gormley

Question:

169 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the €56 million cost quoted for the iSOFT-Lorenzo computer system includes the license costs of operating systems, office suites and databases required for inter-operating with the iSOFT software; if general practitioners will be required to run software by a particular supplier in order to interoperate with the Lorenzo system; if this software has been included by the Health Service Executive in its design for the system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39994/05]

I have been advised by the Health Service Executive as follows.

The figure of €56 million covers the ten year cost of licences for iSOFT software, support services and implementation services. It does not cover the cost of licences for third-party software such as operating systems, office suites and databases. In 2005 the cost of licences for operating systems and databases related to the deployment of the iSOFT software was €558,928.16. This covers three of the former health board regions and further licences will need to be purchased for remaining regions as the iSOFT system is rolled out across the country.

In 2005 there were no additional licences required for office suites related to the deployment of the iSOFT software. This is because PCs typically have such software for other purposes in any case. In the future there is unlikely to be any additional requirement for office suites arising from deployment of the iSOFT software.

General practitioners will not be required to run software from any particular supplier in order to interoperate with current iSOFT software or future software emerging from the Lorenzo development programme. General practitioners typically run software supplied by a number of other companies. Inter-operation between this software and the various other software packages used elsewhere in the health service, for example, in hospitals and community care facilities, and is achieved by means of electronic messaging between the different systems based on national standard message formats. This approach enables disparate IT systems to interoperate with each other and there are many examples of its use in live contexts across the Irish health service, for example, for transfer of electronic laboratory reports and radiology reports between hospitals and GPs.

Special Educational Needs.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

170 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a formal request for the provision of support therapies for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare under section 40 of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004 has been received by her Department or the Health Service Executive from the Department of Education and Science; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39995/05]

In the details supplied with the question, the Deputy has provided what appears to be a home address. The Department of Health and Children is not aware of any request which has been made for the provision of support therapies at the address concerned. The Department is, however, aware of a request which has been made for the provision of support therapies for a unit in a secondary school in County Kildare. The consultation procedure in regard to this process has not yet been completed and this issue is the subject of continued discussions between the Department, the Department of Education and Science and the Health Service Executive.

Hospital Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

171 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Question No. 221 of 16 November 2005. [39996/05]

My Department has been advised by the Health Service Executive that the matters raised by the Deputy in Question No. 221 of 16 November 2005 required the gathering of information across all areas. The executive is collating this information and will have a response issued to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Health Services.

David Stanton

Question:

172 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an application for a full-time diabetes nurse specialist is being considered by her Department in order to serve the growing number of children with diabetes in the Cork area; when she will make a decision on this issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39997/05]

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.

Question No. 173 withdrawn.

Medical Cards.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

174 Ms Shortall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to the announcement in the budget 2006 speech that earnings from employment of €100 per week will be disregarded in the means test for non-contributory old age pension, the steps she has taken or intends to take to ensure that a person will not lose or be denied a medical card if they choose to exploit this reform; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39999/05]

In agreement with the Health Service Executive, I have made significant changes to the income assessment guidelines for medical cards in the course of 2005. In January 2005, I increased the income guidelines used in the assessment of medical card applications by 7.5%. In June, 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.

The Department of Health and Children has asked the Health Service Executive to take account of the welfare, taxation or other changes announced in the budget on the operation of the income guidelines and to identify any changes which may be required in order to ensure that medical cards and GP visit cards continue to be available to those who need them.

Health Services.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

175 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children where the moneys raised through the sale of the hospital lands at St. Loman’s have been allocated to date in 2005; the proportion which has been spent locally in Lucan, Palmerstown and Quarryvale or is planned to be spent locally. [40129/05]

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.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

176 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to provide a day centre for the treatment of schizophrenia in Lucan with some of the funds raised from the sale of the St. Loman’s lands. [40130/05]

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.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

177 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the Health Service Executive plans to build and operate a drug treatment centre off Loman’s Road in Lucan. [40131/05]

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

Mental Health Services.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

178 Mr. Gogarty asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the funding being provided to the mental health centre in Ballyfermot; if additional funds are planned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40132/05]

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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

179 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she is in receipt of a plan or feasibility report regarding the proposed development at the Bon Secours Hospital site in Tuam, County Galway; if financial resources will be made available to develop the site in accordance with promises made; her views on the development of a health campus on this site as fitting into the overall health strategy for the west; if there are existing plans for development or disposal of the land or portions thereof at the six acre site in Tuam that are contrary to the established development plan. [40136/05]

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.

Health Services.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

180 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway could not be seen under the national school dental scheme when they complained of severe toothache; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that on 21 November 2005, the person's mother phoned the Ballinasloe Dental Clinic and was told that they would receive an appointment on 25 November 2005; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that the person, who was in serious pain and was unable to eat or drink, had to have an emergency intervention; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that there is only a dentist present in Ballinasloe on Thursdays and Fridays every week; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40144/05]

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.

Tax Code.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

181 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding correspondence (details supplied); his plans regarding stamp duty relief for young farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39814/05]

In my recent budget speech I announced that certain existing capital gains tax, CAT, capital acquisitions tax, CGT, and stamp duty reliefs are being extended to cover the EU single farm payment entitlement. This entitlement will be recognised as a qualifying agricultural asset for the purposes of the CAT agricultural relief qualification test in relation to gifts and inheritances. For CGT purposes, the entitlement will qualify as an asset for the purpose of CGT retirement relief provided the farmer in question fulfils the ten year rule on ownership and usage of the land which will be disposed of at the same time as that entitlement. I also announced that the stamp duty relief for young trained farmers will also apply to the transfer of such entitlements to qualifying young trained farmers where land relevant to that entitlement is also being transferred. Each of these measures will be included in the Finance Bill 2006.

The Finance Act 2003 provided for full exemption from stamp duty on the transfer of land to qualifying young trained farmers, for a three year period until 31 December 2005. This exemption was extended in the recent budget for a further three year period to 31 December 2008. This will also be provided for in the Finance Bill 2006. These measures were announced, in conjunction with my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, with a view to assisting farmers, in particular younger farmers, to adjust to the major changes taking place in the farming community.

Architectural Heritage.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

182 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance when proposals on the restoration of the entrance to Castletown House, Celbridge, from Main Street, Celbridge will be put on display for public consultation. [39861/05]

Proposals on the entrance from Celbridge are under consideration. The Office of Public Works has entered into pre-planning discussions with the local authority with regard to provision of limited parking facilities to resolve a number of issues, including the problem of random parking inside the entrance gates. Work on essential maintenance to the gate lodges by the Irish Landmark Trust has begun on foot of a declaration of exemption and a programme of refurbishment works is proposed on completion of the planning process. I understand a planning application is to be lodged shortly by the Irish Landmark Trust in this respect.

Air Services.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

183 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance the customs arrangements which are in place at Weston Aerodrome; if, in the event of a change in licensing at the aerodrome, his Department will review the existing customs arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39954/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that Weston Aerodrome is approved by them in respect of flights to or from other member states of the European Union. Flights to and from EU destinations are permitted provided no third country non-EU goods are carried on board; no stores are carried on board; no passengers who have originated in a non-EU country and who have not been cleared at another EU airport are on board; no goods carried on board are being exported to a non-EU country; and customs intervention is not necessary for the purposes of enforcing a prohibition or restriction on importation or exportation.

Save as permitted by the commissioners, flights to Weston Aerodrome from outside the EU must first clear customs at an international community airport; and flights from Weston to destinations outside the EU must depart via an international community airport. There are three international community airports in Ireland, Dublin, Shannon and Cork. Flights into Weston from outside the European Union are infrequent and prior permission must be obtained from the commissioners in respect of these.

The volume and type of business conducted at Weston, primarily national and EU flights, does not justify the deployment of a permanent customs presence there. However, customs officers visit the aerodrome regularly as a check against the landing or exportation of prohibited goods, in particular, controlled drugs. In the event that a change in the aerodrome licensing regime results in a change to the perceived risk, the level of control by attendance of customs officers will be reviewed accordingly. However, the licensing of an aerodrome normally does not impact on the terms of approval or level of controls performed by customs.

National Parks.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

184 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the survey being carried out by the Office of Public Works on a feasibility study on the proposed Liffey Valley national park. [40111/05]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

196 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance when the survey of lands within the Liffey Valley catchment will be completed by the Office of Public Works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39920/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 184 and 196 together.

A steering group has been established to examine the potential of the lower Liffey Valley to be managed in an integrated way in respect of its amenity, recreational and heritage resources. The steering group comprises representatives of the Office of Public Works, Fingal County Council, Dublin City Council, South Dublin County Council and Kildare County Council and has the assistance of additional professional expertise. A study is at an advanced stage which includes a wide public consultation process, inventory of resources and examination of strategic issues. It is expected that an initial draft of the study will be made available for further public comment by the end of January next.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

185 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance the breakdown of tax credits and income tax bill that will apply in 2006 to employees in respect of persons (details supplied), without reference to PRSI, health levies or tax credits other than single, married and employee credits. [39815/05]

The following examples show the tax credits and bands available in 2006 in the cases outlined by the Deputy. The examples refer to earners in the PAYE sector and are based on the assumption in each case that the married couple is jointly assessed for tax purposes.

Example 1

Single Person

Gross Income €26,000

Band Available €32,000

Band Utilised €26,000

Tax€26,000 @ 20% = €5,200

Gross Tax Due €5,200

Less Tax Credits Personal Credit(€1,630)

Employee Credit(€1,490)

= Total Credits (€3,120)

Net Tax Payable (€2,080)

Example 2

One Income Family

Gross Income €39,000

Band Available €41,000

Band Utilised €39,000

Tax€39,000 @ 20% = €7,800

Gross Tax Due €7,800

Less Tax Credits Married Credit(€3,260)

Employee Credit(€1,490)

= Total Credits (€4,750)

Net Tax Payable (€3,050)

Example 3

Two Income Family and income split between spouses

€35,000: €22,000

Joint Income €57,000

Spouses' Income €35,000

€22,000

Band Available €41,000

€23,000

Band Utilised €35,000

€22,000

Tax€7,000 (35,000 @ 20%)

€4,400 (22,000 @ 20%)

Gross Tax Due €11,400

Less Tax Credits

Personal Credit(€1,630)

(€1,630)

Employee Credit(€1,490)

(€1,490)

= Total Credits (6,240)

Net Tax Payable(5,160)

Garda Stations.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

186 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if the public consultation process on the new Leixlip Garda station is ready to commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39853/05]

Agreement has been reached between the OPW and Garda authorities on the changes to the sketch scheme for the proposed Leixlip Garda station. Revised Part 9 planning documents are being prepared and it is expected that the public consultation process will commence in the week beginning 19 December 2005.

Schools Refurbishment.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

187 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if he has received the full report in respect of the replacement of the asbestos roof in a school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and when work will commence. [39856/05]

The Office of Public Works has received the consultant's report in respect of the replacement of the asbestos roof at the school in question. Work has now commenced on the planning application and tender documents for the work. It is proposed to undertake the majority of the work during next year's summer holidays. In the meantime, the temporary repairs to the leaking areas arranged by the OPW were completed last week.

Flood Relief.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

188 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works has completed its examination of the Leixlip flood relief study; and if he will provide funding for the required alleviation works. [39860/05]

As I indicated in reply to the Deputy's Question No. 337 on 8 November, the report is being examined. That examination will be completed early in the new year and at that stage the local authority, which commissioned the report, will be advised whether it justifies the provision of the funding requested.

State Property.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

189 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance, further to Parliamentary Question No. 535 of 28 September 2005, if there has been a successful conclusion to the acquisition of the lands. [39864/05]

The position here is the same as that outlined in my response dated 8 November 2005.

Decentralisation Programme.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

190 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance if the public service embargo will be relaxed in order to recruit either temporary or permanent specialist staff in the context of decentralisation; if so, the limits which have been set as to the number of staff that will be sanctioned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39885/05]

I refer the Deputy to Question No. 66 of Tuesday last relating to the target of reducing public service employment. No embargo is in place. The Government has followed a policy of reducing public service employment since December 2002 under which the growth in public sector employment has slowed substantially overall and has been reversed in several areas. The Government will continue to control and regulate numbers employed in the public service within agreed ceilings. Organisations can recruit staff within the overall ceiling which has been agreed for their sector. The natural wastage which was evident in the successful implementation of the reduction in numbers will again be used to minimise pressure on employment levels during the decentralisation programme.

Tax Code.

Paul McGrath

Question:

191 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the job opportunities which are available where the earnings from these jobs are tax free; and if he will compare these jobs to the proposed €10,000 tax free income available to persons who mind children in their own home. [39898/05]

Following on my recent budget some 740,000 workers in Ireland will not have to pay income tax on their earnings in 2006. The threshold for entry into the income tax net will be €15,600 per annum for a single person, €27,600 for a married one-income family with two children and €31,200 for a married two income family with two children. The new child-minding relief I announced in my Budget Statement 2006 means that where an individual minds up to three children, who are not their own, in the minder's own home, no tax will be payable on the child-minding earnings received, provided the amount is less than €10,000 per annum. If child-minding income exceeds this, the total amount will be taxable, as normal, under self-assessment.

There are a number of established schemes which grant total or partial exemption for specified sources of earnings, for example: payments to foster carers by the Health Service Executive in respect of the care of foster children are exempt from income tax and are not taken into account in computing total income for the purposes of the Income Tax Acts; payments to qualified applicants in Gaeltacht areas in respect of students who go to Irish colleges to learn Irish under the scheme known as Scéim na bhFoghlaimeoirí Gaeilge, are exempt from income tax; an exemption from income tax applies to rent received, where a person rents out a room or rooms in his or her principal private residence, and the amount of the relevant sums received does not exceed €7,620 for a full year. In order to qualify for the exemption, it is necessary for the residential premises to be situated in the State and occupied by the individual as his or her sole or main residence during the tax year; income earned by artists, writers, composers and sculptors from the sale of their work is exempt from income tax in Ireland in certain circumstances. The artist's exemption is only available to individuals who are either resident in the State and not resident elsewhere, or ordinarily resident and domiciled in the State and not resident elsewhere. In my recent Budget Statement, I announced a new measure which will limit the use of tax breaks by those with high incomes. This measure will apply to the exempt income of artists over the amount of €250,000 per annum; and relief on retirement for certain income of certain sportspersons. Certain sportspersons who have retired can claim back up to 40% of income tax paid, before deducting expenses, for any ten of the years in which they were permanently engaged in their chosen profession.

Financial Services Regulation.

Paul McGrath

Question:

192 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that financial institutions are refusing to open new bank accounts for persons who are unable to produce a current utility bill; his views on the difficulty this can cause, particularly to returning emigrants who may be temporarily resident with their parents; if regulations made by his Department are the cause of these difficulties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39900/05]

Section 32 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 requires financial institutions to take reasonable measures to identify their customers. Recommended procedures for the implementation of this provision are set out in guidance notes issued under the aegis of the money laundering steering committee, which is chaired by the Department of Finance and includes representatives of financial services industry bodies and the regulatory authorities and State agencies, including the Garda Síochána. The full text of the money laundering guidance notes for credit institutions is available on the Department of Finance website: http://www.finance.gov.ie/Publications/otherpubs/monlaun.htm.

Identification of a customer comprises two elements. These are name verification, typically evidenced by photograph bearing document such as passport, driving licence or other reputable source document, and address verification. Paragraph 45 of the guidance notes provides for those persons who cannot reasonably be expected to produce certain forms of identification, such as a passport or driving licence and-or whose name and Irish address does not appear on a utility bill, electoral register or directory.

The alternative methods of address verification set out in the guidance notes include: a letter-statement from a licensed employment agency that the person has recently arrived in Ireland and is commencing employment or from an employer that the person has commenced employment and in each case stating that the person is not in a position to produce a utility bill or other document which shows an Irish address. In addition, in such cases the prospective customer should be required to submit follow-up documentation, for example, utility bill, confirming Irish address in due course; a letter-statement from a person in a position of responsibility, for example, a solicitor, accountant, doctor, minister of religion, teacher, social worker or community employment scheme supervisor, who is in a position to confirm the person's address to the credit institution. In such instances the person providing the letter-statement must present themselves to the relevant credit institution providing proof of their own identity and verifying their status to the credit institution; or documentation-cards issued by a Government Department showing the address of the person.

Normally difficulties arising at account opening are resolved by an approach from the prospective customer to the branch management or to the bank's customer service department. I stress that it is a matter for each institution to ensure its procedures satisfy the legal requirement under the Criminal Justice Act 1994 that financial institutions take reasonable measures to identify their customers.

Site Acquisitions.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

193 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance if a site has been purchased for a project (details supplied) in County Cork; the location and address of the site; the purchase price of the site; and when the site will be handed over to the Department of Education. [39903/05]

The Commissioners of Public Works act as an agent on behalf of the Department of Education and Science in the acquisition of sites for new school facilities. A suitable site for Rathcormac national school has been identified and agreement, subject to contract, has been reached with the vendors of this proposed site. The commissioners will not be in a position to release any further information until contracts have been exchanged.

Tax Code.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

194 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when the correct P45 will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39918/05]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the correct date of cessation has been updated on the taxpayer's record and a letter issued to the taxpayer on 13 December 2005 confirming this. As all other information on the P45 was correct, it is not necessary for the person's previous employer to issue an amended P45.

John Cregan

Question:

195 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Finance the reason a claim for a refund of DIRT was refused to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9; his views on the matter; and if arrangements will be made to have the amount due awarded. [39919/05]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there has not been a refusal to refund DIRT in this case. They have confirmed to me that on 18 May 1999 a refund of DIRT of €104.59 was made for the tax year 1998-99. In April 2005, a further claim for a refund was submitted for that year for an additional amount of €103.47. They accordingly advised the taxpayer that a refund was to issue for that amount. However, due to an oversight the cheque did not issue.

The Revenue Commissioners have now confirmed that the refund will issue over the coming days, together with interest of €4 as a result of the delay in making this refund.

Question No. 196 answered with QuestionNo. 184.

Child Care Services.

David Stanton

Question:

197 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance the Department responsible for the administration and payment of the early child care supplement which was introduced in budget 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39921/05]

The administration and payment of the early child care supplement, which I announced in budget 2006, will be carried out on an agency basis by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The first payment, covering the second quarter of 2006, will be made in mid-2006.

In order to bring greater coherence to the sector, the Government has decided to establish an office of the Minister for children, under the Minister of State with responsibility for children, Deputy Brian Lenihan, which will be responsible for child care, together with other aspects of policy for children generally.

Departmental Programmes.

John Perry

Question:

198 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance the directive he has issued to Sligo County Council for funding to a company (details supplied) through EU Peace II extension programme measure 3.3; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39922/05]

The aim of this unique EU programme is to promote reconciliation and help to build a more peaceful and stable society in Northern Ireland and the six southern Border counties: Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth. Because of the valuable role the Peace II programme is playing in this region, the Irish and British Governments successfully sought an extension to the programme until 2006. The primary purpose of the Peace II programme is to promote reconciliation. Therefore, both Administrations and the European Commission decided, following widespread consultation, that there would be a greater focus on reconciliation in the Peace II extension.

All applications under the programme are assessed on merit. As well as being marked on measure specific criteria, projects applying for funds from the Peace II extension must also demonstrate how they promote reconciliation. The Deputy will be aware that Sligo task force is one of the implementing bodies for this measure. The application by the company referred to will be assessed by the task force and scored along with other project applications by an independent panel of five people. Successful projects will then be brought before the task force for ratification.

The assessment panel expects to meet in early January with the ratification meeting of the task force following shortly thereafter.

Communications Masts.

John Gormley

Question:

199 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Finance if the mobile phone networks operating masts on Ardee House, Rathmines, Dublin 6, have acceded to his requests to deactivate these masts; if discussions are still ongoing; when he expects discussions to conclude; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39923/05]

Eoin Ryan

Question:

203 Mr. Eoin Ryan asked the Minister for Finance the position in relation to the switching off of the two mobile network operators (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40143/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 199 and 203 together.

The two mobile phone operators who have equipment installed on Ardee House have informed the Commissioners of Public Works that they do not intend to comply with the request to deactivate their equipment.

The commissioners have requested the companies to reconsider their decision and will not grant any further licences in respect of State buildings to them, pending the report of the interdepartmental committee on the health effects of electromagnetic radiation.

Tax Code.

John Cregan

Question:

200 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Finance the threshold for inheritance tax between brothers and sisters; if same is different if persons live together; when these thresholds were last adjusted; and if improvement is under construction. [39924/05]

The threshold for inheritance tax between brothers and sisters is the group B threshold, which was €46,673 for the year 2005. The group thresholds are indexed annually by reference to the consumer price index. Any other gifts-inheritances received by the beneficiary from within the same group B threshold — that is, from uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters or grandparents — since 5 December 1991, will also be taken into account when applying the threshold for the purpose of calculating inheritance tax.

The inheritance tax threshold is the same, irrespective of whether the brothers and sisters are living together. However, section 151 of the Finance Act 2000 introduced a valuable exemption from gift-inheritance tax for certain dwelling houses. The purpose of the exemption is to benefit individuals who have been living in a house for a period prior to taking the benefit, either by way of gift or inheritance. The main conditions of the dwelling house exemption are that the beneficiary of the dwelling house must have resided in the house for a minimum of three years prior to the gift or inheritance and must not have had an interest in any other dwelling house. The beneficiary must also continue, except where he or she is aged 55 years or over at the date of the gift or inheritance, to occupy that dwelling house as his-her only or main residence for a period of six years commencing on the date of the gift or inheritance. This exemption ensures that what may be the family home for many people will not be subject to gift or inheritance tax when it is transferred.

In addition to the introduction of the dwelling house relief, the Finance Act 2000 also increased the capital acquisitions tax, CAT, exemption thresholds and introduced a single rate of CAT at 20%. These measures were specifically designed to reduce the impact of gift-inheritance tax where assets with average values are transferred. I have no plans at present to make any further changes to the CAT system.

Dan Boyle

Question:

201 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Finance if female clergy and spouses of other taxpayers are not open to have their tax assessed individually. [39934/05]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a married couple living together is deemed to have elected for joint assessment commencing with the year following the year of marriage. However, notwithstanding this, either spouse may elect to be taxed either: (a) as if the marriage had not taken place — i.e. to be taxed as single individuals); or (b) under separate assessment — that is, taxed as single individuals with the proviso that the joint tax liability of the couple under separate assessment cannot exceed that which would apply if they had elected to be taxed under joint assessment. The Revenue explanatory leaflet, IT 2 Taxation of Married Couples, is available on the Revenue website, www.revenue.ie.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

202 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance his Department’s original estimated VAT bill to be paid on the lease of the passport facility at Balbriggan; the amount of VAT actually paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40139/05]

The VAT on creation of this lease was originally estimated for budgetary purposes at over €1 million. The actual amount paid was €978,750.00.

Under the relevant Revenue regulations, the landlord is free to choose one of three methods of calculation of the VAT and the result must pass an economic value test, designed as an anti-evasion measure.

On completion of this agreement the OPW notified the Revenue Commissioners' special inquiries branch of the terms of the lease. It is also a condition of the lease that a valid tax clearance certificate is produced by the landlord on an annual basis to allow rent and other charges to be paid to him.

Question No. 203 answered with QuestionNo. 199.

Paul McGrath

Question:

204 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the tax liability in 2006 of a single income married couple with principal earnings (details supplied) and where the spouse has income of €10,000 and €10,000 from minding three children in their own home. [40155/05]

The tax liability in the scenarios outlined by the Deputy will be as follows:

Scenario 1 — Tax liability for 2006 of a married couple, the main earner having PAYE income of €41,000, and the spouse with non-PAYE income of €10,000 and a further €10,000 from minding three children in the couple's own home.1

Total joint income of couple€61,000

Less exempt childminding income€10,000

Net joint taxable income of couple€51,000

Tax of main earner €41,000 @ 20% =€8,200

Tax of spouse €10,000 @ 20% =€2,000

Gross tax due€10,200

Less tax credits

Married credit (€3,260)

PAYE credit (€1,490)(€4,750)

Net tax payable€5,450

Note: If the income from childminding exceeds €10,000, then all the income from childminding will be taxable under self assessment.

Scenario 2 — Tax liability for 2006 of a married couple, the main earner having PAYE income of €64,000, and the spouse with non-PAYE income of €10,000 and a further €10,000 from minding three children in the couple's own home.1

Total joint income of couple€84,000

Less exempt childminding income€10,000

Net joint taxable income of couple€74,000

Tax of main earner €41,000 @ 20% =€8,200

€23,000 @ 20% =€9,660

Tax of spouse €10,000 @ 20% =€2,000

Gross tax due€19,860

Less tax credits

Married credit (€3,260)

PAYE credit (€1,490)(€4,750)

Net tax payable€15,110

1childminding scheme as outlined in the Minister's Financial Statement in Budget 2006.

Employment Protection.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

205 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the measures he is proposing to take to ensure that a high end cable ADSL link is installed to protect the crucial jobs at a company (details supplied) in County Donegal; if assistance will be given to this company. [39690/05]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the private sector companies operating in a fully liberalised market, regulated by the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg.

Technological advances have brought broadband to the forefront of communications in just a few years, but the service providers have not risen to the challenge to deliver the service in all areas. Market forces and the availability of suitable infrastructure and backhaul, will determine whether a company offers broadband in any area.

A principal reason for the slow rollout of broadband services generally has been the lack of investment by the private sector in suitable infrastructure. My Department is addressing the infrastructure deficit by building open-access metropolitan area networks, MANs, in 120 towns and cities nationwide, in association with localauthorities, using Government and European regional development fund funding under the National Development Plan 2000-06. MANs have already been completed in Gaoth Dobhair and Letterkenny, while MANs for Buncrana and Carndonagh are at the planning stage.

Other initiatives, such as my Department's group broadband scheme, are delivering broadband to many underserved areas, including 16 locations in County Donegal. The broadband for schools project is moving ahead rapidly and will see broadband connectivity in every primary and post-primary school by early 2006. The rapid spread of broadband availability resulting from these initiatives should provide the stimulus for private sector companies to promote their services more actively.

The Government recently directed Departments to examine what could be done to alleviate the employment situation in County Donegal, with particular focus on infrastructure development. Officials from my Department have since met with representatives from Donegal County Council as well as local interest groups and are currently examining a number of options.

I understand that the community networked services, CNS, project, which is funded by INTERREG IIIA and the International Fund for Ireland, is due to be completed in 2006. Further details can be requested from the promoter at their website www.ernact.net.

My Department's website, www.broadband.gov.ie, gives full details of broadband availability in all areas, including ADSL, cable, fibre, satellite and fixed wireless. The website also lists prices of the various service levels on offer and contact details for each service provider.

Overseas Development Aid.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

206 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on further aid being made available to help the plight of those affected by the earthquake in Pakistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39906/05]

It is now estimated that over 74,000 people lost their lives in the earthquake which struck south Asia, including Pakistan and India, on 8 October 2005. In particular, the earthquake severely affected the North West Frontier and Kashmir provinces of Pakistan. An estimated 3.5 million people have been left homeless by the disaster.

Within hours of the disaster, the Government pledged €1 million in humanitarian relief assistance. This funding was quickly increased to €5 million when the scale of the destruction became apparent, with funding swiftly disbursed to UN and other international agencies as well as NGOs for their life-saving emergency response on the ground.

This week, I have pledged a further €5 million to the relief and recovery effort. This brings to €10 million the funds that have been made available by the Government, and places Ireland as one of the highest donors per capita to this disaster. As of today, €3 million of this additional funding has already been released to Concern and Trócaire, as well as UN and other international agencies, including the International Red Cross movement. The balance of €2 million will be programmed in the new year as the needs of the affected communities are further assessed.

In this package, funding has been provided to deliver urgently needed temporary shelters, blankets, food, medical care and water and sanitation services to the affected populations. Because of the changing dynamics of this disaster and, in particular, the impact of the onset of winter, this humanitarian relief is still required and will be for some months to come.

I can assure the Deputy that I am monitoring the situation on the ground extremely carefully as it continues to evolve. I will continue to ensure that Irish assistance is delivered in a focused and effective manner.

International Trade.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

207 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the actions the Government is taking to ensure that business here avails of the opportunities in the Ukraine in view of the granting of free market economy status to the Ukraine and pending admission to the World Trade Organisation; the steps which are being taken to address the declining trade between Ireland and the Ukraine at a time when Ukrainian imports are generally growing rapidly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39908/05]

Most of the issues raised by Deputy O'Connor are covered by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and my colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, is responding to a similar question tabled by the Deputy.

I wish to add that advancing Ireland's economic interests abroad is a key role of my Department and its embassies. Our embassy in Prague, which is accredited to Ukraine, will continue — with the support of our headquarters staff, the State agencies and other Departments — to assist Irish business in identifying new market opportunities and in gaining and maintaining access for Irish goods and services. The embassy works particularly closely with Enterprise Ireland, which is planning a trade mission to Ukraine for 2006.

I paid the first official visit by an Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs to Ukraine in July in my role as UN special envoy. I used the opportunity to meet Foreign Minister Borys Tarasjuk and signed a memorandum of understanding on high-level political consultations with him. There are follow-up plans for Foreign Minister Tarasjuk to pay an official visit to Ireland early in 2006, which will provide an opportunity to strengthen and develop further all aspects of the bilateral relationship.

Northern Ireland Issues.

John Cregan

Question:

208 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has data available regarding the economic situation in Northern Ireland, particularly regarding unemployment levels in two communities; the numbers unemployed; the percentage of the workforce unemployed; the numbers unemployed five and ten years ago; and the breakdown between the two communities. [39937/05]

The table sets out the data requested by the Deputy, the numbers and percentages unemployed in Northern Ireland and the breakdown between the communities in 1995, 2000, and 2005 respectively.

Spring 1995

Spring 2000

Spring 2005

Protestant

Unemployed (number)

33,000

18,500

12,000

Unemployed percentage

8.4%

4.8%

2.9%

Catholic

Unemployed (number)

39,500

29,500

19,500

Unemployed percentage

14.8%

10.1%

6.5%

Northern Ireland

Unemployed (number)

77,000

50,000

35,500

Unemployed percentage

10.9%

6.9%

4.6%

As is clear from the data shown above, the total number of unemployed in Northern Ireland has more than halved over the past decade, falling from 77,000 in spring 1995 to 35,500 in spring 2005. In the same period, the numbers of Protestants unemployed has fallen from 33,000 to 12,000, and the number of Catholics from 39,500 to 19,500.

Despite those improvements, however, the unemployment differential between the two communities has remained broadly static over the past decade and is still twice the level for Catholics as for Protestants. That remains of concern to the Government, and work is ongoing within the framework of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference to make progress in tackling the problem.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

209 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding the provision of a replacement swimming pool in Naas, County Kildare. [39867/05]

I approved the detailed contract documents submitted by Kildare County Council for the Naas swimming pool project in March 2005. Following that approval, Kildare County Council indicated to my Department that it proposed to change the site for the project. The council recently submitted an addendum to the preliminary report and the detailed contract documents regarding the proposed new site, and that documentation is now under consideration in my Department.

Community Employment Schemes.

Jack Wall

Question:

210 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the provisions set aside in budget 2006 to deal with a group (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39727/05]

The Kildare centres for the unemployed in Leixlip, Athy and Newbridge are currently funded by FÁS through the community employment programme.

The community employment project based in the Leixlip resource centre for the unemployed recommenced on 3 October 2005 for a further 12 month period and has been approved to employ 15 participants and one supervisor.

The community employment project based in Newbridge and Athy resource centres for the unemployed have also been approved for a further 12 month period to employ 32 participants and two supervisors. The current community employment contract will end on 20 January 2006. However, the community employment national monitoring committee has given approval for continued funding for a further 12 month period from 23 January 2006 to 20 January 2007.

Total funding allocated by FÁS to the community employment projects sponsored by the County Kildare centres for the unemployed will be approximately €656,000. The funding allocated from FÁS for the resource centres for the unemployed in Newbridge and Athy is approximately €446,000 for the 12 month period 23 January 2006 to 20 January 2007. Funding allocated for the Leixlip resource centre for the unemployed project is approximately €210,000 for the 12 month period which commenced on 3 October 2005.

County Kildare centres for the unemployed are Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU, information and opportunity centres and as such have received funding from ICTU to support their operations in that regard. The amount of funding allocated by ICTU to support the work of its centres is an internal matter for ICTU.

Company Closures.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

211 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, in view of the commitment given on 12 December 2002 in the presence of 14 public representatives and trade union officials that workers who had been made redundant at a company (details supplied) in County Kilkenny would benefit from improvements in statutory redundancy payments that were then pending, the steps he intends to take to ensure that this commitment is honoured; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39691/05]

On 12 December 2002, following the announcement of the closure of the Comerama factory with a loss of over 160 jobs, the Tánaiste, together with officials of the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment, met a SIPTU delegation representing the Comerama workers.

From the official minutes of that meeting, it appears that the main concern of the workers, many, if not most, of whom had already been made redundant, was that if a deal on enhanced redundancy rates under partnership were made, it should be retrospective to the workers concerned. In that context, the Tánaiste gave an undertaking to do everything she could to ensure that the Comerama workers would get the retrospection. That undertaking was recorded in the official note of the meeting prepared by the official attending as follows: "An Tánaiste said that talks were on going regarding the Statutory Redundancy issue. She gave an undertaking that if the legislation is changed she would do everything she could to ensure that the Comerama workers would be included in any amendment".

At the time neither the Tánaiste nor the officials attending the meeting were aware of the legal principle established by the courts that the legislature cannot impose retrospective financial obligations on employers, or indeed anybody else. That was subsequently confirmed in legal advice to the Department. The legal advice from the Attorney General was that the enhanced statutory redundancy payments require legislation to be enacted to be brought into effect and as the payment of a statutory redundancy lump sum is a legal requirement on employers, it could not be imposed on them with retrospective effect. Employers are entitled to due notice, usually about two months, of the intention legally to require them to pay enhanced rates. That legal position was communicated to the Comerama workers.

The factual position regarding the Comerama workers in the Castlecomer plant is that 154 of them had been made redundant long before the new rates of redundancy came into effect. As I understand it, they received substantially more than the then statutory rate in settlement with the company. Thirteen workers made redundant by the liquidator of the company since May 2003 have been paid the new enhanced statutory rates by the Department. However, those amounts were less than the settlements received by the 154 workers who were made redundant before the company went into liquidation and received ex gratia payments.

There are no legal provisions for making additional payments from the public purse either to the 154 workers or those made redundant by the liquidator.

The Comerama facility was purchased by IJM Timber Engineering Limited, the Monaghan-based timber-frame housing company, in March 2004. That project is expected to create 50 jobs over the next 12 months and has the potential to create significant additional employment thereafter.

Of those made redundant, 150 attended interviews with FÁS. Subsequently, 136 people were called for training and 98 of those attended. Most of that training took place between February and June 2003. Some further training was provided for a total of 35 individuals. Training was completed in 2003 and at that time FÁS records indicated that 50% of the workforce who had engaged with FÁS on training programmes had progressed to employment.

I am satisfied that everything possible was done to ensure that the Comerama workers got their full redundancy entitlements and that no commitment was given, nor could one be given, to enhance statutory redundancy payments retrospectively. My colleague the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment met the unions some time ago and discussed with departmental officials all the issues raised at that meeting, in particular, the issue of ring-fencing. The Minister did not consider it possible to facilitate the award of redundancy payments to one set of workers without extending them to everybody else made redundant before the new enhanced rates were introduced, and I fully concur with that decision.

There have been numerous representations made on this matter by both union and public representatives, and a large number of parliamentary questions have been tabled regarding the Comerama workers over the past three years, in addition to Adjournment Debates in both Houses of the Oireachtas. The position remains unchanged. There are no legal provisions for making additional payments from the public purse either to the 154 workers or to those made redundant by the liquidator.

Employment Legislation.

Michael Ring

Question:

212 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will amend employment legislation (details supplied) to ensure that employees who have reached age 66 or over have the same entitlements and rights as those aged between 16 and 66 years, particularly in view of the increasing number of persons who work beyond pension age. [39692/05]

Traditionally, the upper age limit for eligibility for redundancy payment was the same as pensionable age within the meaning of the Social Welfare Acts. In 1971 the upper age limit was 70, in line with the then old age pension age of 70. That was revised downwards by the Redundancy Payments Act 1979 to 66 years, which was the new pensionable age set out in the Social Welfare Act.

The redundancy review group report of July 2002, which produced recommendations for the updating of statutory redundancy legislation, considered that increasing the upper age limit of 66 for redundancy qualification purposes would not be a priority in the short term if resources were scarce.

The group recognised, however, that the labour force is becoming older and that participation in the labour force by older people, if desired, should be facilitated. Accordingly, it was recommended that consideration be given in the medium term to removing the age cap or raising the age cap in conjunction with similar changes to unfair dismissals, equality and social and family legislation as recommended by the Equality Authority.

On 18 July 2004, the upper age limit of 66 for bringing claims under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2001 was removed by the Equality Act 2004. However, the Unfair Dismissals Acts will still not apply to dismissed employees who, at the date of dismissal, had reached the normal retirement age in that employment, that is, if it is the policy in an employment to retire employees at a certain age, the new provisions would not apply. With regard to age-related provisions, the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967 to 2003 are exempted under the Employment Equality Act 2004.

There are no plans at present to remove the upper limit in respect of statutory redundancy. However, in the light of the evolution of age-related legislative provisions and the continuation of 66 years as the social welfare pensionable age, it will be necessary to review the age-related provisions of the Redundancy Payments Acts. That will have to be done prior to making legislative proposals for submission to Government.

International Trade.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

213 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the actions the Government is taking to ensure that business here avails of the opportunities in the Ukraine in view of the granting of free market economy status to the Ukraine and pending admission to the World Trade Organisation; the steps which are being taken to address the declining trade between Ireland and the Ukraine at a time when Ukrainian imports are generally growing rapidly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39907/05]

Ukraine is one of Europe's largest countries, with GDP growth of 12.1% in 2004, and is currently one of Europe's fastest-growing economies. To date, it has been a largely untapped market for Irish exports. Significant export market potential exists in Ukraine in telecommunications and IT, construction materials and services, agricultural machinery, food-processing, health care, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, international consulting services, automotive components and aviation services.

The European Union's recent recognition of Ukraine as satisfying the criteria for market economy status will result in an easing of the EU's anti-dumping rules. The country is in the midst of a programme of legal and regulatory change to facilitate its entry into the World Trade Organisation, WTO, and that will likely act as a spur to increased trading activity between Ireland and Ukraine. Negotiations on that issue are ongoing, and it is not possible to state, at this stage, when Ukraine will be formally admitted to the WTO.

While both exports and imports with Ukraine have declined over recent years, figures for the first eight months of this year show a welcome increase compared with the same period in 2004. Exports have increased 16% to €12.9 million and imports increased by 61% to €2.8 million in the same period. The real figure for exports is thought to be higher, as some Irish exports to Ukraine are transacted through third countries.

Enterprise Ireland, EI, is working to expand our trade with Ukraine. In June 2005, EI organised a "Doing Business in Ukraine Seminar", in co-operation with the Ukrainian Embassy in Dublin. A ministerial trade mission to that country is planned for early 2006, and that will act as a focus for existing Irish interest in Ukraine and attract other Irish companies wishing to enter the Ukrainian market. Trade mission participants will have the opportunity to investigate the market thoroughly and interact with their Ukrainian counterparts in a substantive and structured way. I am confident that the trade mission will see tangible results in the expansion of trade between our two countries.

Industrial Disputes.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

214 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the situation which has arisen at a company (details supplied) in County Cork; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that workers have not been paid in three weeks and that company management is behaving in a manner similar to Irish Ferries by attempting to change the employment conditions from full-time to seasonal without proper consultation with the workers; and the actions he intends to take to address the plight of the workers at this company. [39973/05]

I have no direct role in the resolution of this or other similar disputes. I understand that the Deputy's concerns are regarding the reorganisation proposals, where the company has announced that 35 full-time positions will be affected from January 2006. From then, work will be available on a seasonal basis for those staff. It has been reported that the company's proposals could result in a reduction in the number of working weeks per worker to between 26 and 30 weeks per year. The company is also seeking to introduce new shift arrangements.

The union claims that management tried to introduce the new shift arrangements in November, four weeks ahead of schedule. When workers continued to work the old shift pattern, they were issued with written warnings and several workers were suspended. The trade union balloted workers and served notice of industrial action on the company.

At meetings up to and including 6 December 2005 with the company and the trade union, the Labour Relations Commission succeeded in facilitating the resolution of some of the issues in dispute and others were referred to the Labour Court. On 6 December, the Labour Relations Commission made proposals for the resolution of some of the outstanding issues in dispute between the parties. I understand that both the company and the trade union representatives agreed to recommend the commission's proposals to senior management and their members, respectively. However, the trade union members rejected elements of the proposals and industrial action began on Thursday last, 8 December 2005.

The Labour Relations Commission has maintained contact with the parties and invited them to conciliation talks to explore ways of resolving the outstanding issues. The commission met the parties on 13 December but a resolution to the issues in dispute was not found. The Labour Relations Commission intends to keep in contact with the parties with a view to achieving a resolution, and I hope that both sides will engage constructively with the commission in an effort to find a resolution to the dispute.

The system of industrial relations in Ireland is essentially voluntary in nature. For cases, however, where the parties have failed to find a solution to the issues in dispute, the State provides the dispute-settling machinery of the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court. Ultimately, however, responsibility for the resolution of issues in dispute lies with the parties concerned.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Question:

215 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if an appeal can be opened on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo in respect of their claim for the carer’s allowance which was refused. [39701/05]

The person's application for carer's allowance was disallowed by a deciding officer on the grounds that he is working, on his holding, for more than ten hours per week.

The person appealed that decision to the social welfare appeals office. In accordance with the statutory requirements, the relevant departmental papers, including a report from a social welfare inspector and a submission from the deciding officer are being sought. The papers have been referred to the appeals officer, who proposes to hold an oral hearing in the case. At present the person concerned is in receipt of unemployment assistance.

Under social welfare legislation, decisions regarding claims must be made by deciding officers and appeals officers. Those officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Social Welfare Code.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

216 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on amending the situation where persons in receipt of the widow’s pension are restricted in accepting employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39725/05]

Widow's or widower's non-contributory pension is a means tested payment payable to a widow or widower, without dependent children, whose income falls below a certain level and who does not satisfy the contribution conditions for a contributory widow's or widower's payment.

In assessing means for social assistance purposes, account is taken of any cash income the person or his or her spouse may have, together with the value of capital and property, except the home. Weekly means of €7.60 per week are disregarded, and all means in excess of that figure, including those from earnings from employment, are assessed in full.

The recent budget made provision for several very important measures which are designed to target resources at specific groups of people, including widows and widowers. In considering those measures, I was anxious to target those who are at the greatest risk of poverty, to allow people to supplement their social welfare pension through employment, to encourage saving, and to simplify the system of income support for older people who do not receive contributory pensions.

Budget 2006 provides for an increase of €16 per week, 9.6%, for all non-contributory pensioners, including widows and widowers aged 66 or over. Non-contributory pensioners, including widows aged under 66, will receive an increase of €17 per week, 11.4%.

On budget day, I was also pleased to announce that I propose to introduce, in September 2006, a standardised State non-contributory pension, replacing the old-age pension and, for recipients aged 66 and over, the blind pension, widow's or widower's pension, one-parent family payment, deserted wife's allowance and prisoner's wife's allowance.

All the schemes in question feature a common means disregard of €7.60 per week, which has not increased since the 1970s. The means disregard for the new non-contributory pension will be €20 per week, an increase of €12.40 per week. Approximately 34,000 pensioners who currently receive a reduced rate of payment, including 3,380 recipients of widow's or widower's non-contributory pension, will gain as a result of the change. They will receive increases in their payment of up to €12.50 per week in the personal rate and up to €8.30 per week in respect of the qualified adult rate, where applicable.

In addition, I also propose to introduce a specific additional disregard of €100 per week where the pensioner is in employment. That new disregard relating to earnings from employment is intended as an initial incentive to facilitate non-contributory pensioners who wish to continue working, or to re-enter the workforce, to do so. Accordingly, recipients who are in employment will receive an additional increase in their payment, depending on the level of their earnings, over and above the increases that I have already outlined.

Furthermore, consequent on the increase in the means disregard to €20 per week, a single person with no other means will be able to have up to €35,000 in capital and still qualify for a pension at the maximum rate. That figure is doubled in the case of a pensioner couple.

By any standards, the levels of increases announced are exceptional. The proposed modernisation of the current arrangements is also a further demonstration of our commitment to the elderly and to those who have lost their spouses.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

217 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a person was awarded the family income supplement of €65 per week with effect from 1 June 2005 based on income consisting of earnings and back to work allowance of €74.47 per week; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that the back to work allowance was payable in this case from 19 May 2005 to 15 September 2005; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that when their entitlement to back to work allowance ceased they were informed that their family income supplement entitlement could not be reviewed before 31 May 2006; if this person is thereby effectively deprived of an additional €44.82 per week in the family income supplement; his views on whether administrative convenience for his Department justifies such a decision in circumstances where the person concerned was not advised that they would be financially better off if they received their full entitlement to the family income supplement and no back to work allowance; if he will review this case to ensure that this person is not financially disadvantaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39736/05]

Family income supplement, FIS, is designed to provide an incentive for low-paid workers with families to take up or remain in full-time employment.

An integral feature of the scheme is that, once the level of the FIS payment is determined, it continues to be payable at that level for a period of 52 weeks, provided that the claimant remains in employment. However, the rate of payment can be amended where an additional child is born in the course of the 52 weeks.

A key advantage of that approach, which is unique to the FIS scheme, is that claimants can be certain that they will receive a guaranteed level of income support throughout the period. That certainty is important to the success of the scheme in providing a real incentive to workers with families to avail of employment opportunities. For those reasons, rather than for reasons of administrative convenience, this policy measure is specifically provided for in legislation.

On balance, the net impact of the present approach is likely to be significantly positive for workers, given that wage movements are likely to rise rather than fall in the majority of cases during the year. The impact of more regular reviews would most likely be lower payments for most FIS recipients.

Any change in the existing arrangements would require legislative change. Given the nature and purpose of the FIS scheme, I am not convinced that any such change would be appropriate.

Back to work allowance, BTWA, is a transitional employment support measure paid for up to three years to assist the long-term unemployed and other social welfare recipients back to full-time work. It is paid on a reducing basis at 75% of the previous social welfare weekly payment for the first year followed by 50% and 25% respectively for the following two years.

In the specific case to which the Deputy refers, the customer had received BTWA for approximately two years and eight months, after which he became unemployed and transferred back to unemployment assistance. When he subsequently returned to employment, only the balance of four months' BTWA remained to be paid. FIS officials were apparently unaware of that fact when processing his FIS application. As a result, it appears that the customer in question may not have received the best advice at the start of his FIS claim.

In view of the exceptional circumstances as outlined above, both the BTWA and FIS claims will be reviewed, and my officials will be contact the person concerned in the near future.

John McGuinness

Question:

218 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if arrears of rent allowance will be awarded dating back to August 2005 to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if the rent allowance being awarded will be increased; and if an exceptional needs payment will be made relative to their ESB account. [39789/05]

Rent supplements are provided through the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Neither I nor my Department have a function in determining entitlement in individual cases.

The southern area of the executive has advised that the person concerned originally applied for a rent supplement in August 2005. However, it was not possible to process her claim, as the executive could not contact her either by letter or by home visit after her application was lodged.

The person concerned made contact again with the executive earlier this month. By that time, she had moved to new accommodation. The executive advised her that, in the circumstances, the payment of rent supplement would only be considered from December 2005 and regarding her current accommodation. The person has been advised that if she is not satisfied with a rent supplement entitlement determined on this basis, she may appeal the decision to the designated appeals officer of the executive.

The executive can provide an exceptional needs payment through the supplementary welfare allowance scheme to assist with essential, once-off exceptional or unforeseeable expenditure that a person is unable to meet out of his or her household income or other resources. The person concerned should contact her local community welfare office if she wishes to apply for assistance with her electricity costs under that scheme. It is also open to her to apply to my Department to have her fuel allowance eligibility re-assessed in her new household circumstances.

Social Welfare Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

219 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the changes to the qualifying criteria for fuel allowance as a result of budget 2006. [39793/05]

A fuel allowance of €9.00 per week is payable to eligible households during a 29 week winter heating period from the end of September to the middle of April each year. An additional €3.90 per week is payable in the designated urban smokeless fuel zones.

As announced in the recent budget, the rate of fuel allowance will be increased by €5 with effect from January 2006. That increase will bring the basic fuel allowance up to €14 per week, while the rate for recipients in designated smokeless areas will increase to €17.90.

Under existing rules, the fuel allowance is not payable in cases where a person is benefiting from a communal heating service in certain flat complexes provided by Dublin City Council and other local authorities throughout the country. With effect from January 2006, tenants residing in local authority complexes with communal heating arrangements will qualify for fuel allowance from a current date, if they satisfy the other conditions of the scheme.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

220 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons in receipt of fuel allowance for each of the past five years; and the number of old age pensioners and other pension or welfare categories in receipt of a fuel allowance in each of those years and in respect of each pension and welfare category the percentage of that category in receipt of fuel allowance in each of those years. [39794/05]

A fuel allowance of €9 per week is payable to eligible households during a 29-week winter heating period from end-September to mid-April each year. An additional €3.90 per week is payable in the designated urban smokeless fuel zones.

As announced in the recent budget, the rate of fuel allowance will be increased by €5 with effect from January 2006. This increase will bring the basic fuel allowance up to €14 per week while the rate for recipients in designated smokeless areas will increase to €17.90.

The numbers qualifying for the fuel allowance scheme for the years 2000 to 2005 are set out in the following Table 1.

Table 1: Numbers receiving a standard fuel allowance, smokeless fuel supplement 2000 to 2005

Year

Standard Fuel Allowance

Smokeless supplement

Nos.

Nos.

2000

270,000

109,000

2001

265,000

108,000

2002

259,000

115,000

2003

270,000

118,000

2004

272,000

121,000

2005

274,000

123,000

My Department does not have statistics on the number of recipients of the fuel allowance broken down by social welfare scheme for the last five years. However, details on the current fuel allowance recipients by social welfare category is given in Table 2.

Table 2.

Category

Number with Fuel Allowance

Number with Fuel as % of total number in category

%

Old Age Pensioners:

79,000

26

Widowed:

50,000

40

Invalidity / Disability:

47,000

20

Lone Parent /Deserted:

51,000

56

Other Welfare Schemes:

47,000

23

Total:

274,000

Social Welfare Appeals.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

221 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a decision will be reached in regard to the appeal of a person (details supplied) in County Waterford regarding their social welfare allowance appeal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39797/05]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Neither I nor my Department has any function in relation to decisions on individual claims.

The statutory rules of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme provide that, where it is determined that an applicant has deprived himself or herself of an income in order to qualify for an allowance, the income foregone continues to be assessable as means for eligibility purposes.

The southern area of the executive has advised that payment of rent supplement was refused on the basis that the person concerned had left full-time employment in order to participate in a training course. It has further advised that the person concerned appealed this decision to the designated area appeals officer within the executive and that the decision of the community welfare officer was upheld. The person concerned has a further right of appeal against this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Denis Naughten

Question:

222 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to allow persons to continue to work and pay PRSI pension contributions beyond pension age to gain eligibility for an old age contributory pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39843/05]

In order to qualify for a contributory pension a person must satisfy a number of conditions in relation to social insurance contributions. However, only contributions made to the end of the contribution year before a person reaches pension age may be counted towards satisfying these qualifying conditions.

An increase in workforce participation of older people is one of the more important measures identified at EU level as a means of ensuring the sustainability of pensions systems in the future. In this regard, one of the issues examined by the Pensions Board in its report on the national pensions review, which I recently received from the board, is the incentives we can offer to encourage longer working among older people. Options to enhance a person's social welfare pension through longer working could be an important measure in this area, and one which deserves very serious consideration.

The national pensions review will be published early in the new year. I hope it will engender a national debate on the future direction of Ireland's pensions system and following on from this I would plan to bring forward a number of measures in this area for consideration by the Government.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

223 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to the announcement in the budget 2006 speech that earnings from employment of €100 per week will be disregarded in the means test for non-contributory old age pension, the steps he has taken or intends to take to ensure that a person will not lose secondary benefits such as fuel allowance, medical card or others if they choose to exploit this reform; the discussions he has had with other Ministers in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40000/05]

In assessing means for non-contributory pension purposes, account is taken of any cash income the person or his or her spouse may have, together with the value of capital and property, except the home. Weekly means of €7.60 per week are disregarded and all means in excess of that figure, including those from earnings from employment, are assessed in full.

The recent budget made provision for a number of very important measures which are designed to target resources at particular groups of older people. In considering these measures I was anxious to target those who are at the greatest risk of poverty; allow people to supplement their social welfare pension through employment; encourage saving; and simplify the system of income support for older people who do not receive contributory pensions.

Budget 2006 provides for an increase of €16 per week, 9.6%, for all non-contributory pensioners. Non-contributory pensioners will receive an increase of €17 per week, 11.4%. The fuel allowance is being increased by €5 a week.

On budget day I was also pleased to announce that I proposed to introduce, in September 2006, a standardised State non-contributory pension, replacing the old age pension and, for recipients aged 66 and over, the blind pension, widower's pension, one parent family payment, deserted wife's allowance and prisoner's wife's allowance.

All the schemes in question feature a common means disregard of €7.60 per week, which has not increased since the 1970s. The means disregard for the new non-contributory pension will be €20 per week, an increase of €12.40 per week. Approximately 34,000 pensioners who are currently in receipt of a reduced rate of payment will gain from this change. The increase in the personal rate of payment will be up to €12.50 per week while the qualified adult rate, where applicable, will increase by up to €8.30 per week.

In addition, I also propose to introduce a specific additional disregard of €100 per week where the pensioner is in employment. This new disregard relating to earnings from employment is intended as an initial incentive to facilitate non-contributory pensioners who wish to continue working, or to re-enter the workforce. Accordingly, recipients who are in employment will receive an additional increase, depending on the level of their earnings, in their rate of payment over and above the increases I have already outlined.

The usual rules continue to apply in relation to entitlement to secondary benefits such as the fuel allowance etc. However, I was pleased to announce changes in the rules governing the rent and mortgage interest supplement in particular, which will allow persons to earn more from part-time work and retain entitlement. Entitlement to a medical card is a matter for my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children.

Furthermore, consequent on the increase in the means disregard to €20 per week, a single person with no other means will be able to have up to €35,000 in capital and still qualify for a pension at the maximum rate. This figure is doubled in the case of a pensioner couple.

By any standards, the levels of increases announced in the budget are exceptional. The proposed modernisation of the current arrangements is also a further demonstration of our commitment to all those who are elderly.

Liam Aylward

Question:

224 Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the new earnings disregard of €100 per week for non-contributory pensioners includes settlements made between parents and children where farms were transferred to the children and a financial settlement drawn up by solicitors. [40013/05]

In assessing means for non-contributory pension purposes, account is taken of any cash income the person or his or her spouse may have, together with the value of capital and property, except the home. Weekly means of €7.60 per week are disregarded and all means in excess of that figure, including those from earnings from employment, are assessed in full.

The recent budget made provision for a number of very important measures which are designed to target resources at particular groups of older people. In considering these measures I was anxious to target those who are at the greatest risk of poverty; allow people to supplement their social welfare pension through employment; encourage saving; and simplify the system of income support for older people who do not receive contributory pensions.

Budget 2006 provides for an increase of €16 per week, 9.6%, for all non-contributory pensioners. Non-contributory pensioners will receive an increase of €17 per week, 11.4%.

On budget day, I was also pleased to announce that I proposed to introduce, in September 2006, a standardised State non-contributory pension, replacing the old age pension and, for recipients aged 66 and over, the blind pension, widower's pension, one parent family payment, deserted wife's allowance and prisoner's wife's allowance.

All the schemes in question feature a common means disregard of €7.60 per week, which has not increased since the 1970s. The means disregard for the new non-contributory pension will be €20 per week, an increase of €12.40 per week. Approximately 34,000 recipients of a reduced rate of the relevant payments will gain. The increase in the personal rate of payment will be up to €12.50 per week while the qualified adult rate, where applicable, will increase by up to €8.30 per week. This increase in the means disregard will benefit all those who are assessed with means derived from financial settlements with their children or others.

In addition, I also propose to introduce a specific additional disregard of €100 per week where the pensioner is in employment. This new disregard relating to earnings from employment is intended as an initial incentive to facilitate non-contributory pensioners who wish to continue working or to re-enter the workforce. Accordingly, recipients who are in employment will receive an additional increase, depending on the level of their earnings, in their rate of payment over and above the increase outlined above.

Furthermore, consequent on the increase in the means disregard to €20 per week, a single person with no other means will be able to have up to €35,000 in capital and still qualify for a pension at the maximum rate. This figure is doubled in the case of a pensioner couple.

By any standards, the levels of increases announced are exceptional. The proposed modernisation of the current arrangements is also a further demonstration of our commitment to all those who are elderly.

Pension Provisions.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

225 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason the situation exists whereby a spouse, who has not worked up sufficient credits in their own right, is entitled to be included in their partner’s pension payments. [40127/05]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

226 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his plans to respect the dignity of Irish workers not entitled to a full State pension (details supplied) to be provided with a reduced or partial pension in their own right. [40128/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 225 and 226 together.

The social welfare pensions system comprises both social insurance and non-contributory payments. Payment of the former depends on a person achieving a minimum level of social insurance contributions over their working lives while the latter is subject to a means test. Within that basic structure every effort is made to ensure that as a many people as possible can qualify for a pension in their own right.

In common with most social security systems, the Irish social welfare system provides for additional payments to be made where an insured person claiming a benefit or pension has an adult or child dependant. In the case of adult dependants payment of the allowance is subject to an income test. At present, the full allowance is payable where a spouse or partner has income up to €88.88 per week with reduced allowances paid up to an income level of €220 per week. From January 2006 the upper income threshold increases to €240 per week.

A number of measures have been introduced over the years which make it easier for people to qualify for contributory pensions. These include the reduction in the yearly average number of contributions required for pension purposes from 20 to ten and the introduction of special half rate pensions based on pre-53 insurance contributions. Pro-rata pensions are also available to allow people with mixed rate insurance records receive a payment. This set of measures is of particular benefit to women who may have less than complete social insurance records due to working in the home.

The social welfare pension rights of those who take time out of the workforce for caring duties are protected by the homemakers scheme which was introduced from 1994. The scheme allows up to 20 years spent caring for children or incapacitated adults to be disregarded when a persons social insurance record is being averaged for pension purposes. However, the scheme will not of itself qualify a person for a pension. The standard qualifying conditions, which require a person to enter insurance ten years before pension age, pay a minimum of 260 contributions at the correct rate and achieve a yearly average of at least ten contributions on their record from the time they enter insurance until they reach pension age must also be satisfied.

There are those who will not benefit from the homemakers scheme and who cannot qualify for a pension in their own right. In this regard, the Government is committed to increasing the payment for qualified adults, age 66 or over, to the same level as the personal rate of the old age non-contributory pension and to facilitating the direct payment of the allowance to spouses and partners.

Budget 2006 increased the qualified adult rates for age 66 or over by €10.80 per week for contributory pensioners and by €10.60 per week for non-contributory pensioners. Also, since 2002, new pension claimants can now opt to have the qualified adult allowance paid directly to their spouse or partner. The administrative and legislative implications of enhancing these provisions are under active consideration by my Department and I intend to progress the matter in the coming year.

In relation to the non-contributory pension, in budget 2006, I made changes to the income disregards allowed under the means test. The basic income disregard was increased by €12.40 per week to €20 and I also introduced an earnings disregard of €100 per week. These allowances are doubled in the case of couples and will allow more people to qualify for social welfare pensions.

I will continue to look for ways, within the current social welfare structure, to increase the number of people who can receive payments in their own right.

Rail Network.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

227 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if Irish Rail were instructed to complete a review of rail fare structures by end 2004; if so, the outcome of this review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39688/05]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

228 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding the recent fare increase application made to him by Irish Rail and Dublin Bus; if, in relation to Irish Rail’s application, he will consider withholding an increase on its services until Irish Rail’s review of fare structures is completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39689/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 227 and 228 together.

The structures of rail fares are a matter for Iarnród Éireann itself. I understand from the company that a review of rail fares was carried out in 2004 which resulted in the rationalization of some fares. The company has recently informed me that it intends undertaking a thorough review of ticketing and fare structures in 2006.

The applications for a fares increase made by the three CIE operating companies are currently being examined by my Department and a decision on the matter will be made shortly.

Property Damage.

John Gormley

Question:

229 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport the person responsible for damage to private property caused by the vibration of overflights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39786/05]

It is not possible to give a definite to answer to such a hypothetical question. A property owner who believes that his property has been damaged by an aircraft would need to seek legal advice.

Rail Services.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

230 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport, further to Parliamentary Question No. 288 of 29 November 2005, and his remarks that it is his policy that Irish Rail remains in the rail freight industry and Irish Rail has made good progress in growing the rail freight business in areas where it holds a competitive advantage over road haulage, such as in the carriage of sugar beet, cement and pulpwood, the evidence available to him of any growth in cement rail freight business, and in the absence of same, the policy changes he envisages. [39787/05]

Irish Rail has informed me that bulk cement tonnage carried by rail increased from 425,656 tonnes in 2002 to almost 450,000 tonnes in 2004. Final figures for the carriage of bulk cement in 2005 are not yet available. However, I understand from Irish Rail that due to line closures for resignalling and infrastructure upgrading on the Waterford line, as well as major renovations currently being carried out in the Limerick cement plant, the tonnage carried this year may be reduced. Irish Rail continues to review opportunities for viable rail freight business, including in the cement industry.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

231 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport when the public inquiry into the Kildare route project will be held; and the number of submissions he received following the publication of the railway order. [39857/05]

Upon receipt of CIE's application for a railway order for the Kildare route project, and under the provisions of the Transport (Railway Infrastructure) Act 2001, I directed a public inquiry be held into the application and I appointed Mr. PatrickButler SC to hold that inquiry. The inspector has today directed that the public inquiry will open on 24 January 2006. A preliminary hearing to explain procedural and other arrangements will be held on 23 January.

I have received a total of 58 submissions in relation to the proposed works. Under the provisions of the Act, I am obliged to consider these submissions, as well as CIE's application and the inspector's report into the public inquiry, before I make a decision on whether to grant the railway order.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

232 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport when tenders will be invited for the resignalling project for the city centre to increase train paths per direction per hour from 12 to 16 into Connolly Station. [39858/05]

I am informed by Iarnród Éireann that a design team is currently being assembled and it is anticipated that work will commence in the latter part of 2006.

While the work involved will be carried out primarily by Iarnród Éireann in-house staff, the company intends to tender for additional resources as necessary in a support capacity.

Public Transport.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

233 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if, in view of the granting of a licence to Dublin Bus to provide a new 7.50 a.m. service from Glen Easton in Leixlip, County Kildare to the city centre and Dublin Bus’s application for an evening licence, funding will be sanctioned for the purchase of an additional bus to operate this route, details supplied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39876/05]

The scheduling and deployment of its bus fleet is an operational matter for Dublin Bus. However, under Transport 21 and in advance of the completion of the Dublin Bus network review which is due to be completed early in 2006, I approved a request from the company for funding for 20 additional buses this year.

Parking Facilities.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

234 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport the locations of the proposed park and ride facilities currently being considered for development in County Kildare. [39883/05]

I regard the provision of adequate park and ride facilities at appropriate locations as a vital component in achieving the goal of attracting more people onto public transport. Earlier this year, my Department approved a strategy for rail-based park and ride facilities for the greater Dublin area prepared by the Dublin Transportation Office. We have included a financial provision for park and ride facilities in Transport 21. I have already indicated that I will be providing capital funding for the development of new park and ride facilities across the country, subject to the submission of proposals, with comprehensive capital appraisals, which will be evaluated on their merits. I expect to receive specific proposals in the near future.

Air Services.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

235 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport the discussions which have taken place between his Department, Aer Rianta and Weston Aerodrome regarding the issue of air traffic control at Weston; if such discussions have not taken place if there is an intention to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39886/05]

Neither the Department of Transport nor Aer Rianta, now the Dublin Airport Authority, have had discussions with Weston aerodrome regarding the issue of air traffic control at the aerodrome, nor are there plans to have such discussions. Air traffic control is the responsibility of the Irish Aviation Authority and I have no function in the matter.

Rail Network.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

236 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the amount of funding allocated for 2006 to provide for the outlying design scheme for the Navan to Dublin rail line; the person or body to whom he has given charge of this project; and when he expects the outlying design scheme to be completed. [39960/05]

Funding for the Dublin to Navan rail line is provided for under Transport 21. The line will be developed in two phases and the first phase will involve a spur off the western line at Clonsilla to Pace, beyond Dunboyne. Iarnród Éireann has already completed a feasibility study for this phase and design and planning work will be undertaken in 2006. Further studies will be required with regard to extending the line from Pace to Navan. Iarnród Éireann has requested funding of €1.7 million in 2006 with regard to work on the Navan line.

Departmental Agencies.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

237 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the amount of funding provided in each case in the 2006 Estimates for all agencies under the auspices of his Department; and the number of staff employed by each and the cost thereof. [39961/05]

Details of funding in the 2006 Estimates for non-commercial agencies under the auspices of the Department, covering their administration and staff costs, are set out in the table below.

Agency

Total admin, incl. pay

Pay

No. of staff

€000s

€000s

Dublin Transportation Office

1,082

617

28

National Safety Council

4,848

711

11

Medical Bureau of Road Safety

2,142

1,137

17

National Roads Authority

13,080

9,350

124

Railway Procurement Agency

11,000

4,500

73

Departmental Staff.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

238 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the extent of legal expertise that exists within his Department; the vacancies that currently exist and the proportion this represents of all legal staff. [40106/05]

There are no posts in this Department which have legal expertise as a requirement and as a consequence, there are no vacancies. Some staff members have legal expertise but it is not a normal requirement.

Road Traffic Offences.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

239 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport his plans to make overtaking a school bus an offence when it is stopped to drop off students. [40117/05]

I understand that the Department of Education and Science, in conjunction with Bus Éireann, initiated a school bus flashing lights pilot scheme in Ennis in January of this year. Consideration of the creation of a road traffic offence of the kind suggested by the Deputy will be informed by the outcome and evaluation of these pilot measures.

Light Rail Project.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

240 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport the timeframes and routes for the operation of a Luas link to Lucan and Clondalkin as indicated in the Transport 21 plan. [40118/05]

Transport 21 includes a Luas line from Lucan to the city centre. This line is scheduled for completion in 2013. The detailed planning work, public consultation and the statutory approval process will determine the precise route that the Luas line will take.

Rail Services.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

241 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport the timeframes and routes for the operation of a Metro serving Liffey Valley shopping centre, Lucan and Clondalkin as indicated in the Transport 21 plan. [40119/05]

Transport 21 includes a metro line — metro west — linking Tallaght with Clondalkin, Blanchardstown and Ballymun. It is expected that metro west will be completed in phases between 2010 and 2014. The detailed planning work, public consultation and the statutory approval process will determine the precise route that the metro line will take.

Public Transport.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

242 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport if the 20 buses announced as part of the Transport 21 plan were already ordered by Dublin Bus in the months preceding the announcement; and if any of the buses are earmarked for routes in the Clondalkin and Lucan area. [40122/05]

At the launch of Transport 21, I announced that, in response to a request from Dublin Bus, I had approved funding for 20 additional buses in 2005. The buses had been ordered as part of Dublin Bus's replacement programme but, in order to provide increased capacity at the earliest possible date, the 20 buses will now become additions to the Dublin Bus fleet. The deployment of buses is a day-to-day operational matter for Dublin Bus but the company informs me that both Clondalkin and Lucan will benefit from the entry into service of the additional buses.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

243 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport if his Department will ring-fence funding for a regular bus service from Clondalkin to Tallaght, in view of the lack of a real service and the lack of available resources at Dublin Bus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40123/05]

In recent years, the Government has significantly increased the subvention paid to Dublin Bus from €8.8 million in 1997 to €64.9 million in 2005, an increase of 637%. In 2006, the subvention to CIE will increase by a further 5%. In addition to this 5% increase, a further €1.7 million will be allocated to Dublin Bus in 2006 to operate the 20 additional buses for which I gave approval recently. The provision of services on a particular route is a matter for Dublin Bus itself, having regard to the demand for such services and compliance with the requirements of the Transport Act 1958 and the administrative arrangements established to support those requirements.

Road Safety.

Enda Kenny

Question:

244 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport when proposed regulations regarding window film grades are to be implemented; if so, the length of time this process will take; the specifics of the regulation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40141/05]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 302 of 13 December 2005. It is a requirement for the registration and entry-into-service of new cars in the European Union 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. Concerns have been expressed about modifications to the glazing and exhaust systems of motor vehicles which result in excessively "blacked-out" windows and noisy exhausts and it has been suggested that such modifications could be made reasons for failure of the NCT.

I would like to clarify matters in that regard. Before proceeding to review existing NCT arrangements, it would be necessary to develop national technical standards for glazing opacity with regard to motor vehicles and then, taking into account the results of regulatory impact assessments, to amend the construction, equipment and use of vehicles regulations and the NCT regulations, taking account of these standards. It would also be necessary to submit the draft amending regulations to the European Commission for consideration and for referral to other member states in accordance with the technical standards and regulations directive, Directive 98/34/EC, before they could come into force. A timeframe in the order of 12 months would be required to complete such a course of action.

Given the complexity of the issues relating to the modification of vehicles, I intend to have the matters of excessively "blacked-out" windows, noisy exhausts and some other issues examined by an expert group. In that regard, one of the recommendations contained in the PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the mid-term review of the NCTS is the establishment of a technical standards forum to consider and make recommendations regarding vehicle technical matters associated with the NCT. It is my intention to implement that recommendation and, in that context, the matters of excessively "blacked-out" windows will be referred to the technical standards forum for consideration upon its establishment. Until such time as I receive the views of the technical standards forum on these matters, it would be premature to introduce changes to the existing statutory requirements.

Community Development.

Michael Ring

Question:

245 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the community which covers an area in County Mayo; and if a supplementary grant will be approved to that group. [39721/05]

No application has been received by my Department under the 2005 scheme of community support for older people, for a group in the Derrygorman area. I attach, for information, a list of groups in the Mayo area, should the individual in question wish to make an application under the 2006 scheme, which will be advertised early next year.

Organisation

Address

Phone Number

Parkside Community Development Ltd.

30-32 St. Patrick’s Estate, Ballina, County Mayo

096 72258

SVDP St. Colman Conference

Curam, Dalton Street, Claremorris

094 9362096

Cushlough Community Alert

Carrowkennedy, Westport, County Mayo

098 21049

Kilcommon Activity Group for the Elderly

Glenamoy, Ballina, County Mayo

097 87923

Bohola Community Alert

Bohola, Swinford, County Mayo

094 9381597

Ballyhaunis Neighbourhood Watch

Forthill, Ballyhaunis, County Mayo

094 9630956

Fahy Community Alert Group

Cultrean, Westport, County Mayo

098 41126

Pullathomas Inver Community Alert

Pullathomas, Ballina, County Mayo

097 84601

Kilmaine Community Alert

Killmaine, County Mayo

094 9541899

Clare Island Order of Malta

Clare Island, Westport, County Mayo

098 25407

Partry Srah Community Alert

Partry, Claremorris, County Mayo

094 9543113

Taugheen Comm Alert Group

Taugheen, Claremorris, County Mayo

SVDP — Swinford

The Orchard, Park Road, Swinford

094 9251196

Killasser Community Alert

Killasser, Swinford, County Mayo

087-9144910

Aughagower Community Alert

Aughagower, Westport, County Mayo

098 26322

Knock Community Alert

Knock PO, County Mayo

094 9388783

Keel Community Alert (Mayo)

Keel, Westport, County Mayo

Saula Community Alert

Saula, Achill, County Mayo

098 45408

Lacken Community Alert

Carrowmore, Lacken, Ballina

096 34130

Balla Community Alert

3 Churchfield, Balla, County Mayo

086 8230070

Ballinasmalla Garredmond Community Alert

Ballinasmalle, Claremorris, County Mayo

094 9371632

Church Manor Neighbourhood Watch

16 Church Manor, Church Road, Ballina

096 78720

Ballycroy Community Alert

Ballycroy, Westport, County Mayo

098 49244

Clar IRD

Ballyhaunis Road, Claremorris, County Mayo

094 9371830

Belmullet Neighbourhood Watch

Attycunnane, Belmullet, County Mayo

097 81710

Keenagh Community Alert

Keenagh, Ballina, County Mayo

096 53067

Oakwood Drive Millview Cres Lr. Buncree Neighbourhood Watch

12 Oakland Drive, Ballina, County Mayo

096 77811

Dooniver Valley Inishbiggle Comm Alert

Dooniver, Achill Sound, Westport

098 47123

Newport Neighbourhood Watch

Georges Street, Newport, County Mayo

098 41214

Departmental Funding.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

246 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he intends to provide funding for a new bridge at Achill Island, County Mayo; his views on whether all the Achill Island residents and Mayo County Council are in support of this project; when and if funding will be available from his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39728/05]

As the Deputy will be aware, this is a matter for the relevant local authority in the first instance. A draft application for funding for the construction of a new bridge at Gob an Choire, Acaill, was received very recently in my Department from Mayo County Council. The matter is being examined in the context of available funding and my Department will be in further contact with the council as soon as possible.

I did indicate on a recent visit to Achill, however, that subject to the above and to the appropriate appraisal processes, I would consider providing funds for this bridge from the strategic roads budget on a co-funded basis with the local authority and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Community Development.

John McGuinness

Question:

247 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if approval will be granted for funding to a community project in the name of a centre (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39816/05]

The group will be notified of the result of its application shortly.

Grant Payments.

Michael Ring

Question:

248 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if there is a statutory requirement on Údarás na Gaeltachta to receive a formal grant application form before payment of a grant to an applicant. [39904/05]

First, I should clarify that there is no statutory requirement on Údarás na Gaeltachta to receive a formal grant application form before payment of a grant to an applicant.

I understand from Údarás that grant application forms are available to applicants in order to assist them in compiling the essential data for assessment of an application. However, an application may also comprise documents submitted by or on behalf of an applicant which provide the necessary information. In either case, if further information is required following receipt of the initial grant application, all such data received are deemed to form part of the application.

Following grant approval, a written grant agreement is entered into by Údarás and the grantee. This agreement sets out the terms and conditions of the grant and forms the contract for grant payment. When submitting claims for payment, applicants may use the generic form available for this purpose or provide other acceptable documentation.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Willie Penrose

Question:

249 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she has received correspondence from a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath in regard to the REP scheme payment; if this payment will be paid out without any further delay; if she will investigate the reason the payment of same has been delayed and the person who made the decision thereto; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39740/05]

I have received the correspondence in question and a reply will be issued shortly. In the meantime, I can confirm that a REPS payment to the person named issued on 9 December. This payment is a refund of a penalty, and follows a decision by the agriculture appeals office in favour of the person named. The appeals office issued its decision in September 2005, and since then my Department has been considering whether to ask for a review of the decision by the director of the appeals office. A decision has been taken not to seek a review, and accordingly the payment was released.

Animal Diseases.

John McGuinness

Question:

250 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a compensation package for scrapie will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39811/05]

The flock owner referred to above was restricted under the scrapie programme on the 31 May 2005. Following the genotyping of his flock the susceptible animals were sent for slaughter and the flock owner was paid compensation in accordance with the terms of the agreement. The top-up payment in respect of the breeding ewes cannot be paid to the flock owner until such time as only category 1 and category 2 sheep remain on the holding. In this regard the Deputy will be aware that I recently made a significant improvement in the level of the top-up payment available and the flock owner will benefit from this in due course.

Grant Payments.

Michael Lowry

Question:

251 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if an application for payments has been brought to her attention (details supplied); if she will reconsider the rejection decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39812/05]

The person named submitted an application for an allocation of entitlements from the single payments scheme national reserve under categories A and D. Category A caters for farmers who inherited land or received land free of charge or for a nominal sum from a farmer who had retired or died by 16 May 2005, where the land in question was leased to a third party during the reference period 2000-2002. While the land concerned is being leased by the person named, the fee involved does not satisfy the criteria for eligibility under category A.

Category D caters for farmers who commenced farming after 31 December 2002 or who commenced farming in 2002, but who received no direct payments in respect of that scheme year. In addition the farmer must have either purchased or inherited land. As the person named applied for an allocation of entitlements on leased land only he does not qualify under this category. Formal letters setting out my Department's decision will issue early in the new year and all applicants will be given the opportunity to appeal my Department's decision to the independent single payment appeals committee.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

252 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the single farm payment will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Cork; the amount which will be awarded; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39813/05]

The named person submitted an application for inheritance under the single payment scheme. This application has been successfully processed. His entitlements have been transferred and payment will issue as soon as possible.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

253 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when payment under the single payment scheme will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39896/05]

An application under the single payment scheme was received from the person named on 16 May 2005, with a declared area of 14.94 hectares. Following initial processing, a problem was identified in respect of one parcel listed. While the person named was written to and contacted directly by an official of my Department, he has yet to satisfactorily resolve the issue. Payment cannot issue while this matter remains unresolved.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

254 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason for the delay in payment of the 2004 special beef premium to a person (details supplied) in Cork South West; and if arrangements will be made for payment of same. [39915/05]

The person named submitted one 2004 special beef premium application for six animals. Following initial processing, an issue arose which prevented payment from being made. However, this problem has now been resolved and payment will issue shortly.

Michael Ring

Question:

255 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo did not receive their single farm payment; and when this payment will issue. [39926/05]

An application under the single payment scheme was received on 3 May 2005 in the name of the person and his father. As the entitlements established during the reference period were established by the father of the person named, it is necessary that the appropriate transfer be effected to allow payment of the application. As such a transfer request had not been received, an official of my Department has been in direct contact with the persons concerned with a view to facilitating the necessary transfer and thereby allowing payment at an early date.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

256 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will be awarded the area aid and single payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39927/05]

The named person held special condition entitlements as he did not submit area aid applications during the 2000 to 2002 reference period and was paid premia under the provisions of the EU regulations which enabled farmers to receive payments on up to 15 livestock units. The entitlements have now been converted to 3.01 standard entitlements based on the lands declared in the applicant's 2005 single payment scheme. The gross value of the entitlements is €268.60. Payment will, therefore, issue to the named person very shortly.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

257 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan who has had to send in the information three times will be granted the area aid and single payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39928/05]

Following direct contact by my officials with the person named, processing of his single payment scheme application form is being expedited, with a view to payment at an early date.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

258 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will be granted their area aid and single payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39929/05]

An application under the disadvantaged areas or single payment schemes was received from the person named on 14 May 2005. Following initial processing, issues regarding the areas declared were identified which required clarification by the applicant. These matters have now been resolved and the application is being further processed with a view to payment at an early date.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

259 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will be granted their area aid and single payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39930/05]

This case has been successfully processed and payment for the amount of €3,112.11 is expected to be paid to the person named in the next few days.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

260 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan will be granted their area aid and single payments due in October 2005 and 1 December 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39931/05]

An application under the disadvantaged areas-single payment schemes was received from the first person named on 15 May 2005. Following initial processing, issues were identified which required to be addressed. These have now been clarified and the application is being further processed with a view to payment at an early date.

World Trade Negotiations.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

261 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the difference between the deal Irish received in World Trade Organisations general negotiations compared with other countries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39963/05]

The current round of WTO negotiations are ongoing and the ministerial conference currently taking place in Hong Kong is seeking to make substantial progress towards a final agreement. The Commission negotiates on behalf of the EU on the basis of a mandate agreed by the Council of Ministers. The negotiations have not yet concluded. Throughout the negotiations in Hong Kong, and in the run up to Hong Kong, my objective is to secure the best possible outcome for Ireland. When a final agreement is reached it will apply to all WTO members including Ireland.

Sugar Beet Industry.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

262 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the persons who will be part of the negotiation team on the division of the sugar compensation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39964/05]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

263 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when she will make a decision on the percentage of sugar beet compensation which will be awarded to farmers and which will be awarded to Greencore; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39965/05]

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

Political agreement on reform of the EU sugar regime was reached at the Council of Agriculture Ministers' meeting on 24 November 2005. It will be a matter for beet growers and Irish Sugar Ltd. to make decisions about sugar beet growing in light of the reformed sugar regime.

Under the terms of the reform agreement, a once-off payment of almost €44 million would be available for growers if sugar production ceases in Ireland. In that event also, the restructuring fund of up to €145 million would become available to provide compensation for the economic, social and environmental costs arising from factory closure. The agreement provides that at least 10% of the fund shall be reserved for sugar beet growers and machinery contractors to compensate notably for losses arising from investment in specialised machinery. This amount may be increased by member states after consultation of interested parties as long as the financial breakdown of the elements of the restructuring plan is kept balanced according to a sound economic proposal.

The formal legal texts giving effect to this agreement will be adopted by the Council of Ministers early next year after the opinion of the European Parliament has been received. The Commission will then come forward with proposals for detailed implementing rules. Pending the publication and adoption of the relevant regulations it is not possible to provide further information as regards the operation of the restructuring fund.

Food Safety.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

264 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the action she will take in view of the recent seizure by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland of illicit health marks at meat plants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40138/05]

One of the two meat plants referred to by the Deputy is in Northern Ireland. The other is a meat plant in County Monaghan which, I understand, has not been in operation for over a year. Prior to its closure this plant had been under the control of the local authority veterinary inspection service. My Department is co-operating with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland in the investigation of this case. Investigations into the matter are ongoing.

Child Care Services.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

265 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of community run creches which are supported by his Department in the Kildare North constituency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40009/05]

As the Deputy will be aware, responsibility for the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme, EOCP, 2000-06 is being assigned to the Department of Health and Children as part of the establishment of the new office of the Minister for Children under the Minister of State with responsibility for children, Deputy Brian Lenihan.

I regret that the information sought is not available on a constituency basis. However, I understand that grants totalling almost €7.5 million have been approved to date in County Kildare under the EOCP 2000-06. These include almost €3.3 million in capital grant assistance to eight community based not-for-profit groups and over €1.5 million in staffing grant assistance to six community based not-for-profit projects.

It is anticipated that funding committed under the EOCP in County Kildare to date will lead to the creation of almost 1,200 new child care places and will enhance almost 750 existing places. In addition, child care services in County Kildare can benefit from support given to the national voluntary child care organisations to enhance quality awareness.

In 2004 my Department published a comprehensive review of progress under the EOCP 2000-06 entitled Developing Childcare In Ireland. An update of this report, giving details of grant approvals to end 2004, was circulated to all Members of the Oireachtas this week and was also posted on the Department's website.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Finian McGrath

Question:

266 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the role of the Director of Public Prosecutions; if it is in order for a Minister to usurp its functions; and the relationship between him and the day to day work of the Garda Síochána. [39720/05]

Finian McGrath

Question:

270 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Director of Public Prosecutions had decided that there were to be no charges brought against the chief executive of CPI when he met a person (details supplied). [39731/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 266 and 270 together.

I refer the Deputy to my comprehensive statement to Dáil Éireann on 13 December 2005.

Road Traffic Offences.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

267 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views regarding random breath testing; and if he will make a statement on the issue raised by a group (details supplied). [39722/05]

I fully support the greatest possible use of all measures which would help reduce the rate of death and serious injuries on our roads.

My colleague, the Minister for Transport, who has responsibility for road traffic legislation, is currently considering the issues which would be involved in the introduction of random road breath testing in consultation with, inter alia, the Attorney General, myself and the Garda Síochána.

Drug Seizures.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

268 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has established a dedicated drugs squad in County Mayo; the number of personnel exclusively dedicated to the drugs squad who are allocated to each station; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39723/05]

The Deputy will appreciate that the deployment of Garda resources is a matter for the Garda Commissioner.

The Garda authorities have informed me that a dedicated drugs squad has been established in Mayo Garda division and that two detective gardaí have been assigned to the squad, which is based at Castlebar Garda station. I understand that these members hold a divisional brief and liaise with uniformed and plain clothes personnel in all stations in the division with respect to intelligence gathering, planned searches, operations and arrests. I am further informed by the Garda authorities that uniformed members are also seconded to work with detective units in local drugs operations.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

269 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of convictions for drugs there have been in County Mayo in the past 12 months; the breakdown of the areas in County Mayo these convictions took place; the circumstances under which the arrest took place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39724/05]

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.

Question No. 270 answered with QuestionNo. 266.

Registration of Title.

Denis Naughten

Question:

271 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on an application for persons (details supplied) in County Galway; the reason for the delay in dealing with same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39732/05]

I wish to inform the Deputy that I have requested the Land Registry to contact him directly concerning the current position of the application in question.

Prison Medical Service.

Dan Neville

Question:

272 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoners who were placed in padded cells in 2003, 2004 and to date in 2005; and the prisons where same took place. [39738/05]

As the Deputy is aware, I previously gave a commitment to abolish the use of old style padded cells which I regard as unsatisfactory in today's prison estate. As a result, newly designed and improved cells have now been completed in Cloverhill Prison, Castlerea Prison, St. Patrick's Institution, Mountjoy Prison, the Dóchas Centre and Arbour Hill Prison. Furthermore, work is either underway or is about to commence on similar cells in Limerick Prison, Midlands Prison, Wheatfield Prison and Cork Prison. It is therefore anticipated that the use of the old style padded cells will be eliminated in the Irish prison system by the middle of next year.

With this in mind, the information requested by the Deputy is set out in the table. However, it should be noted that the figures refer to placements — the same prisoner may be placed in such a cell more than once in a year — and some of the figures for 2005 are composite in nature and include placement in both the old style padded cells and the redesigned safety observation cells.

Year

2003

2004

2005 (to 12th Dec)

Mountjoy Prison

428

401

377

Dóchas Centre

185

141

90

Cloverhill Prison

76

94

91

Wheatfield Prison

85

174

110

Cork Prison

133

78

81

Castlerea Prison

38

33

30

Midlands Prison

19

8

1

Arbour Hill Prison

6

18

5

St. Patrick’s Institution*

178

221

155

Total

1,148

1,168

940

* Figures for St. Patrick's Institution include usage of "strip" and "padded" cells and an exact figure for use of "padded" cells is not therefore available.

Child Care Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

273 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an application in the name of a centre (details supplied) in County Kilkenny for funding for a creche facility will be approved. [39817/05]

As the Deputy will be aware, responsibility for the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-2006, EOCP, is being assigned to the Department of Health and Children as part of the establishment of the new office of the Minister for Children under the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan.

With regard to the application for capital grant assistance under the EOCP referred to by the Deputy, I understand that the community based group in question submitted an application to my Department some time ago. Each application undergoes a thorough assessment by Pobal, formerly known as ADM Limited, which was engaged to administer the grants on my Department's behalf, to ensure that it meets the EOCP funding criteria. In addition, large scale projects such as the capital development proposed in this instance undergo an intensive assessment process by an external building consultant.

When the assessment is complete, I expect that the application will be considered by the programme appraisal committee following which a decision will be made on funding. The group will then be informed of the outcome. In May 2003 an EOCP staffing grant, of €195,000 over three years, was approved for the group as a contribution towards the staffing costs of the project.

Proposed Legislation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

274 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Question No. 1055 of 29 September 2004, if he will report on the issue; his plans to introduce a Family Law Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39826/05]

As indicated in the Government's legislative programme announced by the Chief Whip on 27 September 2005, the aim is to publish a Family Law Bill in 2006.

Registration of Title.

Denis Naughten

Question:

275 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the waiting time for processing land registry dealings on a county basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39828/05]

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

County

Average Waiting Time (Months)

Carlow

9.9

Cavan

7.7

Clare

5.2

Cork

3.2

Donegal

9.0

Dublin

3.7

Galway

9.9

Kerry

5.9

Kildare

1.3

Kilkenny

11.6

Laois

8.7

Leitrim

10.6

Limerick

3.8

Longford

9.7

Louth

5.9

Mayo

11.6

Meath

10.1

Monaghan

6.8

Offaly

8.7

Roscommon

6.2

Sligo

5.7

Tipperary

4.8

Waterford

3.3

Westmeath

8.1

Wexford

10.4

Wicklow

1.6

I am further informed by the Registrar of Titles that this information was calculated on the following basis.

The total number of dealings on hand in the Land Registry at 30 November 2005 was 148,260. Of these 33,132 were the subject of queries and cannot be proceeded with until a satisfactory reply is received. The "live" arrear was therefore 115,128. The total number of cases completed from 1 January 2005 to 30 November 2005 was 208,972 or 18,997 per month. Therefore the overall national average waiting time in respect of the "live" arrear is 6.1 months.

The length of time taken to complete cases varies depending on a number of factors, including the complexity of the case, investigation of title requirements, the completeness of the documentation presented, mapping requirements, the volume of business being transacted, the level of resources available at any particular time and the time at which the present computerised system was introduced in the Land Registry office for each county. Where a case is urgent and this is brought to the attention of the Land Registry office, in accordance with its customer service policy, the matter is dealt with expeditiously.

Missing Persons.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

276 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received a letter from a person (details supplied) in Dublin 14, regarding the setting up and funding of a missing persons helpline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39832/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

277 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the helpline for missing persons which he launched in 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39833/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

278 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on his statement (details supplied) launching the helpline for missing persons on 25 October 2002. [39834/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

279 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason funding was withdrawn from the helpline for missing persons after only two years in view of his opinion in launching same on 25 October 2002 (details supplied). [39835/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

280 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department has offered less than 40% of the funding which was available to the helpline for missing persons when it was launched by him in 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39836/05]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

281 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason, out of the €65,000 funding granted to the missing persons helpline in 2002, payment was made to the Garda Síochána for posters and to pay victim support for other services, leaving the helpline with a paltry sum to try and ensure its survival. [39837/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 276 to 281, inclusive, together.

The national missing persons helpline was established in October 2002. Initial funding of €65,000, to include set-up costs, was provided by my Department to establish a dedicated national missing persons helpline, to be operated and administered by Victim Support. Further funding of €45,000 was provided to the helpline in 2003. This funding was provided subject to the conditions that no funding beyond the year 2003 should be implied and audited accounts should be provided to my Department on a calendar basis. To date no audited accounts have been received in my Department.

An information leaflet outlining the services provided by the helpline was drawn up by Victim Support in conjunction with the Garda Síochána. This leaflet was distributed to families of missing people through the Garda missing persons bureau. Approximately €10,500 was spent by the helpline on leaflets in 2002 and 2003 to promote the service in this way.

The conditions under which the Department provided funding did not include any requirement to fund the production of leaflets or posters and any decision to do so was made by the helpline itself. With regard to paying Victim Support for its services, it will be noted that the helpline was operated by Victim Support during the period in operation.

Funding for services providing victim support is provided through the independent Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime which I established in March 2005 following a review of existing provision for crime victims. The Commission's remit is to devise an appropriate support framework for victims of crime into the future and disburse funding for victim support measures. The sum of €750,000 has been made available for disbursement under commission supervision in 2005 to community and other voluntary groups providing victim services, with a particular emphasis on the funding of activities on the ground that provide direct supports for victims of crime. The commission is fully independent in its decision making and evaluates each application on its merits.

The commission received an application for funding from the missing persons helpline on 19 April 2005. The application was for €71,000 to staff and run a helpline for missing persons. In this context, it might be borne in mind that most missing persons are not victims of crime.

I am advised that the application was considered in detail by the commission at its meeting of 25 April 2005 and that it was decided to offer the missing persons helpline €25,000, approximately one third of the amount sought. However, the helpline declined this offer of funding on the basis that it would accept only the full amount sought. Other than the request to the independent commission for funding, no request for funding was made by the helpline to my Department as such.

It is, of course, open to the helpline to make a new application for funding to my Department, which will be considered on its merits. Officials from my Department have been unable to trace any recent correspondence from the person in question regarding the setting up and funding of a missing persons helpline.

Crime Levels.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

282 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for the delay in forwarding the information requested in Question No. 499 of 8 November 2005. [39845/05]

The information requested by the Deputy in Question No. 499 of 8 November 2005 in respect of the headline offences by group for the first nine months of 2005 for the Carlow-Kildare Garda division has only recently been received from the Garda authorities and is set out in the table. The statistics provided for 2005 are provisional, operational and liable to change.

Headline Offences Recorded and Detected for the Garda District of Carlow/Kildare from 1 January, 2005 to 30 September, 2005.

District: Carlow/Kildare

2005

Rec

Det

Homicide

2

2

Assault

175

121

Sexual Offences

64

29

Arson

57

16

Drugs

85

85

Thefts

1,956

593

Burglary

1,372

123

Robbery

84

19

Fraud

132

94

Other

52

36

Total

3,979

1,118

Garda Deployment.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

283 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that with 2.6% of the population of the State, County Clare has 2.6% of the Garda force; County Tipperary with 3.6% of the population of the State has 3% of the Garda force; County Mayo with 3% of the population of the State has 2.5% of the Garda force; and that Counties Carlow and Kildare with 4.9% of the population of the State have only 3.2% of the Garda force; his views on the fact that, proportionately, the allocation for Counties Carlow and Kildare of gardaí is disproportionately low; and when he intends to correct same. [39847/05]

I wish to advise the Deputy that the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the detailed allocation of Garda resources, including personnel. Garda personnel assigned throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are constantly monitored and reviewed. Such monitoring ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

With regard to Garda resources generally, 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 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 Carlow-Kildare division will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of Garda divisions throughout the country.

Visa Applications.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

284 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, further to Question No. 182 of 1 December 2005, the basis on which, including international evidence, he has reached the view that it is essential to deny family reunification visas to the minor children of persons granted leave to remain here. [39897/05]

The view I expressed in my reply to his question of 1 December 2005 is unchanged. I am satisfied that the direction of my current policy in this area is correct and that Ireland's policy on family reunification is broadly in compliance with international standards.

Apart from the right to family reunification set out in the Refugee Act 1996, as amended, non-EEA migrants do not have a right to family reunification under law. Applications made by such persons other than those with full refugee status in the State are examined under the conditions laid down by the applicable administrative schemes in operation. Where applications fall outside of these schemes, cases are considered on an individual basis.

As already advised, my forthcoming immigration and residence Bill will deal with the issue of family reunification for migrants.

Registration of Title.

Paul McGrath

Question:

285 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will request the Land Registry office to expedite a dealing (details supplied) in County Cork. [39899/05]

I wish to inform the Deputy that I have requested the Land Registry to contact him directly concerning the current position of the application in question.

I understand that, in circumstances where the completion of an application in a particular case is urgent, the Land Registry will make every reasonable effort to facilitate such requests on receipt of a written explanation as to the reason underlying the urgency.

Visa Applications.

Dan Boyle

Question:

286 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a visa application has been refused to a person (details supplied). [39933/05]

The application in question was received by my Department on 7 September 2005.

When assessing applications of this type, the visa officer will consider, among other factors, whether the level of salary of the worker would come within the ambit of qualifying for payment from public funds. In this regard the criteria set by the Department of Social and Family Affairs for eligibility for family income supplement payment, FIS, have been used. The criteria, which may change from time to time, are availableon the Department's website www.welfare.ie/ publications/sw22.html.

Applicants are permitted to lodge an appeal within two months of the date of receipt of the notification of the decision to refuse, which in this case was 13 September 2005. There is no record of an appeal lodged in this case. It is open to the person concerned to make a fresh application supported by current documentation and background information and my Department will be happy to consider anew such an application.

The procedures for dealing with visa applications from family members of work permit holders who wish to join that worker in the State, including the income thresholds applicable, are currently under consideration as part of ongoing developments within the Irish naturalisation and immigration service.

Youth Services.

Richard Bruton

Question:

287 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda youth diversion projects in place; if he will provide a list of the existing schemes; the locations where they operate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39938/05]

Garda youth diversion projects are a community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiative which seek to divert young persons from becoming involved, or further involved, in antisocial 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 projects has grown from 12 in 1997 to 64 at present, a process made possible, in part, by funding under the National Development Plan 2000-2006.

A budget of €5.471 million was provided for the Garda youth diversion projects and local drugs task force projects in 2005 and I am pleased to have secured an additional €1.2 million for youth diversion projects in 2006, bringing the total budgetary allocation to €6.6 million for next year. It is my intention to support the expansion of Garda youth diversion projects over the next two years and it is intended that 100 schemes will be established nationwide before the end of 2007. I have asked the Garda Commissioner to bring forward proposals for further community based initiatives in this area in light of the additional funding. The 64 Garda youth diversion projects currently in place are shown in the table.

Project

Location

Able

Ballyfermot, Dublin

ACORN

Edenderry, Offaly

ALF

Athlone, Westmeath

Ball

Ballybeg, Waterford

Ballincollig

Ballincollig, Cork

Ballynanty

Ballynanty, Limerick

Bandon Youth

Bandon, Cork

BAPADE

Killarney, Kerry

BAN

Ballybane, Galway

BAY (Talks are ongoing in relation to new management for project)

Ballymun, Dublin

Boyne

Drogheda, Louth

BLOCK

Portlaoise, Laois

Bris (currently under evaluation. A final report is expected by the end of January 2006.)

Westside, Galway

Cabra Step-Up

Cabra, Dublin

CCYDG

Moyross, Limerick

CODY

Cherry Orchard, Dublin

Connect 7

Tralee, Kerry

CYD

Clonmel, Tipperary

DAN

Donore Avenue, Dublin

DAY

Dungarvan, Waterford

Dime

North Inner City, Dublin

EYE

Mullingar, Westmeath

Ennis Youth

Ennis, Clare

FAN

Finglas, Dublin

FAYRE

Farranree, Cork

Feabhas

Midleton/Cobh, Cork

GAP

The Glen, Cork

GRAFT

Ronanstown, Dublin

HAY

St. Agatha’s, Dublin

High Voltage

Dundalk, Louth

JAY

Jobstown, Dublin

Junction

Ballinasloe, Galway

KEY

Killinarden, Tallaght

Kilkenny

Kilkenny

Knocknaheeny/Holyhill

Knocknaheeny, Cork

LAB

Loughlinstown/Ballybrack, Dublin

LEAP

Longford

LSCYI

Southill, Limerick

MAY

Mahon, Cork

NYPD

Navan, Meath

Monaghan

Monaghan

MOST

Phoenix Park, Dublin

New Directions

Bray, Wicklow

NICKOL

North Inner City, Dublin

PACT

Waterford

Poodle Close

Dublin

RAD

Roscommon

Raphoe

Donegal

SAFE

Clonard/Coolcotts, Wexford

SAY

Sandyford, Dublin

Slí Eile

Tullamore, Offaly

SMART

Trim, Meath

SWAY

Waterford

SWIFT

Clondalkin, Dublin

TACT

Togher, Cork

TEAM

Dundalk, Louth

WAY

Wicklow

WEB

Blanchardstown, Dublin

Woodale

Darndale, Dublin

YAB

Ballina, Mayo

YAK

Kilmore, Dublin

YAPS

Sligo Town

YEW

Whitechurch, Dublin

YIS

Oliver Bond Street, Dublin

The seven local drugs task force projects currently in operation are as follows.

Project

Location

Neighbourhood Policing Unit

Cork

Knocknaheeny/Holyhill

Cork

MAY

Cork

Togher Link-Up

Cork

WEB

Dublin

Arrest Referral Scheme

Dublin

Mayfield

Cork

Asylum Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

288 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position with regard to an application for refugee, asylum and citizenship status in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39939/05]

It is not the practice to comment in detail on individual asylum applications.

As the Deputy will be aware, applications for refugee status in the State are determined by an independent process comprising the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal which make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted.

As I am advised that judicial review proceedings are taking place in this case it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the asylum aspects at the present time. For the Deputy's information, there is no record of a citizenship application having been received from the person concerned.

Visa Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

289 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a visa extension will be offered in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39940/05]

I understand that the person in question was working in the State on foot of a work permit which was valid until May 2003. However, subsequent work permit applications in 2003 and 2004 were withdrawn following the failure of the prospective employer to submit requested documentation.

The person concerned was granted permission to remain in the State earlier this year, as an exceptional measure for a four month period, to enable a prospective employer obtain a work permit on his behalf. Inquiries made by this office with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment have indicated that no valid application for a work permit has been made on his behalf to date. Therefore, he should now contact the immigration division of my Department outlining his future intentions and submit evidence of how he intends to support himself financially in the State.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

290 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the application for residency in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Meath will be reconsidered under refugee, asylum or humanitarian grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39941/05]

I refer the Deputy to my written answer of 1 December 2005 in response to his parliamentary question. That answer dealt with the person's application for permission to remain in the State on the basis of being the parent of an Irish born child born prior to 1 January 2005 under the revised arrangements announced by me on 15 January 2005.

With regard to her application for asylum, the person concerned arrived in the State on 2 January 2005 and applied for asylum on 6 January 2005. Her application for asylum was refused following consideration of her case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner and on appeal by the Office of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. She was informed by letter dated 23 September 2005 that the Minister proposed to make a deportation order in respect of her and afforded three options under section 3(3) (b)(ii) of the Immigration Act 1999 as amended, namely, to make representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why she should be allowed to remain in the State, to leave the State voluntarily or to consent to the making of a deportation order.

I have been informed by my officials that representations have been received on her behalf and will be considered in due course.

Refugee Status.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

291 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the application of family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 1; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39942/05]

The refugee in question made an application for family reunification in respect of his wife and child under section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996 in December 2004. The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996.

The commissioner submitted a report on the investigation to my Department. The person concerned will be notified of the decision on his application as soon as possible.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

292 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in the case of an application for family reunification in the name of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39943/05]

The refugee in question made an application for family reunification in May 2005. The application was forwarded to the Refugee Applications Commissioner for investigation as required under section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996.

When this investigation is completed, the commissioner will prepare and forward a report to my Department. Upon receipt of this report the application will be considered and a decision will issue shortly thereafter.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

293 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the basis on which he has deemed passports submitted in connection with application for family reunification in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork to be fraudulent having particular regard to documentation and translation submitted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39944/05]

The refugee in question made an application for family reunification in respect of her five children under section 18 of the Refugee Act 1996. In support of her application she submitted five passports. During the course of processing this application, questions arose with regard to the authenticity of documentation submitted. Subsequent checks by document experts in the Garda technical bureau concluded that there were doubts concerning the authenticity of the passports.

The family reunification application was refused in July 2005. The passports were forwarded to the Garda National Immigration Bureau for further investigation.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

294 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an up to date GNIB card will issue in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39945/05]

On 11 October 2005, an application was received from the person in question's guardian to have their permission to remain in the State, on humanitarian grounds, renewed. On 8 December 2005, the person in question's guardian was issued with a letter granting her and the person in question permission to remain in the State for a further period of one year.

On foot of that letter, the person concerned is required to present herself to the Garda National Immigration Bureau which will issue the appropriate document to her.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

295 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of application for citizenship in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39946/05]

The person referred to by the Deputy arrived in the State in December 1996 and claimed asylum. That application was refused in June 1997 and leave to remain in the State was granted to her as an exceptional measure. An application for a certificate of naturalisation by the person concerned was received in the citizenship section of my Department on 4 December 2001. I considered this application on 26 August 2004 and decided not to grant a certificate of naturalisation. The basis for the refusal of this application was set out in detail in a letter dated 8 October 2004 to the applicant informing her of my decision.

I have informed this House on a number of occasions that I have adopted a general policy that applicants for naturalisation, other than refugees and stateless persons, should have been supporting themselves and their families without recourse to State support for a three year period prior to applying for naturalisation and that, furthermore, they can show, as far as is practicable, that they have the capacity of supporting themselves into the future.

Inquiries by my officials revealed that the person concerned, who was neither a refugee nor stateless person, had been in receipt of various State supports, including rent allowance, unemployment assistance and one-parent family payment, almost continuously during the period 1999 to 2004.

I was of the view that there were no circumstances disclosed on the case file of the person concerned to lead me to depart from my general policy in the particular case and I decided to refuse the application.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

296 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the legal basis for refusing citizenship to non-nationals living here by virtue of disqualification of their applications; if these persons previously received any State support such as rent allowance, unemployment assistance, unemployment benefit or other statutory entitlements for which persons in this situation might ordinarily qualify; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that such decisions challenge both national and international law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39947/05]

The main point that must be made is that the acquisition of Irish citizenship through the naturalisation process is a privilege, not a right. The discretionary nature of the naturalisation process is in keeping with international practice. Thus, it is not the case that a person who has been resident here has, after a period of time, or even an extended period of time, a right to naturalisation. In fact, it has been the case since 1935 that all decisions on naturalisation, even where all of the statutory conditions for naturalisation have been fulfilled, are expressed to be at the "absolute discretion" of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. This is the legal basis for the granting or refusing of an application for a certificate of naturalisation.

Since the Deputy has not provided details of any particular case or cases that he is concerned about, I can only deal with the matters he has raised on a general basis.

I have informed the House on a number of occasions that, in exercising the powers bestowed on the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform by the Oireachtas in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, I have adopted a general policy that applicants for naturalisation, other than refugees and stateless persons, should have been supporting themselves and their families without recourse to State support for a three year period prior to applying for naturalisation. Furthermore, such persons must show, as far as is practicable, that they have the capacity to support themselves into the future. I apply this general policy to all applications for naturalisation unless