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 14, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 15 to 103, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 104 to 111, inclusive, answered orally.

Official Languages Act.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

112 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he is satisfied with the implementation to date in 2006 of the Official Languages Act 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4437/06]

I draw the Deputy's attention to my inaugural report on the implementation of the Official Languages Act 2003 for the period July 2003-31 December 2004, which has been laid before each House of the Oireachtas. As set out in that report and as I have outlined on a number of occasions in this House, considerable progress has been made to date in the implementation, on a phased basis, of the provisions of the Act.

To date, a total of 22 language schemes prepared by public bodies have been confirmed by me and published. My Department is in discussion with in excess of 70 additional public bodies in relation to completion or commencement of the process of drafting a scheme.

Most of the provisions of the Act have been commenced and, as provided for in section 1 of the Act, the remaining provisions will commence automatically in July next, if not brought into operation by order sooner.

Polasaí Dátheangachais.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

113 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Sargent den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an eiseoidh sé treoirlínte d’fhoilsitheoirí agus don phobal i gcoitinne chun go mbeidh an Béarla agus an Ghaeilge taobh le taobh ar leathanach ar bith más cur i láthair dátheangach atáá chur ar fáil. [4424/06]

Ba mhaith liom a mhíniú don Teachta go leagtar síos sna Treoirlínte faoi alt 12 d'Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003, a foilsíodh i mí Mheán Fómhair 2004, gur chóir do chomhlachtaí polasaí soiléir a chruthú dá n-eagraíochtaí féin maidir le soláthar sheirbhísí dhátheangacha i gcomhthéacs scéim teanga faoi alt 11 a ullmhú.

I measc na nithe sonracha atá luaite sna Treoirlínte, a bheadh le cur san áireamh i bpolasaí den tsórt sin, tá:

. . . cleachtas dátheangach a chur i bhfeidhm i ndoiciméid chlóite (foirmeacha iarratais, ciorcláin, fógraí eolais, etc). Sa chuid is mó de na cásanna, is é an dea-chleachtas ná go gcuirfear i láthair leaganacha ar leithligh sna teangacha laistigh d'aon chlúdach amháin.

Cé go bhfuil buntáistí láidre don chustaiméir go mbeadh an Béarla agus an Ghaeilge taobh le taobh ar leathanaigh, is ceist í do gach comhlacht ar leith polasaí a chruthú dá eagraíocht féin a oireann dá chustaiméiríó thaobh sheirbhísí dátheangacha a sholáthar, ag tógáil san áireamh nithe a bhaineann le costais agus modhanna chun doiciméid agus foirmeacha a sheachadadh.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Dan Boyle

Question:

114 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on recent remarks made by a person (details supplied) regarding the changes in the dormant fund allocation system which he claims has made the system less accessible and accountable. [4339/06]

The Deputy will be aware that I have outlined in the House on a number of occasions the reasons the Government decided to make changes to the dormant accounts scheme. In summary, these were to fully address governance and accountability issues and to provide for greater transparency in decision-making on disbursements.

On 4 January 2006, I announced details concerning the allocation of €24 million from the dormant accounts fund in 2006 for the purpose of supporting programmes and types of projects tackling social and economic disadvantage. Details of the announcement are available on the website of my Department at www.pobail.ie and are set out below in Appendix 1 for the Deputy’s information. Following this announcement, there was a certain amount of media coverage including an interview on national radio with a representative from Integrated Rural Development, Kiltimagh concerning the changes introduced by Government on dormant accounts.

There may have been an impression given in the interview that Pobal, formerly Area Development Management Limited, was previously the decision-making authority with regard to disbursements from the dormant accounts fund. This is clearly not the case. The Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board engaged Pobal as a service provider to administer the initial round of funding on its behalf. In this regard, Pobal received and evaluated applications and submitted its advice to the board which then made decisions on whether applications should be approved.

Under the new arrangements, recently put in place by Government, applications will be received and assessed against published criteria by or on behalf of public bodies and the results of such assessments will be submitted to the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The Minister will then submit the results of the assessments to the Government for approval. It is anticipated that Pobal will, in the main, be engaged as a service provider to again carry out the function of receiving and assessing applications similar to its role for the former board.

Appendix 1

Press Release04 January 2006

€24 MILLION DORMANT ACCOUNTS FUNDING

TO BE TARGETED AT SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DISADVANTAGE

Noel Ahern, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Éamon Ó Cuív T.D. Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs today announced that the Government has approved the categories under which €24 million from dormant accounts will be spent in 2006 on programmes and projects tackling social and economic disadvantage.

The Dormant Accounts legislation targets three broad categories of persons for support from the Dormant Accounts Fund:

·those affected by economic and social disadvantage;

·those affected by educational disadvantage; and

·persons with a disability.

Today's announcement relates solely to the Social and Economic Category. The programmes and types of projects in this category will aim to ensure that particular priority is given to the areas designated by Government as most disadvantaged i.e. RAPID, CLÁR and Drugs Task Force areas (see Editor's note).

The funding announced today will focus on:

·RAPID Programme — up to 50% of the overall funding will be ring-fenced to provide additional supports for priority projects in RAPID areas;

·Support for Priority Themes — funding for specific measures supporting youth, older people and other priority themes — including suicide prevention; alcohol misuse; supports for immigrant families; supports for offenders/ex-offenders;

·Support for Jointly Funded Flagship Projects — funding for innovative measures addressing matters of major public concern, which also involve substantial funding from private, philanthropic or community sources.

"I am very pleased that a significant level of spending will go directly towards projects in areas designated by Government as suffering particular disadvantage. I also believe that the money aimed at jointly funded flagship projects will lever significant additional funding from private and other sources."

Noel Ahern T.D., Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs

Éamon Ó Cuív, T.D., Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, strongly welcomed the Government decision. He indicated his intention to bring proposals to Government soon in relation to additional Dormant Accounts funding under the Educational Disadvantage Category and the Disability Category.

Editor’s Note:

RAPID

RAPID (Revitalising Areas by Planning Investment and Development) is a focused initiative designed to prioritise and target Government expenditure, over a number of Departments, on the most concentrated centres of disadvantage in the country. Strand 1 targets 25 urban centres while Strand II targets 20 provincial towns.

CLÁR

CLÁR (Ceantair Laga Ard-Riachtanais) is a similar type initiative targeting rural areas and the islands. It funds and provides co-funding for measures designed to support physical, community and social infrastructure.

Drug Task Forces

Drug Task Forces (DTFs) operate in the areas experiencing the worse levels of drug misuse, particularly heroin. The role of the DTFs is to prepare local action plans, which include a range of measures to tackle drug misuse in the areas of treatment, rehabilitation, education, prevention and curbing local supply.

Programmes and Types of Projects Recommended by

Social & Economic Disadvantage Committee

Programme Heading

Programme Description

Target Group / Area

Application Process

Additionality Demonstrated

1. Additionality under RAPID Programme.

Funding ring-fenced for the purpose of supporting priority projects within RAPID areas.

Strand 1 and Strand 2 RAPID areas.

RAPID AITs invited to apply

Yes. The ring-fencing of funding for RAPID areas will ensure that funding for priority projects is front-loaded in 2006

€11.5 million

2. Specific Priority Measures:

€7.5 million

Youth Disadvantage Initiatives

—Supports for youth groups.

Once-off small scale equipment grants for youth groups with a particular focus on disadvantaged and marginal groups.

Young people.

Public invitation to youth groups

Yes. Existing Local Youth Club Grant scheme does not include any element of capital funding for equipment

—Supports to provide enhanced access to recreational & personal development opportunities for disadvantaged young people.

Grants to fund participation in recreational pursuits and personal development activities which are not normally available to disadvantaged children and disadvantaged young people.

Invitation to Partnership companies

Disadvantaged children and disadvantaged young people.

Yes. No specific funding stream to provide such services

—Supports for sports which have traditional appeal to youth in disadvantaged areas (e.g. boxing; wrestling; martial arts; weightlifting etc.).

Grants to fund purchase of essential equipment / hire of halls etc. not funded under Sports Capital Programme.

Young people in disadvantaged areas.

Invitation to specified sports

Yes. Funding under Sports Capital Programme not provided for personal equipment

—IT initiatives for disadvantaged young people.

Projects supporting disadvantaged young people to adapt to information technology with a particular focus on early school leavers.

Disadvantaged young people.

Targeted public invitation to groups active in this area

Yes. No specific funding stream for this measure.

Older People Initiatives

Enhanced interventions and supports to assist older people living in their own homes and in the community.

Supports for community based care services for older people such as improved access to services including transport and mobility.

Local Community and voluntary groups supporting older people.

Public invitation to groups active in this area

Yes. No specific funding stream for local community and voluntary groups supporting older people

Programme Heading

Programme Description

Target Group / Area

Application Process

Additionality Demonstrated

Social Disadvantage Measures:

—Supports for offenders / ex-offenders.

Projects providing addiction counselling for prisoners / ex-prisoners.

Prisoners / ex-prisoners.

Targeted public invitation to groups active in this area

Yes. No specific funding stream for such services.

Projects providing employment supports for prisoners / ex-prisoners.

Prisoners / ex-prisoners.

Targeted public invitation to groups active in this area

Yes. No specific funding stream for such services.

—Supports for vulnerable immigrants.

Supports for immigrant families who have been granted refugee status or granted leave to remain in the State.

Immigrant families.

Public invitation to Partnership companies.

Yes. No specific funding stream for such services.

—Suicide prevention.·supports to strengthen community based suicide prevention;·young men under 35.

Measures tackling suicide prevention with a particular focus on

At risk individuals.

Public invitation to community and voluntary groups active in this area.

Yes. No specific funding stream to provide funding for community groups.

—Projects tackling alcohol misuse.

Supports for community based responses addressing problems associated with alcohol misuse.

At risk individuals.

Public invitation to community and voluntary groups active in this area.

Yes. No specific funding stream to provide funding for such services.

3. Flagship Projects Jointly Funded:

€5 million

Innovative initiatives addressing issues of social and economic disadvantage.

Innovative initiatives addressing matters of major public concern and/or headline policy interventions for which funding from private/philanthropic or community sources can be levered.

Socially and economically disadvantaged.

Public invitation to groups who have substantial guaranteed funding from private, philanthropic or community sources for innovative projects

Yes. Objective is to encourage innovative projects which can lever significant funding from private, philanthropic or community sources.

Aistritheoirí Béarla-Gaeilge.

Joe Costello

Question:

115 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Costello den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cathain a chuirfear scéim oifigiúil cáilíochtaí ar bun d’aistritheoirí Gaeilge; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [4408/06]

Mar is eol don Teachta, tá iarrtha agam ar Fhoras na Gaeilge córas creidiúnaithe d'aistritheoirí Gaeilge a fhorbairt. Is é seo an chéad chóras dá leithéid a bheidh ar fáil d'aistritheoirí Gaeilge na tíre seo.

D'eagraigh Foras na Gaeilge seimineár le gairid chun an dul chun cinn a bhí déanta go dáta i ndáil le forbairt an chórais a chur i láthair an phobail. Tuigim gur fhreastail slua ollmhór ar an tseimineár agus gur léirigh siad an-spéis sa chóras nua. Is éard a bheidh i gceist ná go mbronnfar séala creidiúnaithe ar aistritheoirí a bhaineann caighdeán sár-chumais amach. Mar chéad chéim chun an caighdeán sin a thástáil, déanfar scrúdú a eagrú i mí Aibreáin 2006. Cruthófar phainéal d'aistritheoirí creidiúnaithe agus, mar a thuigim, beidh an chéad phainéal ar fáil do na hearnálacha poiblí agus príobháideacha faoi mhí na Bealtaine 2006.

Is próiseas leanúnach — le scrúduithe ar bhonn tráth-rialta amach anseo — a bheidh i gceist sa chóras creidiúnaithe seo, a fhéachfaidh le seirbhísí aistriúcháin ghairmiúla d'ard-chaighdeáin a chinntiú.

National Drugs Strategy.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

116 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the recent college lifestyle and attitudinal national survey that showed that drug use among the student population was much higher than in the 2003 national drug prevalence survey; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that 37% of those surveyed used cannabis and 8% had used ecstasy; the efforts he is making to address growing drug use by young people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4434/06]

I am aware of the college lifestyle and attitudinal national, CLAN, survey which was jointly carried out by the health promotion unit of the Department of Health and Children and NUI Galway in the 2002-03 academic year. A total sample of 3,259 students from universities and other third level institutions across Ireland was involved in the wide-ranging survey, where drugs was only one of many areas under focus. The focus and methodology of the survey differed from the 2002-03 drug prevalence survey carried out for the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit, Northern Ireland. Also, the survey was restricted to third level students and established research suggests that this cohort is more likely to experiment with drug use than are other sections of society. Therefore the results of the two surveys are not directly comparable and would not be expected to throw up the same figures. However, the findings are nonetheless valuable in improving our understanding of drug use among young people in Ireland.

The figures quoted by the Deputy, 37% having used cannabis and 8% having used ecstasy, reflect usage in the past 12 months. It would be expected that these figures would include many who experimented once, or at least very few times, rather than reflecting more problematic long-term or regular use.

For comparison, I gather that the usage in the past 12 months by young adults — 15-34 years — in the drug prevalence survey were 8.6% for cannabis and 2.3% for ecstasy. That survey covered 8,442 people, aged between 15 and 64 on the island of Ireland. As it was the first such survey, it provides the initial baseline data which will facilitate the identification of trends going forward. It is intended that the fieldwork for the next drug prevalence study will be carried out from around September 2006 to April 2007. Preliminary analysis will be done in the months following, with a first report of national prevalence figures and trends expected later in 2007. At that stage we will be much better placed to effectively measure any changes in the use of cannabis in Ireland.

Meanwhile the national drugs strategy contains 108 actions which cover all aspects of drug use, included various age strata and drug types. The national drugs awareness campaign, the second and third phase of which were targeted at young people, has been running over the past three years and all schools now have substance misuse prevention programmes on their curricula.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

117 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on whether a change to the law regarding the possession of cannabis, or a reclassification of the drug, would be of benefit in regard to tackling drug use here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4433/06]

It is my view that a change in the law regarding the possession of cannabis, or a reclassification of the drug would be of no benefit whatsoever in tackling drug use here — in fact I think that it would aggravate the problem.

While cannabis may not be as dangerous as some other drugs, the evidence is that it is damaging to the physical and mental health of the user, particularly the young and those who are heavy users. Long-term cannabis use can trigger mental illness such as schizophrenia and depression in some cases. While it is sometimes said that cannabis does not lead to the use of other illegal drugs, this is untrue. It is clear that by using cannabis people can become involved and immersed in the drug culture. Evidence shows that the majority of young people who have used a variety of illegal substances have begun with cannabis.

Taking all this into account, I am satisfied that there is no case for reviewing the current legal position in relation to cannabis.

Turasóireacht sa Ghaeltacht.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

118 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Sargent den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil ról ar bith aige i gcur chun cinn na Gaeilge do chuairteoirí a thagann go hÉirinn ag lorg cultúir faoi leith. [4445/06]

Táim cinnte go n-aontóidh an Teachta liom go bhfuil saibhreas cultúrtha ar leith fréamhaithe i dteanga na Gaeilge, an teanga is ársa san Eoraip ar an dtaobh thuaidh de Shléibhte na nAlp, ó thaobh labhartha agus scríofa de. Tá tábhacht ar leith leis an ilghnéitheacht teangacha don oidhreacht chultúrtha agus do shaibhreas coiteann an chine dhaonna sa saol atá inniu ann.

Tá fógartha ag mo Roinn le déanaí go bhfuil fo-chiste bunaithe chun tacú le cúrsaí Gaeilge in institiúidí tríú leibhéil thar lear. Tá líon áirithe de choláistí tríú leibhéil thar lear gníomhach cheana féin le cláracha don Ghaeilge agus do na staidéir Cheilteacha laistigh dá bhforais féin agus tá spéis léirithe acu i bhforbairt na gcláracha sin. Cothaíonn cláracha dá leithéid dea-thoil d'Éirinn sna tíortha sin thar lear. Go deimhin, tagann cuid mhór de na scoláirí a bhíonn páirteach sna cláracha seo ar chuairt go hÉirinn agus is minic go leanann ceangail caradais agus tuiscint ar thabhartas uathúil cultúrtha ár dtíre as an bpáirtíocht seo. Ag eascairt as an tionscnamh nua atá fógraithe, bheifí ag súil le tuilleadh scoláirí fós ag teacht go hÉirinn amach anseo.

Is fiú a lua chomh maith go dtugtar cúnamh ó mo Roinnse faoin scéim chúrsaí Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht do dhaoine fásta do choistí cáilithe atá ag feidhmiú i gceantair Ghaeltachta agus ag eagrú cúrsaí Gaeilge aitheanta do dhaoine fásta. Is féidir glacadh le daoine a bhfuil cónaí orthu laistigh agus lasmuigh den Ghaeltacht orthu, chomh maith leo siúd nach Éireannaigh iad, mar dhaltaí faoin scéim seo.

Community Development.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

119 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when consultations will commence between his Department, local agencies and county development boards in relation to the application for volunteering funding submitted under the Cohesion Fund. [4347/06]

Funding of €1.46 million to promote volunteering has been allocated to 24 county-city development boards and to Údarás na Gaeltachta. The following table provides the details. In the case of areas where no allocation has yet been made my Department is in discussions with the relevant authorities with a view to allocating funds subject to their meeting the criteria involved.

Volunteering

Organisation Name

Allocation €

Carlow County Council

0

Cavan County Council

50,000

Clare County Council

80,000

Cork City Council

92,000

Cork County Council

100,000

Donegal County Council

96,000

Dublin City Council

0

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council

36,900

Fingal County Council

41,000

Galway City Council

50,000

Galway County Council

100,000

Kerry County Council

0

Kildare County Council

50,000

Kilkenny County Council

51,000

Laois County Council

0

Leitrim County Council

0

Limerick City Council

75,000

Limerick County Development Board

50,000

Longford County Council

0

Louth County Council

36,500

Mayo County Council

60,000

Meath County Council

0

Monaghan County Council

22,000

North Tipperary County Council

0

Offaly County Council

29,000

Roscommon County Council

0

Sligo County Council

50,000

South Dublin County Council

50,000

South Tipperary County Council

0

Waterford City Council

75,000

Waterford County Council

50,000

Wexford County Council

50,000

Wicklow County Council

50,000

Westmeath County Council

50,000

Údarás na Gaeltachta

69,000

Total

1,463,400

National Drugs Strategy.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

120 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the working group examining rehabilitation initiatives as a fifth pillar of the national drugs strategy has completed its work; if it has reported to the interdepartmental group on drugs and the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion; the recommendations arising from this process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4380/06]

Liz McManus

Question:

137 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the working group to develop a policy for the provision of integrated rehabilitation services under the aegis of the national drugs strategy has completed its report; the date the report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4429/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 and 137 together.

The working group on rehabilitation was established in September 2005 and includes representatives from a range of Departments and agencies involved in delivering rehabilitation services, as well as representatives from the national drugs strategy team, NDST, the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, NACD, and the community and voluntary sectors. The terms of reference of the group include examining the current provision of rehabilitation services in Ireland and recommending actions to develop an integrated rehabilitation service for the future.

The working group has held a number of meetings, as well as consultations with interested parties. It is envisaged that its recommendations will be finalised by mid-year and that they will report to the interdepartmental group on drugs and to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion at that stage.

Denis Naughten

Question:

121 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he is satisfied regarding the failure of the regional drugs task forces to enact measures to date in 2006 to tackle drug abuse in their respective regions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4372/06]

Ten regional drugs task forces, RDTFs, have been established covering all parts of the country that are not already serviced by one of the 14 local drugs task forces. The RDTFs work in a partnership manner, similar to the local drugs task forces, and are made up of nominees from State agencies working in the region, the community and voluntary sectors and elected public representatives.

Following the assessment of regional plans submitted by the RDTFs, approvals were granted in September 2005 and allocations totalling just under €5 million were made to the ten regional drugs task force areas. Work on the implementation of the projects identified in these plans then commenced and a total of €633,200 was spent in 2005. Such a level of drawdown was to be expected as the regional task forces got up and running. A similar situation pertained when the local drugs task forces were established.

I am satisfied with the rate of progress made by the RDTFs to date and it is expected that the full €5 million allocated will be expended this year.

Community Development.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

122 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress in relation to a review of the RAPID programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4379/06]

As the Deputy may be aware, Pobal manages the RAPID programme on behalf of my Department and has contracted Fitzpatrick's Associates to complete an evaluation of the programme. This work commenced in January and is expected to be complete by the end of April.

National Drugs Strategy.

Seán Ryan

Question:

123 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has received a copy of the recent report on cocaine use here by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs; his views on the finding that cocaine use here is almost twice as high as in Northern Ireland; his further views on the report in general; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4435/06]

My Department requested the National Advisory Committee on Drugs to commission the fourth bulletin of the Drug Use in Ireland and Northern Ireland 2002-2003 Drug Prevalence Survey dealing with cocaine use. I launched the report on 12 January of this year. This is the first time we have had such detailed baseline information available at a population level on issues such as regular use of cocaine, how and where the drug was obtained and reasons for quitting, together with attitudinal information towards cocaine use.

A total number of 8,434 people aged 15 to 64 were surveyed by MORI MRC on behalf of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and the Drugs and Alcohol Information and Research Unit, Northern Ireland. Of these, 4,918 were in the Republic of Ireland and 3,516 in Northern Ireland. While the report showed that younger people, aged 15 to 34, reported greater levels of cocaine use than older people it should be borne in mind that the proportion of such younger people is higher in the Republic of Ireland.

In regard to the survey findings generally, they provide valuable insights into the social context in which the drug is used. Over three quarters of recent users — used in the last year — obtained their drugs from someone known to them. The findings contributed to the rationale for the targeted two-phased multi-media cocaine awareness campaign. This campaign, managed by the health promotion unit as part of the national drugs strategy, targeted young people aged 18 to 35 years and focused on the dangers and consequences of cocaine use. Furthermore, substance misuse prevention programmes are now on the curricula of all schools.

A new drug prevalence study will be carried out in late 2006-early 2007. Preliminary analysis will be done in the subsequent months leading to a first report of national prevalence figures and trends later in 2007.

Departmental Research.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

124 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the details of the special fund created for the purpose of placenames research; the amount being given to the fund; the type of groups that will be able to access the fund; the aims of the fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4430/06]

Details regarding the special fund of €300,000 that I am making available for placenames research and its overall purpose were set out in the press release issued by my office on 6 January 2006, a copy of which I am forwarding to the Deputy. The fund is intended to provide bursaries for postgraduate students who select placenames as the basis for their study. As I indicated in the press release, a notice containing further information for potential applicants will be published shortly and I have arranged with my Department that a copy of the notice will also be provided to the Deputy.

Community Development.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

125 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on whether all areas of County Mayo should be covered under schemes administered by his Department; the steps he will take to include the county as a whole in all schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4398/06]

The Deputy will be aware that my Department already offers a wide range of schemes and projects to all areas of County Mayo. Details are given in the following appendix, as are my plans to extend eligibility, where appropriate.

Appendix

Programme of Grants for Locally Based Community and Voluntary Organisations

All parts of County Mayo are included under the Programme of Grants for Locally Based Community and Voluntary Organisations. The beneficiaries under this scheme are listed on the Department's website — www.pobail.ie.

Scheme of Community Supports for Older People

All parts of County Mayo are included under the Scheme of Community Supports for Older People. The beneficiaries under this scheme are listed on the Department's website — www.pobail.ie.

Dormant Accounts

Dormant Accounts legislation provides for a scheme to disburse unclaimed moneys for projects and programmes designed to alleviate poverty, disability and social deprivation in all areas of the country, including Mayo.

Cohesion Measures

The Cohesion Process aims to achieve the integration of LEADER and Partnership groups by the end of 2006 so that local and rural development programmes are delivered by the one body in each area. In addition, from 1 January 2007, the local development social inclusion programme (LDSIP) is being extended to all areas of the country. These changes will make it much easier for communities who are tackling disadvantage throughout the country to access a wide range of local and community development supports.

CLÁR

Of the 152 District Electoral Divisions (DEDs) in County Mayo, 104 are included in the CLÁR programme. The methodology used in deciding the areas to be included in the programme was identification of the DEDs which lost the most population from 1926 to 1996 for the original CLÁR areas and 1926-2002 for the revised CLÁR areas. Areas included suffered an average population loss of 50% with an aggregate population now of over 4,000. I am satisfied that no other significant areas fulfil the population criteria for inclusion in CLÁR. Funding for projects in the Mayo DEDs under the various measures in the programme totals over €8 million from 2002 to date in 2006. Commitments entered into for the comparable period, yet to be drawn down, amount to over €3 m. Through the co-funded measures operating with other Departments, State agencies and local authorities, these areas also benefit from further funding from both public and private sources. I am satisfied that the needs of the people in the CLÁR areas of County Mayo, which currently covers over 46% of the population for the county, are being met through the efficient and effective delivery of the programme and that CLÁR is making a sustained and strong positive contribution to rural communities there.

Gaeltacht areas

A comprehensive linguistic study of the use of Irish in the Gaeltacht is being carried out at present. It is intended that this will be used a basis for a review of the official Gaeltacht areas. I cannot say at this stage what impact this may or may not have on the Gaeltacht areas in County Mayo.

Islands

All of the Mayo offshore islands are eligible for assistance under Subhead H (Islands) of the Department's vote and Gaeltacht areas of the county are covered under Subhead I (Údarás na Gaeltachta).

Drugs Strategy

Mayo is covered by a Regional Drugs Task Force (whole country covered by either Regional or Local Drugs Task Force).

Rural Social Scheme

This scheme aims to provide an income supplement to small farmers and part-time fishermen who are currently in receipt of long-term social welfare payments while at the same time harnessing their skills for the benefit of rural communities. All of the work undertaken under the Rural Social Scheme (RSS) is beneficial to the local communities. The scheme was introduced on a phased basis initially, and is now being implemented throughout the country on behalf of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs by the LEADER Groups and in the Gaeltacht by the LEADER Groups in conjunction with Údarás na Gaeltachta. Provision has been made under the scheme for 2,500 participants.

Rural Social Scheme in Co. Mayo.

The RSS is being implemented throughout the entire county of Mayo by the following implementing bodies:

·IRD Kiltimagh.

·South West Mayo Development Company Ltd.

·Údarás na Gaeltachta.

·Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta Teoranta.

·Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann.

·Moy Valley Resources.

·Comhar Iorrais LEADER Teo.

To date these implementing bodies have 442 participants on the RSS who are carrying out work projects in rural communities in all regions of Co. Mayo. There are also 24 supervisors to manage and supervise these work projects in their respective areas.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

126 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the works which will qualify for grant aid through his Department from the dormant accounts fund; the amount of moneys to date in 2006 expended from this source and the projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4364/06]

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

132 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when funding announcements for the two remaining categories to be funded under the dormant accounts funds will be announced and allocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4374/06]

Joan Burton

Question:

151 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the details of the €24 million package of funding for economic and social disadvantage projects that was raised from money from the dormant accounts fund; the projects that are being funded and their location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4427/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 126, 132 and 151 together.

Disbursements from the dormant accounts fund are designed to assist three broad categories of persons: those who are socially or economically disadvantaged; those who are educationally disadvantaged; and persons with a disability.

The Dormant Accounts (Amendment) Act 2005 provided for significant changes in relation to the disbursement of funds from dormant accounts. Under this new legislation, the Minister is required to consult with appropriate Ministers for the purpose of developing a proposal for submission to Government for approval. This proposal will include the programmes and types of projects in relation to which applications for disbursements will be invited, as well as the criteria to be applied in assessing applications made in response to the invitation.

After consulting with the appropriate Ministers and having obtained the approval of Government, I announced details on 4 January 2006 concerning the allocation of €24 million in 2006 for the purpose of supporting programmes and types of projects tackling social and economic disadvantage. Details of the announcement are available on the website of my Department at www.pobail.ie. and are set out below in Appendix 1 for the Deputies’ information.

The rollout of the measures announced on 4 January has now commenced. In this regard, an invitation to the 45 RAPID area implementation teams, AITs, issued at the end of January requesting them to submit their priority projects for consideration. This measure provides for the ring-fencing of €11.5 million for priority projects identified by the RAPID AITs. In relation to the other measures proposed, it is anticipated that they will be rolled out on a phased basis over the coming months as the specific operational arrangements are finalised.

With regard to the other two categories — educational disadvantage and persons with a disability — the Government has approved the allocation of an amount of €18 million for each category from the dormant accounts fund. The consultation process required under the legislation will be completed shortly. It is anticipated that further announcements will be made shortly in relation to proposals under these headings when work ongoing in both the Departments of Education and Science and Health and Children is completed and subject to specific measures being submitted and approved by Government.

Appendix 1

Press Release04 January 2006

€24 MILLION DORMANT ACCOUNTS FUNDING

TO BE TARGETED AT SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DISADVANTAGE

Noel Ahern, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Éamon Ó Cuív T.D. Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs today announced that the Government has approved the categories under which €24 million from dormant accounts will be spent in 2006 on programmes and projects tackling social and economic disadvantage.

The Dormant Accounts legislation targets three broad categories of persons for support from the Dormant Accounts Fund:

·those affected by economic and social disadvantage;

·those affected by educational disadvantage; and

·persons with a disability.

Today's announcement relates solely to the Social and Economic Category. The programmes and types of projects in this category will aim to ensure that particular priority is given to the areas designated by Government as most disadvantaged i.e. RAPID, CLÁR and Drugs Task Force areas (see Editor's note).

The funding announced today will focus on:

·RAPID Programme — up to 50% of the overall funding will be ring-fenced to provide additional supports for priority projects in RAPID areas;

·Support for Priority Themes — funding for specific measures supporting youth, older people and other priority themes — including suicide prevention; alcohol misuse; supports for immigrant families; supports for offenders/ex-offenders;

·Support for Jointly Funded Flagship Projects — funding for innovative measures addressing matters of major public concern, which also involve substantial funding from private, philanthropic or community sources.

"I am very pleased that a significant level of spending will go directly towards projects in areas designated by Government as suffering particular disadvantage. I also believe that the money aimed at jointly funded flagship projects will lever significant additional funding from private and other sources."

Noel Ahern T.D., Minister of State, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs

Éamon Ó Cuív, T.D., Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, strongly welcomed the Government decision. He indicated his intention to bring proposals to Government soon in relation to additional Dormant Accounts funding under the Educational Disadvantage Category and the Disability Category.

Editor's Note;

RAPID

RAPID (Revitalising Areas by Planning Investment and Development) is a focused initiative designed to prioritise and target Government expenditure, over a number of Departments, on the most concentrated centres of disadvantage in the country. Strand 1 targets 25 urban centres while Strand II targets 20 provincial towns.

CLÁR

CLÁR (Ceantair Laga Ard-Riachtanais) is a similar type initiative targeting rural areas and the islands. It funds and provides co-funding for measures designed to support physical, community and social infrastructure.

Drug Task Forces

Drug Task Forces (DTFs) operate in the areas experiencing the worse levels of drug misuse, particularly heroin. The role of the DTFs is to prepare local action plans, which include a range of measures to tackle drug misuse in the areas of treatment, rehabilitation, education, prevention and curbing local supply.

Programmes and Types of Projects Recommended by

Social & Economic Disadvantage Committee

Programme Heading

Programme Description

Target Group / Area

Application Process

Additionality Demonstrated

1. Additionality under RAPID Programme.

Funding ring-fenced for the purpose of supporting priority projects within RAPID areas.

Strand 1 and Strand 2 RAPID areas.

RAPID AITs invited to apply

Yes. The ring-fencing of funding for RAPID areas will ensure that funding for priority projects is front-loaded in 2006

€11.5 million

2. Specific Priority Measures:

€7.5 million

Youth Disadvantage Initiatives

—Supports for youth groups.

Once-off small scale equipment grants for youth groups with a particular focus on disadvantaged and marginal groups.

Young people.

Public invitation to youth groups

Yes. Existing Local Youth Club Grant scheme does not include any element of capital funding for equipment

—Supports to provide enhanced access to recreational & personal development opportunities for disadvantaged young people.

Grants to fund participation in recreational pursuits and personal development activities which are not normally available to disadvantaged children and disadvantaged young people.

Invitation to Partnership companies

Disadvantaged children and disadvantaged young people.

Yes. No specific funding stream to provide such services

—Supports for sports which have traditional appeal to youth in disadvantaged areas (e.g. boxing; wrestling; martial arts; weightlifting etc.).

Grants to fund purchase of essential equipment / hire of halls etc. not funded under Sports Capital Programme.

Young people in disadvantaged areas.

Invitation to specified sports

Yes. Funding under Sports Capital Programme not provided for personal equipment

—IT initiatives for disadvantaged young people.

Projects supporting disadvantaged young people to adapt to information technology with a particular focus on early school leavers.

Disadvantaged young people.

Targeted public invitation to groups active in this area

Yes. No specific funding stream for this measure.

Older People Initiatives

Enhanced interventions and supports to assist older people living in their own homes and in the community.

Supports for community based care services for older people such as improved access to services including transport and mobility.

Local Community and voluntary groups supporting older people.

Public invitation to groups active in this area

Yes. No specific funding stream for local community and voluntary groups supporting older people

Programme Heading

Programme Description

Target Group / Area

Application Process

Additionality Demonstrated

Social Disadvantage Measures:

—Supports for offenders / ex-offenders.

Projects providing addiction counselling for prisoners / ex-prisoners.

Prisoners / ex-prisoners.

Targeted public invitation to groups active in this area

Yes. No specific funding stream for such services.

Projects providing employment supports for prisoners / ex-prisoners.

Prisoners / ex-prisoners.

Targeted public invitation to groups active in this area

Yes. No specific funding stream for such services.

—Supports for vulnerable immigrants.

Supports for immigrant families who have been granted refugee status or granted leave to remain in the State.

Immigrant families.

Public invitation to Partnership companies.

Yes. No specific funding stream for such services.

—Suicide prevention.·supports to strengthen community based suicide prevention;·young men under 35.

Measures tackling suicide prevention with a particular focus on

At risk individuals.

Public invitation to community and voluntary groups active in this area.

Yes. No specific funding stream to provide funding for community groups.

—Projects tackling alcohol misuse.

Supports for community based responses addressing problems associated with alcohol misuse.

At risk individuals.

Public invitation to community and voluntary groups active in this area.

Yes. No specific funding stream to provide funding for such services.

3. Flagship Projects Jointly Funded:

€5 million

Innovative initiatives addressing issues of social and economic disadvantage.

Innovative initiatives addressing matters of major public concern and/or headline policy interventions for which funding from private/philanthropic or community sources can be levered.

Socially and economically disadvantaged.

Public invitation to groups who have substantial guaranteed funding from private, philanthropic or community sources for innovative projects

Yes. Objective is to encourage innovative projects which can lever significant funding from private, philanthropic or community sources.

Charities Legislation.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

127 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the Law Reform Commission consultation paper on legal structures for charities; his views on the paper; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4441/06]

Dan Boyle

Question:

153 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the Law Reform Commission’s proposal to introduce a new legal structure for charities to be called the Charitable Incorporated Organisation. [4340/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 and 153 together.

The Law Reform Commission is an independent statutory body. Its Second Programme for Law Reform identified certain branches of the law for examination, including the law of charities. In that context, the Law Reform Commission took the initiative to prepare a Consultation Paper on Legal Structures for Charities, which was published on 16 January 2006, with a deadline for submissions of 31 March 2006.

The Law Reform Commission usually publishes in two stages: first a consultation paper, and then a report. The consultation paper is intended to form the basis for discussion and, accordingly, the recommendations, conclusions and suggestions contained in it are provisional. The commission makes its final recommendations, following further consideration of the issues and consultation, in the report.

National Drugs Strategy.

Denis Naughten

Question:

128 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if a progress report will be provided on the measures to counter the increasing use of cocaine and crack cocaine here; his proposals to meet the needs of users; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4371/06]

Seán Crowe

Question:

131 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if, in view of the nature and scale of cocaine abuse and its epidemic growth across communities here, his views on the fact that more action needs to be taken than the current multi-media awareness campaign; if his attention has been drawn to the pilot schemes to tackle cocaine abuse in Dublin city; his views on diverting more resources to these schemes and expanding them across the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4367/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 128 and 131 together.

While anecdotal evidence suggests that there has been an increase in the use of cocaine, I do not believe it has reached epidemic proportions. The 2002-03 national drug prevalence survey provides comprehensive baseline information on cocaine use in this country. It is intended that the fieldwork for the next drug prevalence study will be carried out from around September 2006 to April 2007. Preliminary analysis will be done in the months following, with a first report of national prevalence figures and trends expected later in 2007. At that stage we will be much better placed to measure effectively the level of growth of cocaine use in Ireland.

There is no substitution treatment drug for cocaine and crack cocaine and existing services such as counselling and behavioural therapy are the best treatments available. In this context, the Health Service Executive has recruited additional counsellors and outreach workers in the last number of years.

As I have outlined to this House on a number of occasions, I am confident that through the implementation of the actions in the national drugs strategy, and the projects and initiatives operated through the local and regional drugs task forces, the problem of cocaine and crack cocaine use can be addressed. Each of the drugs task forces has in place an action plan to tackle drug use in their area, based on their own priorities and aided by their ongoing contact with local communities.

I also point out that all schools now have substance misuse prevention programmes. In addition, the national drugs awareness campaign focused specifically on cocaine use in 2004-05. This well received campaign sought to dispel the image that cocaine was a clean and safe drug with few detrimental consequences.

Furthermore, in 2005 I launched the four pilot cocaine treatment projects to examine different methods of treatment for cocaine use, as well as a training initiative focusing on frontline workers. Funding of almost €400,000 was provided by me to support these initiatives. The four projects deal with the following cohorts of cocaine users: intravenous cocaine users; poly-drug users using cocaine; problematic intranasal cocaine users; and problematic female cocaine users. The evaluation of these pilot projects has commenced and it is expected that a preliminary report will be available in the coming months. The main thrust of the evaluation will be to analyse, in a systematic manner, what is being achieved by the projects and to report on the lessons to be learned as a result. It is hoped that the results of this evaluation will aid the formulation of further effective actions aimed at tackling cocaine misuse.

While the problems of cocaine and crack cocaine must not be underestimated, I believe progress is being made and I will continue to respond in a flexible and focused way as the situation evolves.

Question No. 129 answered with QuestionNo. 111.

Agency Governance Structures.

John Gormley

Question:

130 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the recent report carried out on the governance of agencies by the Institute of Public Administration, which criticises the existence of duplicate function agencies and found that his Department is likely to have agencies of this type. [4345/06]

The report in question was completed by the Committee for Public Management Research, CPMR, and published by the Institute of Public Administration. The report deals with the general issue of "agencies" or organisations which have been set up, usually through legislation, to carry out public governance functions on behalf of, for example, Departments. Of the 601 agencies identified in the report, 307 are described as "duplicate function agencies", that is, the same function is carried out by a number of similar agencies in different locations, for example, county councils, county development boards, regional tourism authorities. Other examples include Leader and partnership companies.

I am not sure that it is accurate to say, as the Deputy seems to suggest, that the report criticises the existence of duplicate functions. It is not recommended, for example, that we should have a fewer number of county councils. The report does, however, makes recommendations on how agencies in general should be set up, resourced and monitored, how performance is to be managed and on how the links between agencies and their parent Departments should operate. We support fully the principles underlying these recommendations and our governance and management practices are, at least, equivalent in effect to what the committee is recommending.

In this regard, the Deputy might note that my Department was established in 2002 with the key aim of ensuring a more co-ordinated engagement by the State with communities around the country as they pursue their own development. The Deputy will be aware that a review process to secure the most positive impacts for communities from expenditure through programmes in this area is ongoing and the guiding principles-terms of reference for this review are: improving on the ground services, supports and impacts on local communities from within existing levels of resources; streamlining and rationalising structures in order to avoid overlaps, duplication and undue administrative overheads; bringing transparency, co-ordination and improved control to the funding and operation of local-community development measures; and strengthening the democratic accountability of agencies and service providers in this area.

Arising from the review, the Government agreed a range of measures designed, inter alia, to improve arrangements under which community and local development initiatives are delivered and enable communities to more readily access and make maximum use of the funding available. In line with that decision, local and community development agencies were requested to advance improvements in linkages, cohesion and sharing resources. City and county development boards were given the role of co-ordinating the cohesion process. Cohesion funding of €3,248,600 was allocated during 2004 to support specific measures arising from that process. These were mainly focused on improving current arrangements with regard to resources, staffing and geographic coverage.

Last year, I announced a €7 million cohesion funding package over 2005-2006 aimed at achieving the alignment of Leader and partnership groups, including community partnerships, in order that local and rural development programmes are delivered by one body in each area. Allocations in 2005 amounted to approximately €3.4 million and I expect to announce further allocations shortly.

In addition, following an independent review of Area Development Management Limited, carried out within the framework of the review, the company has been restructured in order to secure improved accountability and strengthen the relationship between the organisation and Government. The company name has also been changed to Pobal, which more appropriately reflects its role in the delivery of programmes on behalf of Government, for the benefit of communities.

Question No. 131 answered with QuestionNo. 128.
Question No. 132 answered with QuestionNo. 126.

Foclóir Béarla-Gaeilge.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

133 D'fhiafraigh Mr. M. Higgins den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta leis an bhfoclóir Béarla-Gaeilge ag Foras na Gaeilge; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [4413/06]

Mar a thug me le fios sa fhreagra a thug mé ar Cheist Uimh. 56 ar 30 Samhain 2005, tá céim a haon den tionscadal seo curtha i gcrích. Tuigim ó Fhoras na Gaeilge go bhfuil sé i gceist conraitheoir a cheapadh i mbliana do chéim a dó den tionscadal, is é sin, tiomsú agus scríobh an fhoclóra idir an leagan leictreonach agus an leagan clóite de. Meastar gur obair thrí nó ceithre bliana a bheidh i gceist chun céim a dó a chríochnú. Ina dhiaidh sin, beidh an dá leagan den fhoclóir críochnaithe le táirgeadh agus meastar go dtógfaidh an próiseas sin suas le bliain.

Foghlaim na Gaeilge sna Scoileanna.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

134 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Gilmore den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta an bhfuil sé ar intinn aige moladh a chur faoi bhráid na Roinne Oideachais go ndeanfaí dháábhar den Ghaeilge san Ardteistiméireacht; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [4412/06]

Mar a dúirt mé ag díospóireacht phoiblí in Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh, le déanaí, bheinnse lán-sásta go ndéanfaí dháábhar den Ghaeilge san Ardteistiméireacht agus go n-ardófaí an moladh seo san idirphlé leanúnach a bhíonn ar siúl idir mo Roinnse agus an Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta.

Is éard atá i gceist agam ná go mb'fhéidir gurbh fhiú go mbeadh an córas in ann freastal ar dhaltaí ar leibhéil dhifriúla ó thaobh na Gaeilge de trí dhá chúrsa difriúil a bheith ann, ceann amháin dírithe ar fhoghlaim na teanga mar theanga labhartha agus ceann eile dírithe ar an litríocht. Bheinn den tuairim sa chomhthéacs sin go mba chóir go mbeadh cead ag daltaí an dáábhar a dhéanamh, más mian leo.

Tuigfidh an Teachta, ar ndóigh, gur ceist í seo go príomhá don Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíochta.

Mergers and Amalgamations.

Willie Penrose

Question:

135 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason for the amalgamation of groups (details supplied); the benefits from the merger of the two groups; the remit of the new organisation that has been created; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4432/06]

An outline of the thinking that led to the decision to amalgamate these two bodies and the remit of the amalgamated body is set out in the press release issued by my office at the time, a copy of which I am forwarding to the Deputy.

It does not appear to be open to me, in the context of dealing with a "details supplied" parliamentary question, to add anything further in this reply.

Forbairt na nOileán.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

136 D'fhiafraigh Mr. McGinley den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén dul chun cinn atá déanta maidir le haerstráice a thógáil ar Oileán Thoraí: agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [4402/06]

TáÚdarás na Gaeltachta i mbun oibre réamh-phleanála i gcomhair aerstráice a thógáil ar Oileán Thoraí le cúpla bliain anuas. Ag eascairt ón obair seo, fuarthas cead pleanála don fhorbairt ó Chomhairle Chontae Dhún na nGall i 2004.

Tá an cuardach chun úinéirí an talaimh a aimsiú críochnaithe anois ag an Údarás. Beidh oifigigh mo Roinne-se i dteagmháil le Comhairle Chontae Dhún na nGall go luath maidir leis na horduithe ceannacháin éigeantaigh a theastaíonn a chur i bhfeidhm chun an talamh don fhorbairt a cheannach.

Question No. 137 answered with QuestionNo. 120.

Rural Development.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

138 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position regarding the approval and implementation dates for an overarching national strategy for rural development. [4342/06]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

149 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if an allocation of €500 million was especially earmarked for Ireland at the December 2005 European Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4442/06]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

162 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if officials from his Department and the Department of Agriculture and Food have finished preparing the national strategy for rural development; if the strategy is ready to be agreed and formally adopted; the process in regard to the development of a national programme for rural development once the strategy is adopted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4428/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138, 149 and 162 together.

The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs together with the Department of Agriculture and Food are preparing a joint national strategy for rural development as required by the new EU Council regulation on rural development. This task is being carried out in association with the EU Commission.

In October 2005, advertisements were placed in the national newspapers inviting representative organisations with an interest in rural development in Ireland to indicate if they wished to be consulted on preparation of the national strategy. In December 2005, a consultation document — draft — Ireland Rural Development National Strategy Plan, NSP, 2007-2013 — issued to the interested representative organisations.

Organisations were asked to make submissions by 27 January 2006. Some 70 submissions have been received to date and are being considered by both Departments. A consultation seminar is planned for early March and the representative organisations will be invited to participate. It is envisaged that the strategy will be formally agreed and adopted early in 2006.

A detailed national programme or programmes will be prepared following completion of the national strategy. This will be agreed with the EU Commission by the middle of 2006, in time to allow commencement in January 2007. An indicative amount of EU funding for rural development programming was agreed at the December 2005 European Council. These allocations will have to be formally agreed at an upcoming meeting of the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers.

Polasaí Gaeilge an Gharda Síochána.

Mary Upton

Question:

139 D'fhiafraigh Dr. Upton den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cén moladh a rinne sé le Coimisinéir an Gharda Síochána maidir le hinimirceoirí a bheadh ag iarraidh poist sna Gardaí do dhéanamh dianchúrsa trí mhí chun Gaeilge a fhoghlaim; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [4411/06]

Mar a fógraíodh roimhe seo, bunaíodh grúpa oibre idir-rannach chun féachaint ar chur chuige oiriúnach a mholadh ó thaobh riachtanais Gaeilge sa chóras oiliúna de chuid an Gharda Síochána de. Bunaíodh an grúpa i gcomhthéacs an athbhreithnithe a rinneadh chun a chinntiú go mbeidh deiseanna earcaíochta ag daoine ó phobail atá nuabhunaithe le blianta beaga anuas in Éirinn.

Tá, dar ndóigh, malartú tuairimí agus moltaí mar chuid lárnach den idirphlé idir-rannach sin agus níl sé i gceist agam aon tagairt phoiblí a dhéanamh ina leith roimh chinneadh a bheith déanta. Déanfaidh Coimisinéir an Gharda Síochána, i gcomhairle leis an Roinn Dlí agus Cirt, Comhionannais agus Athchóirithe Dlí agus le mo Roinnse, mionsonraí na riachtanas oideachais Gaeilge do ghardaí faoi oiliúint a thabhairt chun críche go luath.

Countryside Access.

Jack Wall

Question:

140 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position regarding the work of Comhairle na Tuaithe; if policy decisions have been taken arising from the work of An Chomhairle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4439/06]

I established Comhairle na Tuaithe in February 2004 to address the three priority issues of: access to the countryside; developing a countryside code; and developing a countryside recreation strategy. Comhairle na Tuaithe comprises representatives of the farming organisations, recreational users of the countryside and State bodies with an interest in the countryside.

To date Comhairle na Tuaithe has identified and reviewed a set of access parameters in the countryside, which it believes will serve as a basis for conflict prevention and integrate a variety of needs and responsibilities. It has also agreed the key features necessary for countryside code development, with a focus on the potential application of the internationally recognised leave no trace initiative. Details of the code are available in a booklet, which I launched in September of last year and are on my Department's website at www.pobail.ie.

Comhairle na Tuaithe is currently working on the development of a National Countryside Recreation Strategy. The first phase in the development of the strategy involved consultation with interested parties. In this regard, it invited submissions from interested individuals and groups. This invitation appeared in the national and provincial newspapers at the end of October and in addition Comhairle na Tuaithe wrote to groups representing recreational interests, State agencies and relevant Departments seeking their views. The closing date for receipt of submissions was 7 December 2005 and 190 submissions were received. The work of drafting the countryside recreation strategy is proceeding and Comhairle na Tuaithe is, at present, examining the submissions received. The strategy when formulated will help inform policy decisions in the wider rural development domain.

Voluntary Sector.

Joan Burton

Question:

141 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the support measures for volunteering he intends to introduce in 2006, including measures directed at promoting volunteering in second and third level institutions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4440/06]

The Deputy will be aware of the volunteering package, which I announced in March 2005, and my replies to Questions Nos. 18, 34, 36, 53, 305 and 308 in March, April and June of last year relating to that initiative.

This volunteering package is now in place and funding is continuing for the range of initiatives for the three year period from 2005 to 2007, including funding to the various volunteer bureaux and funding for second and third level volunteering initiatives.

I have only recently approved increased funding to Volunteering Ireland and Tallaght Volunteer Bureau bringing their total annual funding to €135,902 and €119,746, respectively. I have also approved increased funding for the Young Social Innovators bringing their total annual funding to €250,000.

With regard to an allocation from the Local and Community Development Cohesion Fund which I previously announced, I am pleased to say that in excess of €1.4 million was provided by my Department in December 2005 to county development boards for a range of volunteering initiatives across the country. Such initiatives in support of volunteering will continue through 2006 and beyond.

Charities Legislation.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

142 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason charities regulation legislation is not part of the current legislative programme; when this legislation will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4377/06]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

143 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress in regard to preparation of legislation to regulate charities; the date for the publication of the Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4426/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 143 together.

Preparation of the legislation to regulate the charities sector is progressing. The target date for publication of the Charities Regulation Bill 2006 remains spring-summer of this year, as previously indicated to the House.

Regional Development.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

144 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when the review of the structures of Údarás will be completed and its recommendations implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4378/06]

As I indicated in my reply to Question No 58 of 30 November 2005, I initiated a public consultation process last year in regard to my Department's review of the powers and functions of Údarás na Gaeltachta. Some 67 submissions were received from various organisations and individuals as a result of this process. My officials are currently working on a comprehensive paper for my consideration and, following on from this paper, I expect to be in a position to bring proposals regarding legislation to Government later in 2006.

Rail Network.

Simon Coveney

Question:

145 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the action he has taken to ensure that the western rail corridor will be completed within the timeframe of Transport 21, in view of the route’s importance to rural development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4376/06]

The Deputy will appreciate that the completion of the western rail corridor is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, as part of the Government's ten-year programme for transport, Transport 21.

Transport 21 commits to developing the western rail corridor in phases. Following the launch of Transport 21, the Minister, Deputy Cullen, asked Iarnród Éireann to give immediate attention to the design and planning stages of the first phase of development from Ennis to Athenry. I understand that the company has already begun this work and will shortly undertake detailed scoping on the requirements for the technical aspects associated with re-opening the line. While Transport 21 anticipates the completion of this section of the line in 2008 and the re-opening of all sections to Claremorris by 2014, Iarnród Éireann has been encouraged to accelerate delivery of the programme wherever possible.

The remaining section of the line from Claremorris to Collooney will require further studies before a decision is made in relation to its re-opening. However, to ensure that no action is taken, in the meantime, along this stretch of line that would compromise its future development as a railway, the alignment will be preserved in its entirety. Iarnród Éireann has invited tenders to undertake the necessary work for fencing and closing-off of the line and I expect it to make proposals in relation to this matter in the near future.

Domestic Violence.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

146 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the details of the code of practice on domestic violence that was recently launched by his Department; the aims of this code of practice; the projects this code of practice will benefit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4431/06]

The code of practice on domestic violence was developed and adopted by projects funded by my Department under the community development programme. It emerged from the experience of projects in dealing with the issue of domestic violence. The code of practice has also been adopted for use by Family Resource Centres funded by the Family Support Agency. The code of practice provides a framework, through practical actions and responses, for projects to help address the issue of domestic violence in their communities.

National Drugs Strategy.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

147 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the extent to which the national drugs strategy team is addressing middle class regular use of cocaine; his views on whether there is a growing national problem in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4425/06]

It is very difficult to quantify drug use by socio-economic group. However, the Drug Use in Ireland and Northern Ireland 2002-2003 Drug Prevalence Survey contained some questions pertaining to such groups. The fourth bulletin of the drug prevalence survey, focusing on cocaine, was recently launched. This survey indicates that there is no association between socio-economic group and cocaine use on a lifetime, last year or last month basis. However, respondents from the socio-economic group E, those who are long-term dependent on the State, reported a slightly higher lifetime prevalence, but the divergence was not statistically significant.

At my request, the national drugs strategy team set up a cocaine subgroup to come up with proposals to tackle cocaine misuse across all social classes. This subgroup was made up of people working on the ground, who might be expected to have the greatest degree of current knowledge of the cocaine problem. Arising from their recommendations, I launched four pilot cocaine treatment projects to examine different methods of treatment for cocaine use, as well as a training initiative focusing on frontline workers. Funding of almost €400,000 was provided by me to support these initiatives.

The four projects deal with the following cohorts of cocaine users: intravenous cocaine users; poly-drug users using cocaine; problematic intranasal cocaine users; and problematic female cocaine users. The evaluation of these pilot projects has commenced and it is expected that a preliminary report will be available in the coming months. The main thrust of the evaluation will be to analyse, in a systematic manner, what is being achieved by the projects and to report on the lessons to be learned as a result. It is hoped that the results of this evaluation will aid the formulation of further effective actions aimed at tackling cocaine misuse.

Polasaí Gaeilge an Rialtais.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

148 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Gilmore den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cathain a fhoilseoidh an Rialtas an ráiteas atá geallta aige ar an nGaeilge; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [4409/06]

Mar is eol don Teachta, iarradh tuairimíó chomhaltaí Fhóram na Gaeilge sa bhliain 2005, i gcomhthéacs an róil chomhairleoireachta a tugadh don ghrúpa, maidir le plean straitéiseach 20 bliain a fhorbairt don Ghaeilge agus tosaíochtaí gaolmhara gearr-théarmacha agus tá obair ar na ceisteanna sin idir lámha.

Mar atá mínithe agam don Teach cheana féin mar fhreagra ar cheisteanna faoin ábhar seo, bhí plé go dtí seo ag an bhFóram, i measc rudaí eile, maidir le cé chomh hinmholta is a bheadh plean straitéiseach 20 bliain don Ghaeilge.

Tá an cheist maidir le ráiteas soiléir ón Rialtas i ndáil le ról agus tábhacht na Gaeilge tar éis teacht chun cinn mar ábhar tosaíochta sa chomhthéacs sin agus tá dul chun cinn suntasach bainte amach le déanaí chun an cheist sin a thabhairt chun cinn. Tá súil agam a bheith in ann tuilleadh a rá faoin ábhar seo go luath.

Question No. 149 answered with QuestionNo. 138.

Rural Social Scheme.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

150 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo could not participate in the rural social scheme as that person is a lone parent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4397/06]

I refer to my previous responses to this matter under Questions No. 325 on 4 May 2005 and Question No. 833 on 28 September 2005. I hope to be able to make an announcement on the review of the rural social scheme in the near future.

Question No. 151 answered with QuestionNo. 126.

Irish Language.

Enda Kenny

Question:

152 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he supports the development of a national strategy for the Irish language; the steps he has taken to progress this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4382/06]

As the Deputy is aware, the views of the members of Fóram na Gaeilge on the development of an Irish language plan and related short-term priority issues were sought in 2005 in the context of the advisory capacity assigned to the group, and work on these matters is continuing.

As I have already explained in response to similar questions in the House, the matter of the advisability of a 20-year strategic plan for the Irish language has been amongst the issues which have been considered in general terms by Fóram na Gaeilge in its deliberations thus far.

The need for the development and provision of a clear statement on the part of the Government in regard to the Irish language and its importance as a whole has emerged as a key issue in this context and considerable work has been done of late to progress this matter. I hope to be in a position to elaborate further on this matter in the near future.

Question No. 153 answered with QuestionNo. 127.

National Drugs Strategy.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

154 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he intends to strengthen the campaign against the use of cocaine following the recent findings of the all Ireland drug prevalence survey, which showed that 3% of people here have used cocaine at some stage of their lives. [4344/06]

The figure of 3% for the number of people who had ever used cocaine is about average in terms of European figures. The national drugs awareness campaign, run by the health promotion unit of the Department of Health and Children, focused specifically on cocaine in 2004-05. Its well-received campaign sought to dispel the image that cocaine was a clean and safe drug with few detrimental consequences. Also, all schools now have substance misuse prevention programmes on their curricula.

There is no substitution treatment drug for cocaine and existing services such as counselling and behavioural therapy are the best treatments available. Additional counsellors and outreach workers have been recruited by the health services in recent years and they will play an important role in helping those who present for treatment arising from cocaine use. It is also open to local and regional drugs task forces to include projects aimed at tackling cocaine in their plans.

In 2005 I launched four pilot cocaine treatment projects to examine different methods of treatment for cocaine use, as well as a training initiative focusing on frontline workers. Funding of almost €400,000 was provided by me to support these initiatives. The four projects deal with the following cohorts of cocaine users: intravenous cocaine users; poly-drug users using cocaine; problematic intranasal cocaine users; and problematic female cocaine users. Following the evaluation of the outcomes of these initiatives, I will decide on whether it would be beneficial to expand these projects to other areas. I am confident that a range of measures is in place to tackle the problems that will be posed by cocaine in the coming period.

Rural Social Scheme.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

155 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if the 506 rural social scheme participant places, which remained available here at the end of 2005, have been filled. [4343/06]

The rural social scheme accepted its first participants in July 2004 and the numbers have been increasing steadily since then. At the end of 2005, there were 1,994 participants on the scheme and this number has since increased to a current total of 2,060. I expect that participant numbers will continue to increase and that all 2,500 places will be availed of in the near future.

Drug Seizures.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

156 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to data from the Revenue Commissioners’ customs service suggesting that the approximate value of illegal drug seizures here in 2005 was €37 million; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that there were 1,223 such seizures; his views on these figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4438/06]

I am aware of the provisional figure of €37 million from the Revenue Commissioners' customs service as the value of illegal drug seizures in 2005.

This is a significant increase on the figure of €12.4 million for 2004 and it illustrates the continued success of the customs service in disrupting the flow of illegal drugs into this State. The fact that there were 1,223 such seizures further emphasises the constant nature of this struggle against illicit drugs.

Supply reduction is one of the cornerstones of the national drugs strategy and the Revenue's customs service play a huge role in this respect. The customs service is achieving its targets for seizures as set out under the strategy and its ongoing achievement is also illustrated by the €160 million worth of illegal drugs it prevented from entering the country between 1999 and 2004.

The customs service is committed to maintaining this success and will shortly introduce its first mobile X-ray scanner aimed at detecting illegal drugs. I commend the Revenue Commissioners' customs service on its increasing rate of success in disrupting the flow of illicit drugs into the country.

National Drugs Strategy.

Damien English

Question:

157 Mr. English asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the dissatisfaction expressed by representatives of the community and voluntary sector over their involvement with the national drugs strategy; the action he will take to re-engage this sector in the strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4370/06]

Representatives of the community and voluntary sectors are currently engaged in all areas of the national drugs strategy. As the Deputy is no doubt aware, the community sector representative on the national drugs strategy team, NDST, has recently confirmed his intention to resign from the team. It will be open to the community sector to put forward a replacement representative. Meanwhile, the current community and voluntary sector representatives continue to play a full part in the work of the NDST. There is similar full engagement in the case of the national assessment committee of the young people's facilities and services fund and the interdepartmental group on drugs.

Some dissatisfaction has been expressed by representatives of the community and voluntary sectors over the emerging needs fund of the local drugs task forces. I have already allocated almost €850,000 to 15 projects under this fund and further substantial allocations are envisaged.

All those involved in tackling the problems of drugs misuse share the same aims. I am sure that we will address and overcome any issues that arise from time to time so that we can continue to jointly tackle the misuse of drugs.

Decentralisation Programme.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

158 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position regarding the planned decentralisation of his Department to Knock; if all staff are ready to decentralise; if suitable accommodation has been found; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4444/06]

My Department is transferring its headquarters to Knock Airport and 13 posts to Na Forbacha. On Na Forbacha, seven posts are already in place and it is expected that the remaining posts will be filled by the end of 2006.

My Department is scheduled to complete its move to Knock Airport by the end of 2007. It is also planned to relocate up to 70 posts in advance of the main move subject, inter alia, to the availability of suitable temporary accommodation in the general area. The Office of Public Works is currently seeking to source suitable accommodation and I hope this advance move can take place from mid-2006.

Currently some 26 members of staff have indicated a willingness to transfer to Knock Airport. Additional staff are transferring into my Department from other Dublin Departments for decentralisation. In addition, a large number of applicants who are currently decentralised wish to transfer to my Department. With all of those staff, and with the adoption of appropriate HR and risk management responses, I believe I will have sufficient applicants to fill all posts, both for the advance move and for the next phase of my Department's decentralisation programme, namely, the relocation to the new permanent headquarters building.

A site has been chosen for a headquarters building and the Office of Public Works has signed a contract for the purchase of that site. A competition was advertised recently for the design and building of the headquarters. It is anticipated that work on site will begin in the final quarter of this year. All necessary work on the building is scheduled to be completed in time for staff to move to Knock Airport by the end of 2007.

To support the decentralisation process, my Department has prepared a comprehensive decentralisation implementation plan, which sets out steps to be taken to ensure a successful relocation. The plan follows the guidelines set down by the Government's decentralisation implementation group. The plan is being implemented in full consultation with managers and staff and in line with industrial relations agreements and good practice.

National Drugs Strategy.

Seán Crowe

Question:

159 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if, in view of his Department’s responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the national drugs strategy which involves substantial input and participation from other Departments, his views on whether there is a cross-departmental consensus on the operation of this strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4368/06]

The Mid-Term Review of the National Drugs Strategy was published in June of 2005. This report was the culmination of a comprehensive review which included extensive consultation with Departments and agencies, the community and voluntary sectors and the public in general.

The review was overseen by a steering group, chaired by my Department, and made up of representatives of the relevant participants in the national drugs strategy. I am pleased that the steering group found that the current aims and objectives of the drugs strategy are fundamentally sound. It was confirmed that there are encouraging signs of progress since 2001, when the strategy was first launched, suggesting that our current approach to tackling the drug problem is proving to be effective. At the same time, however, the review highlights the need to re-focus some priorities and to accelerate the roll-out and implementation of various key actions in the remaining period of the strategy up to 2008.

The actions outlined in the national drugs strategy are being progressed with the significant input of other Departments and agencies — for example, the Health Services Executive, the Departments of Health and Children, Education and Science, and Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Garda Síochána, the Irish Prison Service, the customs service of the Revenue Commissioners and FÁS. All these bodies are playing important roles in the implementation of the overall strategy and the structures in place facilitate the sorting out of any issues that arise in relation to the details of the implementation.

While inevitably some differences of approach may arise between public bodies from time to time I am happy that there is consensus on the overall implementation of the strategy and I have every confidence that this will continue.

Harbours and Piers.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

160 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will report on progress being made on the proposed improvements to pier infrastructure which are to compensate for the cancellation of a cable car project on Inishbiggle, County Mayo. [4348/06]

Officials of my Department met officials from Mayo County Council recently to discuss the feasibility of extending the slipways at Gob na Dumhaí, Inis Bigil, and at Doran's Point, Ballycroy, and the feasibility of carrying out further improvement works on the mainland and island slipways at Béal an Bhulláin. As a result of these discussions, Mayo County Council has indicated it will be submitting proposals to my Department for funding works at these locations. These proposals will be evaluated in the context of the moneys available to me for island development and the various demands on that funding.

National Drugs Strategy.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

161 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when he will commission the new comprehensive drugs prevalence survey in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4443/06]

The National Advisory Committee on Drugs, NACD, and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit, DAIRU — Northern Ireland, commissioned the first drug prevalence survey in 2002-03, with the purpose of establishing the population prevalence of drug use in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The NACD and DAIRU are currently seeking expressions of interest from potential tenderers for a new population drug prevalence survey. The new survey may again cover Northern Ireland as well as the Republic of Ireland.

It is intended that the fieldwork for the drug prevalence study will be carried out from around September 2006 to April 2007. Preliminary analysis will be done in the months following with a first report of national prevalence figures and trends expected later in 2007.

Question No. 162 answered with QuestionNo. 138.

An Teanga Gaeilge.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

163 D'fhiafraigh Mr. M. Higgins den Aire Gnóthaí Pobail, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta cathain a bheidh na 330,000 téarma nua Gaeilge atá le cur ar fáil ag Coiste Téarmaíochta Fhoras na Gaeilge ullamh; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [4410/06]

Glacaim leis go bhfuil an Teachta ag tagairt don bhunachar náisiúnta téarmaíochta atáá réiteach ag FIONTAR, Ollscoil Chathair Bhaile Átha Cliath, le páirtmhaoiniúó Fhoras na Gaeilge. Tuigim ón bhforas go gcuirtear an obair sa chás seo faoi bhráid an Choiste Téarmaíochta go míosúil. Tá obair ghlantacháin ar siúl faoi láthair ar an dtéarmaíocht atá ionchurtha go dtí seo agus leanfar ar aghaidh leis an bpróiseas sin go dtí an samhradh. Tá sé i gceist ag FIONTAR réamh-leagan den bhunachar a chur amach beo ar an Idirlíon i mí Mheán Fómhair na bliana seo. As sin go Márta 2007, tuigim go mbeifear ag plé le ceisteanna nó deacrachtaí a eascróidh as aiseolas ón bpobal.

National Drugs Strategy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

164 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the expenditure by his Department to date in 2006 to assist communities attempting to combat drug abuse; the extent to which he intends to provide and improve such aid in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4365/06]

A total of €1,599,414.95 was spent by my Department to tackle drug misuse in the current year up to 3 February 2006. An allocation of €34.027 million for 2006 has been made for the drugs initiative and young people's facilities and services fund in the abridged Estimates volume. This represents an increase of 8% on the allocation for 2005. The level of increase in spending in the drugs area over the past number of years illustrates the Government's commitment to tackling the continuing problem of drugs misuse.

Simon Coveney

Question:

165 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he has received the 2004 annual report from the national drugs strategy team; if not, the reason for same; if he is satisfied regarding this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4375/06]

My Department has recently received their annual report for 2004 from the national drugs strategy team.

Irish Language.

Bernard Allen

Question:

166 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress on the review of the use of Irish in Gaeltacht areas; the outcome of this review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4381/06]

I assume that the Deputy is referring to the sociolinguistic study of the Gaeltacht, which commenced in April 2004 and is scheduled for completion this coming September. This important study — which is being conducted on behalf of my Department by Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, National University of Ireland, Galway, in conjunction with the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis, National University of Ireland, Maynooth — is examining Irish language usage in the Gaeltacht as a basis for strengthening the linguistic development of the Gaeltacht as an Irish-speaking area, and a review of the official Gaeltacht boundaries.

As I have already outlined to the House, all of the findings and proposals emerging from the study will receive careful and considered examination by my Department. Any proposals that may emerge on foot of that examination will be put before Government in due course.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

167 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Taoiseach if, in view of his commitment in a letter of 2 November 2005 to this Deputy that he would be happy to meet with a person from Northern Ireland whose son was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries, arrangements have been made for the meeting; if not, if he will set a date for the meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4470/06]

Following the commitment made in my letter of 3 November 2005, officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs met the person in question on 16 November 2005. Since then, arrangements have been made for officials from my Department to meet that person. That meeting is scheduled to take place shortly. As I stated in my letter of 3 November, I would be happy to meet with the person in question at a future date.

Information Society Commission.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

168 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach the names of the persons who are members of the Information Society Commission; the date on which the Information Society Commission first met; the date on which it most recently met; the number of reports it has published for his office or any other office; the titles of such reports; the areas in which such reports can be viewed; the date on which the term of the current Information Society Commission will expire; his plans to renew this project; the names of members of the Information Society Commission who have resigned since it was established; the names of persons added to the membership of the Information Society Commission since it was established; the cost of the Information Society Commission for each calendar year since its inception; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4484/06]

Since 1997, the Government has established two successive Information Society Commissions to act as an independent advisory body to Government on matters relating to the information society. The first Information Society Commission was established by the Government in May 1997, in response to the report of Ireland's information society steering committee, entitled Information Society Ireland: Strategy for Action. It ended in December 2000. The second commission was set up in November 2001 and ended its term of office on 31 December 2004.

The amounts spent in respect of the Information Society Commission are as follows: year 2005 —€333,900; year 2004 —€484,722; year 2003 —€600,456; year 2002 —€514,954; year 2001- €305,638; year 2000 —€635,726; year 1999 —€661,645; year 1998 —€647,832; and year 1997 —€195,122.

During its term of office, the commission has published a number of influential reports on a range of topics and conducted a number of policy seminars. All reports of the second commission are available at www.isc.ie. The membership of the first Information Society Commission was:

Name

Company

Ms Vivienne Jupp (Chairman),

Andersen Consulting

Ms Selina Bonnie

Communications Consultant

Ms Paula Carey

ICTU

Mr. Donal Connell

3COM

Mr. Seán Corkery

Esat Telecom

Dr. Eamonn G. Hall

Telecom Éireann

Mr. Paul Kavanagh

Mr. Dermot McCarthy

Department of the Taoiseach

Mr. Eugene Murray

RTE

Mr. Séamus Ó Canainn

Blackrock Education Centre

Ms Barbara Patton

Irish Permanent plc (Note: Ms Patton resigned in 1998)

Reports published by the first Information Society Commission include:

Information Society Ireland Identity Guidelines;

Information Society Ireland — the World is Changing Fast — Show that you're ahead — 1st Report of the Information Society Commission, December 1997;

General Public Survey 1998 — Ireland as an Information Society . . . what the public is saying, November 1998;

Business Survey 1998 — Ireland as an Information Society . . . is the business community ready, December 1998;

Implementing the Information Society in Ireland: An Action Plan, January 1999;

Second Report of the Information Society Commission, April 1999;

Learning Report — Building a Capacity for change, July 1999;

General Public survey 1 — Ireland's Progress as an Information Society, October 1999;

Business Survey 1 — Irish Business in the Information Society, December 1999;

General Public Survey 2 — Early and Late Adopters of Net Technology, February 2000;

IT Access for All Report, March 2000;

General Public Survey 3 — New Technology: Attitudes and Expectations, March 2000;

Business Survey 2 — eWork: an activity, not a place, April 2000;

Business Survey 3 — New Technology in Irish Business: Skills and Training, May 2000;

Business Survey 4 — Internet Access and Usage within Irish Businesses, May 2000;

Benchmarking Ireland in the Information Society Report, May 2000;

How the Business Community is adapting to the Information Society in Ireland, September 2000;

How the General Public is adapting to the Information Society in Ireland, October 2000;

Third Report of the Information Society Commission, December 2000; and

Innovation in Learning in the Information Society: A comparative International Study (CRITE Report), December 2000.

The Membership of the Second Information Society Commission was:

Name

Company

Danny O’Hare (Chairman)

Former President of DCU (Dublin City University)

Claire Cunningham

Director, Aura Internet Services Ltd

Dr. Chris Coughlan

Hewlett Packard

Michael Byrne

CEO, Ennis Information Age Services

Jerry Shanahan

ICTU/Amicus

Karen Hynes

Manager of E-Business Services, Chambers of Commerce of Ireland

Colm Reilly

PA Consulting

Inez Bailey

Director, National Adult Literacy Agency

Dr. Eamonn Conway

Head of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Mary Immaculate College, UL (University of Limerick)

Robert Johnston

JLS Software Solutions

Clodagh O’Donnell

Client Executive, Financial Services Sector, IBM

Dee Cari

Torque Management

Marion O’Neill

Manager, Kilkenny Information Age Town

Dr. Patricia O’Hara

Manager, Policy Division, Western Development Commission

Christopher Took

Web Developer (resigned September 2002)

Charles Stanley-Smith

Chief Technical Officer, Piercom

Brian Lennon

Guidance Counsellor, St. Oliver’s College, Drogheda

Donal Toolan

Forum of People with Disabilities

Kathryn Raleigh

Director of the Irish Software Association, IBEC

Joe Horan

County Manager, South Dublin County Council

Peter Ryan

Assistant Secretary, Department of the Taoiseach

Reports published by the Second Information Society Commission include:

Learning in the 21st Century: Towards Personalisation, December 2004;

Ethics & Values in a Digital Age: Conference Proceedings, December 2004;

Learning to Innovate. Reperceiving the global Information Society, January 2005;

Survey Assessments of the Information Society in Ireland, By James Williams, Sylvia Blackwell, Brendan J. Whelan, ESRI, December 2004;

An eHealthy State?, December 2004;

21st Century Infrastructure, November 2004;

Current Perspectives on the Information Society, April 2004;

Ireland's Broadband Future, December 2003;

eGovernment — More than an automation of Government Services, October 2003;

eInclusion: expanding the Information Society in Ireland, October 2003;

Modernising Public Procurement, September 2003;

Delivering a World Class Payments Environment, June 2003;

Building the Knowledge Society, December 2002;

Building Trust through the Legal Framework, December 2002; and

Information Society Commission Business and General Public Survey, April 2003;

As recommended by the ISC in 2005, a review of our e-strategy is taking place. While the shape of that strategy has yet to be fully defined, it is clear that new approaches will be needed to support the transition taking place from the information society to the knowledge society. It is envisaged that the new strategy will require different structures for its implementation, as also envisaged by the ISC.

Vehicle Sales.

Richard Bruton

Question:

169 Mr. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the number of new cars and other vehicles sold nationally in Dublin, Meath, Wicklow and Kildare in each year since 1998; and the number of cars and other vehicles registered to owners nationally in Dublin, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow in 1998, 2002 and 2005. [4676/06]

Data on the number of new cars and other vehicles sold are not available from the CSO. However the CSO does publish data on the number of vehicles licensed in its annual release entitled "Vehicles Licensed for the first time". The details of new private cars and new other vehicles classes, including the classes goods vehicles, motor cycles, tractors, public service vehicles and others, licensed in Dublin, Kildare, Meath, and Wicklow in each year from 1998 to date are set out in the table.

Number of new vehicles licensed for the first time, 1998 to 2005

Vehicle Type

National Total

Dublin

Kildare

Meath

Wicklow

New Vehicles — 1998

Private Cars

138,538

50,633

5,487

4,368

3,755

Other Classes

33,986

11,046

1,392

1,234

884

Total

172,524

61,679

6,879

5,602

4,639

New Vehicles — 1999

Private Cars

170,322

60,248

7,267

5,525

4,794

Other Classes

43,278

14,137

1,791

1,655

1,184

Total

213,600

74,385

9,058

7,180

5,978

New Vehicles — 2000

Private Cars

225,269

77,813

9,876

7,406

6,415

Other Classes

49,721

15,939

2,259

1,839

1,464

Total

274,990

93,752

12,135

9,245

7,879

New Vehicles — 2001

Private Cars

160,908

61,160

7,106

5,521

4,434

Other Classes

46,533

15,147

2,251

1,902

1,432

Total

207,441

76,307

9,357

7,423

5,866

New Vehicles — 2002

Private Cars

150,485

55,274

6,519

5,159

3,780

Other Classes

43,258

12,505

2,135

1,792

1,295

Total

193,743

67,779

8,654

6,951

5,075

New Vehicles — 2003

Private Cars

142,992

51,486

6,273

5,227

3,771

Other Classes

45,117

12,929

2,158

1,999

1,286

Total

188,109

64,415

8,431

7,226

5,057

New Vehicles — 2004

Private Cars

149,635

51,441

6,839

5,694

3,894

Other Classes

45,872

12,846

2,203

2,058

1,267

Total

195,507

64,287

9,042

7,752

5,161

New Vehicles — 2005

Private Cars

166,270

56,526

7,451

6,419

4,397

Other Classes

53,014

13,966

2,553

2,514

1,415

Total

219,284

70,492

10,004

8,933

5,812

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government provides a breakdown of all mechanically propelled vehicles under current licence in its annual publication, Irish Bulletin of Vehicle and Driver Statistics. The data of vehicles under current licence for the years 1998 and 2002 for the requested counties are set out in Table 2. Data for 2005 are not yet available from the Department.

Table 2: Number of Vehicles under current licence for 1998 to 2002

Vehicle Type

National Total

Dublin

Kildare

Meath

Wicklow

Vehicles under current licence 1998

Private Cars

1,196,901

343,775

47,924

40,221

35,670

Other Classes

313,952

62,577

10,584

10,357

8,345

Total

1,510,853

406,352

58,508

50,578

44,015

Vehicles under current licence 2002

Private Cars

1,447,908

400,501

62,405

51,746

43,832

Other Classes

402,138

84,487

15,686

14,611

11,241

Total

1,850,046

484,988

78,091

66,357

55,073

Central Mental Hospital.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

170 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the practice of slopping out is still in place at the Cental Mental Hospital; the timeframe in which she estimates that slopping out will be completely eliminated from that institution; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4483/06]

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.

Child Care Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

171 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the new child care payment of €1,000 per annum will be awarded in respect of a child (details supplied) in County Cork who will reach the age of six in July 2006; and the manner in which this payment will issue. [4523/06]

Seán Haughey

Question:

174 Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the arrangements for the payment of the early child care supplement; if the parents of a child who will be six in February 2006 will qualify; if the parents of a child who will six in April 2006 will qualify; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4693/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 171 and 174 together.

As the legislation governing this new payment is currently being finalised as part of the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2005, and as the payment will be made by the Department of Social and Family Affairs using information on their database to which my Department currently has no access, I am not in a position to answer questions regarding the specific entitlements of individuals. I will, however, reply to the general questions raised and trust this will clarify the points of concern to the Deputies.

A new early child care supplement of €1,000 per annum is being introduced in respect of all children less than six years of age and will be effective from 1 April 2006. This will be a direct, non-taxable payment of €250 per quarter year, in respect of each eligible child, payable by the office of the Minister of State with responsibility for children. Payments will be processed by the Department of Social and Family Affairs, on an agency basis for the office of the Minister of State with responsibility for children. It will take some time to set the necessary arrangements in place, and it is likely that the first payment may not issue until September 2006.

As the payment is effective from 1 April 2006, a child who will be six in February 2006 will not qualify for the payment. A child whose sixth birthday falls in April 2006 will be eligible for the first quarterly payment only. Similarly, any payment in respect of an eligible child who will be six in July 2006, will only be made in respect of two quarters in 2006.

Michael Lowry

Question:

172 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to make capital and staffing grant aid available for toddler and preschool care under the EOCP programme or under any other programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4583/06]

Responsibility for the national child care investment programme 2006-2010 has now been assigned to my Department under the general aegis of the office of the Minister of State with responsibility for children. The new national child care investment programme 2006-2010, which succeeds the Equal Opportunities Child care Programme, EOCP, 2000-2006, is a major new five year investment programme which aims to provide a proactive response to the development of quality child care supports and services which are grounded in an understanding of local needs. It will build on the previous EOCP programme and will incorporate a number of key objectives including: the creation of 50,000 additional child care places, of which approximately 20% will be for the three to four age group; and improving the quality of early childhood care and education services including part-time, full day care, school age child care and child minding services.

Arrangements are also being made for the introduction of an improved capital grant scheme to assist child minding services and a new capital grant scheme to assist parent and toddler groups. Details of the new schemes will be available shortly from the office of the Minister of State with responsibility for children.

Health Service Investigation.

Mary Upton

Question:

173 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to investigate the possibility of a cluster regarding the three cases of vCJD diagnosed in one area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4609/06]

My Department has sought a detailed report on this issue from the Health Service Executive. This report has not yet been received. When it is received, it will be referred to the CJD advisory group for consideration and advice on any policy implications. At this stage in its investigations the HSE is confident that it can see no basis for the suggestion that there may be a cluster of such cases.

Question No.174 answered with QuestionNo. 171.

National Children’s Strategy.

Seán Crowe

Question:

175 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in view of both the RAPID report, which found systemic inequalities and deprivation affecting children and adults, and also the How are our Kids Report, which states that nine out of ten children experience fear of anti-social behaviour or crime and that more than one in four live in cold damp houses, his Department is co-ordinating the State’s response to the considerable problems outlined in these reports. [4566/06]

It is assumed that the Deputy is referring to the How Are Our Kids research project undertaken by the childhood development initiative and Dartington social research unit which was published in October 2004. This report was one of eight preliminary research documents which culminated in the publication of A Place for Children, a ten year strategy by the childhood development initiative in west Tallaght. The ten year strategy was launched by the Taoiseach in October 2005. At that time, the Government welcomed the goals and aims of the initiative and it is clear that the strategy is the result of an enormous amount of work at community level.

The objective of the strategy is to improve children's health, safety, learning and achieving and to increase their sense of community belonging. The Government has put a number of initiatives in place with the ultimate aim of improving children's lives in areas such as west Tallaght. As a Government designated geographic area of disadvantage, namely, a RAPID area, it has been estimated that approximately €27 million was spent in the year 2004-05 by statutory bodies on children's services in the part of it covered by the strategy. I know the project recognises this and it is a substantial sum in the area concerned. Developments through this and other programmes in the areas of education, health and youth justice at national level are mirrored in the approach outlined in the childhood development initiative's ten-year strategy.

A number of meetings between representatives of this and other related projects have already taken place with officials of the relevant Department. In December 2005, the Government announced the bringing together of a number of functions relating to children and their well being in the office of the Minister of State with responsibility for children to bring greater coherence to policy making for children. In that context, the office of the Minister of State with responsibility for children will co-ordinate developments regarding this matter on behalf of the Government.

Mental Health Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

176 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the great need for services for patients with dementia, the funding she will provide and when (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4464/06]

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.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

177 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of an application for a person (details supplied) in County Clare under the housing aid for the elderly scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4465/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. 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.

Pat Breen

Question:

178 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of an application under the housing aid for the elderly for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4466/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. 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.

Organ Donation.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

179 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce an organ donation scheme such as those found in several other European countries in which consent to donate is presumed unless an opt-out form has been signed. [4467/06]

The annual organ donor awareness campaign, which is organised by the Irish Donor Network and administered by the Irish Kidney Association, highlights the necessity for organ donation generally. The campaign, which is supported by my Department, highlights the need for organ donors by promoting the carrying of a organ donor card.

There are two systems that can be used to ascertain an individual's wishes on organ donation: the opt-in system and the opt-out system. The former system, which operates in this country, requires that the specific consent to donation of each person, or their relatives, be obtained before organs or tissues are removed. The opt-out system presumes that all citizens consent to donation unless they have specifically expressed a wish to the contrary.

The practice in this country is that, even when a person has indicated his or her willingness to donate organs by way of carrying an organ donor card, or a driving licence marked accordingly, the consent of the next-of-kin is always sought.

Even where opt-out systems are in operation, the relatives of the deceased are approached as part of the donor screening process to seek a medical history of any high-risk behaviour. Thus, the relatives will always be aware that a donation is being considered and can register an objection to the donation.

The European Commission is currently considering the question of a directive in respect of organ transplantation, including the issue of consent, and proposes to conduct a thorough scientific evaluation of the situation. It will present a report on its analysis to the Council of the European Union and it is expected that this report will inform decisions regarding the development of a legislative framework in this area.

In the context of increasing the number of donor organs available for transplant, the Health Service Executive has been asked by the Department to undertake a review and analysis of the factors that impact on organ procurement and retrieval rates in hospitals around the country.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

180 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the provision of a national unit for stroke victims under 65 will be provided as the current situation leaves a person (details supplied) in a very difficult state; and if this person will be given the maximum support on this matter. [4487/06]

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.

Compensation Payments.

Seán Ardagh

Question:

181 Mr. Ardagh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding compensation to be paid to partners and spouses of hepatitis C victims for loss of consortium. [4488/06]

The Hepatitis C and HIV Compensation Tribunal (Amendment) Act 2002 extended the categories of individuals who may apply to the tribunal for compensation. Persons who are either married to a person with hepatitis C or HIV or are cohabiting for a continuous period of not less than three years may make a claim to the tribunal for loss of consortium including impairment of sexual relations arising from the risk of transmission of HIV or hepatitis C. I am informed that the tribunal has been routinely hearing cases of this nature since the commencement of the Act on 9 October 2002 and has made awards totalling €32 million in respect of approximately 420 cases. As with other categories of claim, I understand that the tribunal is in position to allocate an early hearing date to claims for loss of consortium once the relevant documentation is in order.

Health Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

182 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of contract beds in nursing homes (details supplied) for each year since 2000. [4489/06]

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 Review.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

183 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress to date in 2006 on the analysis of deaths at a nursing home (details supplied) by a person; when the report is expected to be completed; if the report will be debated in the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4490/06]

The Health Service Executive appointed a professor of geriatric medicine to independently review the deaths of residents of Leas Cross nursing home. The review commenced on 1 September 2005. The HSE has advised me that a report is being prepared and is at the final stages. A decision will then be taken on whether the report will be debated in the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

184 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on concerns being expressed in the Tallaght region regarding the future of the National Children’s Hospital at Tallaght Hospital; the position regarding same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4491/06]

On 3 February, the Health Service Executive published a report on the delivery of tertiary paediatric services in this country. The HSE commissioned this report at my request.

The report, which was prepared by McKinsey & Company, recommends that best outcomes for children can best be provided by one national tertiary paediatric centre which would also provide all secondary paediatric services for the greater Dublin area.

Arising from the recommendations, a joint HSE-Department of Health and Children task group is being established to progress matters and to advise on the optimal location for the new facility.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

185 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo who has been referred to occupational therapy services in April 2005 has not received an appointment in February 2006 in view of the age of person involved; and when they will receive an appointment. [4511/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

186 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the changes made in relation to subvention; and the breakdown of the changes in relation to the people who applied for subvention. [4515/06]

The nursing home subvention scheme was introduced in 1993 on foot of the Nursing Homes (Subvention) Regulations 1993, which were made under section 7 of the Nursing Homes Act 1990. These regulations laid down the criteria for assessing a person's eligibility for subvention, as well as the maximum amounts of subvention that may be paid to an eligible person.

The Nursing Home (Subvention) Regulations 1993 are administered by the Health Service Executive. There are currently three rates of subvention payable, €114.30, €152.40 and €190.50 for the three levels of dependency which are medium, high and maximum. Included in these payments is an increase of 25% which came into effect in April 2001. These rates remain in effect.

The HSE may pay more than the maximum rate of subvention relative to an individual's level of dependency in a case, for example, where personal funds are exhausted. The application of these provisions in an individual case is a matter for the HSE in the context of meeting increasing demands for subvention subject to the provisions of the Health Act 2004. The average rate of subvention paid by the HSE generally exceeds the current approved basic rates. Additional funding of €20 million was provided for the administration of the scheme for 2006, bringing the total available budget to €160 million.

Certain thresholds were set in the 1993 regulations in relation to the means and assets of a person applying for a subvention. These thresholds had not been updated since they were set in 1993. Amendment Regulations (the Nursing Homes (Subvention) (Amendment) Regulations, 2005), amended the thresholds contained in the 1993 regulations by increasing the threshold of assets to be disregarded for the purposes of subvention assessment from £6,000, €7,618, to €11,000, increasing the asset threshold above which subvention may be refused from £20,000, €25,394, to €36,000 and increasing the threshold of principal residence value above which subvention may be refused from £75,000, €95,230, to €500,000 or more, where the residence is located in the Dublin area, or €300,000 or more, where the residence is located outside the Dublin area, provided that the applicant's income is greater than €9,000, previously £5,000 or €6,349.

Health Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

187 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Louth will have an earlier appointment for a CT scan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4537/06]

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.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

188 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Cork will be visited by the occupational therapist; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the referral application form was lodged with the Health Service Executive southern area on 13 September 2005 but to date no visit has taken place; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that this person has to await the occupational therapist report before applying to their local authority for grant aid to install a walk-in shower. [4538/06]

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.

Organ Donation.

Liz McManus

Question:

189 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to her commitment to introduce legislation on post-mortems and organ removal, which she made on the publication of the Madden report, she will introduce legislation on organ transplant procedures; her views on the need for new and specific legislation in this area; if the reports published in 1987 by the transplant liaison committee still provide a useful starting point in this regard; if the absence of clear statutory rules in relation to issues such as property in a human corpse and the authorisation to remove organs is impeding the flow of donations and the number of transplants that could be performed; her further views on an opt-out, as opposed to an opt-in system in relation to consent to organ donation after death; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4539/06]

Dr. Deirdre Madden's report on post-mortem practice and procedures, which was published on 18 January 2006, includes recommendations on the need for a legislative framework governing post-mortems. However, the report did not deal specifically with the issue of organ transplantation.

The European Commission is currently considering the question of a directive in respect of organ transplantation, including the issue of consent, and proposes to conduct a thorough scientific evaluation of the situation. It will present a report on its analysis to the Council of the European Union and it is expected that this report will inform decisions regarding the development of a legislative framework in this area.

There are two systems that can be used to ascertain an individual's wishes on organ donation: the opt-in system and the opt-out system. The former system, which operates in this country, requires that the specific consent to donation of each person, or their relatives, be obtained before organs or tissues are removed. The opt-out system presumes that all citizens consent to donation unless they have specifically expressed a wish to the contrary.

The practice in this country is that, even when a person has indicated his or her willingness to donate organs by way of carrying an organ donor card, or a driving licence marked accordingly, the consent of the next-of-kin is always sought.

Even where opt-out systems are in operation, the relatives of the deceased are approached as part of the donor screening process to seek a medical history of any high-risk behaviour. Thus, the relatives will always be aware that a donation is being considered and can register an objection to the donation.

In the context of increasing the number of donor organs available for transplant, the Health Service Executive has been asked by the Department to undertake a review and analysis of the factors that impact on organ procurement and retrieval rates in hospitals around the country.

The annual organ donor awareness campaign, which is organised by the Irish Donor Network and administered by the Irish Kidney Association, highlights the necessity for organ donation generally. The campaign, which is supported by my Department, highlights the need for organ donors by promoting the carrying of a organ donor card.

Home Care Services.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

190 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the range of home care packages available for elderly people; the amounts available in the Health Service Executive south western area; if there is a differentiation in the grants available; if so, the reason therefor; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4540/06]

Home care packages deliver a wide range of services and have been piloted successfully in several regions in recent years. They include various disciplines and will vary according to the care needs of the person so that, for example, there might be a greater emphasis in some packages on home care assistants while other packages may require a greater level of therapy and nursing. Approximately 1,100 home care packages are provided to people at present. An additional €55 million has been allocated to this initiative, €35 million of which relates to 2006, so that by the end of 2006 a total of 2,000 additional home care packages will have been provided. There will be a well-funded and viable alternative to long-term residential care in the form of, among other supports, home care packages.

As the Deputy will be aware, home helps are also an essential part of supporting older people at home and thereby delaying or preventing admission to long stay residential care. They also help to keep people out of acute hospitals or help their early discharge from hospitals and can also form part of home care packages. There is a continuing demand for home helps because of the increased number of older people. An additional €33 million full year cost is now being allocated for this programme, €30 million of which will be for 2006. The additional funding of €30 million will provide 1.75 million more home help hours.

The Deputy's question also relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which in any particular HSE region 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 Service Staff.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

191 Mr. McCormack asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to lift the restriction which does not allow local health executives to exceed the ceiling on wholetime equivalent appointments, which is stopping local health executives from appointing additional home help assistants, who are required to restore home help hours which have been cut back or to allow for the provision of extra home help hours where necessary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4551/06]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

192 Mr. McCormack asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that Health Service Executives cannot employ any extra home help assistants due to the fact that they would breach the ceiling on appointment of whole time equivalent staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4552/06]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

193 Mr. McCormack asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the meaning of public sector pay and employment policies which is preventing the Health Service Executives in local areas appointing home help assistants even where these assistants are urgently needed to provide necessary home help services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4553/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 191 to 193, inclusive, together.

Public sector pay and employment policies do not prevent the Health Service Executive from appointing home helps or staff at any other grade. The policies to which I refer include the social partnership agreements, adherence to approved employment levels and the management of human resources, including staffing mix, in line with service needs and overall policies. It is a matter for the HSE to deliver its service plan priorities in line with such policies and the funding available. As a general principle, employment levels for the health service are adjusted to take account of approved service developments. As I indicated to the Deputy in response to a previous question, the Department of Health and Children has allocated an additional €30 million to the home help service in 2006, which will allow for the development of the service. That funding will provide for an additional 1.75 million home help hours in 2006 and not 1.6 million as I previously advised the Deputy.

Legal Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

194 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of expenditure incurred by health boards (details supplied) in respect of legal services for 2002, 2003 and 2004; the name and address of each company; and the amount received in respect of the ten former regional health boards. [4557/06]

Section 5 of the Health Act 1970 and section 7 of the Health (Eastern Regional Authority) Act 1999 state that the health boards and the ERHA were corporate bodies prior to the enactment of the Health Act 2004. Therefore, the provision of legal services and the expenditure incurred by the boards and the authority were matters solely for them. The Department of Health and Children had no role to play. Accordingly, the Department has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Enda Kenny

Question:

195 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the procurement process which existed for 2002, 2003 and 2004 for awarding contracts to provide legal services to the ten former regional health boards (details supplied). [4558/06]

Section 5 of the Health Act 1970 and section 7 of the Health (Eastern Regional Authority) Act 1999 state that the health boards and the ERHA were corporate bodies prior to the enactment of the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Enda Kenny

Question:

196 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of legal firms currently providing legal advice to the Health Service Executive; and the Health Service Executive’s procurement policy for the awarding of contracts to provide such services. [4559/06]

Section 6 of the Health Act 2004 states that the Health Service Executive is a corporate body. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Enda Kenny

Question:

197 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of expenditure incurred by the Health Service Executive for 2005; the name and address of each company who provided legal services to the Health Service Executive in 2005; and the amount paid or due to be paid in respect of such services to each company. [4560/06]

Section 6 of the Health Act 2004 states that the Health Service Executive is a corporate body. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the Health Service Executive to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Nursing Home Subventions.

Billy Timmins

Question:

198 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to repayments to residents of public funded long-stay care homes for a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if payment will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4565/06]

The general rules and policies relating to the national repayment scheme, which have been set out in responses to previous parliamentary questions, can be made available to the Deputy if he requires them. The draft heads of a repayment scheme Bill were submitted to the Government in December and were approved. The draft heads have now been submitted to Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel for drafting. I intend to have the Bill published in the current parliamentary session and to have repayments commencing shortly after the Bill is approved and signed into law. As the Health Service Executive is responsible for administering the scheme, inquiries relating to individual cases are referred to its parliamentary affairs division. The Department of Health and Children has asked the HSE to arrange to have the matter investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Correspondence.

Michael Lowry

Question:

199 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to a situation (details supplied); her views on correspondence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4574/06]

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 of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange for the matter raised and the correspondence furnished by the Deputy to be investigated and for a reply to issue directly to the Deputy.

Care of the Elderly.

Michael Lowry

Question:

200 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has studied the implications of the NESF report on care for older people; if her attention has been drawn to the implications of the report on her Department; her plans to address the issues raised in the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4575/06]

Michael Lowry

Question:

201 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has studied the implications of the NESF report on care for older people; if she is has advised the Health Service Executive of the implications of the report on the Health Service Executive; if the Health Service Executive have been instructed to address the issues raised in the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4576/06]

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

The NESF report on care for older people was launched on 29 January 2006. The Tánaiste and myself will be studying this report, along with officials in the Department, and will also be discussing it with the HSE in due course.

The Tánaiste and the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Brennan, established a working group to identify the policy options for a financially sustainable system of long-term care, including improvements in community care and home care packages. The report of the working group on the future financing of long-term care has been presented to Government and the Government will decide on its publication.

Health Service Executive.

Michael Lowry

Question:

202 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has ordered the Health Service Executive nationally to operate as a single service without boundaries; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the Health Service Executive still operates under the existence of the former health board boundaries; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4577/06]

The Health Service Executive was established under the Health Act 2004 as a national body to improve, promote and protect the health and welfare of the public. The delivery of services is an operational matter and is the responsibility of the executive. Under the Health Act 2004 the executive must prepare and submit to me its service plan for the coming year and must, amongst other things, indicate the type and volume of health and personal social services to be provided by the executive on a national basis. This national service plan was laid before the Oireachtas in early January.

Child Care Services.

Pat Carey

Question:

203 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the measures she proposes to put in place to ensure that the providers of child care facilities are not permitted to increase their cost on the simple pretext that parents of children under six years of age will be in receipt of €1,000 per annum child care supplement as indicated in correspondence (details supplied). [4587/06]

Responsibility for the new national child care strategy 2006-2010, including the national child care investment programme 2006-2010 has been assigned to the Office of the Minister for Children under the aegis of my Department.

Under the national child care strategy, a new early child care supplement of €1,000 per annum is being introduced in respect of all children less than six years of age and will be effective from 1 April 2006. This will be a direct, non-taxable payment of €250 per quarter year, in respect of each eligible child, payable by the Office of the Minister for Children.

The new child care investment programme 2006-2010, which is Exchequer funded aims to provide a proactive response to the development of quality child care supports and services which are grounded in an understanding of local needs. It will build on the previous Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme, EOCP, 2000-2006 in supporting child care providers and will incorporate the following key objectives: increasing the supply by 50,000 additional child care places — this is over and above the 26,000 places already in place and the 15,000 due to come on stream under the EOCP; improving the quality of early childhood care and education services including part-time, full day care, school age child care and childminding; supporting families and breaking the cycle of disadvantage; supporting a co-ordinated approach to the delivery of child care which is centred on the needs of the child.

The Government does not have a role in setting the level of fees charged by privately owned child care centres. These fees would normally vary on a number of grounds, including level and quality of services provided, geographic location, the age of the children and the level of supply of child care services. While it is open to providers to review their fees, it is considered that the cost of providing the service and the supply of child care places in the area relative to demand, are the most relevant determinants governing the cost of child care.

The Government is satisfied that its commitment to significantly increasing the supply of child care places through the national child care investment programme, and previously the equal opportunities childcare programme, is the most effective way to assist parents with affordable child care.

Research Funding.

Pat Carey

Question:

204 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her Department’s position on EU funding for human embryonic research; and if consideration has been given to funding scientifically promising and ethically non-controversial adult stem cell research as outlined in correspondence (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4590/06]

My colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, has lead responsibility for Ireland for negotiation of the EU seventh research framework programme under which research of this kind arises.

Medical Cards.

Pat Carey

Question:

205 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if provisions in the Health Acts over cover the possibility of a person (details supplied) who has had to receive an emergency medical card in the USA, recovering some of the costs incurred; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4592/06]

There is no reciprocal health agreement between Ireland and the United States. Persons residing in the US would likewise be required to pay the full economic cost of any treatment received in Ireland. It is normal practice for persons travelling to the US to take out travel insurance to cover themselves in case of emergency. It is unclear from the details provided if this individual had any insurance cover. My Department has drawn the case to the attention of the Health Service Executive.

Health Service Staff.

Liz McManus

Question:

206 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the recommended ratio of social workers to population; the ratio recommended in areas of disadvantage; the number of social workers employed and the population generally by the Health Service Executive; the number employed and the population in areas of disadvantage; the rate of turnover of social workers; and the extent of the use of student social workers in the provision of social work by the Health Service Executive. [4594/06]

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.

Nonetheless, employment information collected by my Department in relation to social work grades shows that the number of social workers employed in the public health service increased by 897 to 2061 or 77% in wholetime equivalent terms between 31 December 1997 and 30 September 2005. The table below shows a breakdown of these figures by Health Service Executive Area at end September 2005.

Social Workers — all grades

Health Service Executive Area

31/12/1997

30/09/2005

Increase

% increase

Eastern — Shared Services

191.2

302.6

111.4

58

East Coast Area

54.3

144.5

90.2

166

Northern Area

254.6

271.0

16.4

6

South-Western Area

112.0

261.0

149.0

133

Eastern

612.0

979.0

367.0

60

Midland

57.6

96.7

39.1

68

Mid-Western

77.8

156.6

78.8

101

North-Eastern

63.2

132.6

69.4

110

North-Western

60.7

128.8

68.1

112

South-Eastern

86.5

135.1

48.7

56

Southern

120.3

278.5

158.2

132

Western

86

154.2

68.1

79

Total

1,164.0

2,061.4

897.4

77

The Deputy may wish to note, also, that the report of the last survey of social work posts conducted by the National Social Work Qualifications Board on 1 September 2001 gives further information on the distribution of social workers by work area. Data on the distribution of social work posts by type of service are also given but does not identify disadvantage as a category. Some consideration was given in the report, to the issue of ratios of population per social work posts and practitioners. It was found that internationally it is difficult to discern a standard or ideal number of social work posts to population because the role of a social worker can be different in different jurisdictions and because the available information is not consistent. The number of posts may vary according to factors such as dependency ratios, models of social services and historical deficits.

Health Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

207 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of hospital bed places which are provided to treat people suffering from drug addiction; her plans to expand this number; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4612/06]

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.

Tony Gregory

Question:

208 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) for rehabilitation, as outlined in the correspondence supplied. [4629/06]

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.

Tony Gregory

Question:

209 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans for the provision of a national unit for stroke victims under 65 years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4630/06]

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

Health Service Allowances.

Paul McGrath

Question:

210 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when an application for the domiciliary care allowance for a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath will be processed; the date this application was received; the reason for such a delay in making a decision in this case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4638/06]

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 a reply on this issue sent directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Paul McGrath

Question:

211 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a senior area medical officer and an area medical officer will be appointed to the Health Service Executive midlands region at Mullingar; the length of time this appointment process has been ongoing; the reason for the delay in making these appointments; the steps that have been put in place to deal with the back log of applications for domiciliary care and so on which are awaiting input from these appointees; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4639/06]

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 requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have the matter raised by the Deputy in November investigated and to issue a reply directly to the Deputy.

I have been informed by the Health Service Executive that a reply was issued in November. I have asked the HSE to send a copy of this reply to the Deputy. I have also requested that the HSE reply directly to the Deputy with regard to the additional issues now raised.

Child Care Services.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

212 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason, in view of the very high number of children in the care of the Health Service Executive and the number of children with disabilities, little action has been taken to make adequate provision for the representation of those children by provision of a guardian ad litem service which could act as the voice of children in court proceedings; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4725/06]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

214 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she anticipates the examination, by the national children’s office advisory committee, of the Capita report and the various submissions from non-governmental organisations in its regard to conclude in order that action can be taken on the issue of guardian ad litem services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4749/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 212 and 214 together.

One of the three national goals identified in the national children's strategy, NCS, launched in November 2000 is that "children will have a voice in matters which affect them and their views will be given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity". Various actions to be taken towards the achievement of this national goal are identified in the NCS, including a review of the guardian ad litem service. Guardian ad litems, GAL, are appointed in a number of different circumstances both in public and private law proceedings where the court perceives that such appointment would be in the interest of the child and consistent with the requirement of justice.

Within the public law sphere GALs are typically appointed by the courts under section 26 of the Child Care Act 1991 in the case of public law proceedings. This legislative framework means that a GAL can be appointed in public law proceedings in a range of circumstances at the discretion of the court and subject to the proviso that the child is not a party to the proceedings. These circumstances include: care proceedings, section 18; interim care proceedings, section 17; proceedings to vary or discharge a care or supervision order, section 22; applications by someone with parental responsibility for access, section 37; removal from placement, section 43; recovery of children removed from care, section 46; application for directions, section 47; andproceedings under sections 7, 8 or 11 or Part III of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964, under section 3(3), 11(b) or 16(g) of the Judicial Separation and Family Law Reform Act 1989.

The role of the GAL has been extended to some Irish private law proceedings under section 28 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1964, as inserted by section 11 of the Children Act 1997 although this section of the Act has not yet been commenced. The proceedings covered are custody and access disputes, contested applications by natural fathers for guardianship and applications by relatives and those in loco parentis for access to a child. The criteria set out allow a court to appoint a GAL “if satisfied that having regard to the special circumstances of the case it is necessary in the best interests of the child to do so”. The criteria are detailed in section 28(2) to include the age and understanding of the child, the findings of any section 47 report, the welfare and wishes of the child and the submissions of the other parties.

Another area in which there has been much involvement of GALs has been in cases brought under judicial review, and a range of cases in the superior courts. These have covered various topics, ranging from the need to secure care for a child through to a dispute over the reduction or ending of specific health or social care services for a child with a disability. In these cases, GALs have advised the court on the wishes and best interests of the child. These cases are covered by the Superior Court Rules which give extensive powers to appoint a guardian ad litem for infants.

The appointment of a guardian ad litem is a matter for the judge in a particular case in accordance with the legal provisions and or the rules of court. Arrangements for the provision of GAL services have tended to be made on an ad hoc basis. In public law cases under the Child Care Act 1991 guardian ad litem services appointed by the court are funded by the HSE formerly the health boards although they have no formal role in the selection of the guardian ad litem.

The National Children's Office has being undertaking an overall review of the operation of guardian ad litem services across the public and private law spheres. The purpose of this exercise was, inter alia, to review the organisation and management of current guardian ad litem services and to examine the need for detailed guidelines on the appointment, role, function and powers of a guardian ad litem in public and private law proceedings and the ethical and professional standards required of them.

The work was put out to tender and the contract was awarded to Capita-Nuffield Institute consortium in early 2003. The consultants review was received in March 2004 and the Capita report was circulated to the relevant Departments for consideration and observations. Submissions were also sought from non-Government organisations such as the Irish Association of Young People in Care, Barnardos, the Irish Social Services Inspectorate, the National Children's Advisory Council and the Law Society. The report was also posted on the NCO website to facilitate as wide dissemination as possible.

My officials are working to identify the issues that should be prioritised in the short term and to map out the best methods and processes for advancing the work in the longer term. The matter is now being given priority within the new administrative structures of the Office of the Minister for Children.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

213 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will be reassessed for orthodontic treatment in view of the fact that they have been told by a private dentist that they need this treatment. [4730/06]

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.

Question No. 214 answered with QuestionNo. 212.

Mental Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

215 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the best advice and support to put a long-term care plan in place for a person with an intellectual disability; and the options on the north side of Dublin. [4757/06]

As the Deputy may be aware, the management and delivery of health and personal social services, including the putting in place of a long-term care plan for a person with an intellectual disability, is a matter for the HSE area in which that person resides.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

216 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if more speech therapy public services will be invested in on the north side of Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4758/06]

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 a reply on this issue sent directly to the Deputy.

Mental Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

217 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of new places to be created in 2006 for residential, day-care and respite services for people with intellectual disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4759/06]

As the Deputy is aware an integral part of the national disability strategy is the multi-annual investment programme published in December 2004 by the Government, which contains details of specific commitments in relation to the provision of specific high priority disability services over the period 2006 to 2009. These commitments include the development of new residential, respite and day places for persons with intellectual disability and autism in each of the years covered by the programme. Additional funding amounting to €59 million is being provided in 2006 to meets costs associated with the various elements of this programme. This funding will be used to put in place 255 new residential places, 85 new respite places and 535 new day places for persons with intellectual disability and those with autism, and also to progress the programme to transfer persons with intellectual disability-autism from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

In addition to the specific high profile disability services which are included in the programme outlined above, further additional funding amounting to €41 million is being provided to enhance the multi-disciplinary support services for people with disabilities in line with the Government's commitment to build capacity within the health services in order to deliver on the various legislative provisions contained in the national disability strategy. Capital funding amounting to €55 million is also being provided in 2006 to support these developments.

EU Funding.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

218 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance his position on the possible inclusion of a separate stand-alone article on the protection and improvement of the environment in the Structural Funds regulations, currently under negotiation, along the lines of existing article 14 on equality between men and women and non-discrimination as supported by the European Parliament in its first reading in July and as also supported by several member states in the Council. [4472/06]

The Commission has the right to initiate legislation in this area and has not proposed the introduction of such a stand-alone requirement in the structural fund regulations. The Commission's approach in the draft regulations ensures that activities supported by the Structural and Cohesion Funds comply with and reinforce Community legislation. While some member states have supported the introduction of a specific provision on environmental protection, the majority did not support this approach.

The general approach adopted in my Department's negotiating position has been to support the Commission's approach to simplification of the regulatory framework. This approach has the objective of streamlining the regulations of the Structural and Cohesion Funds, ensuring coherence with other Community policies and easing the administrative burden on managing authorities, implementing bodies and ultimately project promoters. Where there exists a general body of well developed Community legislation, as is the case for gender equality and the environment, my Department has supported the general approach proposed by the Commission. This position is consistent with that held by many member states. The objective is to ensure better regulation while ensuring that Community policies are reinforced.

The Structural Funds regulations already reflect a strong commitment to sustainable development and environmental protection which is supported in my Department's negotiating position in the Council working group. The Deputy may wish to note that a strategic environmental assessment is a mandatory requirement of all operational programmes developed for the future round of Structural Funds.

Garda Stations.

Liz McManus

Question:

219 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Finance if he has received the petition signed by hundreds of residents in Ashford, County Wicklow in support of the protection of the Garda station in Ashford; his response to same; his plans for this important local building; and if he will ensure that proper public tendering procedures will be adhered to if he intends to dispose of same. [4607/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works have advised me that no decision has been made in relation to the future of the vacated Garda station at Ashford, County Wicklow. Procedures as set down in the State Property Act 1954 will be adhered to if it is decided to dispose of this property.

Revenue Offices.

Richard Bruton

Question:

220 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the lengthy delays occurring in Revenue tax offices; and if the Revenue Commissioners have developed proposals to reduce this problem which appears to be recurring on a seasonal basis every year. [4887/06]

Seán Haughey

Question:

236 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Finance if effective measures will be taken to deal with two hour queues in the Revenue Commissioners’ offices in Cathedral Street, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4692/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 220 and 236 together.

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they are aware of the delays occurring in certain Revenue public offices. While the number of personal callers increases at the start of every tax year due to the number of queries related to budget changes and the issue of new tax credit certificates, more than 2 million of which will issue this month, the volume of callers to tax offices generally is increasing due to the buoyant economy and the more frequent incidence of multiple employments, such as persons having two or more employments simultaneously and of persons changing employment.

Revenue has already taken initiatives to address the customer service requirements of personal callers. More than 60 temporary staff have been recruited and allocated to caller areas. A limited range of on-line facilities has been provided and these will be significantly expanded in the coming months, allowing PAYE taxpayers to file returns and make rebate claims, and to update their tax credits and reliefs. The availability of these services should reduce the need for taxpayers to visit Revenue offices and go a long way towards lessening the need for direct customer contacts.

A significant number of the customers now visiting Revenue offices do not have English as their first language. This contributes greatly to an increase in the time required to deal with each individual customer. Revenue, along with other Departments and agencies, is examining a range of procedures and information technology channels with a view to developing a co-ordinated response to address the issue. Revenue is acutely aware of the shortcomings in the provision of customer service in caller areas at certain times. However, the position is kept under constant review with the aim of providing solutions which are cost effective but also address customer concerns.

Specifically in relation to the Central Revenue Information Office or CRIO in Cathedral Street, Dublin 1, Revenue has advised me that measures are currently being taken to address the customer service requirements of personal callers to that office. The CRIO was opened in the current accommodation in 1992 and dealt with, on average, 120,000 to 125,000 personal callers per year. However, in recent years numbers have more than doubled and it is currently dealing with in the region of 250,000 personal callers per year. The Revenue Commissioners and the Office of Public Works have identified additional accommodation to deal with the growth in caller numbers. Confirmation of the accommodation schedule is expected in the next few days and it is hoped to have the new accommodation in place by the end of 2006. As a temporary measure, a new reception area was put in place on Monday, 6 February, and additional staff have recently been assigned to the public office.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

221 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance if persons (details supplied) in County Kildare are in receipt of all of their allowances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4454/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a certificate of tax credits and standard rate cut-off point will issue to each taxpayer shortly, which will include all credits to which each is entitled.

Jack Wall

Question:

222 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Kildare has received all their tax benefits for the tax year 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4455/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a letter issued to the taxpayer on 6 February 2006, requesting a completed tax return for 2005, together with forms P60 2005 for himself and his spouse. On receipt of the completed tax return, together with forms P60, this person's tax affairs for the year 2005 will be finalised and all relevant tax credits included.

National Lottery Funding.

Jack Wall

Question:

223 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the funding realised by the national lottery fund for each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4456/06]

The amount transferred from the national lottery fund account in the Central Bank of Ireland to the Exchequer was €172.684 million in 2001, €216.995 million in 2002, €204 million in 2003, €236.145 million in 2004 and €210.5 million in 2005. This funding was used to assist a wide range of projects in the areas of sport, youth activity, the arts, the Irish language, welfare, health and community initiatives.

Driving Tests.

John Perry

Question:

224 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance the reason for his refusal to recruit staff for the Department of Transport which has resulted in the present huge waiting time of 52-53 weeks for a driving test; his plans to implement a bonus scheme similar to the one in 2001; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4501/06]

The Deputy's question relates to matters within the remit of the Minister for Transport and neither he nor I share the simplistic view expressed by the Deputy that the current backlog of driving tests is mainly due to the non recruitment of Department of Transport personnel. I have been fully supportive of the measures taken by my colleague, the Minister for Transport, and outlined by him last week in answer to various parliamentary questions on the matter.

Tax Code.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

225 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in County Louth who has to move to a bungalow for medical reasons will have the stamp duty waived; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4526/06]

Stamp duty is a tax on certain documents, generally legal documents used in transferring property or in creating rights for the parties concerned. While one may be sympathetic in regard to individual cases, the stamp duty code does not provide exemptions based on an individual's particular individual circumstances and introducing such a provision would represent a significant departure from normal stamp duty rules. Also, if an exemption were introduced for the type of situation outlined by the Deputy, other special cases would demand similar treatment, which would lead to a narrowing of the stamp duty base.

I point out that there is no stamp duty on the purchase of new residential property for owner-occupiers where the dwelling is not greater than 125 sq. m. and complies with certain conditions in respect of building standards. If the property is over 125 sq. m., stamp duty is charged on the site value or one quarter of the total value of the property, whichever is the greater. The Deputy will appreciate that stamp duty is a significant contributor to the Exchequer and stamp duty receipts allow for a broader tax base than would otherwise be possible. These receipts form an important element of State revenues, which permits Government spending on services such as health and education.

Tax Yield.

Enda Kenny

Question:

226 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the yield per year of income tax for each of the income tax rates, 20% and 42% for the years 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4527/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, as the application of the tax rates in a tax computation occurs before tax credits are applied, the credits are not apportioned between the tax charged at the different tax rates. It is not possible, therefore, to quantify reliably the amount of income tax directly attributable to the individual tax rates on a post tax credit basis.

However, I would refer the Deputy to page B.23 of the budget 2006 booklet, which contains a table detailing where all tax reliefs go. He will see that, of the €10.8 billion in relief for the tax year 2002, €5.6 billion or 52% went on personal tax credits and reliefs, €3.4 billion or 31% to help fund pensions and savings and well over €1 billion or 10% on capital allowances for traders, including farmers, to ensure their viability and job creation capacity. The vast bulk of tax relief each year thus goes to ordinary taxpayers at all income levels and to sustain business investment and jobs.

Enda Kenny

Question:

227 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the annual yield of each rate VAT for the years 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4528/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the figures for the annual VAT yield, on a net receipts basis, by rate are only available for the years 2002 to 2004, inclusive, and are estimated in the following table:

VAT Rate

%

2002

2003

2004

€ million

€ million

€ million

Farmers flat

4.3

-116

-108

4.4

-104

Reduced

12.5

2,963

12.5/13.51

3,310

13.5

3,554

Standard

20/212

5,997

21

6,514

7,267

Total

8,844

9,716

10,717

1. The 12.5% rate was increased to 13.5% with effect from 1 Jan 2003.

2. The 20% rate was increased to 21% with effect from 1 March 2002.

The farmer's flat rate addition is shown in the above table as a minus figure because the rate is set to compensate unregistered farmers for the VAT that they incur on their business inputs. While a breakdown by rate of the annual VAT yield for 2005 is unavailable, the overall yield is a provisional €12.125 billion. The increase in VAT receipts reflects the underlying strength of the economy.

Tax Code.

Enda Kenny

Question:

228 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of home mortgage interest secured loans, the cost of this relief to the Exchequer for the years 2002 to 2005, inclusive; if there are ceilings applied to the amount of loan and the amount of interest; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4529/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the cost to the Exchequer of tax relief allowed for mortgage interest relief under the tax relief at source, TRS, system in each of the years 2002 to 2005 inclusive is:

Tax Year

Cost € million

€ million

2002

192.8

2003

220.7

2004

231.5

2005

279.0

The position is that section 244 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 places limits on the amount of interest for which mortgage interest relief may be claimed. In the case of first-time buyers in the first seven years of a mortgage, the limits are €4,000 per year for a single person and €8,000 per year for a married couple. For those who are other than first time buyers in the first seven years, the limits are €2,540 per year for a single person and €5,080 per year in the case of a married couple. Section 244 does not impose any ceiling on the size of mortgages to which the relief applies or on the amount of interest that might be charged on such mortgages.

Enda Kenny

Question:

229 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of medical insurance premia, the relief given to taxpayers for years 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005, inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4530/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the cost to the Exchequer of tax relief allowed for medical insurance premia in the tax relief at source, TRS, system in each of the years 2002 to 2005 inclusive is:

Tax Year

Cost

€ million

2002

161.7

2003

190.6

2004

218.2

2005

229.6

Enda Kenny

Question:

230 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of subscriptions to trade unions in respect of which the tax credit of the standard rate of income tax 20% is available the tax credit for 2006; the relief granted for 2002-2005, inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4531/06]

The Finance Act 2001 introduced income tax relief for trade union subscriptions paid to specified trade unions for 2001 and subsequent years. The relief was introduced in recognition of the role played by the trade union movement in Irish society.

As the Deputy will be aware, I announced in Budget Statement 2006 that the standard rated tax allowance in respect of subscriptions paid by members of trade unions is being increased from €200 to €300 per annum. This is equivalent to a tax credit of €60 per annum and applies regardless of the level of subscription paid. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the most recent year for which complete relevant information is available on relief for trade union subscriptions relates to the income tax year 2002, in respect of which some 229,600 claims for tax relief were allowed at an estimated cost to the Exchequer of approximately €11 million.

Enda Kenny

Question:

231 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of service charges for which relief is given for charges paid in the previous year and in respect of which there are other limits, the cost of the relief granted for the income tax years 2002 to 2005, inclusive; the limits applied to each of these years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4532/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the most recent year for which complete information on tax relief is available in respect of local authority service charges is for the income tax year 2002. In that year an estimated number of 124,900 claimants availed of the tax relief for the service charges at an estimated cost to the Exchequer of €5.2 million.

Relief for service charges is allowed at the standard rate of tax in respect of charges taxpayers have paid in the previous financial year. For the financial years 2002 to 2004, where a fixed annual charge applied, the full amount of the payment qualified for tax relief provided it had been paid on time. Where a variable charge was applied for refuse collection, based on weight or volume, the tax relief was restricted to a maximum expenditure of €195 per annum.

Flood Relief.

Tony Gregory

Question:

232 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance the work proposed for the river wall along the Tolka at East Wall Road, Dublin 3; the timescale for this work; if consideration will be given to increasing the height of the wall; and when this section of the Tolka from Annesley Bridge to the Railway Bridge will be dredged as a flood alleviation measure. [4561/06]

The River Tolka flooding study, completed in November 2003, identified no flood relief measures to be undertaken in the East Wall area. It was acknowledged that some low lying areas were flooded via the drainage system, which would be addressed by Dublin City Council as part of the greater Dublin strategic drainage study.

Some of these issues were addressed in the Dublin coastal flooding protection project, completed in 2005. One of the recommendations contained in this report was that a section of the wall on the right bank looking downstream around Annesley Bridge was in poor condition with extensive vegetation throughout the general structure of the wall.

Following discussions with Dublin City Council, the Office of Public Works, OPW, has mobilised a crew on site this week to undertake the clearing of the vegetation and the repainting of the wall in this area. OPW has also requested the city council to provide a prioritised list of other works, identified in the Dublin coastal flooding protection project, which, when received, will be considered for funding under OPW's budget for flood relief measures. Neither report identified dredging of the channel as an option but the issue of general maintenance of the channel will be considered by both OPW and the city council in future discussions.

Tax Code.

Pat Carey

Question:

233 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance if provisions in the Finance Acts cover the possibility of a person (details supplied) who has had to receive an emergency medical card in the USA, recovering some of the costs incurred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4591/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, under section 469 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, tax relief is allowable on medical expenses incurred outside the State from a practitioner who is entitled to practice medicine under the laws of the country in which the care was provided.

The Revenue Commissioners will issue a health expenses relief claim form Med 1 to the taxpayer and will request the necessary details in order to carry out a review of her liability for the year ended 31 December 2005. The tax repayable is subject to a maximum of the actual amount of tax deducted in the relevant year.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

234 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Finance if there are special incentives to exemptions available for artists to cover the erection of signs on roads to advertise their work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4611/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that section 195 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 exempts from income tax certain earnings of writers, composers and artists. Specifically, the exemption applies to the profits from the writing, composition or execution of an artistic work that has been determined by the Revenue Commissioners to be original and creative and as having cultural or artistic merit. There are no special incentives available to artists to cover the cost of advertising their work. However, any expenditure incurred by an artist in advertising works not covered by the tax exemption may be allowed as a deduction in the normal way as a business expense in computing any profits for tax purposes arising from such works.

Tax Clearance Certificates.

Seán Haughey

Question:

235 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Finance if the Revenue Commissioners will regularise the income tax affairs of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4691/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a certificate of tax credits and standard rate cut-off point will issue to this person's employer shortly. The Revenue Commissioners have been in contact with her employer to advise of her correct tax credits and standard rate band entitlements. Any tax that was over-deducted as a result of her being taxed on the emergency basis will be refunded without delay.

Question No. 236 answered with QuestionNo. 220.

Energy Resources.

Michael Lowry

Question:

237 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he intends to introduce a grant scheme to support the installation of wood-pellet stoves in family homes; the date by which such a grant be introduced; if such a grant will be available without a means test; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4580/06]

The multi-annual financial package announced in budget 2006 includes funding for renewable energy schemes totalling €65 million for the period 2006 to 2010. The renewables package includes a grant aid package for the domestic sector, which will provide for individual grants to install renewable energy technologies including wood pellet boilers, solar panels and geothermal heat pumps.

My Department is developing the necessary detailed measures to roll out the new programme which will be announced as soon as possible. The level of funding to be committed to these schemes in 2006 and annual funding projections up to 2010 is being finalised in that context. It is not anticipated that the grants for the domestic sector will be means tested.

Telecommunications Services.

Peter Power

Question:

238 Mr. P. Power asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when the provision of broadband for Doon, County Limerick can be expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4447/06]

Peter Power

Question:

239 Mr. P. Power asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when the provision of broadband for Casteconnell Village, County Limerick can be expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4448/06]

Peter Power

Question:

240 Mr. P. Power asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when the provision of broadband for Coolriery, Castleconnell, County Limerick can be expected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4449/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 238 to 240, inclusive, together.

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.

My Department administers a group broadband scheme which delivers broadband to many underserved small rural areas. It is my intention to hold a third phase of the group broadband scheme and my officials are currently finalising the application procedure and documentation. I expect to be in a position to formally launch the third phase shortly.

Broadcasting Legislation.

Máire Hoctor

Question:

241 Ms Hoctor asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans in view of the ERC proposal to only make European cup rugby matches available on a premium subscription in 2006-2007 season, and to thereby restrict viewing of these matches, which are of national interest, to subscribers. [4480/06]

The television without frontiers directive provides that member states of the European Communities may designate certain sporting and cultural events as being of major importance to society and that events so designated should continue to be available on a free television service.

In March 2003 the Broadcasting (Major Events Television Coverage) Act 1999 (Designation of Major Events) Order 2003 specified the events designated as events of major importance to society for which the right of a qualifying broadcaster to provide coverage on free television services should be provided in the public interest. Section 9 of the Broadcasting (Major Events Television Coverage) (Amendment) Act 2003 requires me to carry out a review of designated events not later than three years after the passing of the 2003 Act, that is to say, not later than April 2006.

I announced my intention to commence this review in December 2005. The purpose of the review is to consider if the list of events designated in 2003 should be amended. As part of the review I initiated a public consultation process. The closing date for submissions was 27 January. A report on the consultation process is now being prepared in my Department.

If, following the review, I should decide to amend the list of designated events, then, in accordance with the provisions of the Broadcasting (Major Events Television Coverage) Act 1999, I will publish my intention to do so and seek the views of interested parties. This would involve a further formal consultation with event organisers and broadcasters. EU approval would also be required before I could lay an order before both Houses of the Oireachtas to give effect to the designation.

Regional Fisheries Boards.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

242 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason for the delay in having salmon fishing licences made available to a fishing retail outlet for sale in view of the commencement of the salmon fishing season. [4545/06]

Agents for the issue of ordinary fishing licences are appointed by the regional fisheries boards in accordance with the provisions of Section 70 of the Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959. The appointment of agents is a matter for the individual boards and one in which I have no function.

Energy Resources.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

243 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if, following provision for excise relief on biofuels in the Finance Act 2004, it was not until August 2005 that any excise relief on biofuels was granted to a small number of biofuel producers; the reason this administrative task took 17 months; and his views on whether such a delay is acceptable. [4597/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

244 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if, in view of his announcement of €20 million excise relief on biofuels for 2006 the date by which this excise relief will be granted to biofuel producers on foot of this announcement. [4598/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

245 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when growers will know whether or not they will be entitled to excise relief on their crop due to the fact that liquid biofuel crops have been sown in the spring. [4599/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 243 to 245, inclusive, together.

The Finance Act 1999 was amended in 2004 to provide for the introduction of a pilot scheme for mineral oil tax relief for biofuels to underpin a pilot project designed either to produce biofuel or test the technical viability of biofuel for use as motor fuel. It was then necessary for my Department to devise a scheme and agree it with the Department of Finance. A commencement order, to be signed by the Minister for Finance, was required before the provision in the Finance Act in relation to biofuels could be implemented. The requisite state aid clearance was sought from the European Commission in December 2004 and approval was received in March 2005.

The scheme was publicly advertised as a competitive call for proposals on 20 April 2005 and the closing date for receipt of applications was 13 May 2005. A total of 34 applications were received under the call for proposals by the closing date. The volume of applications received was much higher than had been anticipated. The assessment panel met on several occasions to assess and score the applications. Letters of offer were issued to the eight successful applicants in August 2005 and the pilot scheme will continue until July 2007.

Building on the success of the pilot biofuels scheme, I have agreed with the Minister for Finance a further targeted package of excise relief valued at €205 million, which was announced in the budget. The new excise relief programme, which is also subject to state aid approval, will be rolled out from this year to 2010 and will enable us to reach the initial target of 2% market penetration by biofuels by 2008. I am also providing funding towards the capital cost of developing biofuels processing facilities, which will critically underpin the excise relief package.

Excise duty is payable on motor fuels, and relief under the mineral oil tax relief scheme applies to biofuels for transport purposes. Excise duty does not specifically apply to any crops, but rather to the fuel produced from energy crops or biomass products. The question of grant support for growing energy crops is not within my remit but would be a matter for the Minister for Agriculture and Food.

Coastal Protection.

Liz McManus

Question:

246 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the studies carried out by his Department on the state of the coastal protection scheme at Bray seafront, County Wicklow; the conclusions which have been made in these studies; when their findings will be transmitted to Bray Town Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4601/06]

The Bray coastal protection scheme was completed in 2001. In August 2002 this Department awarded a contract for the carrying out of regular surveys of the beach and offshore areas for the purposes of monitoring the performance of the nourished beach. This contract has now been completed and the last survey was carried out in June 2005. The results of the surveys are currently being collated. Preliminary indications are that the scheme is performing very well and that the flooding that was a regular occurrence on the northern promenade has been eliminated. It is expected that a report on the studies will be finalised later this year. It is intended that a copy of the report will be forwarded to Bray Town Council.

In 2005 this Department allocated an amount of €80,000 for marine protection works at the southern end of Bray promenade. I understand that these works will be finally completed by March 2006.

Harbours and Piers.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

247 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when work will begin on the pier at Cromane, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4604/06]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that, as part of the Department's fishery harbours development programme for 2006, I have approved funding of €200,000 to progress the development at Cromane. This allocation will enable the purchase of lands for provision of the access road to the pier to be advanced. It is expected that this process will be completed in the current year. If so, it is also intended this year to commence preliminary works on access to the site including provision of boundary fencing.

Undocumented Irish Emigrants.

Michael Ring

Question:

248 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the proposals or approaches he will make to the American President regarding undocumented Irish citizens living in America, if the McCain Kennedy Bill is not successful and if it does not get passed at committee stage; the way in which the issue of the undocumented Irish people will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4512/06]

The legislative debate on immigration reform in the United States has entered a critical phase with various proposals under consideration, including the Bill sponsored by Senators Kennedy and McCain. As the Deputy is aware, their approach is particularly attractive to the undocumented Irish as it offers a path to permanent residency.

The Government attaches the highest priority to the issue of the undocumented Irish. In all our contacts with US political leaders, including when the Taoiseach and I last met President Bush, we emphasise the importance of addressing their situation in a positive and sympathetic way. We welcome the engagement of President Bush on this issue and his support for a humane approach which involves reform as well as enforcement. The Deputy can be assured that we look forward to discussing this issue when we next meet President Bush.

In raising our concerns with key contacts in the US, we appreciate of course that immigration is a highly divisive and sensitive issue. The legislative debate in the US Congress involves differing approaches and strongly held opinions. Some members of the US Congress, for example, are strongly opposed to any proposals which would allow undocumented people the opportunity to regularise their status. It is clear that achieving the necessary compromise remains a formidable challenge.

In all of my meetings with US contacts I have made known the Government's support, and that of the Oireachtas, for the approach favoured by Senators Kennedy and McCain. In the critical period ahead, as various proposals are debated and compromises are put forward, we will continue to make known our strong support for the inclusion in final legislation of the key elements of the McCain Kennedy Bill. Overall, the situation requires, and is receiving, the most careful, active and ongoing monitoring and assessment. In addition, as indicated, the Government's views will be conveyed at the highest level over the St. Patrick's Day period in Washington.

Landing Rights.

Finian McGrath

Question:

249 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Garda Síochána ever searched US aircraft at Shannon going to and coming from Iraq; and if he will make a statement on the allegations of abuse at the airport. [4753/06]

Matters relating to operations carried out by the Garda Síochána should be referred to my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. In respect of questions relating to allegations of abuse at Shannon Airport, I refer the Deputy to my many previous replies on the issue, most recently that of 2 February 2006.

Nuclear Disarmament Initiative.

Finian McGrath

Question:

250 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps he will take in the crisis regarding Iran and nuclear powers in the west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4754/06]

The question of Iran's nuclear programme is kept under constant review and is also the subject of regular discussions with my ministerial colleagues within the European Union. At the last meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council in Brussels on 30 January, we expressed grave concern at Iran's decision to resume enrichment related activities. Such unilateral steps are not only contrary to Iran's commitments as set out in several International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, resolutions, but can only serve to further erode international confidence.

Iran's actions also effectively ended talks with the EU3 to explore a possible resumption of negotiations, since maintaining the suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities was the necessary basis for such negotiations. Consequently, the EU3, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, called for the matter to be discussed at an extraordinary meeting of the IAEA board of governors in Vienna last week.

The IAEA board of governors meeting on 2 to 4 February adopted by a large majority a resolution reporting Iran to the Security Council. The resolution requests Iran to undertake a number of confidence building measures, notably the re-establishment of full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related activities and the implementation of transparency measures, as requested by the IAEA director general. The resolution also requests the director general to report on Iran's implementation of the resolution and previous resolutions to the March board of governors meeting and, immediately thereafter, to convey, together with any resolution from the March board, that report to the Security Council. The broad support for the resolution underscores the fact that this is not a dispute between Iran and nuclear powers in the west but between Iran and the great bulk of the international community.

There is an important window of opportunity between now and March. It is my hope that Iran will not make matters more difficult by taking further unilateral decisions that would impede the work of the IAEA in its ongoing investigations into the Iranian nuclear programme. Iran's full co-operation with the IAEA is not only necessary but clearly long overdue. It is a matter of great concern that after nearly three years of intensive verification activity, the IAEA is not yet in a position to clarify some important issues relating to Iran's nuclear programme or to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran. Together with our partners in the EU, we will remain fully engaged at this time.

Sports Capital Programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

251 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the funding allocated to the capital lottery fund by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4456/06]

Jack Wall

Question:

252 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of applications received for capital lottery funding; if the number is an increase on applications for the previous allocation of funding; the number of applicants for 2005 that were refused; the number that were successful; the number that were successful but have not drawn down any funds to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4457/06]

Jack Wall

Question:

253 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of successful capital grant applications over the past five years that have not drawn down funding or have not drawn their total allocation of funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4458/06]

Jack Wall

Question:

254 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of applications for capital lottery funding that have failed in their application for the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4459/06]

Jack Wall

Question:

256 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the allocation of lottery capital funding on a county basis for each of the past five allocations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4461/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 251 to 254, inclusive, and 256 together.

A total of €394.8 million has been allocated in 4,923 sports capital grants to sporting and community organisations since 1998. An amount of €67.724 million is provided in subhead C1 of my Department's Vote from which payments of grants allocated under the sports capital programme are made.

A total of 1,362 applications were received under the 2005 sports capital programme, of which 628 were provisionally allocated grants and 734 were unsuccessful. Applications for funding under the 2006 programme were invited through advertisements in the press on 27 and 28 November 2005. The closing date for receipt of applications was 20 January last. A total of 1,337 applications were submitted before the deadline. I intend to announce provisional grant allocations under the programme as soon as possible after the applications have been assessed by my Department in accordance with the assessment criteria outlined in the terms and conditions of the programme.

Following the making of the provisional grant allocations under the 2005 programme the grantees were informed by my Department of the various detailed requirements to be met in order to draw down that funding. To date, 581 of the 645 grantees have not drawn down a payment since the 2005 grants were provisionally allocated. Overall, a total of 1,070 of the 3,575 grantees in the last five years, 2001 to 2005, have not drawn down a payment and a further 484 have not fully drawn their grant.

The number of unsuccessful applications to the last five sports capital programmes were 734 in 2005; 567 in 2004; 720 in 2003; 513 in 2002 and 771 in 2001. The sports capital allocations by county for the past five years are contained in the following schedule.

Sports Capital Funding by County 2001-2005

County

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

Total

Carlow

369,494

1,168,159

489,000

440,000

632,000

446,000

3,544,653

Cavan

452,027

591,698

691,200

580,000

1,075,000

785,000

4,174,925

Clare

1,170,699

898,975

1,123,000

1,125,000

1,727,000

1,356,000

7,400,674

Cork

3,850,481

4,769,132

7,257,000

5,747,400

6,524,000

8,172,000

36,320,013

Donegal

5,142,439

3,211,168

5,049,000

1,177,500

1,802,000

1,572,000

17,954,107

Dublin

15,579,305

13,908,710

23,075,900

14,763,733

14,691,000

15,739,419

97,758,067

Galway

1,512,258

3,192,122

3,058,000

3,058,000

3,435,014

5,760,000

20,015,394

Kerry

1,258,310

2,119,193

3,335,200

3,748,000

4,476,000

3,603,000

18,539,703

Kildare

2,541,381

3,853,655

4,870,000

3,366,000

3,357,000

1,550,000

19,538,036

Kilkenny

529,481

763,747

1,116,500

1,042,500

850,000

1,284,000

5,586,228

Laois

437,425

1,197,363

1,189,000

450,000

786,000

771,000

4,830,788

Leitrim

666,612

439,964

821,600

454,800

479,000

660,000

3,521,976

Limerick

956,113

2,705,812

2,776,000

2,785,500

1,925,000

3,092,000

14,240,425

Longford

751,685

648,836

759,400

780,000

745,000

499,000

4,183,921

Louth

559,954

1,339,574

2,545,000

1,372,100

1,644,000

1,347,000

8,807,628

Mayo

982,777

1,625,265

2,284,000

1,574,600

1,594,000

1,422,000

9,482,642

Meath

1,192,284

1,477,975

1,605,000

2,560,000

2,260,000

1,576,000

10,671,259

Monaghan

502,181

615,823

1,233,000

685,000

996,000

744,000

4,776,004

Offaly

688,198

618,997

405,000

1,004,000

1,157,000

1,260,000

5,133,195

Roscommon

714,863

1,206,251

1,301,000

777,600

1,027,000

880,000

5,906,714

Sligo

591,063

1,250,692

1,527,600

963,000

1,453,000

2,020,000

7,805,355

Tipperary

1,042,455

1,802,393

2,478,000

1,657,000

2,398,000

2,177,000

11,554,848

Waterford

1,010,711

3,133,714

3,253,000

2,710,000

2,080,000

1,425,000

13,612,425

Westmeath

651,376

1,319,258

2,569,000

1,307,000

1,083,000

1,305,000

8,234,634

Wexford

1,227,837

915,481

2,206,000

1,221,000

1,887,000

2,267,000

9,724,318

Wicklow

1,115,465

1,405,600

1,813,000

1,003,000

1,700,000

1,527,000

8,564,065

Total

45,496,874

56,179,561

78,830,400

56,352,733

61,783,014

63,239,419

361,882,001

Departmental Agencies.

Jack Wall

Question:

255 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when the report on recent events in Bord na gCon sought by him will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4460/06]

As the Deputy is aware, on Tuesday, 31 January 2006, I requested Mr. Tim Dalton, former Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, to carry out an independent assessment into issues relating to corporate management in Bord na gCon as well as its management of positive tests for banned substances. I have asked Mr. Dalton to report back to me on these specific issues as soon as possible and his report will then be considered in my Department. It would be my wish to publish the report but as the Deputy will appreciate, I must be guided by legal advice on the propriety of doing so.

Question No. 256 answered with QuestionNo. 251.

Sports Funding.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

257 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his attention has been drawn to local media reports (details supplied) in Tallaght, Dublin 24; the views of the local community that this stadium in Tallaght be completed; if discussions are being held with South Dublin County Council, Shamrock Rovers, the GAA and other interests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4502/06]

I share the view of the local community that the project to develop a stadium at Tallaght should be completed quickly and in a cost efficient manner. My Department has already invested €2.44 million in the development of this stadium. In the period since 2002, when work ceased on the project, my Department has worked closely with South Dublin County Council and the FAI to ensure that the common objective of developing a soccer stadium in Tallaght is achieved.

Following the intervention of South Dublin County Council and its efforts to regain ownership of the site, my Department indicated a willingness to support the council in putting together a financial package that would ensure the early completion of the stadium. This support was based on the plan to provide a soccer stadium for Tallaght which would serve as a viable long-term home for Shamrock Rovers Football Club. South Dublin County Council articulated the proposal in a press release issued following its meeting on 10 January 2005 where it stated that "other non-soccer sporting organisations must develop their own sporting facilities".

I am aware that the FAI has made considerable investment in the project to date. I recently met the chief executive of the FAI, who expressed to me the concerns of his organisation regarding the recent decision of South Dublin County Council on the project. I have also discussed the matter with representatives of the Dublin County Board of the GAA.

It is clear that the original objective of all the parties involved was to develop a modern soccer stadium in Tallaght which together with ancillary facilities would also serve the local community. Given the fact that almost none of the submissions made as part of the public consultation process refer to catering for other sports, it is my belief that the local community supports this objective.

Work has already been undertaken on this development and at this stage there would be considerable cost implications if the stadium had to be adjusted to cater for sports other than soccer. The capacity of the stadium would be reduced and the ground sharing option for two Eircom League clubs, as recommended in the recent Genesis report, would not be achieved. This project has had a difficult history and like those most directly involved over the years, I am anxious that the stadium is completed as a matter of urgency.

I cannot therefore support the recent South Dublin County Council decision to deviate from the previously agreed approach which is likely to lead to further delays and increased costs. My Department is in regular contact and discussions with South Dublin County Council and I remain hopeful that a decision will be made to complete the stadium as originally intended.

National Minimum Wage.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

258 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in view of the fact that provision of board and lodgings has been connected with many cases of exploitation of migrant workers, the minimum wage legislation will be amended to remove the provision whereby if an employer provides an employee with full board and lodgings, or lodgings only, or full board only, a monetary allowance can be included as reckonable pay for the purpose of compliance with the national minimum wage. [4555/06]

The national minimum wage legislation provides for a monetary deduction to be made from the statutory minimum pay of an employee if the employee is provided with board and-or lodgings as follows: for full board and lodgings €54.13 per week or €7.73 per day; for full board only per week €32.14 per week or €4.60 per day; for lodgings only per week €21.85 per week or €3.14 per day. The inclusion of this provision in the national minimum wage legislation was recommended by the inter-departmental group on implementation of a national minimum wage. This approach is consistent with the inclusion of such monetary allowances in certain employment regulation orders, EROs, which set the terms and conditions of employment for workers in sectors such as hotels and catering. It was the view of the inter-departmental group that the monetary value of the allowances for the purpose of the national minimum wage would not be set at market value but rather would be similar to the amount provided for in the EROs. I have no plans to remove these provisions from the minimum wage legislation.

The Payment of Wages Act provides a range of rights for all employees in relation to the payment of wages, including protection against unlawful deductions from pay. The Act provides a right of complaint to a rights commissioner for any employee who has had an unlawful deduction made from wages.

The Deputy should also be aware that the labour inspectorate is empowered to investigate complaints concerning breaches of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 and I urge anyone who has specific evidence of the mistreatment of workers to furnish all the relevant details and any related materials to the inspectorate with a view to pursuing the matter.

EU Directives.

Michael Lowry

Question:

259 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if all aspects of the European employment directive have been transposed into Irish law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4572/06]

I presume the Deputy is referring to Directive 96/71/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 1996 concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services.

I am satisfied that all of the mandatory provisions of this directive have been transposed fully into Irish law by section 20 of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 which provides that all employee protection legislation on the Statute Book in the State applies to posted workers in the same way as it applies to Irish workers. Section 20 also applies all employee protection legislation to other overseas workers who have contracts of employment that provide for them being employed in the State.

Age Discrimination.

Michael Lowry

Question:

260 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if legislation is planned to end age discrimination in employment and vocational training associated with forced retirement at 65 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4573/06]

There is no age discrimination in employments rights legislation and there is no compulsory retirement age. Such legislation describes an employee as "a person of any age who has entered into or works under (or, where the employment has ceased, entered into or worked under) a contract of employment. . .".

In some employments, a "normal retirement age" exists for that employment only. In such cases, the normal age of retirement can be below or above 65 years of age, in order to give flexibility to employers and employees, having due regard to the nature of the work being performed. In these circumstances, I do not propose to introduce legislation to set a mandatory retirement age.

The upper age limit of 66 for bringing claims under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2001 was removed by the Equality Act 2004. The effect of this is that a person who is over the age of 66 when dismissed is not excluded from taking a case under the Unfair Dismissals Acts unless he or she has already reached the normal retirement age for that employment, if one exists.

With regard to vocational training, there is no upper age restriction on access to the Department's in-company training schemes or to FÁS vocational training programmes.

Job Losses.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

261 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of IDA assisted jobs that have been lost and created in Kerry in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4610/06]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment, FDI, to Ireland and its regions. The Forfás annual employment survey records jobs gained and lost in companies supported by the industrial development agencies. Data are compiled on an annualised basis and provisional data on a county basis for 2005 in respect of IDA client companies will not be available from that agency until the end of February. Once the data become available, I will arrange to have it forwarded to the Deputy.

Health Levy.

Enda Kenny

Question:

262 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, in view of the health levy, the yield per annum for this levy for the years 2002 to 2005, inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4534/06]

The health levy yield for each of the years 2002 to 2005 is as set down in the following table:

Year

€ million

Notes

2002

701.4

final figure

2003

793.7

final figure

2004

822

provisional figure

2005

979

provisional figure

Departmental Schemes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

263 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the extent to which he has assisted or will assist in the provision of free travel in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4735/06]

The free travel scheme is available to all people living in the State aged 66 years, or over. It is also available to carers and to people with disabilities who are in receipt of certain social welfare payments.

The scheme provides free travel on the main public and private transport services for those eligible under the scheme. These include road, rail and ferry services provided by companies such as Bus Átha Cliath, Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, as well as services provided by over 80 private transport operators. The vast majority of private contractors providing services under the scheme operate in rural areas. The underlying feature of the scheme is the use of spare capacity on these transport services.

I am always willing to consider applications from licensed private transport operators who may wish to participate in the free travel scheme. However, while my Department pays transport providers to operate the free travel scheme, it is not in a position to provide transport services where none exist.

The issue of access to public transport in rural areas is being addressed at present through the rural transport initiative, which is being managed by Pobal, formerly Area Development Management, ADM, on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Transport.

My Department contributed €500,000 to the initiative in 2004, €750,000 in 2005 and is contributing €850,000 for the initiative in 2006. This will ensure that free travel pass holders continue to have full access to community based transport services.

Significant improvements have been made to the free schemes, including the free travel scheme, in recent budgets both in terms of the qualifying conditions and the coverage of the schemes. I will continue to review the operation of these schemes with a view to identifying the scope for further improvements as resources permit.

Social Welfare Benefits.

David Stanton

Question:

264 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the steps his Department is taking to ensure that eligible persons are made aware of their social welfare entitlements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4476/06]

The provision of information in a clear and accessible manner is an essential element in the effective delivery of social welfare services. The underlying objective of my Department's information policy is to ensure that all citizens are made aware of their entitlements under social insurance, social assistance and other supports and are kept informed of changes and improvements as they occur.

My Department provides a comprehensive information service at local and regional level through its extensive network of offices throughout the country. We have approximately 130 offices at local level through which customers can obtain information and guidance in relation to their entitlements. This locally based service is supported by a central information unit which uses a variety of methods of communication to ensure that customers are aware of the full range of services available to them and of any improvements or new services which are introduced from time to time.

My Department produces a comprehensive range of information leaflets and booklets covering each social welfare payment or scheme and these are widely available at local social welfare offices, from post offices and from other agencies such as Comhairle and the community information centres. These leaflets are regularly revised to ensure that the public is kept up to date with information regarding its entitlements. All of my Department's information booklets can be ordered free of charge from our lo-call leaflet line 1890 20 23 25. In addition information on all our schemes and services are available on the Department's website, www.welfare.ie. Information leaflets can also be downloaded from this site.

Information regarding changes and improvements to schemes and services is advertised in the national and provincial media and through fact sheets, posters and direct mailshots. A freephone service is used to advise customers of new schemes or improvements to existing schemes at particular times of the year, for example, a freephone service is operated at budget time.

My Department seeks feedback from customers to ascertain their satisfaction with the quality of information services being provided, so that we can tailor the delivery of these services to meet their needs. Customer panels and customer surveys are among the mechanisms used for this purpose. The findings of these surveys are, in the main, very positive and show a high satisfaction rating with the services provided.

Comhairle, the national information agency, under the aegis of my Department has responsibility for supporting the provision of independent information, advice and other supports to citizens, including those with disabilities. Citizen information centres based in 247 locations provide information to members of the public on the full range of social services. My Department works closely with and provides funding for certain voluntary organisations, which provide welfare rights and information services for their targets groups. I am satisfied that my Department is taking all necessary steps in order ensure that people are made aware of their entitlements.

Homeless Persons.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

265 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the criteria used to define whether a person is homeless; the number of nights a person must spend on the street or in a hostel in order to be defined as homeless; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4482/06]

The issue of determining if a person is regarded as homeless is a matter for the housing authorities. Neither I nor my Department have any function in relation to the matter.

Homeless persons have the same entitlements as any other Irish citizen under the social welfare system. There is no requirement that a person must spend any length of time on the street or in a hostel in order to qualify for any social welfare payment.

If a homeless person is unemployed but capable of and genuinely seeking work, then they can apply for unemployment assistance. They can be paid basic supplementary welfare allowance, SWA, if they do not fulfil the conditions for any other primary weekly payment from my Department. In addition, they can also apply for payments such as rent supplement, diet supplement and exceptional needs payments under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme.

One of the most important supports provided to homeless people through the social welfare system is assistance with rent deposits to enable them to secure private rented accommodation. Some €5.8 million was provided for rent deposits in 2005.

Social Insurance.

Enda Kenny

Question:

266 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the yield per annum for each rate of PRSI for the years 2002 to 2005, inclusive; the employee exemption limits for each year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4519/06]

The PRSI yield for the year 2003 for each PRSI class collected through the PAYE system is as outlined in the following table:

2003

PRSI Class

Yield €m

A

5,288,168,772

B

68,961,337

C

2,534,308

D

237,333,129

E

467,180

H

43,869,294

J

11,162,240

K

21,849,605

M

1,765,524

P

4,105

S

145,209,651

Unknown

5,405,029

Total

5,826,730,174

This analysis is carried out when the bulk of the detailed contribution information has been received from employers after the end of the particular tax year. It should be noted that the data in the above table are subject to continuous change as remittances and details relating to 2003 continue to be received.

The total yield for PRSI collected through the PAYE system for the year 2002 was €5,409,827,580 but an analysis of each class is not available. The analysis of the PRSI yield for 2004 is not yet available but it is expected to be available by end March 2006. The analysis for 2005 will not be available before the end of March 2007.

PRSI contributions operate on a tiered basis in order to enhance employment incentives for low-earning employees. Employees are exempt from liability for PRSI contributions on weekly reckonable earnings below a specified threshold while still enjoying the benefits of social insurance coverage.

The PRSI exemption threshold for each year during the period between 2002 and 2005 was €287. On 1 January 2006, the employee PRSI threshold for liability to social insurance contributions was increased from €287 to €300 per week at a full year cost of €8.7 million. The new €300 threshold benefits employees earning the national minimum wage of €7.65 per hour.

At and above this exemption threshold, the employee rate becomes operable for all earnings. However, contributors are entitled to a PRSI-free allowance of €26 or €127 per week, as appropriate, which reduces the immediate step-effect of exceeding the threshold.

Local Authority Charges.

Michael Lowry

Question:

267 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on waiving the fees associated with refuse collection for people over the age of 65; the approximate cost of such a waiver; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4569/06]

The setting of waste management charges and the introduction of waivers in respect of waste charges is, as stated by my colleague the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, a matter for each local authority.

The introduction of a national social welfare scheme to address the issue is not considered feasible given the wide range of charging regimes and cost structures that exist in respect of waste management throughout the State. Any system put in place to assist people who rely on private domestic waste collection would have to be sensitive to the different local arrangements.

It is tentatively estimated that the cost of a waiver in respect of waste disposal charges for social welfare recipients aged 66 years and over would be in the region of €55 million per annum. This estimate is based on an average charge of €6 per week for waste disposal services.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

268 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when rent support will be awarded to persons (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4744/06]

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 have any function in relation to decisions on individual claims.

Under supplementary welfare allowance rules, rent supplement is not normally payable to couples where either of them is engaged in full-time employment. For these purposes, employment for 30 hours or more per week is regarded as full-time.

The executive has advised that the persons concerned were refused a rent supplement on the grounds that one of the applicants was engaged in full-time employment. It is open to the persons concerned to appeal this decision to the executive's designated appeals officer.

Public Transport.

John Gormley

Question:

269 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that approximately 60% of public service vehicle licences have not been renewed and that many taxi drivers could be working with an expired public service vehicle licence; if persons who are operating with an expired public service vehicle licence are insured to carry passengers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4462/06]

The licensing of small public service vehicles is currently governed by the Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to 2002. Under these regulations, small public service vehicle licences are granted and renewed by individual local licensing authorities. Information regarding the number of licences that have not been renewed at any given time is not available in my Department.

Section 43 of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 specifically provides that a person shall not drive or use a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place for the carriage of persons for reward unless the person holds a licence to drive a small public service vehicle and there is a small public service vehicle licence in force in respect of the vehicle. Contravention of this provision is an offence. Enforcement is the responsibility of the Garda Síochána.

In so far as insurance is concerned, all mechanically propelled vehicles, whether for private use or hire for reward, are required to be covered by third party insurance under the Road Traffic Acts. The policy of insurance is a private contract between the policy holder and the insurance company and must be for unlimited liability for personal injury. Any other terms or conditions are matters between the policy holder and the insurance company.

Search and Rescue Service.

Pat Breen

Question:

270 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport if discussions with a landowner for a suitable site for a new station house for the coastal unit at Doolin, County Clare are complete; the progress which has been made in the provision of a station house; the envisaged cost of constructing a station house; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4600/06]

I refer the Deputy to the reply given to Question No. 352 of Tuesday, 7 February 2006 which sets out the current position regarding the acquisition of a suitable site for a new station house for the Doolin coastal unit. Until the site acquisition has been finalised it will not be possible to determine the cost of construction of the accommodation.

Driving Tests.

Paul McGrath

Question:

271 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the receipts in 2005 in fees for driver testing; and the associated costs with operating this process. [4492/06]

The fees received in respect of driving tests for 2005 amounted to €7.09 million. The total cost of operating the service in 2005 is estimated to be approximately €12 million. There is not a direct correlation between receipts and expenditure in any given year as while cash is received with applications, the test may be conducted in a subsequent year.

Paul McGrath

Question:

272 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the number of driving tests carried out per day per instructor. [4493/06]

The number of driving tests conducted by a driver tester each day depends upon the time of year, the category of vehicle being tested, the test location and if the tester is working overtime. On average 7.6 standard car test equivalents should be conducted per driver tester per day.

Paul McGrath

Question:

273 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding a bonus scheme being offered to driving test instructors to carry out additional tests; the times when these additional tests will be carried out; the cost of implementing the bonus scheme; the timeframe for the length of time this bonus scheme will operate; and the estimated additional number of tests which will be carried out as a result of the scheme. [4494/06]

My Department in consultation with the Minister for Finance has developed a package of measures to deal with the backlog of driving test applications.

One aspect of the package is a bonus scheme for driver testers. A total of 90 driver testers have signed up for the bonus scheme which is due to commence on 6 February 2006 for one year. This is expected to deliver a minimum of 30,750 extra tests based on commitments given. The bonus tests will be conducted at lunchtime, evenings and on Saturdays. The direct cost of the scheme will be in the region of €1.5 million to €2 million.

Rail Services.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

274 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the independent advice, distinct from Irish Rail, he has received to advise him with regard to the development of the Irish rail freight industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4495/06]

The strategic rail review commissioned by my Department and published in 2003 contained an examination of the rail freight business and its realistic potential to support economic development and contribute to sustainable development. In preparing the report, the public were invited to make submissions on rail policy and a number of public consultation sessions were held around the country.

Iarnród Éireann, in responding to the challenges contained in the review, held wide-ranging consultations with business interests around the country to identify those freight activities which are best suited to rail transport. Arising from this process, the company has developed a business plan for freight with the objective of achieving break-even by 2006; increasing the profitability of the existing profitable business; withdrawing from those businesses that are heavily loss-making; and targeting trainload traffic.

The company advises that it is making good progress in growing the rail freight business in areas where it holds a competitive advantage over road haulage. The key areas in this respect are sugar beet, mineral ore, pulpwood and keg distribution. Iarnród Éireann continues to pursue a policy of growing its rail freight business where opportunities present. Separately, I am open to receiving representations in this regard, particularly given that full liberalisation of rail freight services will come into effect from 1 January next.

Driving Tests.

John Perry

Question:

275 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport the reason his Department is ten driving testers short; and the further reason for the non-appointment of staff in view of the huge demand for driving tests and the length of time people have to wait: his views on the reason, with 5,000 applications in the current competition for driving testers, only ten contract staff will be recruited; if it is less expensive to redeploy existing civil servants rather than outsource; the further reason there is an embargo on recruitment when there is a shortage of staff; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4500/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 113, 133 and 207 of 1 February 2005. As I have indicated to this House previously, the delay in providing driving tests is a matter of concern to me. I believe it not only represents a poor service to the public but it is also hampering the development of initiatives which I wish to pursue and which will contribute further to road safety. The driving test and those who deliver it are a key element in the road safety strategy. It is my objective to eliminate the backlog of driving tests by mid-2007 and my Department has developed a package of measures in consultation with staff interests to achieve this.

I am pleased to acknowledge that a very high number of the existing driver testers have indicated that they will participate in a bonus scheme which will make a significant contribution to the reduction of the backlog over the coming 18 months. Furthermore in a unique cross-departmental and cross-union agreement, a further eight civil servants from the Department of Agriculture and Food have successfully passed interviews and tests and will shortly be trained as driver testers and start working in April to reduce the backlog. Later in the year they will be augmented by another ten new recruits on two-year contracts. This increased volume of testing is putting administrative staff in Ballina under considerable pressure and I want to publicly recognise the contribution they make to resolving a difficult situation. They are often the first point of contact between the public and the Department in difficult times and they have responded admirably.

However, despite all these efforts I am convinced that more needs to be done in the short term and that the temporary use of outsourcing has to be an option to which I have recourse. Outsourcing not only provides access to additional staff resources but also to training options and to infrastructure and facilities that are needed to overcome the problems we face in the coming months. I believe Sustaining Progress provides that option but there is union disagreement on this. I accept that this disagreement reflects a genuinely held difference of opinion on the meaning of clauses in Sustaining Progress. Departmental and union officials have worked hard together to reach solutions and although good progress has been made, I do not believe it is sufficient to overcome the overriding need to eliminate the backlog as quickly as possible and to allow those same staff concentrate on developing and implementing a road safety regime and services which are part of this Government's programme.

Therefore, I intend to further the outsourcing option. I understand that this decision is likely to be tested under the arbitration provisions of Sustaining Progress. If so, that will give both sides a binding decision. Meanwhile, I have mandated my Department to progress outsourcing. I strongly believe that this is a prudent decision which is necessary in the interests of road safety and the avoidance of any unnecessary subsequent delays in eliminating the backlog.

I want to be unequivocally clear to the staff in the Department that I appreciate the level of service and commitment they have given and continue to give to the delivery of a driver testing service. They will continue to be the backbone of the service into the future. While I believe that outsourcing is needed now in exceptional circumstances to augment their work I can give them an assurance that it is a temporary measure and not intended to replace their work. I can also assure them that if outsourcing points to deficiencies in the infrastructure or systems which are available in the public service, I intend to continue to secure and provide the resources needed to improve the public service infrastructure. In tandem with eliminating the backlog I am determined to support a better public service delivery of the driving test to the benefit of both customers and staff. Along with eliminating the backlog I intend to deliver a service in which existing staff will be proud to work.

Rail Network.

Pat Breen

Question:

276 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport if he has received detailed plans and designs for each phase of the western rail corridor project from Iarnród Éireann; if not, when he expects to do so; the timeframe for the receipt of such plans; the projected cost of each phase of this project; his views on whether phase one will be completed by 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4546/06]

The McCann report recommended a phased approach to the construction of the western rail corridor. Following the launch of Transport 21, I asked Iarnród Éireann to commence the design and planning stages of the western rail corridor from Ennis to Claremorris.

The line between Ennis and Athenry will be the first section to be developed and I await specific proposals from Iarnród Éireann in this regard. The indicative timescale for completion of this first section is 2008. The indicative timescale for completion of the Athenry to Tuam section is 2011 and for the Tuam to Claremorris section is 2014. The necessary steps to preserve the section of line between Claremorris and Collooney will be taken this year.

Transport 21 includes a financial provision to cover the anticipated cost of the western rail corridor project. I do not propose to release this commercially sensitive information until the public procurement process for this project is completed.

Public Transport.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

277 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the amount of funding for the provision of additional buses sought by Dublin Bus; the amount of buses this would procure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4548/06]

On 20 January 2006, Dublin Bus submitted an application for funding for 200 additional buses to be provided over the two-year period 2006 to 2007 and the construction of a new garage. The projected total capital cost of the proposals contained in the application is €120 million. My Department is currently examining this application in accordance with the requirements of the Department of Finance guidelines for the appraisal of capital projects, and I will make a decision when this is completed.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

278 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to plans to provide a bus route along the R112 road in south Dublin linking both Luas lines with the DART and the 16A airport bus; and if the provision of such a route can be facilitated. [4564/06]

The Dublin Transportation Office, DTO, strategy for the greater Dublin area, A Platform for Change, proposes a network of radial and orbital quality bus corridors, QBCs, and additional bus priority measures.

The proposed orbital QBC referred to by the Deputy, linking as it would a series of radial Luas lines, red and green, existing QBCs, N11 and the Rock Road, future QBCs and the DART system, Blackrock station, would be an excellent example of the progressive development of an integrated public transport system and would play an important role in promoting the use of, and integrating, public transport in the south and south western section of the Dublin region.

Statutory responsibility for the implementation of quality bus corridors rests with the relevant local authorities and a decision on proceeding with roll out is a matter for those bodies. While preliminary designs have been drawn up in respect of certain segments of the route in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council area, and public consultation commenced, I understand no decision has been made at this point to proceed with the project.

My Department, through the DTO traffic management grants, makes funding available for QBC development. I understand from the DTO that no funding has yet been sought to implement this project.

Road Network.

Richard Bruton

Question:

279 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport his estimate of the cost to the Exchequer of buying back the right to toll the East Link bridge; and his plans to buy back those rights in line with his proposal for the West Link. [4752/06]

Issues relating to the tolling of the East Link bridge are matters for Dublin City Council in the first instance.

Rural Social Scheme.

Michael Ring

Question:

280 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo is entitled to a place on a rural social scheme. [4473/06]

The conditions of eligibility, which need to fulfilled to participate in the RSS are as follows: applicants must be in receipt of farm assist or have been allocated a valid herd or flock number from the Department of Agriculture and Food, and be in receipt of one of the following allowances from the Department of Social and Family Affairs: unemployment assistance, unemployment benefit, if previously on CE, or disability allowance; or applicants are self-employed fishermen on a fishing boat which has been entered in the register of fishing boats or have been issued with a fishing licence for fishing for salmon at sea, from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, and are in receipt of one of the following allowances from the Department of Social and Family Affairs: unemployment assistance, unemployment benefit, if previously on CE, or disability allowance. The conditions of eligibility include that the person in question, prior to commencement on this scheme, was signing for credited social insurance contributions or "credits" with the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Credited contributions are notional social insurance contributions, which are awarded to an insured person without a PRSI payment being received from the insured person. The conditions also include that my Department has established, following legal advice, that a person signing for credits has no underlying entitlement to participate on the scheme. The conditions further include that the person concerned spent one year on the scheme but following the legal clarification was informed that he could not continue to participate for a further period on the basis of credited social insurance contributions. To be eligible going forward a person must meet the criteria outlined.

Community Development.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

281 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his plans to address social or economic deprivation in urban or rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4733/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

283 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the extent to which he proposes to assist directly in urban or rural regeneration; if community-based applications of this nature will be accepted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4736/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 281 and 283 together.

My Department operates directly, or through bodies under its aegis, a wide range of schemes and projects which address rural and urban disadvantage throughout the country. The descriptions of these schemes are available on my Department's website at www.pobail.ie. I also refer the Deputy to my replies to Questions No. 40 of 22 February 2005; Nos. 118 and 119 of 14 April 2005; No. 3 of 19 May 2005; No. 420 of 15 November 2005; and No. 217 of 30 November 2005.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

282 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if financial assistance will be offered towards community-based programmes for the restoration of urban and rural-based buildings or structures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4734/06]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the restoration of urban and rural-based heritage buildings or structures. My Department has no function in this matter.

Question No. 283 answered with QuestionNo. 281.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

284 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if, having regard to his previously expressed views on the subject, he is satisfied that An Taisce has ceased to interfere in the area of rural housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4737/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 121 to 123, inclusive, of 14 April 2005 and to my reply to Question No. 236 of 14 December 2004.

Grant Payments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

285 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the closing dates for applications for grant aid under various headings in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4738/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

286 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the main headings under which grant aid has been offered to various projects in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4739/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

289 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount awarded by way of grant or other financial aid to various groups or bodies on a county basis in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4742/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 285, 286 and 289 together.

Expenditure across the three main programme areas, including administration, for 2005 is as follows:

2005 (Provisional Outturn)

€ million

An Ghaeilge agus an Ghaeltacht

88.395

Community Affairs

158.803

Rural Affairs

91.734

Administration

15.571

Expenditure within these programme areas takes place across a wide range of schemes and projects, descriptions of which are available on my Department's website at www.pobail.ie. It is the practice of both my colleague, Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, and myself to make details of all announcements relating to grant approvals and other expenditure-related decisions under these programmes available on the Department’s website. The many schemes have varying closing dates, details of which are also on my Department’s website. If the Deputy would like information regarding a particular scheme, I would be glad to provide details to him.

Telecommunications Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

287 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his Department will offer financial assistance towards a community-based initiative to provide telecommunications or other community enhancing facilities at the Black Valley, County Kerry or other areas deficient in such services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4740/06]

My Department does not provide funding for telecommunications services.

National Drugs Strategy.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

288 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the expenditure by his Department by way of grant or other forms of aid to community or other groups involved in combating drugs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4741/06]

My Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008. In this context it has responsibility for the work of the local and regional drugs task forces and the young people's facilities and services fund. Through these initiatives a range of community and voluntary groups are funded to tackle drug misuse. To date, approximately €95 million has been allocated to implement approximately 440 projects under two rounds of local drugs task force plans; approximately €90 million has been allocated under the young peoples facilities and services fund to support in the region of 450 initiatives; a further €13.66 million has been allocated to projects under the LDTF premises initiative which is designed to meet the accommodation needs of community based drugs projects; and expenditure on the implementation of the new action plans of the regional drugs task forces commenced in 2005 and allocations totalling just under €5 million have been made to facilitate getting a range of projects up-and-running in the regions this year. I am pleased that my Department was allocated €34.027 million for the drugs initiative-young people's facilities and services fund in the Abridged Estimates Volume for 2006. This represents an increase of 8% on the allocation for 2005.

Question No. 289 answered with QuestionNo. 285.

Grant Payments.

Liam Aylward

Question:

290 Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the progress to date in 2006 on an application under the single payments scheme by a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny. [4450/06]

The person named submitted applications for consideration in respect of the private contract clause and inheritance measures of the single payments scheme. Following processing of these applications, the entitlements were transferred by way of inheritance. The person named submitted an application for payment under the single payment scheme on 6 May 2005. Following validation of the lands declared, problems arose on three parcels. The person named has been written to seeking clarification. Payment will be processed upon resolution of these queries.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

291 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. [4451/06]

The person named submitted an application under the single payment scheme on 11 May 2005. The herdowner also applied to have his entitlements consolidated under the 2005 single payment scheme. This application has been processed and full payment of €33,833.22 will issue shortly.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

292 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Wexford has not received the full single farm payment; when remainder of the payment will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4478/06]

An application under the single payment scheme was received from the person named on 16 May 2005.

While an initial payment issued to the person named on 1 December 2005 based on the entitlements held by the applicant on that date, a further payment will be issued shortly to the person named when an application to transfer entitlements has been processed.

Departmental Staff.

John Perry

Question:

293 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the reason only 45 staff applied out of a possible 200 being offered to transfer to the Department of Transport to help alleviate the problem with waiting times for driving tests; the incentives which were given to staff; the reason there was such a low take-up of opportunity to transfer; if the figures will increase; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4499/06]

In order to clear a substantial backlog of driving tests, the Department of Transport sought to avail of the temporary redeployment of staff from my Department in locations where surplus local office staff were available. Applicants were invited to apply by Monday 12 December 2005. This closing date was further extended to Friday, 16 December, at the request of staff associations to facilitate as many potential applicants as possible. Clerical officers, staff officers and executive officers were invited to apply. Successful applicants below the grade of EO would be placed in the EO grade in a temporary capacity for the period of redeployment.

The option to apply for the post of temporary driver tester was a matter for each individual staff member. In considering whether to apply, staff had to take a number of factors into account. These were as follows. The position is intended to be temporary for a period of 18 months or so after which time redeployed staff will have to return at their existing grade to alternative posts as arranged by the Department of Finance. Applicants had to have an unblemished driving licence for at least five years. Applicants would be required to successfully complete a compulsory qualifying driving test. Applicants would then be called to a competitive interview. Successful candidates would be required to attend a six-week training course and, on completion of this programme, must meet the necessary standard in order to be appointed as a driver tester. In all, 30 eligible applications were forwarded to the Department of Transport for consideration. Eight applicants have been selected for training which will start shortly.

Grant Payments.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

294 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if payment of grant aid in respect of the development of new farm buildings will be issued to the widow of a deceased person (details supplied). [4541/06]

As the deceased's son succeeded to the land and is also the current registered herdowner, payment will be made in this case to the deceased's widow on receipt of a signed declaration from the herdowner consenting to the payment concerned.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

295 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason for the delay in having payment issued to a person (details supplied) in County Limerick under the EU single farm payment scheme. [4542/06]

The person named submitted an application under the single payment scheme on 13 May 2005. The herd owner also applied to have his entitlements consolidated under the 2005 single payment scheme. In addition, the person named also successfully submitted an application for the transfer of entitlements by way of private contract clause. All the applications have been processed and full payment of €9,399.22 will issue shortly.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

296 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when payment of the EU single farm payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [4543/06]

The person named submitted an application under the single payment scheme on 10 May 2005. The herdowner also applied to have his entitlements consolidated under the 2005 single payment scheme. This application has been processed and full payment of €37,391.56 will issue shortly.

Michael Lowry

Question:

297 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when single payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4570/06]

The person named submitted an application to transfer entitlements with lands by way of inheritance under the provisions of the single payment scheme. However, the single payment entitlements could not be transferred as she did not receive lands by way of gift or inheritance.

Michael Lowry

Question:

298 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when single payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4571/06]

The person named submitted an application for the transfer out of entitlements by way of private contract clause under the provisions of the single payment scheme. However, prior to processing the private contract clause application, she is required to have the entitlements transferred to her by way of lands and inheritance.

An application form for the inheritance measure has been forwarded to the person named for completion. On receipt of the completed inheritance application and supporting documentation, my Department will advise the applicant of the outcome of both applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

299 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the single farm payment will be awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4743/06]

An application under the single payment scheme was submitted by the spouse of the person named on 6 May 2006. Following the death of the single payment scheme applicant, the herd number was transferred to the person named. Arrangements have been put in place to transfer the entitlements from the single payment scheme applicant to the person named and payment will issue shortly.

Joe Walsh

Question:

300 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if the full payment of the single farm payment will be arranged for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [4751/06]

An application under the single payment scheme was received from the person named on 16 May 2005. The payment which issued to the person named on 1 December 2005, reflects the position following the transfer out of some of his entitlements with lands by way of inheritance-gift and, therefore, represents the full payment due.

Maternity Leave Entitlements.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

301 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is possible for women to engage in unpaid maternity leave prior to the birth of their child or if the order in which maternity entitlements must be claimed is paid first followed by unpaid leave; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4471/06]

Advice on the law is not a matter for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. However, I can say that policy in the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004 is that an employee is entitled to additional unpaid maternity leave commencing immediately after the end of her maternity leave.

The entitlement will increase from eight weeks to 12 weeks with effect from 1 March 2006 and to 16 weeks with effect from 1 March 2007 following an order recently made by me under the Maternity Protection Acts in line with the announcement made by the Minister for Finance in his Budget Statement 2006.

Information on maternity leave entitlements can be obtained from the Equality Authority.

Visa Applications.

Michael Ring

Question:

302 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a visa application will be approved for a person (details supplied). [4446/06]

The application referred to by the Deputy was received in my Department's visa section on 27 January 2006, and is pending assessment. Applications are dealt with in date order and a decision on this case will be made in the near future.

Deportation Orders.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

303 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if humanitarian leave will be granted to a person (details supplied) to remain here. [4468/06]

Finian McGrath

Question:

306 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) will not be deported; and if the National Youth Council of Ireland will be supported on this matter. [4485/06]

Willie Penrose

Question:

307 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he will take to review the decision to deport a person (details supplied) who has made a significant contribution to youth work and to Irish society generally through their work with a group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4486/06]

Michael Lowry

Question:

311 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason for deportation of a person (details supplied); if this decision will be reconsidered and grant the person permission to remain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4581/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

320 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a review can or will be undertaken in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4746/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 303, 306, 307, 311 and 320 together.

I refer the Deputies to the reply I gave to Questions Nos. 459 and 469 on Tuesday, 7 February 2006 in which I outlined the position. The enforcement of the deportation order is now an operational matter for the Garda national immigration bureau.

Citizenship Applications.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

304 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if time spent here on the now discontinued inter-company transfer scheme visa is considered towards the requirements for time living legally here when assessing applications for naturalisation; the waiting time for a naturalisation application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4481/06]

Section 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended, provides that applicants for naturalisation, other than spouses of Irish citizens, must have been resident in the State for five years of the nine year period prior to the date of application. Residence in this context means residence for which the applicant had the permission of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and where such permission was not for the purpose of study or seeking asylum. Generally speaking, reckonable residence is calculated from stamps in applicants' passports and from departmental and Garda records.

I understand that persons who arrived in the State as a result of an inter-company transfer were regarded as having the permission of the Minister and the exclusions mentioned above did not apply. In such circumstances, time spent in the State by a person on an inter-company transfer is reckonable for naturalisation purposes as long as that person had the permission of the Minister to reside here.

Persons who received permission to reside in the State on the basis of an inter-company transfer — a scheme that is now defunct — were expected to remain in the State for a limited period of time and then return to the parent organisation abroad which posted him or her to Ireland. In those circumstances, I would not normally expect a person who came to Ireland as an inter-company transferee to remain long enough here to qualify for naturalisation. However, each application for naturalisation by a inter-company transferee will be examined on its merits.

Prison Accommodation.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

305 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the practice of slopping out is still in place in prisons; the timeframe in which he estimates that slopping out will be completely eliminated from all institutions here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4483/06]

Approximately 72% of prisoners in custody now have 24-hour access to in-cell sanitation thanks to substantial investment in the prison estate since 1997.

I plan to eliminate the practice of slopping out completely. This will require the replacement of Mountjoy and Cork prisons. I look forward to the support of the Deputy and his party colleagues in achieving this objective. The purchase of the site at Thornton and the ongoing work to develop new prison facilities there represents a major step in this direction, as do my plans to develop a new prison on Spike Island.

Questions Nos. 306 and 307 answered with Question No. 303.

Garda Strength.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

308 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he will provide a full detailed reply to Question No. 224 of 24 November 2005. [4514/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, the information requested in November 2005 in regard to Garda resources in the Ardee and mid-Louth area was not readily available in the detail sought at the time. The information requested has now been compiled by the Garda authorities and has been sent to the Deputy directly.

Residency Permits.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

309 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for residency in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [4544/06]

The person in question arrived in the State as a member of the crew of a ship which docked in Waterford port on 17 February 2004. He failed to return to the ship prior to its departure and subsequently made an application for asylum at Waterford Garda station on 4 March 2004. This application for asylum was withdrawn on 30 September 2004 in favour of an application for permission to remain in the State on the basis of his marriage to an Irish national which had taken place on 8 July 2004.

Marriage to an Irish national does not grant any automatic right to enter or reside in the State solely on that basis. Applications of this type are dealt with on a strict chronological basis and, in fairness to all other applicants, are currently taking approximately 16 months to process.

The immigration division of my Department has growing experience of marriages being entered into for the sole purpose of enabling the non-national in question gain entry to the State. In order to prevent abuses of the system, in so far as is possible and without unduly interfering with the Irish citizen's private circumstances, the immigration division will seek to establish various matters. These include the context in which the marriage took place, the validity of the marriage and whether the couple is residing in a family unit. This may involve requesting supporting documentation as evidence of the relationship and-or an interview by the immigration authorities of either or both parties. A decision on the residency application in question will be made after full consideration of all the circumstances particular to this case.

Road Traffic Offences.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

310 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the Chief State Solicitor’s office pursues drink driving convictions in Dublin while superintendents do so in all other Garda divisions; his views on the impact this has on the conviction rate in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4554/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the use of members of the Garda Síochána as prosecutors in the case of drink driving convictions in all Garda divisions other than the Dublin metropolitan region has benefits for the operation and management of prosecutions. Members of the Garda Síochána who have to present the prosecution case in open court and who have to face the rigour of court procedures, judicial supervision and criticism are likely to be diligent in assembling and assessing evidence. In cases where senior Garda officers prosecute, the normal managerial supervision of performance is strengthened when the manager, in his role as prosecutor, has to be comprehensively briefed by the investigating Garda.

I am further informed that it has been tradition, because of demands made in the Dublin metropolitan region, to request the assistance of the chief prosecution solicitor in the prosecution of offences before the Dublin District Courts.

Question No. 311 answered with QuestionNo. 303.

Closed Circuit Television Systems.

Michael Lowry

Question:

312 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason a town (details supplied) in County Tipperary was unsuccessful in applying for closed circuit television; when security cameras will be provided in the town; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4582/06]

As the Deputy may be aware, I launched the community based CCTV scheme last year in response to a demonstrated demand from local communities across Ireland for the provision of CCTV systems. The purpose of the scheme is to support local communities who wish to install and maintain CCTV security systems in their area, with the aim of increasing public safety and reducing the risk of anti-social and criminal activity. The day-to-day administration of this scheme is being carried out by Pobal, formerly Area Development Management Limited, on behalf of my Department.

I am informed by Pobal that an application for stage 2 grant aid funding under the community based CCTV scheme was received from Thurles Chamber of Commerce. Applications for funding were thoroughly assessed against the criteria set out in the community based CCTV scheme application guidelines with a view to forming a list of projects suitable for funding under the scheme. All applications, including those recommended for funding by Pobal, were then considered by the community based CCTV project board, which is chaired by this Department, before I made a final decision on the matter.

Following a thorough assessment of its application, Thurles Chamber of Commerce's application for funding was deemed not to reach a high enough standard to be granted funding. I understand that Pobal recently provided feedback directly to all unsuccessful applicants under the scheme, including Thurles Chamber of Commerce.

It is intended to invite a new round of applications for funding under the community based CCTV scheme in the coming months, and it is, of course, open to Thurles Chamber of Commerce to submit another application for funding at that stage.

I am advised that an application for a Garda CCTV system in Thurles from local Garda management and Thurles Chamber of Commerce, which had been submitted to the CCTV advisory committee for consideration, was withdrawn in early 2003 as it was the chamber of commerce's intention to install a community based CCTV system. I am further advised that no new application for a Garda CCTV system in Thurles has since been received by the advisory committee.

All applications for such Garda CCTV systems must meet the relevant criteria, be prepared in co-operation with the local Garda district and divisional officers and receive their full support. The application is then considered by the CCTV advisory committee which makes a recommendation, through the Garda Commissioner, to myself.

Garda Deployment.

Michael Lowry

Question:

313 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to instruct the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána to return resident gardaí to many rural Garda stations with living accommodation for a member of the force and family; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4584/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the allocation of Garda personnel is determined by a number of factors including population, crime trends and other operational policing needs of each division. All habitable Garda accommodation is advertised throughout the service and in accordance with the foregoing suitable personnel are allocated to occupy it.

Prisoner Transfers.

Pat Carey

Question:

314 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a person (details supplied) will be repatriated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4585/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to his parliamentary question on 22 November 2005 on this matter.

The position remains that my Department awaits a warrant authorising both the transfer into the country and the continued detention of the prisoner in this jurisdiction. My Department has requested that this application for a warrant be given high priority by the State's legal officers. On receipt of a warrant, final arrangements for the transfer will be made.

Road Traffic Offences.

Tony Gregory

Question:

315 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to his reply to Question No. 304 of 1 February 2006, if such impounded vehicles will only be returned to adults with proof of ownership who may then be requested to return to the Garda station with driving licence, vehicle tax and insurance cover to provide against such vehicles being in the control of juveniles. [4631/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that vehicles seized under the provisions of section 41 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 are restored where the person provides proof of ownership and has paid the relevant charge. Production of a valid driving licence, certificate of insurance and tax may also be required unless the vehicle is not being used in a public place or is being towed from the Garda station.

Crime Levels.

Tony Gregory

Question:

316 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to his reply to Question No. 402 of 6 December 2005 the number of burglaries in the districts covered by the three Garda stations at Cabra, Bridewell and Mountjoy covering the Dublin 7 area in 2004 and 2005; and the detection rates in each case. [4632/06]

Correspondence relating to my reply to Question No. 402 of 6 December 2005 issued to him from my office on 6 February 2006 covered the periods 1 January to 31 December 2004, inclusive, and 1 January to 31 October 2005, inclusive.

The information detailed in the following table shows the number of burglaries recorded and detected for the periods 1 January to 31 December 2004, inclusive, and 1 January to 31 December 2005, inclusive. The figures provided for 2005 are provisional, operational and liable to change. Cabra Garda station is included in the Blanchardstown Garda district and Mountjoy Garda station is in the Fitzgibbon Street Garda district.

2005

2004

District

Recorded

Detected

Recorded

Detected

Blanchardstown

624

49

852

52

Fitzgibbon Street

558

92

545

92

Bridewell

222

37

204

36

Garda Recruitment.

Seán Haughey

Question:

317 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a re-application by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 to join the Garda Síochána again after ten years will be sanctioned; if the file is in his Department for a decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4694/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, which are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the individual referred to by the Deputy served in the Garda Síochána from 15 May 1981 until he resigned his position on 26 August 1999 to take up a post with the United Nations, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The Commissioner recently proposed this individual's re-appointment under the provisions of Regulation 13 of the Garda Síochána (Admissions and Appointments) Regulations 1988 and subject to appropriate medical certification by the Garda chief medical officer. I have approved the Commissioner's proposal and notified him accordingly.

Garda Vetting Procedures.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

318 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 292 of 1 February 2006 if the information requested is being compiled by his Department; if so, when same will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4695/06]

In 2005 approximately 150,000 vetting requests were processed by the Garda Síochána, of which approximately 1,200 related to the education sector. Statistics in respect of such requests disaggregated by county are not maintained.

The vetting process involves the disclosure by the Garda Síochána, in appropriate circumstances, of criminal history information on an individual. The Garda Síochána is not involved in making recruitment decisions or in determining the suitability or otherwise of an applicant for a post; this decision is solely a matter for the recruiting organisation. Accordingly, statistical data on the number of persons vetted who may not have secured posts for whatever reason following vetting are not available to the Garda Síochána.

Residency Permits.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

319 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made on the appeal for family reunification for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4732/06]

The refugee in question made a family reunification application in respect of his second wife, her son and his two adult children in December 2003. This application was refused in March 2005.

An appeal against this decision was subsequently lodged. A decision has been recently been made on this application and the person in question has been informed of same.

Question No. 320 answered with QuestionNo. 303.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

321 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the application for family reunification in the case of persons (details supplied) in County Kildare will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4747/06]

The person in question made an application on behalf of family members in February 2005. The application was refused in January 2006.

My Department has received no correspondence on a request for review of this case to date. If additional information or documentary evidence are submitted, the application will then be reviewed.

Psychological Service.

Simon Coveney

Question:

322 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the percentage of primary schools in Cork city and county that have national educational psychological service cover. [4509/06]

Simon Coveney

Question:

323 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Education and Science the percentage of second level schools in Cork city and county that have national educational psychological service cover. [4510/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 322 and 323 together.

All schools in Cork city and county 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. The latest figures indicate that 49% of primary schools and 73% of post-primary schools in Cork city and county enjoy a dedicated NEPS service at present. In addition, NEPS provides a service to every school and school community in Cork city and county in the event of a critical incident regardless of whether the school already has a dedicated service from a NEPS psychologist. For all schools, NEPS processes applications for reasonable accommodations in certificate examinations and responds to queries on individual children from other sections of my Department and from the specialist agencies.

Schools Completion Programme.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

324 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science the action she will take to ensure that a school (details supplied) in Dublin 24 will be included in the school completion programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4496/06]

Urban and town primary schools and post primary schools selected to participate in the new integrated school support programme, as part of the new action plan for educational inclusion, delivering equality of opportunity in schools, DEIS, will have access to a range of supports, both academic and non-academic, after school and holiday time supports, for young people, based on best practice identified through the school completion programme. The school support programme will replace all of the existing arrangements for targeting schools for participation in initiatives to address disadvantage.

The identification process is being finalised and we anticipate being in a position to issue an invitation to selected schools to participate in the new school support programme shortly.

Schools Building Projects.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

325 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science when the extension to a school (details supplied) in County Tipperary will be approved. [4497/06]

The building project for the school referred to by the Deputy is at an advanced stage of architectural planning. The school in question was listed in my announcement of April 2005 as a project to progress through the architectural planning process.

My Department's officials are in receipt of a stage 4-5 submission, planning permission — fire certification and bill of quantities — tender documentation, and this will be examined in due course. Should my Department require any additional information on the received submission, my officials will contact the school authorities.

I am anxious to ensure that a consistent flow of projects to tender and construction can be sustained into the future. A decision on which school building projects will advance to tender and construction will be considered in the context of the school building and modernisation programme 2006-09.

Schools Refurbishment.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

326 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason the summer works scheme application from schools (details supplied) in Dublin 24 was not successful in view of the needs in the matter. [4498/06]

The schools in question made a joint application for funding under the summer works scheme for 2006. However, the application did not comply with the terms and conditions of the scheme in that it was not accompanied by the necessary consultant's report and the application was unsuccessful for this reason. It will be open to the schools to make application under future summer works schemes.

Irish Language.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

327 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if an Irish exemption will be granted to a person (details supplied) in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4535/06]

As part of the primary school curriculum Irish is a compulsory subject. Exemption from the study of Irish may, however, be granted to primary pupils under certain circumstances as outlined in Department circular 12/96. A condition for the granting of an exemption to a pupil with a specific or general learning difficulty is that evidence of such a disability must be furnished by a qualified psychologist. There is, however, no provision in the Department's circular for the automatic granting of exemptions to pupils on foot of a recommendation in a psychologist's report. Under the terms of the circular delegated authority to grant exemptions from Irish, within the conditions laid down, has been vested in the individual school authority.

With regard to the particular case referred to by the Deputy, the position is that the school concerned determined that the pupil in question did not satisfy the requirements of circular 12/96 and turned down the application for exemption from Irish. Following consideration of representations received in the matter, the case was reviewed by my Department. However, it was decided that exemption from Irish is not warranted in this case.

School Transport.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

328 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science if a secondary school pupil (details supplied) in County Wexford, whose application for school transport is the subject of an appeal, is entitled to school transport; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the private bus transport arranged for this pupil pending a decision on their appeal to her Department has been withdrawn and the family is not in a position to transport the pupil to school; the position in relation to this case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4536/06]

I can confirm that the family of the pupil referred to by the Deputy recently appealed my Department's decision in this case to the school transport appeals board. I understand that the board will consider the case at its next meeting on 16 February 2006.

The school transport appeals board is independent of my Department and it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the matter pending the board's determination of the appeal.

Schools Amalgamation.

Liam Aylward

Question:

329 Mr. Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Question No. 420 of 6 December 2005 the progress which has since been made on the matter (details supplied). [4549/06]

Discussions are ongoing with the trustees in regard to progressing the agreed amalgamation of the schools to which the Deputy refers.

Schools Refurbishment.

Finian McGrath

Question:

330 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason funding for refurbishment of the science laboratories at a school (details supplied) in Dublin 3 were not approved. [4563/06]

The refurbishment projects applied for under the summer works scheme by the school in question were not deemed suitable under this scheme owing to the extent of works required.

The school planning section of my Department will write to the school authorities shortly advising them of the options available for addressing the required works.

Adult Literacy.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

331 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science if a person appointed to a post (details supplied) has the relevant qualifications for that post; if an investigation will be held to determine whether the person has a minimum of three years working in adult literacy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4603/06]

The VEC that made the appointment has confirmed that it is fully in conformity with the regulations for appointments to the post in question, including the requirement that persons appointed have a minimum of three years working in adult literacy. In the light of this assurance, I do not propose to intervene in the matter.

Schools Refurbishment.

Tony Gregory

Question:

332 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Education and Science if funding has been sought for a new classroom, new roof and rewiring by the school authorities (details supplied); and her Department’s response to this request. [4633/06]

The school referred to by the Deputy has been included on the list of schools which have been successful under the summer works scheme 2006. The school has been approved for a combined project comprising mechanical, roofing and classroom conversion works.

All the schools covered by the initiative will be contacted directly by the school building section of the Department with details of the grant aid being provided and instructions on how to proceed.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

333 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Education and Science further to Question No. 1397 of 25 January 2006, the reason the Church of Ireland national school in Edenderry was not included in the summer works scheme; and if her decision will be reconsidered. [4634/06]

The school referred to by the Deputy applied for an external environment project under the summer works scheme 2006. The school planning section of my Department also has on hands an application for additional accommodation from the management authority of the school and this proposed building project is being considered under another scheme. In light of this, the school's summer works scheme application was deemed unsuccessful as it was considered poor value for money for the school to undertake external environment works prior to the proposed building project.

The management authority of the school has appealed this decision and this appeal is being considered. Officials in school planning will contact the school directly when a decision is reached.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Paul McGrath

Question:

334 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the average class size and the pupil teacher ratio in primary schools in Westmeath in each of the past five years. [4635/06]

Paul McGrath

Question:

335 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the average class size and pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools in Longford in each of the past five years. [4636/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 334 and 335 together.

The most recent data on average class size in primary schools in County Longford are as follows: year average class size — 2000-01, 21.1; 2001-02, 21.4; 2002-03, 20.9; 2003-04, 21.0; and 2004-05, 21.5. The average class size in Longford is substantially lower than the national average of 24.

The most recent data on average class size in primary schools in County Westmeath are as follows: year average class size — 2000-01, 24.4; 2001-02, 24.4; 2002-03, 23.9; 2003-04, 24.1 and 2004-05, 23.9. The average class in Westmeath is therefore in line with the national average of 24.

The information on the pupil-teacher ratio is not available in my Department on a county basis.

Major improvements in school staffing have been made in recent years with the hiring of more than 5,000 additional primary teachers. This represents the largest increase in teacher numbers since the expansion of free education. Today there is one teacher for every 17 children, the lowest pupil teacher ratio in the history of the State.

Aside from decreasing average class size, the unprecedented increase in school staffing in recent years has also greatly improved the services provided for children with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas. Under the action plan for tackling disadvantage published in 2005, there will be a reduction in class sizes of 24:1 at senior level and 20:1 at junior level in 150 primary schools serving communities with the highest concentrations of disadvantage. With more than 600 extra resource teachers put in place this term, children with special needs are getting more support than ever before. It should be acknowledged how much progress has been made in this area in recent years.

Recently I announced that I have secured sufficient funding to provide even smaller classes in our primary schools in the next school year, and the Minister for Finance has committed to a further reduction in class size in the following year. Accordingly, over the next two years, my Department will put 500 extra teachers into primary schools to reduce class size and to tackle disadvantage.

The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous school year. The number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule which is issued annually to all primary schools.

The general rule is that the schedule provides at least one classroom teacher for every 29 pupils in the school. Schools with only one or two teachers have much lower staffing ratios than those with two teachers for just 12 pupils in some cases and so on but the general rule is that there is at least one classroom teacher for every 29 children in the school. Next year this is being reduced to 28 children per classroom teacher and in 2007-08 it will be reduced to 27 children per classroom teacher. Officials of my Department are drawing up the revised staffing schedule necessary to achieve this. Schools will be asked to use the extra class teachers provided as a result of the revised schedule to provide for smaller classes in the junior grades.

We have consistently said that priority would be given in the first instance to children in disadvantaged schools and those with special needs. We have done this and now, in line with the Government commitment, mainstream class sizes are also being reduced.

School Transport.

Paul McGrath

Question:

336 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of school buses in the fleet which are now seatbelt-compliant for every passenger; the number of school buses which currently do not have seatbelts for passengers; the estimated date when all buses will have seatbelts; the average age of a bus from the school bus fleet; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4637/06]

The information requested by the Deputy has been requested from Bus Éireann and will be forwarded as soon as it is available.

Schools Building Projects.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

337 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science when steps will be taken to ensure that the extension to a college (details supplied) in west Cork will be provided; the reason no progress has been made since commitments to appoint a design team were given in 2002; and if priority will be given to ensure that there will be no further delay with the project. [4690/06]

An application for capital funding towards the provision of an extension at the school has been received from the school referred to by the Deputy.

The long-term accommodation needs of the school are being examined at present. When that has been completed, the building project required to address the long-term accommodation needs of the school will be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme 2006-2010.

Departmental Correspondence.

Michael Ring

Question:

338 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science when a letter was received in her office on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; the person who dealt with the query; when the reply issued; the reason it took so long for a response to issue; if a written apology will issue to the person in view of the length of time it took to answer the query. [4731/06]

The letter in question was sent on 23 November 2005. It was received in my Department some days later and acknowledged on 30 November 2005. A final reply was issued on 26 January 2006.

I regret that the final reply was not issued sooner. However, I must point out that my Department was not the public body primarily responsible for the matter raised in the letter. In addition, the position was explained in full in my replies to Questions Nos. 474 and 475 on 29 November 2005.

Early Childhood Education.

Finian McGrath

Question:

339 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the position regarding funding projects dealing with pre-school children in disadvantaged areas on the north side of Dublin; and her plans to invest in early childhood education in 2006. [4755/06]

Early education in Ireland covers the period from birth to six years. At present, almost all five year olds and half of four year olds attend junior infant and senior infant classes in primary schools. Outside junior classes in primary schools, my Department's main role in the area of early childhood education focuses on pre-school provision for children from disadvantaged areas, for Traveller children and for those with special needs.

A Government decision was made in December 2005 to establish an Office of the Minister for Children. The decision to establish the Office of the Minister for Children will bring together the relevant staff working on the range of functions in the Departments of Health and Children, Justice, Equality and Law Reform, and Education and Science to maximise the co-ordination of policies for children and young persons. A new early years education policy unit has been established in my Department, and it will be co-located in the Office of the Minister for Children in accordance with the Government decision.

The Early Start programme is a pre-school intervention programme targeted at three to four year old children in areas of social disadvantage. With that programme, young children can experience an educational programme to enhance their overall development, to help prevent school failure and to help offset the effects of social disadvantage. The Early Start pre-school project was established in 40 primary schools in designated areas of urban disadvantage in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Drogheda and Dundalk. There are currently 12 Early Start projects in the north Dublin area.

The new action plan for educational inclusion, DEIS, delivering equality of opportunity in schools, which I launched in May 2005, aims to concentrate early childhood education actions on those children, aged from three up to school enrolment, who will subsequently attend the 150 urban or town primary schools, participating in the new school support programme, and identified as serving the most disadvantaged communities. The identification process is nearing completion, and we anticipate being in a position to issue an invitation to selected schools to participate in the new integrated school support programme shortly.

My Department currently funds 46 pre-schools for Traveller children, with 48 pre-school classes. In the special needs sector, there are currently 15 pre-school classes for children with autism located throughout the country. In addition, 12 stand-alone autism facilities that provide an applied behavioural analysis, ABA, model of response to children with autism cater for a number of children of pre-school age. My Department has also sanctioned the establishment of a pre-school for six children with hearing impairment on a pilot basis.

There are seven pre-schools for Travellers and three pre-schools for autism in north Dublin. In addition, the Rutland Street project in Seán McDermott Street has been operational since 1969. It caters for approximately 95 pupils aged from three to five years and includes a pre-school centre, a special staff teaching allocation, classroom assistants, secretarial services and cooks, together with the provision of school meals.

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

The Northside Partnership has developed an integrated plan entitled "Preparing for Life" which is intended to address the needs of children at each stage of their development to prepare them better for school. The plan involves mentoring and group training for parents to improve their skills and esteem and their aspirations for their children. It is intended that the project result in improved physical and psychological health and better educational outcomes for children at key stages in their development to the point of reception in school. The proposal is currently being examined by my Department.

The Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education was established in 2002 to develop and co-ordinate early childhood education and to advise the Department on policy issues in the area. The centre has drafted a quality framework for early childhood education which is currently under consideration in my Department.

Decisions of a policy nature relating to early childhood education will now be pursued as part of the overall strategic policy framework developed by the Office of the Minister for Children.

School Absenteeism.

Finian McGrath

Question:

340 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of primary school pupils who drop out of the system after sixth class; and the number who leave school at 16. [4756/06]

Statistical returns made to my Department show that, between October 2003 and September 2004, 237 pupils from across all standards left ordinary classes in national schools and did not emigrate or go to any other school within the State. In addition, over the same period, 548 pupils left whose destination was unknown. Pending the introduction of an individualised primary pupil database, it is not possible to provide more accurate information on the destination or distribution of leavers by standard or to verify the accuracy or completeness of the above numbers.

In the case of post-primary education, data provided through the post-primary pupil database show that, between October 2003 and June 2004, 3,009 pupils left junior cycle without a formal qualification. Some of those would have emigrated with their families. In addition, over the same period, 1,384 pupils left at the end of junior cycle with a junior certificate.

The Government has taken several initiatives in recent years to encourage more of our young people to finish school, including the setting up of the National Education Welfare Board and the provision of extra supports for those at risk of dropping out through the school completion programme and home-school community liaison scheme. Also, under the new action plan for educational inclusion, the DEIS initiative, which I launched last May, extra resources are being provided to schools serving the most disadvantaged communities to help them to improve their retention rates.

It should also be remembered that many of those who leave school without a formal qualification proceed to various other education and training programmes, including Youthreach, as well as to pursue educational opportunities outside the State in the case of students who emigrated with their families.

Data from the Central Statistics Office highlight the inadequacy of any assumption that considering only what qualifications young people get in the formal school system gives one a fair picture of their level of educational achievement.

CSO figures indicate that the number of persons aged 20 to 24 that had attained at least a leaving certificate or equivalent level of education or training increased between 1999 and 2004. That growth reflects the increasing numbers of students now participating in second-chance further education and training programmes. The level of educational attainment of Irish young people is ahead of the EU average on that measure.

The Government has pursued a dual strategy of encouraging more young people to finish school and ensuring much greater second-chance and further education opportunities for those who left school early. That kind of strategy ensures that young people are empowered to achieve their full potential, be it by sitting the leaving certificate or by pursuing qualifications through other pathways, such as FÁS apprenticeships, which may be more appropriate to their individual interests. Thus, it is important that the Deputy appreciate that looking at just the level of achievement at school is not a fair assessment of the educational attainment of young people.

Defence Forces Property.

Jack Wall

Question:

341 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Defence if his Department has allocated funding to Kildare City Council regarding the takeover by the council of the road at Blackrath, Curragh, County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4479/06]

Following consultation between my Department and Kildare County Council last year, it was agreed that the council would take in charge the road at Blackrath. As part of that agreement, €8,600 was lodged by the Department of Defence with Kildare County Council on 10 October 2005 for the purpose of bringing the road up to the requisite standard prior to its being taken in charge.

Planning Issues.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

342 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if there are special exemptions available for artists to erect signs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4608/06]

Part 2 of Second Schedule to the Planning and Development Regulations, as amended, provides that advertisements such as those exhibited at the entrance to any business or trade premises are exempt from the need to apply for planning permission, subject to specified conditions and limitations. Such exempted development signing is subject to a licence fee payable to the planning authority.

Environmental Policy.

John Gormley

Question:

343 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he intends to take to deal with the increasing problem of graffiti; his views on whether the perpetrators should be made to remove this as punishment; if litter wardens should be given greater powers to deal with the problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4463/06]

Primary responsibility for management and enforcement responses to litter pollution, including the defacement of structures, lies with local authorities. The legislative and other supports available to the local authorities in that regard are kept under review. I am satisfied that the penalties and enforcement provisions in the Litter Pollution Acts 1997 to 2003 empower local authorities to respond appropriately to the problem of graffiti.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Pat Breen

Question:

344 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, further to Question No. 1334 of 28 September 2005, the position regarding the Broadford sewerage scheme; and if his Department has received a submission of Clare County Council’s revised preliminary report for the scheme for approval; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4469/06]

The Broadford sewerage scheme has been approved for funding in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2005-2007 under the rural towns and villages initiative.

My Department is awaiting submission of Clare County Council's revised preliminary report for the scheme for approval.

Local Authority Schemes.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

345 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his proposals to provide a 100% disabled person’s grant to people who are on invalidity pension and are house-owners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4517/06]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

346 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his proposals to increase the disabled person’s grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4518/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 345 and 346 together.

The disabled person's and essential repairs grant schemes are intended, like a number of other housing grant schemes operated by my Department, to assist works which provide additional or adapted accommodation in private houses. However, they are not designed to cover the full cost of works for all applicants. Local authorities may provide reconstruction loans to qualified applicants who have difficulty in obtaining finance to meet the balance of the cost. The focusing of the scheme on real needs, both financial and accommodation-related, and its operation by local authorities in an efficient manner will be critical in ensuring that it achieves its aim. The outcome of the review of the operation of the scheme, which is at present being finalised in my Department, will significantly contribute to that achievement.

One of the primary aims of the review has been to ensure that the available resources be targeted at those in most need of such assistance. The needs of applicants with limited means, including those dependent on social welfare benefits, and the amount of the grant available have been considered in that light.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

347 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the proposed sewerage scheme for Gweedore, County Donegal; and when it is expected that work will commence on the project. [4547/06]

The Gweedore sewerage scheme is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2005-2007, as a scheme to commence construction this year at an estimated cost of €25.2 million.

Donegal County Council's preliminary report and contract documents for the scheme will be further considered by my Department on receipt of a certificate of completion of planning and a revised water services pricing policy report which have been requested from the council. Once the contract documents have been approved the council will be in a position to invite tenders for the construction of the scheme.

Air Pollution.

Martin Ferris

Question:

348 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if the burning of non-smokeless coal is permitted in the town of Tralee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4595/06]

The Air Pollution Act 1987 (Marketing, Sale and Distribution of Fuels) Regulations 1998, as amended by the Air Pollution Act 1987 (Marketing, Sale and Distribution of Fuels)(Amendment) Regulations 2003 and 2004, introduced a ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of bituminous coal in the town of Tralee and in certain adjoining areas with effect from 1 October 2003.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

349 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when Castleisland sewerage scheme stage two will receive approval to proceed to contract document stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4605/06]

I refer to the reply to Question No. 1511 of 25 January 2006.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

350 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when Listowel town water supply scheme will receive approval to proceed to contract document stage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4606/06]

The Listowel town water supply upgrade scheme is included in my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2005-2007 as a scheme to commence construction in 2007.

Kerry County Council's design review report for the scheme is under examination in my Department and is being dealt with as quickly as possible. Following approval of the design review report the council will be in a position to prepare contract documents for the scheme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

351 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the design brief for the preparation of a preliminary report regarding the sewerage scheme at Tarbert, County Kerry will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4613/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

352 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the design brief for the preparation of a preliminary report regarding the sewerage scheme at Lixnaw, County Kerry will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4614/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

353 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the design brief for the preparation of the preliminary report regarding the sewerage scheme at Kilflynn, County Kerry will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4615/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

354 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the design brief for the preparation of the preliminary report regarding the sewerage scheme at Finuge, County Kerry will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4616/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

355 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the design brief for the preparation of the preliminary report regarding the sewerage scheme at Fenit, County Kerry will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4617/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

356 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the design brief for the preparation of the preliminary report regarding the sewerage scheme at Castlemaine, County Kerry will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4618/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

357 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the design brief for the preparation of the preliminary report regarding the sewerage scheme at Castlegregory, County Kerry will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4619/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

358 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the design brief for the preparation of the preliminary report regarding the sewerage scheme at Brandon, County Kerry will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4620/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

359 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the design brief for the preparation of the preliminary report regarding the sewerage scheme at Boolteens, County Kerry will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4621/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

360 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the design brief for the preparation of the preliminary report regarding the sewerage scheme at Ballylongford, County Kerry will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4622/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

361 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the design brief for the preparation of the preliminary report regarding the sewerage scheme at Ballyduff, County Kerry will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4623/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

362 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the design brief for the preparation of the preliminary report regarding the sewerage scheme at Aughacasla, County Kerry will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4624/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

363 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the design brief for the preparation of a preliminary report regarding the sewerage scheme at Asdee, County Kerry will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4625/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

364 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the design brief for the preparation of a preliminary report regarding the sewerage scheme at Ardfert, County Kerry will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4626/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

365 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the design brief for the preparation of a preliminary report regarding the sewerage scheme at Annascaul, County Kerry will be approved. [4627/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

366 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the design brief for the preparation of a preliminary report regarding the sewerage scheme at Abbeydorney, County Kerry will be approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4628/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 351 to 366, inclusive, together.

Funding has been allocated under my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2005-2007 to enable Kerry County Council to undertake a preliminary assessment of proposals to upgrade wastewater treatment facilities at a number of locations throughout the county.

I understand that Kerry County Council has appointed consultants to draw up preliminary reports for 28 towns and villages, including the 16 locations referred to in the question. Five of these locations, Asdee, Aughacasla, Boolteens, Brandon and Finuge, have already been approved for construction in the water services investment programme as part of the Kerry villages wastewater project phase 1. Consideration will be given by my Department to the approval of the remaining schemes when the preliminary reports are submitted by the council for approval.

Urban Renewal Schemes.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

367 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the position regarding the urban renewal scheme in Kilcock, County Kildare; the extent to which refurbishment or new building projects have or will be supported; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4748/06]

Under the town renewal scheme 2000, a total of ten sites in Kilcock were designated for tax incentive purposes, eight for refurbishment incentives and two for refurbishment-new-build incentives. Further information on the current position regarding specific projects in the towns concerned may appropriately be sought from the local authority concerned.