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 10, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 11 to 48, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 49 to 55, inclusive, answered orally.

Road Safety.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

56 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Transport when his proposals to deal with untaxed and uninsured cars, both Irish and international, will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9078/06]

I will bring forward legislation in the current Dáil session to deal with a number of road safety issues including making a change to the legislation to allow the Garda Síochána to impound uninsured vehicles that are registered outside the State. It is an offence to drive an uninsured vehicle in a public place regardless of where it is registered. I remind the House that all victims of uninsured driving are compensated by the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland.

Under section 41 of the Road Traffic Act 1994, untaxed vehicles registered in the State may be impounded. Foreign vehicles do not come within the provisions of motor tax legislation, by virtue of EU Directive 83/182 and there are no plans to change the directive. However, the Revenue Commissioners and the Garda Síochána enforce the law in relation to the importation of foreign vehicles into the State.

State Airports.

Denis Naughten

Question:

57 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Transport if he will meet with the Cork Deputies to discuss the possible debt of €200 million being incurred by Cork Airport Authority arising from the construction of a new terminal at Cork Airport. [9125/06]

Bernard Allen

Question:

87 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Transport if he will deliver on the promise that Cork Airport Authority would not inherit the debt arising from the construction of a new terminal at Cork Airport. [9072/06]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

97 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied that the arbitrator appointed to mediate between Cork and Dublin Airport Authorities on the projected €200 million debt arising from the construction of a new terminal at Cork Airport is truly independent of both parties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9185/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

386 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the position in regard to outstanding debt at any of the airports here; the extent to which the revised plans for the future of Aer Lingus has affected such issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9453/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57, 87, 97 and 386 together.

I have already had meetings with my colleagues in Government in relation to the debt issue at Cork Airport and I would be happy to meet Deputies, recognising that the Cork Airport Authority together with the Dublin Airport Authority are responsible for completing a business plan under the State Airports Act 2004.

As was stated on my behalf in response to a motion on the Adjournment in this House in relation to this matter last month, the major new airport development project which is currently being completed at Cork will effectively deliver a new landside airport and represent the first major upgrading of all facilities since the airport was built in the late 1950s. When completed, the new Cork Airport will have a passenger capacity of 3 million people with the facility to expand to 5 million, when needed. It is important that the debate about Cork's future debt should not obscure this major development for the airport. Such facilities will greatly benefit the airport's users but will have to be funded. Cork's future as an independent airport has to take account of a realistic assessment of what is commercially feasible including the capacity of the airport to contribute to its capital investment programme.

In recognition of these commercial realities, the State Airports Act 2004 provides a framework for an orderly approach to the distribution of the assets of Shannon and Cork airports in conformity with the provisions of the Companies Acts. The Act also addresses business planning issues.

The boards of Cork and Shannon airports are now charged with making preparations to assume responsibility for the ownership and development of the airports. They are also empowered to undertake certain management and operational functions, on an agreed basis with Dublin Airport Authority, during the interim period.

Under the Act, before any assets can transfer to either the Shannon or Cork Airport Authorities, the Ministers for Transport and Finance will have to be satisfied as to the financial and operational readiness of the airport authorities. Accordingly, each airport authority is required to prepare a comprehensive business plan and obtain the Ministers' approval for these plans before any assets can be transferred. Such plans would address the funding of capital investment and feed into decisions on determining the mechanisms for allocating airport assets among the three airports. The ability of both Shannon and Cork airports to operate on a fully commercial basis will be fully assessed as part of this process and will be factored into the decisions made.

With regard to the appointments referred to by the Deputy, these are operational matters for the Dublin Airport Authority plc., DAA, and Cork Airport Authority plc., CAA, and I have no statutory functions in relation to them.

However, I am informed that in agreement with the CAA the DAA has recently appointed BDO Simpson Xavier, BDO, to assist the CAA in developing its business plan and appropriate financing proposals for the Cork Airport development investment in line with the requirements of the State Airports Act 2004, the provisions of the Companies Acts and the commercial and financial viability requirements of the DAA and CAA.

I await the outcome of this work because of its importance to facilitating the development of a dynamic, independent and financially sustainable Cork Airport. The Government objective of airport restructuring must be achieved in a manner which underpins the financial sustainability of all three State airports.

There is no link between the Government's plans for the future of Aer Lingus and the matters dealt with above.

Questions Nos. 58 and 59 answered with Question No. 55.

Public Transport.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

60 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied with the new Bus Átha Cliath timetable which proposes to trim routes to west Tallaght supposedly due to the roll-out of Luas which in reality is an optional service that does not run near these areas. [9200/06]

The scheduling of buses on any of its routes is a day to day matter for Dublin Bus and the company regularly adjusts its timetable and service levels. It would be normal to see such changes taking place to reflect changing settlement patterns in the city or where new rail infrastructure is being introduced. It is against this background that the company has undertaken a review of its network. I understand that Dublin Bus will provide notification to all its customers who may be affected by these services changes.

Road Safety.

Paul McGrath

Question:

61 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the reason a ban on using a mobile phone when driving, as recommended in the national road safety strategy, has not been implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9095/06]

Willie Penrose

Question:

144 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport the time-line he envisages for the extension of penalty points to the practice of hand-held mobile phone use while driving. [9182/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61 and 144 together.

The Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2002 prohibit the use of a hand-held mobile phone while driving a motor vehicle. The Attorney General has advised that these regulations, in so far as they deal with the mobile phone issue, are open to challenge in the courts on the grounds that they may beultra vires. As a consequence, my Department has been considering a legislative framework to address the overall regulatory questions arising from the development of in-car technologies, which would include mobile phone use. Developing such a framework is a complex task and also has to take account of EU law to avoid excluding beneficial developments that can enhance vehicle safety.

I intend to publish a road safety Bill before the summer dealing with such issues as roadside breath testing, speed cameras and other safety matters. If the question of how to legislate effectively and appropriately for mobile phones has been finalised within that timeframe, I will include a provision to that effect in the forthcoming Bill.

I should add that, as things stand, drivers who use mobile phones in a way that constitutes careless driving leave themselves open to prosecution, with the possibility of penalty points being awarded.

Road Accidents.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

62 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether the current system of reporting road accidents does not provide people with the information necessary to ascertain the causes of accidents and that there is an urgent need to implement a new system of detailed categorisation to tackle the ever-growing tragedy of road accidents. [9211/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

80 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which he or his Department or others under his aegis have studied the cause or causes of all fatal motor accidents in the past 12 months; the action he proposes to take to address issues that have become apparent; the timescale for such a plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9157/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

114 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Transport when a road accident investigation unit will be established; its powers and functions; the staffing arrangements for such a unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9106/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 62, 80 and 114 together.

Information available regarding causes of fatal road collisions is prepared by the National Roads Authority, NRA, based on reports from the Garda Síochána and is published by the authority in its annual Road Accident Facts reports. The most recent report is in respect of 2004 and that report is available in the Oireachtas Library and on the NRA website. The report refers in particular to the various contributory factors to collisions where such data are available. In that context the report in respect of 2004 notes that driver error accounted for 88% of all contributory factors in respect of all collisions where such were identified. Pedestrian error was the next most listed factor at 8% with road factors accounting for 2% of all of those listed. The remaining factors listed related to vehicle and environmental factors. Statistics relating to 2005 are not yet fully analysed or authenticated.

The annual road collision reports provide a significant degree of knowledge that supports and informs the deployment of road safety measures, which are pursued within the planning framework of the multi-annual road safety strategies.

The primary immediate investigative role in relation to road accidents is vested in the Garda Síochána. Priority in such an investigation must be given to the determination of the causes of road accidents including, where appropriate, road construction or surface standards, and in particular whether a breach of the road traffic laws contributed to the occurrence.

The Garda Síochána is the body empowered to make such a determination and to launch criminal proceedings against any person who the gardaí consider should be accused of the commission of an offence. Garda reports on these investigations are forwarded to the National Roads Authority and subsequently to each local authority for the purpose of the establishment of accident trends and causes generally and to facilitate the carrying out of remedial works relating to road infrastructure where such action is deemed to be necessary.

As I outlined last week during the Committee Stage debate on the Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill, the Road Safety Authority as it will now be called, will take on responsibility for road safety research and statistical collection. This will result in a more integrated approach to road safety policy generally, with one agency responsible for road safety research, statistical data, advertising, education and recommendations regarding road safety policy.

Aviation Safety Regulation.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

63 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Transport the reason a person from Clare Island, County Mayo in advanced labour and a patient of Mayo General Hospital, who was airlifted by the Air Corps search and rescue team at 4.45 a.m. on 14 February 2006 did not arrive in Mayo General Hospital until 3.35 p.m. on 15 February 2006 due to current civil aviation law where a helicopter with two or more passengers can only land at an airport and not at a hospital, in this case it was Sligo airport, where the woman was then moved by taxi to Mayo General Hospital; if he agrees this is totally unnecessary; if he intends to introduce a change in this law to avoid such a thing happening in the future, which is totally unnecessary and dangerous in emergency cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7152/06]

The Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, has, since its establishment in 1994, been responsible for the regulation of aviation safety, including that of helicopters, in accordance with internationally agreed standards.

The authority has informed me that, because the helicopter was carrying passengers as well as the woman in labour it was not permitted to land at an unapproved landing site. When a search and rescue helicopter is only carrying a casualty and essential personnel including its crew it is permitted to land at an unapproved site in accordance with an exemption to SI 72 of 2004, Irish Aviation Authority (Rules of the Air) Order 2004. These search and rescue practices adhere to the highest international emergency and safety procedures and as such the IAA does not have any plans to change them.

Air Services.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

64 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Transport his proposal to facilitate the retention of the landing slots at Heathrow Airport by Aer Lingus into the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9104/06]

The Government in its decision of 18 May 2005 agreed to the State disposing of a majority shareholding in Aer Lingus and retaining a stake of at least 25% to protect strategic interests provided that both myself and the Minister for Finance are satisfied that this level of disposal is warranted on foot of the analysis prepared by the Departments' advisers for the transaction. The advisers appointed to recommend the most appropriate transaction mechanism and advise on the size and timing of a transaction submitted their report before the end of last year. The key conclusions and recommendations are currently being considered by myself and the Minister for Finance.

The advisers in their report considered the possible need for any measures going beyond the retention of a 25% shareholding to protect strategic interests. In the case of landing slots at Heathrow Airport, the advisers suggest that some additional measures may be desirable to ensure that the slots at Heathrow remain available for the provision of a reasonable level of services to and from Ireland. I am considering this recommendation in conjunction with my colleague, the Minister for Finance.

Road Safety.

John Perry

Question:

65 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport when it will become mandatory for motorcyclists on provisional licences to display L-plates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9121/06]

In line with commitments given in the Road Safety Strategy 2004-2006 it is my intention that a requirement that motorcyclists with provisional licences must display L-plates will be introduced. The necessary provisions are currently under consideration in the context of a wider revision of driver licensing regulations.

Michael Noonan

Question:

66 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Transport if a draft new rules of the road has been published; if not, the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9111/06]

Joe Costello

Question:

109 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the inordinate delay in producing an updated and on-line version of the Rules of the Road booklet. [9175/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66 and 109 together.

My Department is currently engaged in a comprehensive review of the Rules of the Road booklet. It is the intention that a draft of the new booklet will be published on the Department's website in the coming weeks and that comments and submissions will be invited from the public and interested parties. The new booklet will be finalised following consideration of any submissions received and it is intended that the booklet will be made available for sale shortly thereafter. The new booklet will also be available on-line and this will ensure that in future the booklet will provide up-to-date information on an ongoing basis.

Question No. 67 answered with QuestionNo. 54.

Park and Ride Facilities.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

68 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the way in which it is proposed to fully utilise the rail services in the absence of specially provided parking areas; the intention he has given to this issue in the commuter belt; the location and extent of the parking to be provided at all rail stations within a 40 mile radius of Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9158/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

390 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the provision of off street parking throughout the rail commuter belt with a view to encouraging rail transport and alleviating road congestion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9457/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68 and 390 together.

The development of public transport park and ride facilities is primarily a matter for transport providers, local authorities and private developers, either separately or in appropriate conjunction. However, since the provision of such facilities is significant in promoting a more integrated approach to public transport, and in making it a more attractive consumer product, my Department is progressing certain initiatives to encourage development of park and ride facilities across the country. Under Transport 21, €5 million is being made available in 2006 for park and ride facilities and interchanges in the greater Dublin area, GDA.

In summer 2005, I approved a Dublin Transportation Office, DTO, strategy for rail-based park and ride, and indicated that capital funding would be made available for suitable projects. The DTO strategy for rail-based park and ride envisages facilities at some 22 locations on the existing and proposed rail network within the GDA. Arrangements for rail-based park and ride funding will also extend to public transport interchange projects. Revenue support to subsidise the operation of park and ride facilities will not be made available.

Two types of park and ride are envisaged, namely, strategic and local sites. A number of larger strategic sites will be identified close to or on the strategic rail corridors where longer distance commuters can transfer to public transport. Local park and ride sites will be smaller in scale and located along public transport corridors, principally rail. Good examples of these types of sites are the existing facilities at DART-suburban rail stations. It is important that interchange and park and ride developments should, wherever possible, be included as part of a wider public transport development framework.

Road Safety.

Mary Upton

Question:

69 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Transport his views on the situation whereby provisional drivers are legally permitted to drive alone once they are on their second licence; the information available on the correlation between provisional licence status and fatal road accidents; if any other EU states allow provisional drivers to drive unaccompanied; and if he will make a statement on the policy he intends to pursue in this regard. [9058/06]

The Government's Strategy for Road Safety 2004 to 2006 identified speed, seat-belt wearing, driving while intoxicated, engineering measures and vulnerable road users as being the key priority areas to be addressed over the years of the strategy in terms of yielding road safety benefits. As regards legal changes to enhance road safety, the strategy states that driver licensing regulations will be amended to discourage long-term reliance on provisional licences. In this context I will consider what amendments to licensing regulations should be made.

There are no statistics available regarding the correlation between provisional licence status and fatal road accidents. Information in relation to the position in other EU member states is not readily available.

John Gormley

Question:

70 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport his views on the safety implications of the increased amount of heavy goods vehicles on roads here; and if the Government will reconsider its strategy of allowing the long-term gradual closure of rail freight infrastructure which has encouraged further freight traffic on to roads here. [9209/06]

An NRA study relating to the number of vehicle kilometres of travel in Ireland in 2001 indicates that the average number of kilometres travelled by goods vehicles is significantly higher than other vehicle types. There is no evidence, however, that heavy goods vehicles are significantly involved in road collisions. It is unfortunately the case that the consequences resulting from a collision with a heavy goods vehicle are generally more severe than with a smaller type of vehicle. Along with the road safety strategy, the national roads development plan will lead to a safer road network for all vehicles including heavy goods vehicles.

The position in relation to rail freight is that the strategic rail review contained a comprehensive examination of the rail freight business and its realistic potential to support economic development and contribute to a sustainable environment. Iarnród Éireann, in responding to the challenges contained in the review, has developed a business plan based on a strategy with regard to freight, which is to break even by 2006; increase the profitability of the existing profitable business; withdraw from those businesses that are heavily loss-making; and target trainload traffic. The company has made good progress in growing the rail freight business in areas where it holds a competitive advantage over road haulage. Iarnród Éireann continues to pursue a policy of growing its rail freight business where opportunities present. However, as in all businesses, it must adjust the freight business from time to time to reflect market realities.

Since 1999, Iarnród Éireann has invested more than €1.5 billion in rebuilding the railways, with Government and EU support for the investment programme delivering improvements in new trains, upgraded infrastructure and customer facilities. While such investment has primarily focused on improving passenger services, the investment in improving rail infrastructure also has a direct beneficial impact on freight activities.

Rail Network.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

71 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport if he has received from Iarnród Éireann specific proposals in relation to the development of the first phase of the western rail corridor; and the action he intends taking on foot of these proposals. [9186/06]

On 21 February 2006, Iarnród Éireann submitted to my Department a business case relating to the reopening of the Ennis to Athenry railway line as phase one of the western rail corridor. My Department is currently examining this proposal and I will make a decision once this process is completed.

Road Traffic Regulations.

Simon Coveney

Question:

72 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Transport the measures he intends to take to address the problem of speeding heavy goods vehicles and buses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9090/06]

Directive 92/6/EEC requires speed limiters to be fitted to goods vehicles having a design gross vehicle weight exceeding 12,000 kg and passenger vehicles with more than eight passenger seats having a design gross vehicle weight exceeding 10,000 kg so that their speed may not exceed 90 km/h and 100 km/h, respectively. This directive was transposed into Irish law by means of the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) (Amendment) Regulations 1993.

Directive 2002/85/EC extends the requirement to have speed limiters fitted to include goods vehicles having a design gross vehicle weight exceeding 3,500 kg and all passenger vehicles with more than eight passenger seats. The speed limiters are required to be set so that the speed of these vehicles may not exceed 90 km/h and 100 km/h, respectively. The directive's provisions generally apply to these vehicles that are first registered on or after 1 January 2005. Directive 2002/85/EC has been transposed into Irish law by means of the European Communities (Installation and Use of Speed Limitation Devices in Motor Vehicles) Regulations 2005 (SI 831 of 2005).

Notwithstanding the requirement to have a speed limiter fitted as described above, goods vehicles with a design gross vehicle weight exceeding 3,500 kg and passenger vehicles with more than eight passenger seats are subject to an ordinary speed limit of 80 km/h, unless the road is subject to a lower speed limit.

Enforcement of the regulations is a matter for the Garda Síochána.

Great Southern Hotels Group.

Jack Wall

Question:

73 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport his views on the Government’s support for the sell-off of the Great Southern Hotels group by the Dublin Airport Authority; his views on whether the sale of the hotels will damage the tourism industry in the areas in which the hotels are located; the efforts he made to oppose the sale; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8320/06]

Richard Bruton

Question:

131 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport his proposals in relation to the future of the Great Southern Hotels chain; when these proposals will be given effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9099/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 73 and 131 together.

The Great Southern Hotels Group, GSH, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Dublin Airport Authority, DAA. In the view of the DAA, the orderly disposal of the GSH hotels, offers the best opportunity for the hotels to reach their full potential in the niche markets to which they are best suited. I share the view of the DAA that this decision is ultimately in the best interests of GSH, its employees and the communities and interests they serve and the Government has also taken note of this assessment.

The Great Southern Hotels group has now retained advisers to examine all aspects of the proposed disposal of the hotels. I understand that the executive chairman of the hotel group and the advisers, together with senior management of the group have visited all the hotels and met the staff on the difficulties being faced by GSH and the implications of the decision to dispose of the hotels. A programme will also be put in place to minimise the impact of the decision on the day-to-day business of the hotels.

I met trade union representatives from the GSH group recently to discuss their concerns relating to the future of the hotels. I understand that a meeting between the unions and the DAA is being arranged and will take place shortly to discuss the situation and the way forward.

Light Rail Project.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

74 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the analysis his Department has carried out to examine the feasibility of continuing the tunnelling machines for the proposed Dublin metro from the proposed station at St. Stephen’s Green onto a connecting point with the existing Sandyford Luas line; if the Government has a proposed timetable for such an initiative; if it will be possible to run metro carriages on the Luas line south of Ranelagh; and the upgrades which would be required for such metro services to be run to Sandyford and beyond to Cherrywood. [9201/06]

When developing the metro proposals for Dublin, the Railway Procurement Agency investigated the feasibility of a physical connection between metro north and the Luas green line and concluded that such a connection is feasible.

While Transport 21 involves a very large commitment of financial resources, those resources are also finite. It was therefore necessary to prioritise the investments to be made over the ten year period. In that context it was decided to extend metro north to Swords and to join the two existing Luas lines and extend that line northwards to Liffey junction. Transport 21 also provides for interchange at St. Stephen's Green between metro, Luas and interconnector, in the same way as provision for interchange is made elsewhere across the proposed network.

The Dublin Transportation Office's A Platform for Change continues to provide the strategic planning framework for the development of the greater Dublin area's transport system. In that context further feasibility studies and planning work will be undertaken on projects in A Platform for Change but not included in Transport 21, including the upgrading of the Luas green line to metro. However, funding to bring such projects to construction is not included in Transport 21's ten-year capital envelope.

Provision was made during the construction of the Luas green line for its future upgrading to metro. It will be possible to run metro rolling stock on the Luas line south of Ranelagh, when the metro tunnel is connected to the Luas green line. However this will require some further upgrading of the existing infrastructure particularly to take account of the longer trains which operate on metro including, for example, lengthening of platforms and upgrading of control systems and power supply.

Road Accidents.

David Stanton

Question:

75 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport his views on the fact that a large number of road accidents may be attributed to drivers falling asleep while they are driving; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9142/06]

David Stanton

Question:

130 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Transport the action he intends to take to alert people to the dangers of driving when they are excessively tired; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9141/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 75 and 130 together.

Commentary on the information available regarding causes of fatal road collisions is prepared by the National Roads Authority, NRA, based on reports from the Garda Síochána and published by the authority in its annual Road Accident Facts reports. The most recent report is in respect of 2004 and that report is available in the Oireachtas Library and on the NRA website. Such commentary has not, to date, included specific details of a link between fatigue and fatal crashes in Ireland. The question bank for the driver theory test includes questions regarding fatigue so that learner drivers are aware before they commence driving of the dangers of driving while fatigued.

The National Safety Council, which has been mandated with responsibility for promotional and educational initiatives relating to road safety, has produced a leaflet on driver fatigue. It has also organised two nationwide campaigns called Driver Reviver to address the problem of driver fatigue. This campaign was first launched on Easter weekend 2002 and over the All-Ireland football final weekend in September 2003. The council is in the process of developing a further driver fatigue awareness campaign in 2006.

The proposed Road Safety Authority will take over responsibility for the functions of the National Safety Council as well as for road safety research and statistical collection. This will result in a more integrated approach to road safety policy generally, with one agency responsible for road safety research, statistical data, advertising, education and recommendations regarding road safety policy.

State Airports.

Phil Hogan

Question:

76 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport if he will provide figures on the passenger numbers on the six regional air routes, which are covered under PSO contracts for each month from July 2004 to date; the cost per passenger covered by the PSO subsidy on each of the six routes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9076/06]

The PSO passenger numbers at each of the regional airports from July 2004 to date, based on figures supplied by the regional airports, are as follows:

2004-2005 PSO Passenger Numbers

Jul 04

Aug 04

Sep 04

Oct 04

Nov 04

Dec 04

Jan 05

Feb 05

Mar 05

Apr 05

May 05

Jun 05

Donegal

3,974

4,191

3,603

3,092

2,474

2,431

1,880

2,031

2,253

2,373

3,190

3,745

Sligo

3,546

3,879

3,805

3,795

3,364

3,225

1,533

3,003

3,321

3,222

3,450

3,834

Galway

8,754

8,141

9,293

8,937

7,888

8,153

6,924

8,381

8,777

9,119

8,805

8,357

Kerry

8,999

8,927

8,764

8,323

8,476

7,829

6,359

6,885

7,932

8,376

7,954

8,372

Knock

1,677

1,827

1,758

1,745

1,714

1,613

1,151

1,486

1,596

1,617

1,668

1,551

Derry

2,699

2,485

2,706

2,594

2,855

2,390

2,068

2,315

2,331

2,492

2,543

2,530

2005-2006 PSO Passenger Numbers

Jul 05

Aug 05

Sep 05

Oct 05

Nov 05

Dec 05

Jan 06

Donegal

3,828

4,109

3,696

3,321

3,123

3,221

2,777

Sligo

3,269

3,601

3,547

3,367

2,991

2,921

2,316

Galway

7,235

6,047

6,625

6,478

6,066

6,657

6,211

Kerry

7,656

8,055

8,025

7,806

7,441

7,227

5,862

Knock

1,293

1,272

990

895

669

733

631

Derry

2,177

2,352

2,613

2,407

2,446

2,361

2,132

The subvention per passenger on each PSO route is as follows:

Jul 2004-Jun 2005

22 July 2005- 31 Dec 2005

Donegal*

63.80

61.16

Sligo*

63.80

61.16

Galway

56.46

38.47

Kerry

50.75

32.34

Knock**

167.83

93.89

Derry**

84.91

93.89

* Operated under a combined contract since 28 February 2003.
** Operated under a combined contract running from 22 July 2005 to 21 July 2008.

Driving Tests.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

77 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport when the initiative to reduce the backlog of people awaiting a driving test will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9087/06]

Seán Crowe

Question:

101 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport the waiting time per area for people wishing to sit their driving test; if his attention has been drawn to the difficulties this is creating for drivers particularly in areas of high unemployment and poor public transport; and the new steps or measures he proposes to introduce in particular relevance to these areas of social and economic deprivation. [9199/06]

Willie Penrose

Question:

125 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport his proposals to reduce waiting times for the driving test. [9183/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 77, 101 and 125 together.

I refer the Deputies to my reply to Question No. 113, which I answered in the House on 1 February 2006.

As I have already indicated, the delay in providing driving tests is a matter of regret 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. Additional staff have been made available to the driving test service. Seven additional testers are currently being trained and will be carrying out tests from April onwards. A recruitment campaign has been completed and a further ten persons will commence training shortly and will be available for testing this June.

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. Some 90 driver testers have, by way of additional Saturday and evening working, committed to deliver some 30,000 tests over a one year period. This scheme commenced in February and will make a significant contribution to the backlog.

My Department is currently awaiting the outcome of an arbitration hearing on the use of outsourcing which could make a vital and significant additional contribution to the backlog.

My Department is still in a position to offer early tests to those applicants requiring an urgent test, once they provide satisfactory documentary evidence of the reason they require it.

Information on driving test waiting times is set out in the following table.

Driving Test Applicants on waiting list — 27/02/06

Centre

Average Weeks Waiting

North Leinster

Finglas

29

Dundalk

33

Mullingar

21

Navan

41

Raheny

37

South Leinster

Churchtown

33

Gorey

46

Naas

34

Tullamore

40

Wicklow

41

Tallaght

35

West

Athlone

26

Birr

33

Castlebar

25

Clifden

22

Ennis

27

Galway

37

Loughrea

28

Roscommon

29

Tuam

32

South East

Carlow

37

Clonmel

40

Dungarvan

47

Kilkenny

25

Nenagh

34

Portlaoise

25

Thurles

41

Tipperary

43

Waterford

31

Wexford

29

South West

Cork

29

Killarney

35

Kilrush

33

Limerick

44

Mallow

36

Newcastle West

30

Shannon

44

Skibbereen

37

Tralee

21

North West

Ballina

29

Buncrana

21

Carrick-on-Shannon

26

Cavan

28

Donegal

41

Letterkenny

34

Longford

26

Monaghan

23

Sligo

25

Public Transport.

Enda Kenny

Question:

78 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport the date when full integrated ticketing will be introduced on all public transport systems in Dublin; if he is satisfied with the slow rate of progress on this initiative to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9117/06]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

81 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport the progress in completing the integrated ticketing project; if he is satisfied with the level of co-operation between different State transport providers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9180/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 81 together.

The Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, is the statutory body responsible for the delivery of a multi-operator system of integrated public transport ticketing using smartcard technology. The proposed system is, in line with international experience, being introduced on a phased basis, initially in the Dublin area.

As part of the phased introduction of smartcard-based integrated ticketing, Morton's Coaches, in conjunction with the RPA and as a proof of concept, successfully launched smartcards on its services in April 2004. In March of last year, another step was taken with the launch of smartcards on Luas services. To date, in excess of 11,000 smartcards have been purchased for use on Luas services. The Luas smartcard deployment continues to help in obtaining important feedback from passengers and provides operational experience for the next stage of integrated ticketing. In addition, both Dublin Bus and Irish Rail continue to integrate their ticketing arrangements using magnetic strip technology which it also is planned to replace with smartcard technology. Both companies also have tickets which integrate with Luas services.

Following an inconclusive procurement procedure in 2005, the RPA, in consultation with the different State and private transport providers, has presented proposals to my Department for a revised implementation plan. I am examining these proposals at present and will respond to the RPA shortly.

International experience has shown that successful delivery of integrated ticketing is achieved by a careful, phased introduction with full co-operation from all public transport operators and I believe that the RPA is correct in taking a prudent approach to the implementation of this complex project using new technology.

Road Safety.

Damien English

Question:

79 Mr. English asked the Minister for Transport when he intends to introduce compulsory motorcycling training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9119/06]

The Road Safety Strategy 2004-2006 stated that compulsory initial practical training for motorcyclists would be introduced. A working group comprising motorcycle interests has been considering the appropriate standards that will apply in this area and the standards with which instructors must comply. Overseeing the introduction of such training will be the responsibility of the proposed Road Safety Authority.

Primary legislation is necessary to facilitate the introduction of compulsory initial practical training for motorcyclists and the necessary amendment to the Road Traffic Acts 1961 to 2004 will be brought forward as soon as practicable.

Question No. 80 answered with QuestionNo. 62.
Question No. 81 answered with QuestionNo. 78.

Road Network.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

82 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport the date at which barrier free tolling will be implemented on the M50; the way this system will be operated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9093/06]

Mary Upton

Question:

132 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Transport if he will set out a timeframe for the introduction of open road tolling on the West Link toll-bridge; if this is not planned to coincide with the opening of the Dublin Port tunnel, the way in which he proposes to manage the additional 2,200 trucks which will use the West Link when the Dublin Port tunnel opens. [9059/06]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 82 and 132 together.

The statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll by-laws, and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads is vested in the National Roads Authority, NRA, under Part V of the Roads Act 1993, as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000. Tolling the M50, therefore, is a matter for the NRA in the first instance.

Following the termination of discussions with NTR in relation to the upgrade of the West Link toll facility, the NRA has commenced a tender process for the design, building and operation of a barrier free toll regime on the M50. I understand from the NRA that it expects to have free flow single point tolling in operation on the upgraded section of the M50 in summer 2008. I expect to receive specific proposals later this year from the NRA on these 2008 arrangements.

The planning permission granted for the M50 upgrade requires that the NRA publish a scheme of specific demand management measures for the motorway corridor no later than three years after the upgrade has been completed in 2010. For this reason the barrier free tolling arrangements will need to be adaptable to meet the medium to long-term needs that arise and to satisfy the planning permission requirements in that regard. Comprehensive research and analysis will require to be undertaken by the NRA in the coming years in order to address the post 2010 situation and to submit proposals to the Minister for Transport at the appropriate time.

The move to free flow tolling will not occur in conjunction with the opening of the Dublin Port tunnel. However, following the opening to traffic of the tunnel, Dublin City Council will be introducing a heavy goods vehicle traffic management strategy to ensure that optimum traffic benefits are secured from the Dublin Port tunnel. My Department is consulting with all stakeholders, including Dublin City Council, to facilitate the development of a co-ordinated traffic management strategy for the opening of the tunnel.

The improvement of traffic flow on the M50 requires the implementation of the M50 upgrade project, including the installation of barrier free tolling, phase one of which is now getting under way. The delivery of the upgrade works will provide a significantly enhanced M50 motorway linkage around Dublin city.

Employment Rights.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

83 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport the steps he proposes to take to ratify the recently agreed Bill for rights for seafarers under the International Labour Organisation’s 2006 Maritime Labour Convention. [9195/06]

The new Maritime Labour Convention was adopted on 23 February 2006 at the 94th International Labour Organisation in Geneva. Ireland fully supports the new convention and voted in favour of the proposal.

At a national level Ireland has consistently supported the International Labour Organisation in its efforts to promote decent global labour standards for seafarers and was represented at the 94th convention by a tripartite delegation consisting of Government officials, nominees of the employers — IBEC — and of the workers — ICTU.

The new convention sets out clear principles and rights for seafarers while allowing a sufficient degree of national discretion to deliver those rights with transparency and accountability. It consolidates and updates 68 existing ILO maritime conventions and recommendations adopted since 1920. Countries that do not ratify the new convention will remain bound by the previous conventions that they have ratified.

The new convention will come into force after it has been ratified by 30 ILO member states with a total share of at least 33% of world gross tonnage. The first step for Ireland will be to examine the impact that the convention will have on current national legislation with a view to introducing, where necessary, appropriate statutory provision to give full effect to the convention. Once this is completed Ireland will then be in a position to initiate its formal ratification process to the convention.

Road Traffic Offences.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

84 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport his policy in relation to the imposition of double penalty points for certain road traffic offences occurring at specific dates and times associated with higher road collision rates. [9178/06]

I have no proposals at present along the lines suggested by the Deputy.

Road Safety.

John Deasy

Question:

85 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Transport the reason the National Safety Council’s proposed road safety campaign targeted at foreign nationals has not been initiated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9083/06]

The National Safety Council is the agency mandated with responsibility for road safety advertising and education. The council is currently in the process of developing road safety leaflets in eight languages. The leaflets will be distributed widely throughout the relevant communities. They will also be made available to the gardaí for distribution as they see fit. Furthermore, the council is working with its advertising agency on the production of a road safety radio campaign targeting non-nationals. These campaigns will be launched shortly.

Road Network.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

86 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport the legislative and procedural changes he proposes in view of the lessons learned from a fatal road traffic accident (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9191/06]

I have no proposals for any legislative changes arising out of the fatal road accident to which the Deputy refers.

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the specification of standards under section 19 of the Roads Act 1993, is a matter for the NRA.

I understand that the NRA's Design Manual for Roads and Bridges, which was originally published in December 2000, contains standards and advice notes relating to the design, assessment and operation of national roads in Ireland. The NRA requires that the design manual be used on all projects for the construction and-or improvement of national roads.

The NRA's Specification for Road Works, which was originally published in March 2000, contains detailed specifications for all elements of road works. The full document or relevant parts is included as part of the contract documents for individual road construction or improvement projects and must therefore be complied with as a contractual obligation.

I am informed by the NRA that the standards and requirements in relation to road surfacing and resurfacing have been further elaborated in NRA circulars 6/2002, 7/2002 and 05/2005. In 2005, the NRA consolidated the relevant contents of circulars 6/2002 and 7/2002 and issued circular 05/2005 to all local authorities restating the requirements outlined in the earlier circulars and supplementing where necessary the guidance provided.

The NRA allocates funding to local authorities for road pavement schemes taking account of up-to-date road condition surveys. It is a matter for individual local authorities, in accordance with their statutory responsibilities under section 13 of the Roads Act 1993, to undertake the necessary works. In this regard the local authorities are required by the NRA to observe the standards set out in the Specification for Roadworks and the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges. In performing its functions under the Roads Act, I understand from the NRA that local authorities have supervisory personnel in place to ensure that standards and specifications are being met by road contractors.

It is a matter for the NRA to keep under review the procedures, requirements and advice to which I have referred above.

Question No. 87 answered with QuestionNo. 57.
Question No. 88 answered with QuestionNo. 55.

State Airports.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

89 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the excessive delay in the production of business plans by the Dublin Airport Authority, the Shannon Airport Authority and the Cork Airport Authority; and the outstanding issues to be resolved in his proposal to establish each of these authorities as independent entities. [9057/06]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

133 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the delay in effecting the policy of breaking-up Aer Rianta into three separate authorities; if he is satisfied with this delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9102/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 133 together.

I have already dealt in detail with the issues raised by the Deputy in my earlier reply today to Priority Question No. 52.

Road Network.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

90 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the progress that has been made in buying out the West Link toll bridge; when he expects same to be completed; and his estimate of the full and final cost to the State. [9173/06]

As announced by the National Roads Authority, NRA, on 27 January, the NRA has, with my agreement, terminated its negotiations with National Toll Roads, NTR, in relation to the upgrade of the West Link section of the M50. The NRA now proposes to remove the West Link toll plaza in 2008, to install a single point barrier free toll system on the M50 and to compensate NTR in accordance with the West Link agreement. Issues relating to the West Link toll agreement are matters, in the first instance, for the National Roads Authority and the toll operator, NTR.

Vehicle Regulations.

Tom Hayes

Question:

91 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether there is a need to make blind-spot mirrors compulsory on all heavy goods vehicles irrespective of age; when this will be achieved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9114/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

372 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if he intends to enforce the installation of extra cyclopes mirrors on heavy goods vehicles; and the means and timetable for the introduction of such a regulation. [9218/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 91 and 372 together.

Directive 2003/97 lays down new standards for the type approval of certain categories of vehicles, particularly lorries, in relation to the field of vision of drivers and requires that all new vehicles meet the new standards from 26 January 2007.

Directive 2003/97 was transposed into Irish law by the European Communities (Mechanically Propelled Vehicles Entry Into Service) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2004 as regards type approval and entry into service of vehicles.

In April 2005, the Irish Road Haulage Association, IRHA, the Society of the Irish Motor Industry, SIMI, and the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, IBEC, were requested to consider advising their members to retrofit vehicles with blind spot mirrors or indirect vision devices. The SIMI was also asked that, in advance of the 26 January 2007 deadline for new vehicles, all new HGVs being put on the market meet the higher standards required by Directive 2003/97/EC.

The IRHA responded positively indicating that for the past number of years it has actively encouraged its members to fit convex mirrors to their vehicles and to request these when acquiring new vehicles. The SIMI has informed me that it has received a very positive response from vehicle distributors to the request for early implementation of Directive 2003/97/EC and it anticipates that by the end of March 2006 up to 80% of new vehicles of the relevant categories will meet the requirements of the directive.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

92 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the excessive delay in reintroducing height restrictions for heavy goods vehicles in view of the fact that these were promised three years ago and it was stated that this is Government policy; and if he will make a statement on the proposed timescale for these regulations. [9053/06]

Gerard Murphy

Question:

158 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if his Department has decided to implement a height limit on goods vehicles; when this policy will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9088/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

389 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the position in regard to the banning of super-trucks; if the European Commission has sanctioned the proposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9456/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92, 158 and 389 together.

EU law on maximum weights and dimensions for vehicles is set out in Directive 96/53/EC. Under that directive, which has been fully implemented by Ireland, a member state may not prohibit the use, in its territory, of vehicles from another member state which comply with the authorised maximum weight and dimension limits set down in the directive.

The directive specifies 4 m as the limit value for vehicle height. Consequently, provided a vehicle registered in a member state is 4 m or less in height, every member state must permit that vehicle to operate on its territory. A member state may, however, prescribe a higher limit on its territory.

Ireland does not impose any height limit on goods vehicles at present but the question of whether to prescribe such a limit is currently being examined in my Department. That examination includes consideration of the submissions received from interested parties in response to public consultation on the subject. I intend to make a decision on the matter shortly. In the event that it is decided to introduce a statutory height restriction for goods vehicles, it will be necessary to submit the draft regulations to the European Commission for consideration and for referral to other member states in accordance with the Technical Standards and Regulations Directive (Directive 98/34).

As regards the Dublin Port tunnel, my officials are liaising with the other stakeholders principally Dublin City Council, the NRA and Dublin Port to ensure that HGV traffic management arrangements, consequent upon the commissioning of the tunnel, achieve the maximum benefits for the city.

Light Rail Project.

John Deasy

Question:

93 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Transport the detailed costing for the proposed metro north project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9084/06]

Emmet Stagg

Question:

112 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport the cost of the metro north proposal; if a specific budget has been set aside and the way in which this has been determined if the exact route has yet to be set. [9190/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 93 and 112 together.

The capital envelope for Transport 21 includes the cost of metro north. The project will be procured as a PPP and funded through annual availability payments, over a period of approximately 26-year period.

The capital cost of metro north and the value of annual availability payments remain commercially sensitive in advance of the completion of the public procurement procedures. I do not therefore propose to comment further on this issue, to protect the commercial interests of the State and the taxpayer.

The Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, is currently preparing a detailed implementation plan for the metro north line. This includes the public consultation on route options, which was launched on 28 February 2006. The RPA has carried out a feasibility study and a preliminary environmental assessment of possible alignments for metro north. This study identified three broad corridor options for the metro. The final route and location of stops will be defined through the public consultation and statutory approval process.

Park and Ride Facilities.

Tom Hayes

Question:

94 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Transport when increased park and ride facilities will be in operation nationwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9123/06]

The development of public transport park and ride facilities is primarily a matter for transport providers, local authorities and private developers, either separately or in appropriate conjunction. However, since the provision of such facilities is significant in promoting a more integrated approach to public transport, and in making it a more attractive consumer product, my Department has been progressing certain initiatives to encourage development of park and ride facilities across the country.

Under Transport 21, €5 million is being made available in 2006 for park and ride facilities and interchanges in the greater Dublin area, GDA. In summer 2005, I approved a Dublin Transportation Office, DTO, strategy for rail-based park and ride and indicated that capital funding would be made available for suitable projects. The DTO strategy for rail-based park and ride envisages facilities at some 22 locations on the existing and proposed rail network within the GDA. Arrangements for rail-based park and ride funding will also extend to public transport interchange projects. Capital funding for pilot bus-based park and ride projects will also be considered. However, revenue support to subsidise the operation of park and ride facilities is a matter for each developer.

Two types of park and ride are envisaged, namely, strategic and local sites. A number of larger strategic sites will be identified close to or on the strategic rail corridors where longer distance commuters can transfer to public transport. Local park and ride sites will be smaller in scale and located along public transport corridors, principally rail. Good examples of these types of sites are the existing facilities at DART-suburban rail stations. It is important that interchange and park and ride developments should, wherever possible, be included as part of a wider public transport development framework. While a number of specific proposals are under consideration by the relevant agencies, there are currently no such proposals awaiting the approval of my Department.

Outside Dublin, my Department has provided significant funding for the highly-successful Black Ash Park and Ride in Cork, which was officially opened in December 2004. Further funding for additional park and ride and bus priority measures in the regional cities has been provided for in Transport 21. Various bus priority measures are currently being implemented in the regional cities with funding from my Department, and the relevant local authorities are carrying out investigations of park and ride possibilities in their areas. However, my Department does not have park and ride proposals on hands at present.

Driving Instructor Industry.

John Perry

Question:

95 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport the discussions he has had with the driving instructor industry to inform it of his plans for the regulation of that sector; if it is supportive of such proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9122/06]

Proposals developed by my Department for the regulation and quality assurance of driving instruction will involve a test of the competence of individual instructors. A working group comprising representatives of my Department and of instruction interests has formulated the design of the standards that a driving instructor must meet. The standard will set out criteria for entry to the driving instructor profession and the three part exam comprising a written exam, a practical driving test and a test of instructional capability that instructors will have to pass in order to be registered.

Responsibility for implementing the standard of driving instruction and establishing a register of driving instructors will be with the proposed road safety authority. I am considering what arrangements will be put in place to oversee implementation of the standard in the context of the establishment of the authority. As part of this process the standard referred to above will form the basis for a consultation document to be issued shortly which will set out the requirements that driving instructors will have to comply with in order to be registered.

Road Network.

Michael Noonan

Question:

96 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Transport the reason officials from his Department have not had discussions with National Toll Roads in relation to the impact of the opening of the Dublin Port tunnel on the West Link toll bridge; if he is satisfied with the situation whereby officials from the National Roads Authority have not consulted with the National Toll Roads either; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9110/06]

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the Dublin Port tunnel, are matters in the first instance for the National Road Authority, NRA, and the local authorities concerned, in this case, Dublin City Council. I am not aware of specific discussions between the NRA and NTR in relation to the impact of the port tunnel on the West Link toll bridge.

The NRA and Dublin City Council are working to ensure that the Dublin Port tunnel, when open, will integrate smoothly with the road network at both the M1-M50 junction and in the port area. As part of this process, Dublin City Council is preparing a HGV traffic management plan to ensure the optimum use of the tunnel by HGV traffic. Preparation and adoption of this plan is a matter for Dublin City Council.

Dublin City Council recently conducted a public consultation process in relation to the HGV management strategy, the closing date for which was 10 February. I understand that a significant number of submissions have been received from a range of interested parties which are now being processed by the council. It will then be a matter for the council to finalise the strategy, taking account of the views expressed.

I am very conscious of the need to co-ordinate the commissioning of the completion of the Dublin Port tunnel with the upgrade of the M50. My officials and I are consulting with all stakeholders, including Dublin City Council, to ensure that a co-ordinated traffic management strategy is developed for the opening of the tunnel.

Question No. 97 answered with QuestionNo. 57.

Semi-State Bodies.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

98 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport the manner in which he proposes to retain a controlling share for the State in Aer Lingus. [9061/06]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

134 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Transport the proposed method of disposal of the State share in Aer Lingus. [9060/06]

Gay Mitchell

Question:

142 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if a decision has been taken to proceed with the partial privatisation of Aer Lingus; the percentage of the airline to be privatised; when this decision will take effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9100/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

384 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which the future of Aer Lingus has been finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9451/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98, 134, 142 and 384 together.

I refer the Deputies to my reply to Priority Questions Nos. 50 and 53 of today.

Road Safety.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

99 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Transport his views on the use of black-box technology, speed limiters and driving training simulators to enhance road safety; if his Department will finance the introduction of such technology; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9103/06]

In recent days, the EU Commission has forwarded to the Council of Ministers a communication on the intelligent car initiative entitled Raising Awareness for ICT of Smarter, Safer and Cleaner vehicles. This communication invites member states to support the objectives in the communication and stresses the need for member states to act together at the European level. The intelligent car initiative is intended as a policy framework for advancing,inter alia, eSafety.

As part of the eSafety initiative, my Department is currently participating in EU initiatives to promote the use of technology in advancing vehicle safety. The EU initiatives also involve participation by vehicle manufacturers and insurance companies and in this regard my Department is currently in touch with the insurance industry and the SIMI. My Department is also in touch with other Departments which are involved — the Departments of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Finance and Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

Some of the major challenges in advancing such systems is settling on a European-wide technology basis and determining whether the obligation to fit the technology becomes a requirement on industry. No decisions have yet been made in that regard.

National Car Test.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

100 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Transport the reason for the delay in implementing the recommendations arising out of the mid-term review of the national car test; the reason for the delay in establishing a technical standards advisory forum; when both will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9109/06]

Seán Ryan

Question:

106 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the mechanisms in place for the assurance of quality in the national car test contract; the manner in which testing standards are supervised and monitored; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9055/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100 and 106 together.

The report on the outcome of the mid-term review of the national car testing service conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, PwC, for my Department was received in the Department at the end of October 2005. My Department is now in discussion with the National Car Testing Service, NCTS, with a view to implementing the recommendations contained in the PwC report as soon as possible. The discussions are being conducted in accordance with the contract change procedures provided for in the project agreement between the Minister for Transport and the NCTS for the operation of the car testing service. While these discussions are ongoing, it would not be appropriate to outline the recommendations contained in the report. However, as soon as the discussions conclude, I will publish the report on my Department's website.

As I have previously indicated in reply to parliamentary questions, it is the intention to establish a technical standards forum to consider and make recommendations in relation to vehicle technical matters associated with the NCT. I will establish such a forum in due course.

As regards quality assurance, there are a number of arrangements in place to ensure that car testing is carried out competently. Under the contract between the Minister and National Car Testing Service Limited, NCTS, the company is required to meet a range of performance standards for the service. These cover premises, test equipment, staff, test arrangements, facilities management, information technology and customer service. The performance standards are designed to ensure test integrity and consistency across the network of test centres. The equipment used to carry out NCT tests was selected on the basis of its capability to accurately and consistently test vehicles in accordance with detailed technical specifications and is regularly serviced and calibrated. Vehicle inspectors are qualified vehicle mechanics who have undergone rigorous and comprehensive initial training before they commenced testing cars and they undergo regular review and developmental training. The entire test process is subject to regular internal scrutiny by the NCTS management. In addition, my Department monitors the performance of the NCTS to ensure that it delivers the service to the required standard.

To assist my Department in monitoring the performance of the NCTS, a supervision services contractor — a consortium involving the Automobile Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers with engineering, financial, legal, IT and operational expertise — has been engaged and is working to an agreed programme for the Department. This programme includes detailed monthly operational audits of the company's performance; quarterly controlled checks to ensure that consistent test results are obtained across the NCTS test centre network; each month reviewing the performance of a sample of vehicle testers as they carry out tests; carrying out spot checks without any advance warning on a representative sample of cars that have just undergone the NCT; carrying out detailed interviews with a representative sample of customers to assess customer satisfaction levels; and an annual review of the company's overall performance. I am satisfied that the combination of these measures ensures that, as far as is possible in a high volume repetitive process, the test results reflect the condition of vehicles at the time of testing.

Question No. 101 answered with QuestionNo. 77.

Dublin Transport Authority.

Simon Coveney

Question:

102 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Transport when he will establish a Dublin transport authority; its powers and functions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9089/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

150 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Transport the future role of the Dublin Transportation Office in view of the proposed establishment of the Dublin transport authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9094/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 150 together.

I will shortly receive the report of the team I established last November to finalise the remit, structures and human resource requirements of the proposed new transport authority for the greater Dublin area. Once I have received the team's report and had an opportunity to consider its contents, I will bring proposals to the Government for decision. However, in the interim it would not be appropriate for me to speculate about the contents of the team's report or the decisions of the Government arising from it.

Light Rail Project.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

103 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport when he expects the public consultation phase for the extension of the Luas from Connolly Station east towards the Point Depot to commence; and if his own Department favours a routing which would run along the Liffey quays or a more direct route through the International Financial Services Centre. [9205/06]

Public consultation in relation to the proposed extension of the Luas red line from Connolly Station to the Point Depot, line C1, commenced in April 2003. The Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, has since applied to me for a railway order in respect of this project. The application is based on the agency's preferred route through Mayor Street.

I have appointed Mr. James Connolly SC as inspector to conduct the public inquiry. As yet, the inspector has not fixed a date for the commencement of the inquiry. A number of parties have made submissions in respect of this proposed project and it will be open to any interested party to have their views heard at the public inquiry.

It would not be appropriate for me to comment about the proposed route as I will have to make a decision on the application for the railway order in due course.

Road Safety.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

104 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport the reason a target for the reduction in serious injuries will not be set by the end of the current road safety strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9169/06]

The Road Safety Strategy 2004-2006 acknowledges significant difficulties in establishing a benchmark from which to set a target for the achievement of a reduction in the number of serious injuries. For that reason the central target established for the strategy was focused on the realisation of a reduction in the number of road deaths.

The strategy included a commitment to the pursuit of a programme aimed at establishing a more robust basis for determining injury data based on the information flow from the gardaí to the National Roads Authority allied to information from hospital admission data and insurance claims. This exercise is being pursued by a number of organisations, under the general direction of the National Roads Authority, which is tasked with the publication of national road collision data.

Given that we are now in the final year of the road safety strategy, a target for serious injuries will not be set within the lifetime of the existing strategy. Based on the outcome of the exercise referred to above, the question of establishing a target for serious injuries will be considered in the context of the development of the next strategy for the period beyond 2006.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

105 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport the preparation he is making to formulate a new road safety strategy following the expiration of the current strategy later in 2006. [9170/06]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

162 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Transport his proposals to deal with the prevention of tragedies in view of the ongoing carnage on roads here. [9162/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 105 and 162 together.

The Government Road Safety Strategy 2004-2006 sets a primary target of a 25% reduction in road collision fatalities by the end of 2006 over the average annual number of fatalities in the 1998 to 2003 period. Achievement of the target would result in no more than 300 deaths per annum by the end of the period of the strategy. This is an ambitious target and one which will require the continued commitment to a strategic, integrated approach by all of the road safety agencies. However, the recent increase in road deaths is a cause of concern and places the challenge of meeting the target set for the end of 2006 into stark focus. As of 3 March, 74 people had lost their lives on our roads this year, compared to 72 at the same date last year.

Progress depends in the first instance on a continued emphasis on the approach that underpins the strategy. A major independent review of the previous strategy confirms that basing the primary target on the achievement of progress in the areas of speeding, drink driving and seat belt wearing remains the correct approach and these remain the key areas of the strategy.

Significant initiatives identified in the strategy that have been realised to date include the introduction of a new system of metric speed limits through the passage of the Road Traffic Act 2004 and the establishment of the new Garda traffic corps. The new speed limits structure featured a reduction in the speed limit in all rural, regional and local roads from 60 mph to 80 km/h, which equates to 50 mph. The establishment of the dedicated traffic corps in 2004 by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform under a distinct management structure under the command of an Assistant Commissioner addresses a particular commitment given by the Government. The corps, when it is fully staffed, will provide the basis for the achievement of the significant gains in road safety that emanate from consistent high levels of traffic law enforcement.

Other major proposals identified in the strategy such as the plans to establish a system of private sector operation of speed cameras under the auspices of the gardaí, the further extension of the operation of the penalty points and fixed charge systems, and the question of the introduction of a more general basis for the carrying out of preliminary roadside alcohol testing of drivers are being advanced.

I will bring forward legislation during the current Dáil session for the purpose of extending the basis for which a roadside breath test can be requested and also to provide a statutory basis for the engagement of private sector interests in the operation of a speed camera programme under the direct control and guidance of the gardaí. I have also recently announced the extension of the penalty point system from the existing five offences to 35 offences in early April. The emphasis of this extension is on offences that relate to driver behaviour which is the greatest single contributory factor in road collisions.

My priority at present is to implement the measures set out in the existing road safety strategy. As I indicated last week at the Committee Stage debate on the Driver Testing and Standards Authority Bill, the Road Safety Authority, as it will now be called, will play a major role in the development of future road safety strategies. The authority will be in a position to engage with all of the contributory bodies in order to develop and monitor the delivery of a comprehensive road safety programme for the period beyond 2006. It is envisaged that the programme will form the basis of the Government's road safety strategy.

Question No. 106 answered with QuestionNo. 100.

Road Traffic Offences.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

107 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport when the legislation to allow for the expansion of the speed camera network will be published; when this system will be fully operational on roads here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9116/06]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

159 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport the way in which and when he proposes to legislate for the private operation of speed cameras; when additional cameras will be provided and the number of same; the preparation he has made to identify the locations for such speed cameras; if this legislation will be dealt with through the proposed Road Traffic Bill or under a separate Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9181/06]

I propose to take Questions No. 107 and 159 together.

I intend to bring proposals for a new Road Traffic Bill before the House in the current Dáil session and that Bill will contain proposals which will provide for the engagement of the private sector in the provision and operation of road speed cameras as part of the Government's road safety strategy. My colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, is engaged in advancing the tendering process for the engagement of the private sector.

The operation of the speed cameras will be under the control of the Garda Síochána and the selection of sites for speed cameras will be identified by the Garda Síochána with the assistance of the National Roads Authority. The cameras will be used to increase compliance with speed limits across the entire network and reduce the speed of vehicles at locations that have either a speed related collision history or are of a type where a high frequency of collisions may be likely and by so doing increase road safety.

Road Safety.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

108 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport his position in relation to a proposal from one local authority to erect road signs in languages other than Irish or English; if this requires legislative amendment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9082/06]

The National Roads Authority forwarded a proposal to my Department on 28 February 2006 that the authority had received from Laois County Council. Since 1996 the Traffic Signs Manual has contained a "Drive on Left" warning sign displaying a symbol depicting a vehicle being driven on the left-hand side of a road altogether with the text "Drive on Left" in English, French and German languages. The proposal that Laois County Council has drawn up consists of a variation of this warning sign that would display text in English, Polish and Czech languages. Warning signs are non-regulatory traffic signs and local authorities can only provide such signs on public roads that comply with directions given by the Minister for Transport pursuant to section 95(16) of the Road Traffic Act.

The merits of the proposal for the new sign are being examined in my Department at present in consultation with the National Roads Authority, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Garda Síochána. I await the outcome and recommendations of the consultation process. If an appropriate format of a new warning sign emerges from this process it would be then up to me to give a direction to road authorities in relation to its provision and use on a national basis.

Question No. 109 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

Road Traffic Offences.

Joe Costello

Question:

110 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport his policy in pursuing a change in EU and Irish law to allow Irish courts impose a penalty of alcohol interlock devices on convicted drink drivers; if his attention has been drawn to moves in several other EU countries to provide for such devices; and the proposals he will be bringing under the proposed Road Traffic Bill to enact legislation in this regard. [9176/06]

Standards for new passenger cars in the EU are specified in a range of EU type-approval directives that are incorporated into a system known as EU Whole Vehicle Type Approval, WVTA. WVTA facilitates the achievement of a single market for cars through harmonised safety and environmental standards. New cars must have WVTA in order to be placed on the market in the EU. Once a car has WVTA, it must be given access to the EU market and it is not open to a member state to unilaterally require additional equipment to be fitted in a car.

The inclusion in motor vehicles of technology of the type outlined by the Deputy is not required under the EU motor vehicle type-approval system. Accordingly, it would not be open to Ireland to require the installation of such equipment in motor vehicles. I will, however, be watching technical developments in this area, particularly as in regards the effectiveness of the technology in reducing drink driving.

Proposed Legislation.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

111 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Transport the changes in law he intends making in respect of mandatory retesting for drivers convicted under a drink-driving offence; the way in which and when he proposes to legislate for same; the drink-driving offences to which the proposal will apply; the other road traffic offences to which the proposal will apply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9193/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 118 of 23 February 2006.

The matter raised by the Deputy is being considered by me in the context of revisions to road safety legislation generally which I intend to bring to Government shortly.

Question No. 112 answered with QuestionNo. 93.

Road Traffic Offences.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

113 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport the changes he proposes from April 2006 to fixed penalties other than those attracting penalties points. [9171/06]

I propose to extend the fixed charge system that is provided in the Road Traffic Act 2002 from 3 April 2006 to a wide range of traffic and parking offences that are enforced by the Garda Síochána. The extension of the fixed charge system will also apply in respect of those offences that are currently enforced by traffic wardens under the fine-on-the spot system. The fine-on-the-spot system will be abolished on the introduction of the new system.

The roll-out of the fixed charge system will also entail the determination by me of the level of fixed charge to be applied to each offence and the prescription of the form of statutory notices to be used. I will be making the necessary sets of statutory regulations and commencement order shortly.

Question No. 114 answered with QuestionNo. 62.
Question No. 115 answered with QuestionNo. 55.

Public Transport.

Billy Timmins

Question:

116 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Transport the way in which funding for the implementation of Transport 21 will be allocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9140/06]

The basis for Transport 21 is a ten-year capital envelope agreed with the Minister for Finance. This envelope comprises an agreed annual provision for Exchequer and PPP expenditure over each of the ten years based on a combination of project specific allocations for major infrastructure works and global allocations for certain areas of expenditure like traffic management. Each year annual allocations are made from the provision for that year, either in the form of global allocations to bodies like the National Roads Authority — for national road improvements — or project — specific allocations.

Light Rail Project.

Dan Neville

Question:

117 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Transport if he has received information from the Railway Procurement Agency in relation to the cause of recent structural defects identified with the Luas tracks; if he is confident that such defects will not manifest themselves in other sections of the track; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9113/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

383 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the position in regard to the improvement works on the Luas; if construction was originally carried out in accordance with specifications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9450/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 and 383 together.

I refer the Deputy to my reply of 1 February 2006 to Questions Nos. 129, 158, 172, 179, 190, 200 and 280 in relation to the matter. The position remains unchanged.

Question No. 118 answered with QuestionNo. 54.

International Agreements.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

119 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Transport if the final deal on an open skies regime has been finalised; if not, the nature of the difficulty in completing this agreement; the options for Ireland in the event that an open skies regime between the US and the EU is not achieved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9077/06]

EU negotiations with the US about a wide-ranging aviation agreement finished on 18 November 2005, at which time the text of a draft EU-US air transport agreement was settled.

The only outstanding issue now is the outcome of the US's moves to amend its ownership and control rules so that EU carriers, for example, could have much greater control over the commercial activities of US airlines that they invest in. The US began its public consultation process at the beginning of November 2005, with all comments to be received by it in early January 2006. The US is currently considering those comments and I understand that its timetable is now to conclude its considerations by the end of March, and to publish its comments and its final rule on ownership and control in early April 2006.

The March Transport Council will receive the latest information on this subject from the European Commission, but may not be in a position to make a final decision on the EU-US agreement without sight of the final US ownership and control rule. It is envisaged that the Transport Council in early June will be in a position to take a decision on the EU-US agreement, with a view to it coming into effect on schedule in November 2006.

I would be extremely disappointed if the EU-US agreement is not signed this year as planned, in view of the enormous benefits that open skies will bring to Irish aviation and to Irish business and tourism. In that event Ireland would re-examine options for direct bilateral arrangements with the US.

Road Network.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

120 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied with the regulatory regime that exists for compliance with National Roads Authority roadworks specifications; if he will take the opportunity of his proposed Road Traffic Bill to introduce statutory minimum standards of compliance with roadworks specification; if he will use the opportunity to introduce sanctions where local authorities fail to comply with guidelines-standards; and if he will introduce a statutory checking system to National Roads Authority procedures in order that roads are completed in compliance before funding is handed over to the local authority. [9172/06]

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA.

I understand that the NRA's Design Manual for Roads and Bridges, which was originally published in December 2000, contains standards and advice notes relating to the design, assessment and operation of national roads in Ireland. The NRA requires that the design manual be used on all projects for the construction and-or improvement of national roads.

While the design manual is not a statutory document the NRA, as the agency with responsibility for the construction and maintenance of the national roads network and the funding of individual projects, requires that the technical standards specified in the document be adhered to.

The NRA's Specification for Road Works, which was originally published in March 2000, contains detailed specifications for all elements of road works. The full document or relevant parts is included as part of the contract documents for individual road construction or improvement projects and must therefore be complied with as a contractual obligation.

There are no statutory minimum standards in relation to road re-surfacing. I am informed that both the NRA's Specification for Road Works and Design Manual for roads and Bridges include requirements in relation to road surfacing and re-surfacing.

Employment Rights.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

121 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that some Dublin Bus drivers are claiming that they are pressurised to work six hours straight, which is in direct contravention to the law that stipulates that they should work no longer than four and a half hours; and if he will make inquiries on the matter. [9164/06]

The terms and conditions of employment of bus drivers is a matter for Dublin Bus. These drivers are not covered by the EU regulation on drivers hours or by the EU directive on the organisation of working time of persons performing mobile road transport activities because they are operating on a regular passenger service within a 50 km radius. I will, however, bring the matter to the attention of Dublin Bus.

Question No. 122 answered with QuestionNo. 55.

Road Traffic Offences.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

123 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Transport the legislative changes he proposes to ensure the greater application of charges under section 22 of the Road Traffic Act 1994. [9177/06]

Section 22 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 provides that where a person is convicted of a drink driving offence, the court shall, unless it is satisfied that there are special and substantial reasons for not so doing, order that person to pay a prescribed amount to the courts as a contribution to the costs and expenses of the Medical Bureau of Road Safety.

I am currently examining the provisions of section 22 in the context of pending legislation in relation to drink driving offences generally. I will be consulting my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in this context.

Road Traffic Offences.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

124 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport when he intends to address the loophole which allows drivers with 12 penalty points to continue to drive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9081/06]

The penalty point system applies points to a driver's record and provides for that person to be disqualified when he or she has accumulated 12 points. On receipt of notifications from the Garda Síochána or the Courts Service that a fixed charge has been paid, or a person has been convicted of a penalty point offence, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, endorses the licence record in the national driver file with the appropriate number of penalty points and issues a notification to the person concerned.

Any driver who accumulates 12 penalty points is automatically disqualified for a period of six months under section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 2002. The person concerned is notified he or she is disqualified and directed to surrender his or her licence to the appropriate licensing authority. It is an offence under section 5 of the Road Traffic Act 2002 to fail to surrender a driving licence to a licensing authority.

The Garda Síochána can access the information on driver records held in motor tax offices. However, in order to ensure that the Garda Síochána is aware of disqualifications, the notification process has recently been strengthened and a copy of the disqualification letter is now sent directly by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to the Garda Commissioner. A copy is also being sent to my Department.

Question No. 125 answered with QuestionNo. 77.

Road Network.

Phil Hogan

Question:

126 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Transport his views on a current Health and Safety Authority survey, which identified defects relating to the condition of roads here as a factor in compromising road safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9075/06]

It is the function of the National Roads Authority under section 17 of the Roads Act 1993 to secure the provision of a safe and efficient network of national roads. As part of this function, the National Roads Authority has overall responsibility for the planning, design and maintenance of national roads.

I understand that the Health and Safety Authority has a remit to investigate incidents on a roadway where the incident results from or has a direct relationship to ongoing work activity. I have been informed that it is not involved in any survey on the condition of national or secondary roads generally.

Jack Wall

Question:

127 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport the definitive date for the opening of the Dublin Port tunnel; the reason for the delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9054/06]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

129 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Transport when the Dublin Port tunnel will be open to the public; the cost of the project, including extra costs sought by the building contractor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9096/06]

Liz McManus

Question:

161 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Transport when he expects the Dublin Port tunnel to open; and the measures in place to cope with the extra traffic congestion on the M50. [9184/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127, 129 and 161 together.

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the Dublin Port tunnel, is a matter for the National Roads Authority and the local authorities concerned. Good progress continues to be made on the construction of the tunnel. I am informed that the civil engineering work within the tunnels has been largely completed and that the main focus of work has shifted to the installation of the mechanical and electrical systems which make up the safety and control features of the project. I understand from the National Road Authority that the tunnel is expected to be open to traffic in summer 2006 following the testing and commissioning of the tunnels' operational and safety features.

I also understand that the estimated cost of the Dublin Port tunnel remains at €751 million. Claims for additional costs submitted by the contractor in this case are a matter for Dublin City Council in the first instance. It should be noted that the making of a claim by a contractor does not inevitably lead to additional payments. The traffic management and control arrangements that will apply following the opening of the Dublin Port tunnel are a matter for Dublin City Council. Following the opening to traffic of the Dublin Port tunnel, Dublin City Council will be introducing a heavy goods vehicle traffic management strategy to ensure that maximum traffic benefits are secured from the Dublin Port tunnel. My Department is consulting with all stakeholders, including Dublin City Council, to facilitate the development of a co-ordinated traffic management strategy for the opening of the tunnel.

The improvement of traffic flow on the M50 requires the implementation of the M50 upgrade project, including the installation of barrier free tolling, phase 1 of which is getting under way. The delivery of the upgrade works will provide a significantly enhanced M50 motorway linkage around Dublin City.

Road Safety.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

128 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport when he proposes to reduce the blood-alcohol threshold level for driving; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9192/06]

The position of the Government in relation to drink driving policy is set out in a comprehensive manner in the road safety strategy 2004-06. This recognises that our priority is to improve compliance with the existing 80 mg per 100 millilitres of blood limit, rather than move to new limits. We apply an 80 mg limit with very strict application of driving disqualification. Lower blood alcohol limits operating in some countries do not necessarily attract such strict penalties.

The statistics indicate that those being detected for drink driving have a blood alcohol level well in excess of the legal limit. Some 89% of blood and urine specimens and 81% of breath specimens analysed in 2003 by the medical bureau of road safety were above the alcohol limit for driving. However, what is even more worrying is that over half of those who failed blood or urine tests, and almost one third of those who failed breath tests, had alcohol contents that were at least twice as high as the legal limit. The limit, therefore, is being ignored by a core number of drivers who refuse to obey the law.

I will bring forward legislation during the current Dáil session for the purpose of extending the basis for which a roadside breath test can be requested. The question of reducing the limit will be kept under review but the priority at present is to increase the chances of being breathalysed and heighten the deterrent effect.

Question No. 129 answered with QuestionNo. 127.
Question No. 130 answered with QuestionNo. 75.
Question No. 131 answered with QuestionNo. 73.
Question No. 132 answered with QuestionNo. 82.
Question No. 133 answered with QuestionNo. 89.
Question No. 134 answered with QuestionNo. 98.

Public Transport.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

135 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the long-term targets his Department has for the modal split of both freight and passenger transport here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9202/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

378 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport his plans to encourage the use of buses; if it is intended to take particular initiatives to make travel by bus more attractive, such as more conveniently located bus stops, bus shelters, increased frequency of services and other means to encourage passengers towards the use of this particular mode of public transport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9443/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 and 378 together.

My Department, in its statement of strategy, has as one of its guiding principles the encouragement of modal shift in favour of attracting passengers to public transport. The investments needed to support this policy are contained in Transport 21 which provides a massive investment in public transport. In the greater Dublin area alone, the objective is to deliver 175 million extra passenger journeys net per annum on public transport.

The strategic rail review, commissioned by my Department, and published in 2003, contained a comprehensive examination of the rail freight business and its realistic potential to support economic development and contribute to a sustainable environment. Iarnród Éireann, in responding to the review, held wide-ranging consultations with business interests around the country to identify those freight activities which are best suited to rail transport. The company has developed a business plan based on a strategy to break even by 2006, increase the profitability of the existing profitable business while withdrawing from those businesses that are heavily loss-making. The company has made progress in developing the rail freight business in areas where it holds a competitive advantage over road haulage.

Iarnród Éireann continues to pursue a policy of growing its rail freight business where opportunities present. However, as in all businesses, it must adjust the freight business from time to time to reflect market realities. The rail freight market has been liberalised since January last for international services and will be liberalised fully from January next.

The Department's statement of strategy recognises that a mix of policies is needed to alleviate the effects of congestion and an improved quality and range of public transport services can attract people out of cars for all or part of their journeys. Under Transport 21, the bus will continue to play a crucial role in the capital's public transport system. There will be a greater focus on the development of orbital, feeder and local services integrating the city and complementing the rail network. We continue to make progress on investment and development of our public transport system in areas such as the Dublin suburban rail network, inter-city rail services, bus capacity and increased bus services and quality bus corridors.

Question No. 136 answered with QuestionNo. 55.

Road Safety.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

137 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Transport his proposals or the initiatives he proposes to take in the area in view of the unacceptably high road deaths on the Inishowen peninsula, County Donegal. [9165/06]

In view of the unacceptably high level of road fatalities in Donegal, and in particular on the Inishowen peninsula, the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, has held urgent consultations with relevant officials in Donegal to discuss the issue of road safety in the area. A seat belt campaign was recently launched by the Minister of State in Donegal to increase awareness of the importance of seat belt wearing.

The National Safety Council, in consultation with the Department of Transport, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and the City and County Managers Association is developing a template for road safety action plans which will be piloted in ten chosen local authority areas. The results of these pilots will inform the development of models which can subsequently be applied in all local authority areas throughout the country. This project includes an examination of the role of local authority road safety officers by the National Safety Council in consultation with relevant Departments and agencies.

Donegal County Council is participating in this pilot project. The National Safety Council has in this context met with the road safety working group in Donegal and the development of a road safety plan for the county is under way. The National Safety Council and the Garda have been active in pursuing road safety education initiatives at a local level in Donegal.

In response to the disturbing number of road fatalities in Buncrana district, a Garda traffic corps unit was established in the district on a pilot basis with effect from 20 October 2005. The unit was in addition to the traffic corps personnel already operating in the Donegal division. Following a review of the unit, a decision has been made to extend the pilot until 15 March 2006 when a further review will be carried out.

Air Services.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

138 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Transport his response to the suggestion that a confidential reporting system for pilots be introduced here to facilitate the reporting of unsafe practices by airlines; his intention to facilitate this by the introduction of whistleblower legislation in the transport sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9194/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to a similar question, for written reply, on 16 February 2006. In that reply I stated that my Department was in the process of transposing an EU directive on mandatory occurrence reporting, directive 2003/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 June 2003 on occurrence reporting in civil aviation, into domestic legislation. There is an optional provision for voluntary reporting of incidents that do not come under the requirement for compulsory reporting in this directive. My Department will examine the feasibility of establishing such for the whole Irish aviation system to include operators, air traffic management providers, maintenance and airport personnel.

I also indicated that under the provisions of the Irish Aviation Authority orders, airlines, as a condition of an air operators certificate are obliged to report all aviation safety related occurrences to the Irish Aviation Authority or in certain cases to the air accident investigation unit of my Department.

Traffic Management.

Richard Bruton

Question:

139 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport when the recommendations-initiatives proposed by the Clare Street initiative will be published; when the group last met and will next meet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9098/06]

The group which met as part of the Clare Street initiative on 5 October last identified 15 priority projects to improve traffic management in the greater Dublin area. I will let the Deputy have the details of the projects in the coming days. The further development of these projects is being considered by the relevant agencies and will be followed up by the Dublin Transport Office.

Road Traffic Offences.

Michael Ring

Question:

140 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Transport the information which will be supplied to the public on the introduction of additional penalty points on 1 April 2006; when this will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9086/06]

The National Safety Council, as the agency mandated with responsibility for road safety education and information, operates a dedicated penalty point website,www.penaltypoints.ie. I understand that the website is being redesigned-updated in the context of the changes pending on road safety issues and policy. The website will be operational again shortly. In addition, the National Safety Council is in the process of designing a public education-awareness campaign about the new penalty points offences, which will be launched this month in the lead up to the 3 April 2006 date for the extension of the penalty points system.

Port Development.

Dan Boyle

Question:

141 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Transport if he has had discussions with Departments regarding the possible change of use of existing lands under control of Dublin Port to promote new residential development; if his Department has commissioned analysis or entered into discussions with the Port Company or Dublin City Council on the proposed development of the south docks as a residential area as has been suggested by Dublin City Council. [9204/06]

Neither I nor my Department have had discussions on the possible change of use of existing lands under the control of Dublin Port to promote new residential development, nor has my Department commissioned analysis in the matter.

Dublin Port is a State-owned company established under the Harbours Act 1996. The Act provides that the principal objects of the company include the provision of such facilities, services and lands in its harbour for ships, goods and passengers as it considers necessary. The company is required to take all proper measures for the management, control, operation and development of its harbour. Decisions on the use of the land within the port estate are a matter for the port company.

I draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that, as indicated in Parliamentary Question No. 464 of 21 February 2006, a process involving our commercial ports handling unitised trade, including Dublin Port Company, is under way. The purpose of this process is to satisfy the Government that the anticipated seaport capacity requirement to 2014 and beyond can be efficiently and adequately met.

Question No. 142 answered with QuestionNo. 98.

Traffic Management.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

143 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Transport if he, or his Department has made representations to Dublin City Council with regard to the proposed new heavy goods vehicles management strategy which is due to be introduced following the opening of the Dublin Port tunnel; and his views on the contention of the consultants hired by Dublin City Council that following the opening of the tunnel there should not be the provision for free access to and from the port from the south side of the river due to the continued problems that such provision would create for the residential areas on any such port access route. [9206/06]

Preparation and adoption of the HGV traffic management strategy to ensure optimum use of the Dublin Port tunnel by HGV traffic is a matter in the first instance for Dublin City Council. My Department's formal role will be to put in place the necessary regulatory framework as regards traffic signs, etc., to support the strategy.

As a major new element in Dublin's road network, the Dublin Port tunnel will have a major beneficial impact on traffic flow in the Dublin area. It will be of particular benefit in facilitating improved access to Dublin Port for HGVs while reducing HGV traffic in the city. My Department's primary objective is to ensure those benefits are realised.

I am conscious of the need to co-ordinate the commissioning of the completion of the Dublin Port tunnel with the upgrade of the M50. My officials and I are consulting with all stakeholders, including Dublin City Council, to ensure that a co-ordinated traffic management strategy is developed for the opening of the tunnel. The HGV management strategy is an important part of this process.

It is not for me to give a determination to Dublin City Council on specific issues such as access to the port from the south side of the river. My focus is to bring about a co-ordinated strategy that will balance the needs of all concerned. I will, however, continue to liaise with Dublin City Council so that I may be assured that the primary objective of the Department is achieved in a manner which maximises the overall traffic benefit of the tunnel.

Question No. 144 answered with QuestionNo. 61.

Rail Freight.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

145 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to a recent study by Irish railway news which showed that 26 rail freight flows have been lost to road since 1994 with at least ten lost during the past two years; his reaction to these findings; his proposals to halt the decline in rail freight; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9187/06]

The strategic rail review, commissioned by my Department, and published in 2003, contained a comprehensive examination of the rail freight business and its realistic potential to support economic development and contribute to a sustainable environment. Iarnród Éireann has advised me that one of the company's goals is to return the freight business to profitability and significant progress has been made recently in this regard. To help achieve this turnaround, Iarnród Éireann withdrew from loss-making groupage, palletised and single container rail transport in the recent past. However, Iarnród Éireann continues to pursue a policy of growing its rail freight business where opportunities present.

The transport of pulpwood for Coillte is on the increase and Iarnród Éireann is in negotiations regarding the transport of full trainload container traffic which is a viable business for the company.

Since 1999, Iarnród Éireann has invested over €1.5 billion in rebuilding the railways, with Government and EU support for the investment programme delivering improvements in new trains, upgraded infrastructure and customer facilities. While such investment has primarily focused on improving passenger services, the investment in improving rail infrastructure also has a direct beneficial impact on freight activities.

Taxi Regulations.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

146 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Transport if he is satisfied with the progress in introducing quality standards into the taxi industry; and when he envisages the commencement and full operation of section 36 of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003. [9179/06]

The Commission for Taxi Regulation is the independent body responsible for the development and maintenance of a new regulatory framework for the control and operation of small public service vehicles, including taxis, and their drivers, under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003.

In 2005 the commission initiated a national review to assess the extent and quality of services provided by small public service vehicles and subsequently published Roadmap — Towards a new national code of regulation for taxis, hackneys and limousines in Ireland which set out the areas where change is required along with the commission's proposed solutions. Submissions were invited on the Roadmap by 26 September 2005 following which the preparation of new regulations commenced. The commission has also taken over the power to declare or alter taximeter areas and to fix maximum taxi fares from local authorities and invited submissions on consultation paper No. 3, taximeter areas and taxi fares by 19 December 2005.

I am satisfied with the progress made by the commission since its establishment in September 2004. I note that the commission today launched a detailed action plan, which outlines proposed changes to regulations and other structures. The latter are focused on improving standards generally.

With regard to the commencement of section 36 of the Taxi Regulation Act 2003, as amended by section 36 of the Road Traffic Act 2004, which provides for a system of automatic disqualification from applying for or holding a small public service vehicle driver or vehicle licence in respect of persons who have been convicted of one of a range of very serious offences, including murder, manslaughter and various sexual, drug trafficking and other offences. This requires further consultation with licensing authorities, the Garda Síochána, the Courts Service, among others, to ensure that the appropriate arrangements for implementation are in place. Specific legal advice on a number of issues surrounding the practical application of the section has been sought from the Office of the Attorney General. It will be necessary to give an appropriate period of advance notice of the proposed commencement of the section to allow persons who may be affected by the provisions, in particular existing licence holders, to clarify their position with the courts. Commencement of the section will be considered, in consultation with the Commission for Taxi Regulation, when the legal and administrative issues have been resolved.

Road Safety.

Seán Crowe

Question:

147 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if there have been North-South meetings or discussions involving him and his northern counterpart or his Department officials regarding harmonising road safety guidelines and particularly for outside of schools. [9161/06]

While I met my ministerial counterparts recently at a British-Irish Council meeting, the issues discussed were mutual recognition of driver disqualification and greater co-operation in the treatment of other road traffic infringements where the penalty falls short of disqualification. There have been no meetings or discussions on the issues referred to by the Deputy.

Road Network.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

148 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Transport the precise details of the extent of the existing quality bus corridors in the Dublin area; the length of actual bus-priority provision in each quality bus corridor; the quality bus corridors which have been fully completed; and if he will make a statement on his policy in this area. [9056/06]

I refer the Deputy to the following table, compiled by the Dublin Transportation Office, DTO, from its data and from information supplied to it by the agencies responsible for quality bus network rollout, that is, the quality bus network project office and the relevant local authorities.

The DTO points out that, in the implementation of quality bus corridors, the extent of a dedicated bus priority is not the only important consideration in making the QBC effective — it can be as important to implement bus priority at the congested points on the network and to implement other traffic management techniques along the corridor to ensure reliable running times throughout.

Extent of Quality Bus Network — March 2006

Estimated length of actual bus-priority provision in each quality bus corridor

11 QBCs — Fully Completed

Km’s

Inbound

Outbound

1

Lucan QBC

17

11.0

8.0

2

Malahide QBC

7.5

6.0

6.0

3

Stillorgan QBC

23.06

13.0

13.0

4

Finglas QBC

6.0

4.0

2.0

5

North Clondalkin QBC

12.1

3.0

2.5

6

Rathfarnam QBC

8.4

6.0

2.0

7

Tallaght QBC

12.2

5.0

2.0

8

Blanchardstown QBC

16.4

5.3

2.0

9

Swords QBC

21.6

11.0

8.0

10

South Clondalkin QBC

7.2

5.0

4.0

11

Orbital QBC

6.4

3.0

3.0

Total

138.0

72.3

52.5

Done to Date: Additional Bus Priority

Km’s

Naas Road Phase 1 — (Monastery Road to Newlands)

1

Outbound

1.5

2

Outer Ring Road (Q1)

3.3

3

N32

2.5

4

Clontarf

1.5

5

Laurel

0.5

6

Howth

5.9

7

Merrion Road

4.3

8

Peases

0.6

Total

20.1

Airport Development Projects.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

149 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if work has begun on the construction of a second terminal at Dublin Airport; when this development will be completed; the final cost of this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9101/06]

Under the Dublin Airport Authority's medium term plan for new infrastructural provision at Dublin Airport published last autumn, a new terminal and associated pier facilities, pier E, will be provided to the south of the existing terminal. These facilities are due to come on stream in 2009.

The Dublin Airport Authority has recently announced the project management and design and cost consultancy teams for the project. Work will commence immediately on the planning application and in this regard, detailed pre-planning consultation with Fingal County Council has already taken place. The Dublin Airport Authority is working towards having the terminal operational by late 2009.

The specification and cost of terminal 2 will be independently verified by experts on behalf of the Government and my Department will shortly appoint the independent verifiers following a tender process. The final cost of terminal 2 will be determined by the market through a public procurement process.

Question No. 150 answered with QuestionNo. 102.

Pension Provisions.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

151 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Transport his proposals to overcome the shortfall in the fund in view of the ongoing uncertainty regarding the pension scheme for Aer Lingus workers. [9166/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

360 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport the steps he has taken to address the pension fund deficit of more than €330 million at Aer Lingus before the planned sale of the company in six months' time. [9214/06]

Richard Bruton

Question:

371 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport if he foresees obstacles to utilising some of the proceeds of shares in Aer Lingus to supplement the deficit in the pensions of retired aviation workers. [8996/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 151, 360 and 371 together.

I have already dealt, in response to priority questions, with the Government's decision to dispose of a majority stake in Aer Lingus and the ongoing consideration, by the Minister for Finance and me, of the advisers' report on the nature, scale and timing of an investment transaction. The advisers report identifies issues that should be resolved in regard to the company's pension schemes.

I understand that, on the basis of the most recent actuarial valuation, the Irish airlines superannuation (general employees) scheme is in deficit if provision is to be made for future increases in pensions to reflect growth in the consumer price index. I also understand that, under the rules of the scheme, there is no guarantee in regard to the granting of increases in pensions. Such increases are entirely at the discretion of the trustees of the scheme. If no such increases were to be paid the scheme would be in surplus.

The scheme is a multi-employer scheme with the Dublin Airport Authority and SR Technics being employer members alongside Aer Lingus. The issue of funding is a matter for the company and its employees. However, in light of the issues raised in the advisers' report I asked the company to assess the options to deal with the issues. An increase in contributions by the company and employees would be an essential part of any solution. It may be possible, in the context of an overall solution to the pension issue, that the company may utilise some of the equity raised in a transaction for the purpose of meeting part of its commitment to resolving the funding requirements. Based on advice received to date, I do not anticipate any obstacles to implementing a solution along these lines.

Last week I asked the company to engage intensively with the trade unions and their advisers in regard to its proposal on the pensions issue. I hope to revert to Government in the coming weeks in the light of the progress in that process.

Road Network.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

152 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether it will be necessary within the near future to introduce demand management measures on the M50 as was suggested by An Bord Pleanála, Arup Consulting Engineers, the Dublin Transportation Office and the National Roads Authority at the oral hearing to examine the proposed widening and upgrade of the M50; the road tolling contracts which have been signed over the past year; the additional road tolling contracts awaiting his approval; when he expects such contracts to be agreed; and if he will postpone any finalisation of such agreements pending agreement between the Government and the National Roads Authority on the nature of future tolling arrangements on the M50 motorway. [9208/06]

I understand from the National Roads Authority that the free flow toll arrangement to be put in place on the M50 on completion of phase 1 of the upgrade in 2008, will be a single point toll. I expect to receive specific proposals later this year from the National Roads Authority on these 2008 arrangements.

The planning permission granted for the M50 upgrade requires that the National Roads Authority publish a scheme of specific demand management measures for the motorway corridor no later than three years after the upgrade has been completed in 2010. For this reason the barrier free tolling arrangements will need to be adaptable to meet the medium to long-term needs that arise and to satisfy the planning permission requirements in that regard. Comprehensive research and analysis will require to be undertaken by the National Roads Authority in the coming years in order to address the post 2010 situation and to submit proposals to the Minister for Transport at the appropriate time.

The statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll by-laws, and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads is vested in the National Roads Authority under Part V of the Roads Act 1993, as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000. Accordingly, individual PPP contracts are a matter for the National Roads Authority and I have no function in regard to the approval or signing of such contracts.

The current position in respect of toll road-PPP projects is that three projects have been completed, namely, second West Link bridge on the M50, M1, Dundalk western bypass, and the M4 Kilcock-Enfield-Kinnegad route. No PPP contracts were signed in 2005. However, I understand from the National Roads Authority that a further three contracts are expected to be awarded in 2006, that is, N25 Waterford city bypass, N7 Limerick southern ring phase II and the N3 Clonee-Kells route. I am informed that the National Roads Authority does not envisage any delays in the awarding of these contracts.

Courts Decisions.

Joan Burton

Question:

153 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Transport the degree of contact and co-operation between his Department and the Courts Service on road traffic case law; if he is satisfied with the exchange and flow of statistics and information between the two bodies; and the steps he is taking to improve matters. [9196/06]

General statistics relating to decisions taken by the courts are available in the annual reports of both the Courts Service and the Garda Síochána. Notifications of driving disqualifications and endorsements of licences ordered by the courts are sent by the Courts Service to the relevant licensing authority, which records the disqualification and-or endorsement on the driver record. A copy of such notifications is also sent by the Courts Service to my Department for information.

Legislative Programme.

Damien English

Question:

154 Mr. English asked the Minister for Transport if legislation to allow for open road tolling will be published before the summer recess; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9120/06]

I anticipate, subject to the other priorities on the legislative programme, that draft legislation to facilitate open road tolling will be introduced by mid 2006.

Road Traffic Offences.

Pat Breen

Question:

155 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Transport when proposals to deal with and to prosecute persons who use drugs and drive will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9079/06]

It is illegal in Ireland to drive while under the influence of drugs to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle. Section 49 of the Road Traffic Act 1961, as inserted by section 10 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 prohibits the driving of a mechanically propelled vehicle by a person while under the influence of an intoxicant. An intoxicant includes alcohol and drugs, and any combination of drugs and alcohol.

The Medical Bureau of Road Safety continues to analyse blood and urine specimens received from the Garda Síochána under the Road Traffic Acts for the presence of a drug or drugs where the level of alcohol determined is under the legal limit, or when a specific request for drug analysis has been received from the Garda when the alcohol result is above the legal limit. The provisional number analysed in 2005 was 750, which is 32% higher than 2004. Prosecution of offences relating to driving while under the influence of drugs is a matter for the Garda Síochána.

Question No. 156 answered with QuestionNo. 55.

EU Directives.

Liz McManus

Question:

157 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Transport the action he intends taking to transpose directive 2000/79/EC into Irish law in view of the recent European Court of Justice ruling; the reason for the delay in its transposition; and the action he is taking to address all remaining untransposed directives. [9188/06]

Directive 2000/79 deals with working time for mobile workers in civil aviation. A draft statutory instrument to implement this directive is at an advanced stage of preparation, following consultations with employee and employer representatives. The main issue outstanding is the detail of an inspection regime by the existing working time labour inspectorate under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. My officials have been liaising with that Department on this issue, and are aiming to have the directive transposed in the near future.

The working time limits contained in this directive are essentially the same as those in the existing JAR-Ops rules on flying time, which are currently implemented by the Irish Aviation Authority in Ireland. Forthcoming EU legislation in this area, known as EU-Ops, will formally transpose the JAR-Ops rules into European law by way of a regulation that is expected to be adopted later in the first half of this year. This regulation will be directly applicable in each member state.

In regard to directives not yet transposed into national law, every effort is being made to effect transpositions as soon as possible.

Question No. 158 answered with QuestionNo. 92.
Question No. 159 answered with QuestionNo. 107.
Question No. 160 answered with QuestionNo. 55.
Question No. 161 answered with QuestionNo. 127.
Question No. 162 answered with QuestionNo. 105.

Vegetable Imports.

Paul McGrath

Question:

163 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Taoiseach the volume of vegetables which has been imported from Israel in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8827/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is presented in the following table. For comparative purposes data for the preceding five years is also provided.

Vegetable Imports from Israel

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005*

Tonnes

Tonnes

Tonnes

Tonnes

Tonnes

Tonnes

Potatoes of which:

New potatoes, fresh or chilled

25

539

846

796

Potatoes main crop, fresh or chilled

40

57

8

13

210

301

Seed potatoes, fresh or chilled

8

2

Potatoes, processed

2

Carrots and turnips, fresh or chilled

15

26

2

167

1,094#

Sweet peppers, fresh or chilled

54

275

130

63

227

282

Tomatoes of which:

Tomatoes, fresh or chilled

35

110

202

138

71

55

Tomatoes, frozen

12

Tomatoes, processed

69

24

Other edible root vegetables, fresh or chilled

2

122

115

104

Sweetcorn of which:

Sweetcorn, frozen

45

50

61

109

60

Sweetcorn, fresh or chilled

9

2

3

3

Sweetcorn, processed

66

70

108

129

Sweet potatoes, fresh

22

34

48

51

62

83

Celery (other than celeriac), fresh or chilled

4

1

3

6

18

5

Onions of which:

Onions other than sets fresh or chilled

8

16

Onion sets, fresh or chilled

1

Other vegetables, fresh, chilled, frozen or processed

80

185

123

155

98

45

Total

269

744

679

1,229

2,102

2,981

* Provisional estimates.

# Currently under review.

Departmental Staff.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

164 Mr. Connolly asked the Taoiseach the number of persons with disabilities employed in his Department; the percentage of the total staff that this represents; the human resources policy of his Department with regard to the recruitment of persons with disabilities; the qualification criteria for persons with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8892/06]

Seven persons employed in my Department have voluntarily, self disclosed that they have disabilities. This represents 3.72% of total staff. The principle of equality underpins my Department's human resource policy in accordance with equality legislation and the Government's policies on diversity, dignity at work and gender equality. My Department is an equal opportunities employer. Staff are recruited through the Public Appointments Service which does not make a distinction between the qualification criteria for persons with disabilities and those with none.

General Medical Services Scheme.

Phil Hogan

Question:

165 Mr. Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will review the situation whereby old aged pensioners must pay up to €50 for a medical letter for the purpose of their application for a driving licence; her views on having this particular charge met by their medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8946/06]

Enda Kenny

Question:

166 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason people over 70 years of age with a medical card have to pay their doctor to get a medical form signed in order that they can get a renewal of their driving licence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9222/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 165 and 166 together.

Under the terms of the general medical services scheme, GMS, contract, participating general practitioners undertake to provide a range of treatments and general practitioner services for the patients on their GMS panel. Their GMS contract obliges them to provide the first and last certificates to explain work absence for their patients. All other requested certificates, such as those in respect of requirements for driving licences or life assurance policies, are a matter between the GP and the individual patient and may involve a charge.

EU Directives.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

167 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that EU Directive 2005/4/EC was implemented before 11 February 2006; if the directive was not implemented by 11 February 2006 the reason Ireland did not meet its obligations to implement this directive before the deadline; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9303/06]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

168 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that EU Directive 2005/5/EC was implemented before 18 February 2006; if the directive was not implemented by that date, the reason Ireland did not meet its obligations to implement this directive before the deadline; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9304/06]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

169 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that EU Directive 2005/10/EC was implemented before 28 February 2006; if the directive was not implemented by that date, the reason Ireland did not meet its obligations to implement this directive before the deadline; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9308/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 167 to 169, inclusive, together.

It has been decided, in the context of the Government's "Better Regulation" agenda, that these directives, which lay down the sampling methods and the methods of analysis for the official control of a number of contaminants, will be transposed by a single statutory instrument. The drafting of this statutory instrument is at an advanced stage and I expect that the matter will be finalised shortly.

Hospital Services.

Seán Ryan

Question:

170 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Limerick will be recalled for surgery at Beaumont Hospital; and if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this person was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm and was originally called to attend for surgery on 16 June 2005 to find no bed available and has heard nothing from the hospital since. [8791/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

171 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the parents of a 16 month old ill child (details supplied) in County Mayo had to wait for two hours for transport to arrive to bring their ill child to hospital on 13 February 2006; if the non availability of an ambulance on that date was due to the failure of Health Service Executive west region to provide a 24-hour, full-time ambulance station service in the Erris region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8792/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Seán Crowe

Question:

172 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) who has been on a waiting list for six months for a badly needed high chair after a hip operation; and if so, when they will be granted same as they are in urgent need. [8810/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

173 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be given an appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8815/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Disabled Drivers.

John Perry

Question:

174 Mr. Perry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she received correspondence dated 10 February 2006 (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8818/06]

My Department has received the correspondence referred to by the Deputy. The primary medical certificate is a requirement of the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme. The Department of Finance has statutory responsibility for this scheme. Accordingly, the correspondence has been forwarded to the Minister for Finance.

Pharmacy Regulations.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

175 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether it is beneficial to require chemists to advertise, promote and stock in a visible location organ donor cards; if she will engage pharmacy representatives in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8843/06]

My Department is advised by the Health Service Executive that arrangements have recently been put in place to facilitate the distribution of organ donor cards throughout the community pharmacy network. The Irish Pharmaceutical Union has arranged with the Irish Kidney Association on behalf of the Irish donor network, for pharmacies to stock organ donor cards.

The annual organ donor awareness campaign, which is organised by the Irish donor network, administered by the Irish Kidney Association and which has been supported by my Department, highlights the requirement for increased organ donation. In addition, and in the context of increasing the number of donor organs available for transplant, the Health Service Executive was 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. My Department is advised that this review has commenced.

Health Services.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

176 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in respect of the survivors of symphysiotomy procedures; the measures she proposes to take to provide redress for these patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8862/06]

My predecessor, Deputy Martin, met the survivors of symphysiotomy group, SOS, in late 2003 and agreed that a range of measures would be put in place to support the group.

My Department is advised by the Health Service Executive, HSE, that the current position with regard to the services now in place is as follows. The former health boards and the relevant voluntary hospitals appointed liaison officers, who met and continue to meet with patients that have undergone symphysiotomy to discuss their health care needs. Independent clinical advice is available, on request, through the liaison personnel, to patients who have undergone symphysiotomy. This has already been availed of by a number of members of SOS and appropriate follow-up has been arranged. An assessment service for patients was established at Cappagh Hospital, Dublin. This service is provided by a multi-disciplinary team which undertakes an assessment of patients, following which, recommendations for care pathways are discussed with individual patients. Medical cards have been granted, based on medical grounds, to SOS patients who do not have such eligibility.

The HSE has recently issued replacement medical cards that contain a unique patient identifier that is designed to allow for the fast-tracking of patients requiring hospital appointments and/or treatments. The provision of certain non-GMS items recommended for patients by their GP and/or consultant will continue and the pharmacist-supplier will be reimbursed by the HSE. In addition, medical expenses related to symphysiotomy may be refunded, where necessary, to patients in respect of medication/private treatments required to address the effects of symphysiotomy.

Applications for home help and modifications are dealt with on an individual basis and applications are fast-tracked, where necessary. Independent counselling services are available to patients where requested. Information packs have been made available to general practitioners and relevant health care personnel.

I met the chairperson of the SOS group and a representative of the HSE on 17 January 2006. The chairperson expressed satisfaction with regard to progess made to date. I am satisfied from the foregoing that considerable progress has been made in putting in place the required level of support for patients who have undergone symphysiotomy.

The HSE will continue to oversee the provision of necessary support services for this patient group. With the increasing use of caesarean section as a means of delivery, symphysiotomy is now rarely employed in obstetric practice.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

177 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the extent of breast screening services here; the proposals she has to extend the service to those counties that currently lack same; when it is expected to have BreastCheck available countrywide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8863/06]

I recently met representatives of BreastCheck and they are fully aware of my wish to have the programme rolled out nationally as quickly as possible. For this to happen, essential elements of the roll out must be in place including adequate staffing, effective training and quality assurance programmes.

I have made additional revenue funding of €2.3 million available to BreastCheck this year to provide, among other things, for the early recruitment and training of staff. BreastCheck is confident that the target date of next year for the commencement of roll out to southern and western regions will be met. A more exact date for roll out will depend on the availability of adequately trained medical and technical staff, particularly radiographers.

BreastCheck recently interviewed for clinical directors for both regions and is in the process of making appointments. BreastCheck is also recruiting radiographers and a second consultant radiologist for each region. BreastCheck also recently received planning permission for the screening unit at University College Hospital, Galway, and is now proceeding to tender for its construction.

BreastCheck is awaiting planning permission for the unit at the South Infirmary-Victoria Hospital, Cork.

Hospital Accommodation.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

178 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the proposed replacement hospital for Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda; if a site, or sites, have been identified; if feasibility studies have been carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8864/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

The need to redevelop Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital is accepted. Last year a design team was appointed by the Health Service Executive, HSE, to look at the feasibility of redeveloping on the present site. Given the likely level of disruption and costs involved the HSE is now looking at the costs and benefits of developing the hospital on an alternative site. The HSE has also commissioned a study to determine the ideal configuration of hospital services throughout the north-east region and to evaluate the benefits and risks associated with the provision of acute services on five sites for a population of 350,000.

Ambulance Service.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

179 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position with regard to the provision of an air ambulance service for the entire country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8865/06]

A consultancy study jointly commissioned by my Department and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Belfast — DHSSPS — on the costs and benefits associated with the introduction of a dedicated helicopter emergency medical service for the island of Ireland, was published last year and is available on my Department's website. The study concluded that the introduction of a dedicated inter-hospital air ambulance service would be appropriate in an all-island context.

In considering the report, the DHSSPS advised that its priority at present is the need for further investment to improve the ground ambulance service.

On foot of the report my Department had detailed discussions with the Department of Defence regarding the future provision of air ambulance services by the Air Corps. Arising from these discussions, a detailed service level agreement has been prepared and signed. The signatories to the agreement are the Department of Defence, the Department of Health and Children, the Health Service Executive, the Defence Forces and the Air Corps.

The agreement sets out the range services to be provided by the Air Corps, specifically, as follows: inter-hospital transfer for spinal and serious injury and illness; air transport of neonates requiring immediate medical intervention in Ireland; air transport of patients requiring emergency organ transplant in the UK; air transport of organ harvest teams within Ireland; and air transport of patients from offshore islands to mainland hospitals where the coastguard service is not available.

A steering group comprising representation from each of the signatories to the service level agreement has been established. The group will monitor the operation of the agreement and will amend, if necessary, the provisions of the agreement to take account of service developments, including the new fleet replacement programme currently being put in place by the Air Corps.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

180 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason home help has been withdrawn from a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if she will review the case and grant home help; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8873/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

181 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Health Service Executive will review a medical card in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8. [8883/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospital Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

182 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the Health Service Executive south-east area hospital group will be notified of its 2006 allocation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8885/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Finian McGrath

Question:

183 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5; and if she will ensure that a patient is never again allowed to leave a hospital without the proper equipment. [8886/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Finian McGrath

Question:

184 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will work with a person (details supplied) on important issues relating to people with disabilities and the Lucan disability action group; and if they will be given the maximum advice, support and assistance. [8888/06]

The Tánaiste and I are aware of, and acknowledge, the services provided by Lucan disability action group. The Tánaiste has met with this group in recent months.

The group has been in receipt of funding for the past numbers of years from FÁS under the social economy programme and I understand that there is potential for the organisation to seek continuing funding from FÁS, albeit at a reduced rate for 2006.

While Lucan disability action group has not been in receipt of funding from the Health Service Executive to date in respect of the services that it provides, these services complement the range of supports already provided by the HSE to persons with disabilities in the Lucan area.

Accordingly, it is appropriate that the group should engage with the HSE concerning the possibility of entering into an agreement for the provision of services to be funded by the executive in accordance with its functions under the Health Act 2004. The group has been made aware of this.

Child Care Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

185 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason that parliamentary questions to her Department seeking her views on children’s issues are regularly transferred to other Departments (details supplied); if she accepts that, as Minister for children, she has a responsibility to share her views on these matters and not to pass the buck to other Departments; her views on whether this pattern demonstrates that children’s issues are given short shrift by her Department and that this Government needs a more dedicated, integrated approach to children's concerns; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8890/06]

This Government is committed to addressing the needs of children and to placing children's issues at the heart of Government. This commitment is evident in the establishment of the social services inspectorate, the former national children's office and more recently the Office of the Minister for Children.

The office of the Minister of State with responsibility for children places the interests of children at the heart of Government and builds on the successes already achieved in the context of the national children's strategy. The responsibilities of the new office within the Department of Health and Children comprise the following functions: the equal opportunities childcare programme — transferred from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; the programmes and activities of the national children's office; and policy and legislative work on child welfare and protection — Department of Health and Children.

The new youth justice service of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the early years education functions of the Department of Education and Science will be co-located at the new office. However, these Departments will retain responsibility for these areas.

The purpose of bringing the various responsibilities together is to maximise the development and co-ordination of policies for children and young persons at the highest level.

As Minister of State with responsibility for children with delegated responsibilities in the Departments of Health and Children, Education and Science and Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I attend Government meetings. This gives a strong voice for the interests of children and young persons at Cabinet level.

One of the key strengths of the former national children's office has been its cross-cutting functions, which allowed it to work with other agencies in an innovative way. The new structure allows this work to be continued with a renewed focus in the context of a more comprehensive strategic framework and simpler administrative arrangements.

Under the new arrangements, Departments other than the Department of Health and Children continue to have responsibility for issues relating to children within their remit, such as those raised in the parliamentary questions referred to by the Deputy. Question No. 1195 of 25 January 2006, related to intercountry police/Garda vetting issues and was therefore a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Question No. 182 of 1 December 2005, which concerned family reunification procedures, was also a matter for the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform. Both of those questions were transferred to that Department and answered by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Question No. 436 of 28 February concerned a report by the Equality Authority and the National Youth Council of Ireland. This was a matter for the Department of Education and Science and was transferred to that Department and was answered by the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science with responsibility for youth affairs.

The foregoing demonstrates that children's services are being dealt with in a strategic manner and that an integrated approach is being taken to children's issues through the establishment of the office of the Minister of State with responsibility for children.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

186 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of persons with disabilities employed in her Department; the percentage of the total staff that this represents; the human resources policy of her Department with regard to the recruitment of persons with disabilities; the qualification criteria for persons with disabilities; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8893/06]

There are currently 15 people employed in my Department recorded as having a disability, which represents 2.3% of the total staff number serving. The figure is lower than 3% due to a number of circumstances recently.

The Public Appointments Service undertakes the recruitment of staff to posts in the Department following approval from the Department of Finance. Provided the qualifying criteria are satisfied for a particular competition, persons with disabilities are eligible to compete in all such competitions. Every effort is made to ensure that the particular needs of persons with disabilities are met throughout the selection process.

Furthermore, my Department is participating in the willing able monitoring project, WAM, during this summer. The WAM project, which is administered by the association of higher education access and disability, AHEAD, aims to provide graduates with disabilities temporary placements with public and private sector employers.

Health Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

187 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kerry will be called for orthodontic treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8916/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Avian Flu.

Liz McManus

Question:

188 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that vaccines acquired to combat bird flu are sourced from a company that was forced to close its plant temporarily due to a failure to meet safety standards; if she has ensured that all checks have been carried out to ensure that standards are fully in accordance with international requirements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8920/06]

I announced the purchase of H5N1 vaccine on 24 February. We have secured sufficient H5N1 vaccine for 200,000 people, that is, 400,000 doses. The vaccine is scheduled for delivery in May and October 2006. This purchase forms part of the award of contracts to Baxter and Chiron, announced by the Department of Health in London, for supply of H5N1 vaccine. This is part of our overall pandemic preparedness strategy.

The UK tendering exercise was conducted in accordance with the EU procurement regulations. Five tenders were received and these were assessed against pre-determined criteria. The tender bids from Baxter and Chiron were judged best to meet all the required criteria, including technical and scientific requirements as well as providing the best value for money.

The Chiron H5N1 vaccine is being manufactured in Italy and not at the site in Liverpool where there were manufacturing difficulties concerning the seasonal flu vaccine in 2004. I have no concerns regarding the supply of vaccine from the Italian plant.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

189 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there are arrangements in place for the sharing of respite facilities for children and young adults on an all Ireland basis; if such arrangements do not exist, if they will be initiated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8932/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

190 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the provision of a dementia unit for a day care centre and a nursing home (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8935/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

John Dennehy

Question:

191 Mr. Dennehy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the reason the rehabilitation unit planned for the southern region, with a location in Cork, as agreed by the then Southern Health Board and the National Rehabilitation Board, has not been proceeded with; her further views on whether the southern patients should not all have to go to Dún Laoghaire for attention and services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8936/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Irish Blood Transfusion Service.

John Dennehy

Question:

192 Mr. Dennehy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to whether the Blood Transfusion Service Board intends to replace the services building in Cork, which the Blood Transfusion Services Board and the Department of Health and Children agreed in November 1997 needed replacement; if she is satisfied that the existing facility meets all of the requirements of standards set by the Irish Medicines Board and monitored by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8937/06]

The Irish Medicines Board, IMB, conducts twice yearly inspections of all IBTS facilities in line with the recommendations of the Finlay tribunal report of 1997. The IMB was also designated by me during 2005 as the regulatory authority for blood establishments and hospital blood banks under the EU Directive on Blood Quality and Safety.

In 2004, the IBTS invested more than €3 million in the refurbishment of its Cork centre to ensure compliance with good manufacturing practice, GMP, standards. Whilst I am informed that this has met the immediate requirements of the regulator, the IMB has stated in its annual report for 2004 that the replacement of the Cork centre with a purpose-built facility will be necessary to achieve and maintain full GMP compliance in the medium to long term.

There is provision in the capital investment framework 2005-09 for the appointment of a design team and commencement of the planning process for the new centre. This project is the subject of ongoing consultations between the IBTS and the Department.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

193 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the maximum support and assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) and their family; if all elderly patients with dementia will be dealt with properly; and if the proper resources and services will be provided to this person. [8943/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Sale of Hospital.

Phil Hogan

Question:

194 Mr. Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that the Lacken Pitch and Putt Club, Kilkenny, will be retained for the benefit of the local community; if a decision will be made to proceed with the sale of St. Canice’s Hospital, Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8947/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hospitals Building Programme.

John McGuinness

Question:

195 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if funding of €2.6 million for the completion of phase two of a project at St. Canice's Hospital, Kilkenny, will be approved for the provision of long-stay beds for the care of the elderly in Kilkenny; if a response will be expedited to the submission and requests made by the Health Service Executive to her Department regarding this urgent project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8953/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

196 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the nursing home section, community care services, Kilkenny has reached a decision regarding approval for a discretionary payment in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if a decision will be expedited. [8954/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Dan Neville

Question:

197 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when speech therapy will be made available for a person (details supplied) in the mid-western area. [8958/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Hepatitis C Incidence.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

198 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will reconsider her stance on providing free health care for the estimated 100 women who are severely affected with hepatitis C but have not tested positive but have every other manifestation of the illness; and if, in view of the small number involved and the effects of hepatitis C on their bodies, she will further reconsider her stance on this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8960/06]

The issue of an extension of the Health (Amendment) Act 1996 to provide free health care for the patients referred to by the Deputy, has been carefully examined and advice taken from a number of relevant experts.

While I am sympathetic to the women in question, I cannot support an extension to the current eligibility requirements. This position was signalled to the support group representing the women at a meeting that I had with them in February 2005. Following further analysis of the matter, I confirmed my decision to the support group in September last.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Joan Burton

Question:

199 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the way in which the daily figures regarding the number of patients who have been admitted to hospital through accident and emergency departments, yet are still lying on trolleys, are compiled; if trolleys are counted at the same time every day; if individual hospitals have been given guidelines on the way in which to conduct this count; if so, the guidelines for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8963/06]

The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for collecting data on hospital activity. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Medical Cards.

Mary Upton

Question:

200 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason all patients suffering from cystic fibrosis are not automatically entitled to a medical card; the reason that these patients, who suffer from a long-term illness, should not be entitled to a medical card; if she will review this situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8965/06]

At present, medical cards are granted primarily on the basis of means and individual circumstances. I have no plans to provide for the granting of medical cards to any particular group as a whole. However, my Department is currently reviewing all legislation concerning eligibility for health and personal social services with a view to making the system as fair and transparent as possible.

Cystic fibrosis is one of a number of conditions covered by the long-term illness scheme. This provides for the supply, without charge, of drugs, medicines and surgical appliances to persons with this condition.

Hospital Services.

Willie Penrose

Question:

201 Mr. Penrose asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will take steps to have a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath immediately admitted to Tallaght Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8971/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

202 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if protective clothing will be issued to home help and home support persons employed by Health Service Executive; if they will be issued with medical soap and proper aprons; and her plans to issue uniforms and identity badges to these employees. [8984/06]

The Deputy's question relates to human resource management issues within the Health Service Executive. As this is a matter for the executive under the Health Act 2004, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Michael Lowry

Question:

203 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a residential place will be found for a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary with spina bifida; the reason for the delay in securing a residential place; if she will ensure that this person is placed in an appropriate care environment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8990/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

204 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to provide at least one specialist palliative care inpatient unit in each of the Health Service Executive areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9020/06]

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 case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

205 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to ensure that all palliative care patients have access to respite care in a setting of their choice; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9021/06]

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.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

206 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to provide care attendants to support families of palliative care patients in the community; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9022/06]

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.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

207 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to ensure that all consultants in palliative care medicine have access to dedicated specialist beds in specialist palliative care units or acute general hospitals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9023/06]

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.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

208 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to ensure that the provision of services and equipment for palliative care patients should be based on need and not on ability to pay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9024/06]

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.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

209 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of specialist palliative care beds per 100,000 population which are available in each Health Service Executive area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9025/06]

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.

James Breen

Question:

210 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the official figures regarding the number of children suffering from autism who are awaiting assessment in the Clare area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9026/06]

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.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

211 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of ambulances serving County Kildare through hospital and ambulance centres in 2006; and the corresponding figures from 1996. [9033/06]

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.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

212 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Wexford will be called for an appointment in Waterford Regional Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9036/06]

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 have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

213 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of people who have applied for drug addiction treatment in the south-east region from 2000 to 2005, inclusive; the cost of such treatment in that period; the locations where such treatment takes place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9037/06]

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.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

214 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of houses which were completed under the special housing aid for the elderly in County Wexford in the years 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9038/06]

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.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

215 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans for the proposed new accident and emergency department in Wexford General Hospital; the date the new accident and emergency department will begin construction; the date the new outpatients department will begin construction; the dates for construction to end on both projects; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9039/06]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

217 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the serious and continuous overcrowding in the accident and emergency department in Wexford General Hospital; her plans to solve this problem; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9041/06]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

218 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the serious overcrowding in Wexford General Hospital and that there are an additional 40 beds needed on top of the 19 bed unit that is currently under construction; her plans to solve this problem in the way of building another unit to accommodate up to 40 beds on top of the 19 bed unit currently under construction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9042/06]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

224 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the serious overcrowding in Wexford General Hospital; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that the stretcher ambulance beds are used as trolleys in the accident and emergency department thus holding up the ambulance due to the stretcher being used to facilitate patients in the accident and emergency department; her views on whether this is a satisfactory position to be in; her plans to solve the problem; the action she will take to stop ambulance stretchers being used to stop the emergency services of ambulances being held up; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9050/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 215, 217, 218 and 224 together.

The Deputy's questions 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 issued directly to the Deputy.

Official Engagements.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

216 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she last made a visit to Wexford General Hospital; her plans to visit in the near future; if not, if she will make plans to visit the hospital soon to see at first hand the overcrowding there; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9040/06]

The Deputy will wish to note that I have made several visits to hospitals around the country following my appointment as Minister for Health and Children. I have not yet been in a position to visit Wexford General Hospital. It is my intention to continue to visit various facilities around the country, including Wexford General Hospital, as my schedule allows.

Questions Nos. 217 and 218 answered with Question No. 215.

Health Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

219 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans for a hospital (details supplied) in County Wexford; if there are plans within the Health Service Executive to sell off adjoining lands; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9043/06]

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.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

220 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding phase two of St. John’s Hospital, Enniscorthy; when phase two of St. John’s Hospital will begin construction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9044/06]

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.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

221 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Wexford will be called for their appointment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9045/06]

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 have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

222 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the plans that have been brought forward to her Department for a centre (details supplied); the action she will take on same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9046/06]

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.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

223 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the future of Care Doc in County Wexford in the four main towns of Enniscorthy, Wexford, Gorey and New Ross; the rota hours and day at each of the towns; the future plans for same in each town; if she has satisfied herself with the level of service that Care Doc is giving in each town in the county; if there will be an extra service due to the increase of population; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9047/06]

The issue raised in 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. 224 answered with QuestionNo. 215.

Pat Breen

Question:

225 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when an application for subvention will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9051/06]

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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

226 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that public patients in Cork are having to wait for up to four years to see a consultant; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that of the 40,000 plus patients treated by National Treatment Purchase Fund since its inception in 2002 only 6.5% or 2,600 of those were from the Cork area; her views on whether the delay in seeing consultants is preventing many patients with serious ailments availing of the National Treatment Purchase Fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9074/06]

In 2005 I asked the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, to examine the needs of patients waiting longest on outpatient waiting lists. As a result, the NTPF set up a number of outpatient pilot projects around the country. The outcome was that approximately 4,400 persons who had been waiting longest in a number of specialties received consultations at outpatient level in private hospitals.

The NTPF intends to expand its outpatient initiative in 2006 and the fund has asked for proposals from hospitals in this regard. The fund has reported that, to date, no proposals have been received from the acute hospitals in Cork.

Responsibility for the management and delivery of acute hospital services is a matter for the Health Service Executive. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have a response provided for the Deputy on the management of outpatient waiting lists in Cork hospitals and any proposals to reduce outpatient waiting times.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

227 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children why nothing has been done for a person (details supplied) who is on a waiting list; and if she will work closely with the family on this issue. [9092/06]

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.

John McGuinness

Question:

228 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will expedite an application for a medical card in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9126/06]

The issue raised in 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.

Parliamentary Questions.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

229 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 301 of 31 January 2006. [9130/06]

My Department has made inquiries with the Health Service Executive's parliamentary affairs division on this matter. The executive has advised that its national care group manager has written to the Deputy indicating that a reply to the matter concerned is being prepared and that it is anticipated that a final response will issue shortly.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

230 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 318 of 31 January 2006. [9131/06]

My Department has been advised by the Health Service Executive that a reply issued to the Deputy on 2 March 2006.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

231 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when capital funding will be provided for the renovation of the upstairs of a building (details supplied) in County Mayo. [9132/06]

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.

Doctor Registration.

Tom Hayes

Question:

232 Mr. Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the issue of permanent registration for section 7.6 doctors has been addressed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9213/06]

The Medical Council has informed me that this matter issub judice. It would, therefore, not be appropriate for me to make any comment at this time.

Health Services.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

233 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children why a person (details supplied) in County Mayo, who had an enucleation of the left eye due to a tumour, is unable to get an artificial eye replacement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9217/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

234 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo was assessed for a long-stay bed in Westport; if so, on what date; and if this person is being actively considered for a long-stay bed in Westport as requested. [9230/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

235 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if respite care was provided for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo as had been requested by the director of public health nursing; and the reason no response issued to a letter of request. [9231/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

236 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the Health Service Executive did not reply to correspondence seeking a long-stay bed for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; if the bed as requested was provided; and the reason correspondence was not replied to. [9232/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

237 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a long-stay bed was provided for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo as per the wishes of their family and requested in a letter to the director of public health nursing by this Deputy; and the reason no reply issued to this request. [9233/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

238 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a long-stay bed was provided for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo as had been requested in correspondence to the Health Service Executive; and the reason no reply issued in this regard. [9234/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

239 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason no reply issued from the director of public health nursing following a request for a long-stay bed for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [9235/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

240 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of long-stay beds available in County Mayo and their location; the numbers currently on the waiting lists for those beds; and their average age profile. [9236/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

241 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a short-stay bed with physiotherapy was provided for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo as had been requested by the director of public health nursing; and the reason no reply issued to this request. [9237/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

242 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a long-stay bed was provided for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and the reason no response issued from the Health Service Executive in this regard, particularly in view of the age of the person involved. [9238/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

243 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of people in private nursing homes in County Mayo who have requested a long-stay bed in a public nursing home. [9239/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

244 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of people in County Mayo on a waiting list for assessment for a long-stay bed; and the numbers currently on the waiting list for assessment for a short-stay or respite bed in public nursing homes. [9240/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

245 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of short-stay or respite beds in public nursing homes in County Mayo and their location; the numbers on the waiting lists for those beds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9241/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

246 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a long-stay bed will be provided for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and the reason no response issued from the Health Service Executive in this regard. [9242/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

247 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason no response has issued from the director of public health nursing to correspondence in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if this person will be given a transfer to Westport as requested. [9243/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

248 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo is being considered for a long-stay bed; if they have been assessed; if they will be considered for a long-stay bed in a nursing unit; and the reason no response issued from the director of public health nursing to a query in this regard. [9244/06]

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.

Michael Ring

Question:

249 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason transport and a personal assistant have not been provided for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9245/06]

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 issue a reply directly to the Deputy.

Martin Ferris

Question:

250 Mr. Ferris asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the person who has responsibility for infection control in the psychiatric unit at Kerry General Hospital. [9246/06]

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 issue a reply directly to the Deputy.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

251 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo has to wait for an MRI scan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9247/06]

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 case investigated and to issue a reply directly to the Deputy.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

252 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she is aware that a procedure for a person (details supplied) in Letterkenny General Hospital has been cancelled on five occasions during the past four months because no beds are available; her plans to improve the bed situation in Letterkenny General Hospital; when it is expected that the procedure prescribed for this person will be carried out; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9292/06]

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 case investigated and to issue a reply directly to the Deputy.

Cancer Screening Programme.

John Curran

Question:

253 Mr. Curran asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will review the operation of BreastCheck; and if, in particular, she will consider offering the service to women outside the target group aged 50 to 64 years. [9352/06]

BreastCheck, the national breast screening programme, is available to women in the 50 to 64 age group in the eastern, north-eastern, south-eastern and midlands regions. There are approximately 160,000 women in the target age group in these regions and since the programme commenced, more than 1,600 cancers have been detected.

Planning is under way for the roll-out of the programme to the remaining regions. There are approximately 130,000 women in the target population for screening in the southern and western regions. BreastCheck is confident that the target date of next year for the commencement of the roll-out will be met. On full roll-out, women in the 50 to 64 age group in every county will have access to breast screening and follow-up treatment, where appropriate.

When the national roll-out of the programme is sufficiently developed and it is assured that a quality service is being delivered at national level, consideration will be given to including older women and thereby continuing the screening of women in the programme who have reached 65 years of age. There is no evidence of the value of population-based breast screening programmes for women under 50 years of age and there are no plans to extend the programme to this age group.

Assisted Human Reproduction.

Richard Bruton

Question:

254 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her policy on human embryo research; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9358/06]

This issue was examined by the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction. The commission's report was published in May 2005 and, as I indicated at the time, the Government decided to refer the report to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children. This will allow for further political consideration of the complex issues involved.

Research of this kind also arises under the EU seventh research framework programme. My colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Martin, has lead responsibility in regard to Ireland's involvement in the negotiations in this regard.

Health Services.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

255 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Galway is not entitled to get a new exercise motivator-bicycle; if she is aware that their existing exercise motivator is not repairable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9359/06]

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 issue a reply directly to the Deputy.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Billy Timmins

Question:

256 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she or a person in her Department issued a directive to hospitals directing that, if necessary, elective surgery be cancelled to enable people in accident and emergency departments for more than three days to take up beds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9413/06]

I have not directed any hospital to cancel elective surgery where necessary to make beds available for patients in accident and emergency departments, nor am I aware of anyone in my Department having done so.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

257 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of an application for a medical card for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9421/06]

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 issue a reply directly to the Deputy.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

258 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Louth child and adolescent psychiatric services will offer an appointment to a person (details supplied) in County Louth at the request of their family doctor and school principal. [9461/06]

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 issue a reply directly to the Deputy.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

259 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the appointment of a personal assistant in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [9563/06]

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 issue a reply directly to the Deputy.

National Historic Properties.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

260 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance if an inventory of Office of Public Works controlled public parks, with and without playground facilities, has been carried out; if so, if he will supply a copy of the inventory; and if not, if he will initiate such a study. [8999/06]

An inventory of playground facilities in national historic properties owned by the Office of Public Works will be carried out in the near future.

Decentralisation Programme.

Tom Hayes

Question:

261 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Finance the progress made in decentralising sections of his Department to Tipperary town. [9266/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works have informed me that contracts have been signed for the purchase of a site earmarked for decentralisation in Tipperary town and that they expect the sale to close shortly.

Tax Collection.

Tony Gregory

Question:

262 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance if the income tax demand for 2004 made to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 will be reviewed in view of the information supplied. [9705/06]

Tony Gregory

Question:

266 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Finance if the tax demand for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 takes into account the person’s redundancy entitlements and subsequent employment entitlements. [8870/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 262 and 266 together.

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the tax demand arose because of the incorrect operation of PAYE by one of the person's employers, who refunded tax to him in error. No tax was paid on the redundancy payments the person received as they were not taxable. No relief, therefore, is due in this regard. However, there is a further minor adjustment due to him which will reduce the underpayment to €5,797.94. A revised demand will issue shortly. The Revenue Commissioners have also written to the person with a full explanation.

Disabled Drivers.

John Perry

Question:

263 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance if he received correspondence dated 10 February 2006 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8819/06]

I have received a letter from the person concerned. She applied on behalf of her daughter for a primary medical certificate in respect of the tax concessions available under the disabled drivers and disabled passengers (tax concessions) scheme. She was not awarded the certificate and wishes to appeal the decision. The senior area medical officer of the relevant Health Service Executive area is responsible for deciding applications for the primary medical certificate under the scheme. Refusal of the certificate can be appealed to The Secretary, Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, National Rehabilitation Hospital, Rochestown Avenue, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin. I have no direct role in this appeals process.

A person who is to qualify for the primary medical certificate must be permanently and severely disabled and satisfy one of the following conditions as set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994: be entirely or almost entirely without the use of both legs; be entirely without the use of one leg and almost entirely without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs; be without both hands or without both arms; be without one or both legs; be entirely or almost entirely without the use of both hands or arms and entirely or almost entirely without the use of one leg; or have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

Tax Code.

Jack Wall

Question:

264 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance if an application for tax relief by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be processed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8829/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer's claim for service charges has been processed and notification of refunds arising to him have issued, dated 28 February 2006.

Semi-State Bodies.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

265 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that under the Sugar Bill Act 1991, worker directors were to be retained under the same status as workers of other semi-State bodies, that is, in terms of remuneration; if he is aware that instead their remuneration was reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8840/06]

Section 6 (1) of the Sugar Act 1991, No. 3/91, states:

Every person who immediately before the transfer date was an employee of the Company, shall, on the transfer date, enjoy the same rights (including rights under a pension or superannuation scheme of the Company) and be subject to the same obligations as he enjoyed and was subject to immediately before the said date.

The "transfer" refers to the transfer of shares held by the Minister for Finance in Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann to the holding company established for the purpose of the Act.

The Worker Participation (State Enterprise) Act 1977, No. 6/77, provided for the appointment of worker directors to the boards of various State companies, including Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann. The board of Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann ceased to exist after the sale of the company. The Minister has no function in regard to the remuneration of employees of any private sector company.

Question No. 266 answered with QuestionNo. 262.

Tax Code.

John McGuinness

Question:

267 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance if a P21 will be issued immediately to a person (details supplied) in County Carlow. [8872/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a P21 for the year 2005 issued to the taxpayer on 28 February 2006. A revised P21 for 2004 will issue in the next few days. The combined reviews will show a small refund due and a cheque will issue to the taxpayer shortly.

Departmental Staff.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

268 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance the number of persons with disabilities employed in his Department; the percentage of the total staff this represents; the human resources policy of his Department with regard to the recruitment of persons with disabilities; the qualification criteria for persons with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8894/06]

At year end 2005, 19 staff were recorded as having a disability, equal to 2.85% of staff. The Department of Finance, in common with all other Departments and Civil Service offices, fully implements the Government's policy on the employment of people with a disability.

As part of a review of policy on the employment of people with a disability in the Civil Service, my Department commissioned independent research in regard to the operation of the 3% employment target. A survey carried out as part of this research which was published as Employment and Career Progression of People with a Disability in the Irish Civil Service, IPA 2002, shows 7% of Civil Service staff have a disability compared with the 2% to 3% generally reported in the annual surveys. The consultants, therefore, concluded that the arrangements for reporting disabilities must be addressed.

In the light of the consultants' recommendations, the Government approved proposals from the Minister for Finance to improve the operation of the existing policy. These included the development, in conjunction with the staff unions, of a new code of practice for all Departments to support staff with a disability. A proposal was also made for ensuring the Civil Service continues to provide employment opportunities which might not otherwise be available for people with a disability.

The possible use of a survey based on voluntary self-disclosure both for new staff on appointment and for existing staff will be considered in discussions with the staff unions as part of the development of the code of practice. As this gives rise to complex issues about confidentiality and the use of information, specific guidelines on these matters are being examined as part of the new code of practice for the Civil Service.

The same qualification criteria apply to all staff being recruited to the Civil Service. In competitions, candidates are assessed on the basis of common standards of education and experience. However, some special arrangements are made from time to time to ensure people with a disability competing for Civil Service posts are accommodated and that allowance is made for their disability.

Tax Code.

Richard Bruton

Question:

269 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the number of taxpayers who have paid tax at the top rate in each year over the past ten years; the percentage of this group as a percentage of the total number of eligible taxpayers in each year in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8934/06]

I assume the Deputy is seeking the numbers of higher rate taxpayers as a percentage of all income earners on the income tax record in each year. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested by the Deputy is as follows:

Tax year

Higher rate No.

%

1996-1997

388,580

27.96

1997-1998

424,050

28.40

1998-1999

481,970

30.41

1999-2000

542,980

32.57

2000-2001

540,430

30.62

2001†

534,990

29.89

2002

506,810

26.89

2003*

559,540

29.04

2004*

641,060

32.27

2005*

666,430

32.85

2006*, post-budget

658,080

31.91

†Short tax "year" from 6 April 2001 to 31 December 2001.

*Provisional and likely to be revised.

The figures for the numbers of income earners have been rounded to the nearest ten. The figures for the years 1996-97 to 2002, inclusive, are based on income data derived from income tax returns held on Revenue records and have been grossed up to an overall expected level to adjust for incompleteness in the numbers of returns on record at the time the data were extracted for analytical purposes.

For the years 2003 to date, the figures are estimates from the Revenue tax forecasting model using actual data for the year 2002 adjusted as necessary to reflect actual or estimated growth in employment and wages for the year in question. From the 1999-2000 tax year onwards, personal credits — formerly allowances — and employee credits — formerly PAYE allowances — are deducted after tax is calculated rather than before the tax calculation, as was previously the case. This should be taken into account in comparing numbers for 1999-2000 and later years with earlier years. It should be noted that a married couple who have elected or been deemed to have elected for joint assessment are counted as one tax unit.

Tax Collection.

Joan Burton

Question:

270 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the estimated value of tax refunds due to individual taxpayers but not claimed for each year from 1998 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8964/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that for reasons to do with the structure and operation of the tax assessment and collection system, it is not possible to estimate the value of tax refunds which have not been claimed by individual taxpayers.

For PAYE taxpayers, the tax collection system is designed to collect an employee's tax liability for a year on a cumulative basis over the year. It can only collect the correct amount of tax where the employee has claimed and been granted all the reliefs to which he or she is entitled. Revenue can only allow tax credits and reliefs on the basis of the information that is known to them. If there is a change in circumstances which has not been notified to Revenue, the information on the tax credit certificate will be incorrect and the system will not operate as intended, resulting in the wrong amount of tax being deducted.

For example, a PAYE taxpayer may become self-employed during the year and in this case the overpayment would be subsequently offset against any Schedule D income tax due. Likewise, a PAYE taxpayer may have received dividend or other non-employment income during the year or a capital gain which has not yet been declared to Revenue. Some reliefs are based on actual expenditure by the taxpayer and can only be claimed when the amount of that expenditure is known, that is, after the end of the relevant tax year. Examples of this are medical expenses, certain dental expenses, third level tuition fees and rent relief. Repayments can only be made in response to specific information being provided for Revenue.

The amount of any tax overpaid can only be established by the individual concerned making a claim and a return showing all income and credits and reliefs due. The vast majority of taxpayers are conscious of the tax credits and reliefs to which they are entitled and, where claims are necessary, they take the required action.

Revenue makes every effort possible to inform taxpayers of their entitlements. In the case of the PAYE sector, the tax credit certificate sent to each taxpayer is accompanied by a detailed leaflet setting out a wide range of information in regard to: main personal tax credits available for the year in question with comparative figures for the preceding year; tax rates and tax bands for the year in question; and the procedures for claiming an adjustment to the tax credit certificate. Where additional tax credits are claimed, the necessary adjustments in the taxpayer's affairs are made speedily.

In the case of self-employed taxpayers and all other taxpayers whose tax is not collected through the PAYE system, a return of their income and a claim for allowances and reliefs is made under what is known as self-assessment. The individual is assessed for income tax on the basis of the income, allowances, deductions and tax credits included in this return. If the self-assessed taxpayer does not make this return — they are obliged to do so by law — it is not possible to determine the allowances and so on to which they are entitled. Refund amounts arising from notices of assessment are refunded to the taxpayers without delay; in some instances, on the same day as the notice of assessment is received.

Tax Code.

Michael Lowry

Question:

271 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance the grants and financial supports available for the construction of nursing homes; the changes to the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8985/06]

Capital expenditure incurred on the construction or refurbishment of registered nursing homes may be written off for tax purposes over seven years at the rate of 15% per annum over the first six years and 10% in the seventh year. To qualify for allowances the home must be operated or managed as a registered nursing home within the meaning of section 2 of the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 and be registered under section 4 of that Act.

I will introduce a number of changes to this scheme in the 2006 Finance Bill. Section 37 of the Bill will apply to buildings and structures including registered nursing homes that are first used or first used after refurbishment on or after 1 August 2006. However, this date may be subject to amendment on Report Stage of the Finance Bill later today. The tax life of these buildings or structures will be extended to 15 years, as is the holding period for balancing allowance and balancing charge purposes. The write-off period and annual rate of write-off will remain unchanged.

Section 39 addresses an anomaly that existed on the claw back of allowances. Under the existing rules, the clawback provisions take effect if a registered nursing home is sold, destroyed, or if it "ceased altogether to be used". If any of these events occur within the seven year writing down or ten year holding period, the tax benefits must be repaid. However, if the facility continues to be used for a different purpose, which may be completely unrelated to health care, the investor loses entitlement to any future capital allowances, but there is no clawback of relief previously availed of. Section 39 provides that in future, if the facility ceases to be a registered nursing home at any time in the 15 year holding period, the clawback will be triggered and all allowances already availed of must be repaid. This change will apply to buildings and structures, including registered nursing homes, that are first used or first used after refurbishment on or after 1 January 2006. However, where a registered nursing home ceases to be in use as a registered nursing home and, within six months, becomes another type of relevant facility, such as qualifying residential units, convalescent homes, qualifying private hospitals, qualifying mental health centres and certain child care facilities, the provisions of this section are not triggered.

I am informed by the Minister for Health and Children that no grants are available for the construction of nursing homes from her Department.

Pat Carey

Question:

272 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance when repayment in respect of a Med 1 application will be made on behalf of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 11; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8994/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the person's Med 1 form has been processed and refunds are due to the person and his wife for the years 2004 and 2005. Cheques have been issued accordingly.

Decentralisation Programme.

John McGuinness

Question:

273 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance the status of the purchase of a site for the offices of the Health and Safety Authority at Thomastown, County Kilkenny, as part of the decentralisation programme; if, as part of this land acquisition, his Department will consider using part of the site for the extension of the local health centre at Thomastown; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9032/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works have informed me that terms for the acquisition of a site in Thomastown have been agreed and that the contract for sale is with the Chief State Solicitor's Office. The Commissioners have also informed me that they are not aware of any proposal to extend the local health centre.

Tax Code.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

274 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Finance his views on removing the VAT on all non-profit arts organisations vetted as bona fide by the Arts Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9073/06]

Charities and non-profit organisations are exempt from VAT under the sixth VAT directive with which Irish law must comply. As such, they do not charge VAT on their services and cannot recover VAT on goods and services which they purchase. Only VAT registered businesses which charge VAT can recover VAT.

In addition, the VAT Act lists a range of activities exempt from VAT. Included in this list are the promotion of and admissions to live theatrical or musical performances. This broad exemption is allowed under Article 13(1)(n) of the sixth VAT directive. This means the promoter realises the full value of admission fees, as no VAT is applied. In this regard, the exemption is already generous and covers a broad range of activities accessible to the wider public.

The position on providing a VAT exemption for performance fees charged by musical or theatrical performers to non-profit arts organisations is that it would not be possible under EU law with which Irish VAT law must comply. Performance fees charged to non-profit arts organisations are therefore liable for VAT at the standard rate of 21%.

Richard Bruton

Question:

275 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the basis of the estimate of the cost of leaving the existing remittance basis of tax at €100 million; his estimate of the number of companies availing of this system and the number of individual taxpayers involved; and the way in which his estimate of the cost of this concession has grown over the past five years. [9250/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that individuals charged tax on the remittance basis of taxation pay tax on the income concerned under the self-assessment system. The Revenue Commissioners further informed me that the data sought by the Deputy cannot be separately identified because all foreign-sourced income, including income charged on the remittance basis, is grouped together and assessed for income tax under what is termed Case III of Schedule D. In addition, those individuals chargeable on the remittance basis are obliged to declare only so much of the foreign income received in, or remitted to, the State. Accordingly, details of un-remitted employment income under foreign contracts, in respect of which Irish tax was forgone, are not required.

Therefore, while the Revenue Commissioners could not quantify the number of employers and employees using the remittance basis, it was clear from information derived from normal Revenue operations that remuneration structures using the remittance basis were widely promoted. In particular, some offshore agencies targeted professionals such as pharmacists, doctors, dentists, engineers and architects, and others working in Ireland, offering foreign "off the peg" contracts purporting to ensure entitlement to the remittance basis.

It was also clear that the use of the remittance basis was spreading to a wide variety of sectors including the IT, financial services, pharmacy, pharmaceutical, mining, fishing and construction sectors. The remittance basis in the construction sector was promoted and used extensively in some large infrastructure projects. In the case of a small number of such contracts, the Exchequer loss was estimated by Revenue at €30 million. Estimated costs of €50 million in 2006, €75 million in 2007 and €100 million in subsequent years were arrived at on the basis of such existing costs and the day-to-day evidence of the promotion, and resulting spread, of the use of the remittance basis.

Tax Collection.

Enda Kenny

Question:

276 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the annual yield for deposit interest retention tax for the years 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9257/06]

The net yield from DIRT collected was €206.5 million in 2002, €153.3 million in 2003, €143.6 million in 2004 and €167.1 million in 2005. The figure for 2005 is preliminary and subject to revision. The annual yield from DIRT is dependent on the amount of moneys on deposit and the rates of interest applying to such deposits. As such, the annual yield can vary greatly where interest rates change. This is apparent in the sharp decrease in yield in 2003, compared to 2002, following a reduction in interest rates in that year.

Tax Code.

Enda Kenny

Question:

277 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the number of people availing of single person's tax credit, married person's tax credit, widowed person's tax credit, in year of bereavement, qualifying for one parent family credit, home carer’s tax credit, PAYE tax credit, age tax credit, single, widowed and married for the tax years 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9258/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that figures for the numbers of income earners availing of the tax credits mentioned by the Deputy are set out in the following table to the extent to which they are available. The numbers given in this table for the years 2003 onwards are provisional and are subject to revision. The figures for the number of tax credits for widowed persons in the year of bereavement and aged persons will be available shortly for 2003 when ongoing processing work is complete.

The figures in the table relate to the numbers of income earners in a position to absorb each tax credit either partly or fully, but do not include the numbers of qualifying claimants who, because of the operation of other deductions and reliefs, have their taxable income reduced to nil or have their tax liability reduced to nil by the impact of other tax credits. Claimants for the age credit, whose tax liability has been reduced to nil by the operation of the personal or employee credits or both together, will not be included in the numbers shown for the age credit. The figures for numbers of income earners have been rounded to the nearest 50. It should be noted that a married couple who has elected or has been deemed to have elected for joint assessment is counted as one tax unit.

Number of income earners availing of certain tax credits

Year

2002

2003

2004

2005

Tax credit

Numbers

Numbers

Numbers

Numbers

Single Persons

1,169,600

1,213,600

1,257,900

1,282,200

Married Persons

629,400

623,300

637,500

654,300

Widowed Person

72,950

73,700

74,950

76,000

One parent family

102,700

104,700

107,900

110,150

Home carer

100,850

104,200

104,000

104,100

Employee (PAYE)

1,257,800

1,309,350

1,378,150

1,413,200

Widowed person in year of bereavement

4,000

Not available

Not available

Not available

Age (single)

14,000

Not available

Not available

Not available

Age (widowed)

22,200

Not available

Not available

Not available

Age (married)

31,900

Not available

Not available

Not available

Enda Kenny

Question:

278 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the number of claimants for rent relief for private rented accommodation for single people under 55 years of age, over 55 years of age, widowed under 55 years of age, widowed over 55 years of age, married under 55 years of age and married over 55 years of age for the tax years 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9259/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the most recent year for which complete information on numbers of claimants for tax relief on rent paid in private tenancies is for the income tax year 2002. The information requested by the Deputy in so far as it is available is included in the following table. Preliminary figures for 2003 indicate that the numbers of claimants for the tax relief in that year, and the corresponding distribution by age and marital status, is of a similar order.

Numbers of claimants of tax relief for rent paid in private rented accommodation for the income tax year 2002.

Over 55

Under 55

Single

1,117

83,913

Widowed

400

212

Married

504

11,244

Total

2,021

95,369

Seán Haughey

Question:

279 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Finance if a private college (details supplied) is approved by the national college of education awards for the purpose of obtaining tax relief on third level education fees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9383/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that under the relevant legislation the approval of colleges for the purposes of obtaining tax relief on third level education fees is granted by the Minister for Education and Science, with the consent of the Minister for Finance. I am further informed that the college mentioned in the details supplied is not an approved college for the purposes of obtaining tax relief. Applications for approval of colleges for the purposes of obtaining tax relief on third level education fees should be sent by the relevant college to the Department of Education and Science, Student Support Services, Portlaoise Road, Tullamore, County Offaly.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joe Walsh

Question:

280 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Finance whether the Office of Public Works has arranged accommodation for the 200 staff from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and Bord Iascaigh Mhara who have volunteered to transfer to Clonakilty, and who are waiting for a decision on suitable accommodation for more than two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9460/06]

Tenders have been invited for the design and construction of new offices for the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and Bord Iascaigh Mhara in Clonakilty and are due for return on 20 March next. Following receipt and evaluation of the tenders, a preferred tenderer will be selected. The preferred tenderer will then be instructed to apply for planning permission. Subject to receipt of a satisfactory planning permission, a formal contract will be entered into and work will commence on site. The Commissioners of Public Works are anxious to ensure that the project will progress to construction at the earliest possible date.

Tax Code.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

281 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Finance if he will arrange with the Revenue Commissioners to have the tax affairs of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9 regularised; if he will seek an explanation from them as to the way in which this person’s tax credit for his status as a widower was changed to single person’s tax credit since 2005; if he is satisfied that the software used by the Revenue Commissioners operates in an efficient capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9553/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the person's tax credits have been amended for 2006 and he is now getting the correct widowed person's credit. There are special provisions for the first five years after a person with dependent children is widowed. In most cases a widow or widower with dependent children receives a personal credit, which is the same as the single person's credit, plus the one parent family credit. A widow or widower who does not have dependent children does not receive the one parent family credit but receives a higher personal credit.

For 2003, the person received the personal credit for a widowed person with dependents and the one parent family credit. For 2004 and 2005 he was no longer entitled to the one parent family credit and was entitled only to the higher personal credit for a widowed person without dependent children. However, due to a manual processing error his personal credit was not updated at the time of the withdrawal of the one parent family credit and it remained at the level of the single person's credit.

The person is entitled to a refund of €300 for 2004. A cheque will be issued shortly. A refund will also be due for 2005. This will be dealt with when all of the person's income details for the year become available. I am assured by the Revenue Commissioners that this was a manual processing error which they regret. It was not software related and Revenue has advised me that the operation of their computer system was not a factor.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

282 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the Government has a claim to part of the territory where a company (details supplied) is planning to develop an off-shore wind farm on the area north of the Causeway coast known as the Tunes Plateau; the way in which the transmission of power from this windfarm will be handled and to which jurisdiction will the increase in renewable power be credited. [8799/06]

The persons considering developing a wind farm at the location in question were informed that the development and operation of such a facility there could only be carried out in accordance with the terms of a foreshore lease granted under the Foreshore Acts.

If an application for a foreshore lease were made, it would have to address among other things the arrangements to be made for transmission of the energy generated. However, no application for a foreshore lease has been received to date. The national statistical value of the electricity produced would have to be considered further after the point of connection of the wind farm to an electricity network and the final planned region of consumption of that electricity are known.

Computerisation Programme.

Enda Kenny

Question:

283 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position regarding the establishment of open-source centres of excellence here; the locations chosen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8820/06]

I understand the Deputy is referring to open-source software. I am not aware of such an initiative. However, in the context of the public service any such initiative would be a matter for my colleague the Minister for Finance in the first instance.

Departmental Staff.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

284 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of persons with disabilities employed in his Department; the percentage of the total staff this represents; the human resources policy of his Department with regard to the recruitment of persons with disabilities; the qualification criteria for persons with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8895/06]

Current data shows that 5.4% of staff in my Department, out of an overall staff complement of 503, have disabilities. The policy on employment of people with disabilities in the Civil Service is the responsibility of the Minister for Finance and a target of 3% has been set for such recruitment. The guidelines used to date by my Department for the employment of people with disabilities and related monitoring are set out in the Code of Practice for the employment of people with Disabilities in the Civil Service 1994.

My Department works with the Departments of Finance and Justice, Equality and Law Reform among others, and the National Disability Authority in the implementation of the provisions of the Disability Act 2005, including those relating to the recruitment and employment of people with disabilities in the Civil Service. The Public Appointments Service is responsible for recruitment across the Civil Service, including the recruitment of people with disabilities.

My Department will support the willing able mentoring, WAM, project on placements for graduates with disabilities this summer. The project aims to provide between three and six months quality work experience to graduates with disabilities. This is in compliance with the Disability Act 2005 Part 5 section 47(3)(d)(iv) which permits a Minister to specify compliance targets including, “that the public body concerned shall offer a specified number of work experience placements of specified duration to persons with disabilities each year”.

Telecommunications Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

285 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources whether broadband will be provided for the Tullig area in Castleisland, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8915/06]

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 designed to promote the rollout of broadband access through the establishment of sustainable broadband services in towns, villages, rural hinterlands and under-served areas of larger towns on the basis of local and regional authority co-ordination and community driven initiatives. I intend to hold a third call of the group broadband scheme and my officials are finalising the application procedure and documentation. I expect to be in a position to formally launch the third call shortly.

Departmental Bodies.

Dan Boyle

Question:

286 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of public appointments made by his Department since 1997; and the relevant bodies. [9223/06]

The information requested by the Deputy on appointments made to the boards of State-sponsored bodies since my Department was established in June 2002 is set out in the following table.

Information on appointments to the boards of State-sponsored bodies prior to June 2002, under the aegis of the former Department of the Marine and Natural Resources and the former Department of Public Enterprise, will be compiled separately and forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Appointments to the boards of State-sponsored bodies under the aegis of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources made since June 2002.

An Post

Board Member

Appointment Date

Ms Margaret McGinley (Chairperson)

04.02.2003

Mr. Donal Curtin (Chief Executive)

14.07.2003

Ms Cathy Herbert

04.02.2003

Mr. Peter Wyer

04.02.2003

Mr. James Quinlivan

09.05.2003

Mr. James Hyland

11.12.2003

Mr. James Alan Sloane

01.01.2004

Mr. Jerry Condon

01.11.2004

Mr. Patrick Compton

01.11.2004

Mr. Patrick Davoren

01.11.2004

Mr. Thomas Devlin

01.11.2004

Mr. Terry Keller

01.11.2004

Aquaculture Licence Appeals Board

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Conleth Bradley

17.07.03

Mr. Sean Murphy

17.07.03

Mr. Mario J. Minehane

17.07.03

Mr. Lorcan Ó Cinnéide

17.07.03

Mr. Sean Murphy

01.01.05

Mr. Lorcan Ó Cinnéide

01.01.05

Mr. Mario J. Minehane

01.01.05

Ms Mary McMahon

01.01.05

Ms Karin Dubsky

01.01.05

Mr. Damian McDonald

01.01.05

Bord na Móna

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Donagh O’Donoghue

13.11.02

Mr. Fergus McArdle

13.11.02

Mr. Paschal Campbell

13.11.02

Ms Johanna Downes

13.11.02

Mr. Pat McEvoy

01.01.03

Mr. P.J. Minogue

01.01.03

Mr. Paddy Rowland

01.01.03

Mr. Paddy Fox

01.01.03

Mr. P.J. Coghill

19.05.03

Ms Anne Heraty

28.09.04

Mr. Gabriel Cribbin

09.09.05

Bord Iascaigh Mhara

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Ms Rose McHugh

29.09.04

Bord Gáis Éireann

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Pearse O’Hanrahan

19.12.02

Mr. Aidan Eames

03.03.04

Mr. Tom Donlon

26.03.03

Mr. Micheal O’Faolain

19.05.03

Broadcasting Complaints Commission

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Michael McGrath (Chairperson)

18.10.05

Sean O’Sullivan

18.10.05

Eucharia Meehan

18.10.05

David Tighe

18.10.05

Miriam O’Callaghan

18.10.05

Susan Nolan

18.10.05

Phil Brady

18.10.05

Broadcasting Commission of Ireland

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Conor J. Maguire (Chairperson)

02.12 2003

Mr. John Waters

02.12 2003

Ms Mary Davis

02.12 2003

Ms Angela Kerins

02.12 2003

Ms Kay McGuinness

02.12 2003

Mr. Tom Collins

02.12 2003

Ms Vivienne Jupp

02.12 2003

Mr. John O’Brennan

02.12 2003

Ms Mary Kerrigan

02.12 2003

Mr. Joe Griffin

02.12 2003

Central Fisheries Board

Board Member

Date of Appointment

David Mackey (Chairman)

24.06.05

Mary Bohan

24.06.05

Éamon de Buitléir

24.06.05

Myles Kelly

24.06.05

Naul McCole

24.06.05

John Henry McLaughlin

24.06.05

Coillte Teoranta*

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Brendan McKenna (Chairperson)

26.06.02

Ms Sinead Leech

26.06.02

Mr. Martin Lowery (Chief Executive)

26.06.02

Mr. Breffni Byrne

07.08.02

Mr. Richard Howlin

14.05.03

Mr. Frank Toal

29.07.03

Appointments made up to transfer of responsibility to the Minister for Agriculture and Food on 01.01.2004.

Commission for Energy Regulation, CER

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Tom Reeves (Chairman)

14.10.04

Mr. Michael Tutty

14.10.04

Ms Regina Finn

01.02.05

Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. John Doherty

02.01.2003

Ms Isolde Goggins

02.01.2003

Mr. Mike Byrne

01.12.2004

The Digital Hub

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. William Burgess (Chairperson)

21.07.03

Mr. Philip Flynn (Chief Executive)

31.07.03

Dr. Don Thornhill

31.07.03

Mr. Dan Flinter

31.07.03

Mr. John Fitzgerald

31.07.03

Mr. Sean Dorgan

31.07.03

Mr. Paul Kavanagh

31.07.03

Mr. Peter Cassells

31.07.03

Ms Jackie Harrison

31.07.03

Mr. Paul McGuinness

31.07.03

Mr. Joe Murphy

29.09.04

Drogheda Harbour Board

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Tom O’Reilly

24.01.03

Mr. Frank Maher

24.01.03

Cllr. Jacqui McConville

21.12.03

Mr. Paddy Traynor (Chairperson)

20.12.04

Ms Maria O’Brien-Campbell

23.05.05

Mr. Cormac Bohan

29.09.04

Cllr. Paul Bell

04.08.04

Dublin Port Company

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Ms Brenda Daly

22.09.02

Mr. Seamus Martin

22.09.02

Cllr. Kevin Humphries

10.09.04

Cllr. Christy Burke

10.09.04

Cllr. Paddy Bourke

10.09.04

Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Thomas Quinn

05.12.02

Mr. Don McManus

05.02.04

Dundalk Port Company

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Kevin Meenan

05.04.05

Eastern Regional Fisheries Board

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Ms Betty Hayes

08.12.03

Electronic Communications Appeals Panel pool from which three persons will be appointed by the Minister to an appeal panel. Two panels currently exist, each with its own chairperson.

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Hugh Mohan SC

21.09.04

Margaret Heneghan BL

21.09.04

Catherine Woods BA

21.09.04

Mary Sadlier

23.05.05

Sean Barrett

23.05.05

Paul Burns SC

23.05.05

Finbarr Fox SC

23.05.05

Patrick Butler SC

24.05.05

Liam Cahill

20.06.05

Brian O’Moore SC

14.07.05

Eileen Barrington JC

15.06.05

Eirgrid

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Ms Martina Moloney

15.09.04

Mr. Maurice Holly (staff representative)

21.09.04 (re-appointed)

Ms Emer Daly

20.03.05 (2nd term)

Mr David Mackey

20.03.05 (2nd term)

Mr. Dermot Byrne CEO (ex officio)

04.07.05

Ms Bernie Gray

08.09.05

ESB

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Padraig McManus (Chief Executive)

17.02.02

Mr. Joe Lacumbre (Deputy Chairperson)

01.01.03

Mr. John McGinley

01.01.03

Mr. Pat Smith

01.01.03

Mr. Eamonn Connelly

01.01.03

Mr. Brendan Byrne

01.09.04

Mr. Tadhg O’Donoghue

07.09.05 (2nd term)

Ms Georgina Kenny

18.05.05 (2nd term)

Galway Harbour Board

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Robert Molloy

10.02.03

Mr. Martin Connolly

04.12.03

Cllr. Joe Tierney

13.08.04

Cllr. Sean Kyne

05.04.05

Irish National Petroleum Corporation

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Edmund O’Connell (Chairperson)

22.06.02

Mr. Seamus Ó Scolláin

25.09.03

Ms Mary Austin

25.09.03

Mr. Vincent Caffrey

25.09.03

Loughs Agency*

Board Member

Appointment Date

Mr. Jack Allen

13.12.02

Mr. Keith Anderson

13.12.02

Mr. Francis Feeley

13.12.02

Mr. Dick Blackiston-Houston

13.12.02

Dr. Patrick J. Griffin

13.12.02

Lord Cooke of Islandreagh

13.12.02

Ms Siobhán Logue

13.12.02

Ms Jacqui McConville

13.12.02

Mr. Joseph Martin

13.12.02

Mr. Tarlach Ó Crosáin

13.12.02

Mr. Peter Savage

13.12.02

Mr. Andrew Ward

13.12.02

*These appointments were made jointly with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Marine Institute

Board Member

Appointment Date

Ms Terry Fleming

29.09.04

Mr. Kevin Bonner (Chairperson)

24.06.05

Ms Dairine McFadden

19.12.05

Mining Board

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Philip O’Brien (Chairperson)

21.07.03

Mr. John Shackleton

04.12.03

Mr. Eoin Ó Buachalla

04.12.03

National Salmon Commission

Board Member

Appointment Date

Dr. Philip McGinnitty

31.01.03

Mr. Brian Sheerin

20.08.03

Mr. Brendan O’Rourke

31.01.03

Mr. Joey Murrin (Chairperson)

30.09.05

Jim Curran

30.09.05

Brian Curran

30.09.05

John H. O’Brien

30.09.05

Peter Hunt

30.09.05

Vincent Roche

30.09.05

Michael Keatinge

30.09.05

Derick Anderson

30.09.05

Noel Carr

30.09.05

Lal Faherty

30.09.05

Martin McEnroe

30.09.05

Luke Boyle

30.09.05

Jerome Dowling

30.09.05

John Doherty

30.09.05

Michael Conners

30.09.05

Seamus De Burca

30.09.05

Carmel Lynn

30.09.05

Frank Flanagan

30.09.05

Peter Dunn

30.09.05

Richie Flynn

30.09.05

New Ross Port Company

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Ms Rosie Kehoe

17.02.04

Cllr. Sean Connick

17.02.04

Cllr. Larry O’Brien

26.11.04

Northern Regional Fisheries Board

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Billy Grimes

July 2003

Port of Cork Company

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Cllr. Tim Falvey

14.02.02

Mr. Paul Millard

15.10.02

Mr. David Doolan

15.10.02

Cllr. Michael Hegarty

04.08.04

Port of Waterford Company

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Ald. Thomas Cunningham

19.08.02

Mr. Ben Gavin (Chairperson)

05.02.04

Ms Fiona Robbins

05.02.04

Mr. Pádraig Ó Gríofa

05.02.04

Mr. Maurice Lonergan

05.02.04

Mr. Michael Flynn

05.02.04

Mr. Patrick Murphy

05.02.04

Mr. Derek Donnelly

05.02.04

Ms Lola O’Sullivan

29.08.04

Mr. Derek Madigan

16.03.05

Raidio Telefís Éireann Authority

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Des Geraghty

22.10.02

Fintan Drury

21.06.05

Maria Killian

21.06.05

Patricia King

21.06.05

Ian Malcolm

21.06.05

Úna Ní Chonaire

21.06.05

Stephen O’Byrnes

29.06.05 (2nd term)

Patrick Marron

29.06.05 (2nd term)

Emer Finnan

14.09.05

Joe O’Brien

14.09.05

Shannon Foynes Port Company

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Gerard Reidy

17.07.02

Mr. Joe Treacy

17.07.02

Southern Regional Fisheries Board

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Pat Bowe

14.12.04

Sustainable Energy Ireland

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Martin Finucane

24.10.03

Regional Harbour Authorities

Arklow Harbour

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Cllr. Sylvester Bourke

28.09.04

Cllr. Pat Doran

28.09.04

Cllr. Peter Dempsey

28.09.04

Cllr. Donal O’Sullivan

28.09.04

Mr. James Tyrell

28.09.04

Mr. Lorcan O’Toole

28.09.04

Mr. Austin Gaffney

28.09.04

Ms Ann Lee

28.09.04

Mr. Paddy Mordaunt

28.09.04

Cllr. Pat Fitzgerald

28.09.04

Cllr. Pat Sweeney

28.09.04

Annagassan Harbour

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Cllr. Tommy Reilly

28.09.04

Cllr. Finnan McCoy

28.09.04

Cllr. Pearse McGeough

28.09.04

Cllr. Jim Lennon

28.09.04

Mr. Terry Butterly

28.09.04

Ms Rosemarie Coyle

28.09.04

Mr. Liam Reilly

28.09.04

Mr. Tommy McGrory

28.09.04

Mr. Gerard Sheridan

28.09.04

Baltimore and Skibbereen Harbour

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Cllr. Tadhg O’Donovan

28.09.04

Cllr. Joe Carroll

28.09.04

Cllr. Brendan Leahy

28.09.04

Cllr. Brendan McCarthy

28.09.04

Mr. Michael Harte

28.09.04

Mr. Vincent O’Driscoll

28.09.04

Mr. Danny O’Driscoll

28.09.04

Mr. Dermot Sheehy

28.09.04

Mr. Kieron Cotter

28.09.04

Bantry Harbour

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. John O’Riordan

28.09.04

Mr. Michael Hennebry

28.09.04

Cllr. Eugene Cronin

28.09.04

Cllr. Patrick Kelly

28.09.04

Mr. John O’Shea

28.09.04

Mr. Donal Casey

28.09.04

Mr. Aiden McCarthy

28.09.04

Mrs. Kathleen Tessyman

28.09.04

Ms Letty Baker

28.09.04

Mr. Mario Minehane

28.09.04

Mr. Tim Minihane

28.09.04

Dingle Harbour

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Tom Fitzgerald

28.09.04

Mr. Eoin O’Cathain

28.09.04

Mr. Paddy Flannery

28.09.04

Mr. Denis O’Conner

28.09.04

Mr. Tom Kennedy

28.09.04

Cllr. Seamus Fitzgerald

28.09.04

Cllr. Breandán Mac Gearailt

28.09.04

Dr. Fionnbar O’Shea

28.09.04

Mr. Timothy O’Sullivan

28.09.04

Kinsale Harbour

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Billy Lynch

28.09.04

Mr. Charles Hendeson

28.09.04

Mr. Kevin Murphy

28.09.04

Cllr. Alan Coleman

28.09.04

Mr. Eamon O’Neill

28.09.04

Mr. Frank Kiernan

28.09.04

Mr. John Twomey

28.09.04

Mr. Courtney Good

28.09.04

Mr. Michael T. Frawley

28.09.04

River Moy Harbour

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. John Keane

28.09.04

Mr. Dessie Padden

28.09.04

Mr. Jimmy Sheridan

28.09.04

Cllr. Annie May Reape

28.09.04

Mr. John Farrell

28.09.04

Mr. Edward Melvin

28.09.04

Mr. Tommy Ginley

28.09.04

Mr. Paddy Jackson

28.09.04

Mr. Judd Ruane

28.09.04

Cllr. Jimmy Moloney

28.09.04

Mr. Michael McDonagh

28.09.04

Sligo Harbour

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Albert Higgins

28.09.04

Mr. Patsy Barry

28.09.04

Ms Veronica Cawley

28.09.04

Mr. Johnathan McGoldrick

28.09.04

Mr. Gerry McCanny

28.09.04

Mr. Stephen Rundle

28.09.04

Mr. Seamus Monaghan

28.09.04

Mr. Jim McMorrow

28.09.04

Mr. Gene O’Carroll

28.09.04

Mr. Liam Gannon

28.09.04

Mr. Padraic Branley

28.09.04

Tralee and Fenit Harbour

Board Member

Date of Appointment

Mr. Roland Blennerhassett

28.09.04

Mr. Con Casey

28.09.04

Mr. Dermot Crowley

28.09.04

Mr. James Browne

28.09.04

Ms Norma Foley

28.09.04

Mr. Michael Moriarity

28.09.04

Mr. John Wall

28.09.04

Ms Toireasa Ní Fhearaíosa

28.09.04

Mr. Christopher Lynch

28.09.04

Mr. Vincent Locke

28.09.04

Mr. Liam Sullivan

28.09.04

Fish Quotas.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

287 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the quota allocation for mackerel, horse mackerel and blue whiting that was made to each sea fishery boat in the north west fishing fleet in 2005 under the European Union Common Fisheries Policy rules. [9255/06]

In 2005, the available national quotas for horse mackerel and blue whiting were not allocated to particular vessels in given quantities. These quotas were available to be fished on an unallocated basis by the various vessels with the required licensing entitlements. An allocation system has been introduced for 2006 for horse mackerel involving specific allocations to 29 vessels. An allocation system was applied to the national mackerel quota in 2005 whereby specific allocations were made to 23 vessels in the RSW segment of the Irish fleet. Details of the allocations made in respect of last year's mackerel quota and this year's horse mackerel quota are outlined in the following table.

2005 Mackerel Quota

2006 Horse Mackerel Quota

Pelagic Segment

Allocation (MT)

Allocation (MT)

Aine

1,586

1,025

Antarctic

2,266

1,237

Atlantean

2,266

1,237

Atlantic Challenge

2,266

1,237

Atlantic Dawn

2,266

1,237

Brendelen

1,495

1,025

Carmarose

1,133

884

Colmcille

1,133

884

Felucca

1,557

1,025

Fr. McKee

1,495

1,025

Girl Stephanie

1,133

884

Menhaden

1,133

884

Neptune

1,586

1,025

Olgarry

1,528

1,025

Pacelli

1,528

1,025

Paula

2,198

1,237

Sea Spray

1,133

884

Sheanne

2,226

1,237

Vigilant

1,557

1,025

Western Chieftain

1,586

1,025

Western Endeavour

2,266

1,237

Western Viking

2,198

1,237

Westward Isle

1,133

884

Polyvalent Segment

Eilean Croine

Unallocated

593

Sparkling Star

Unallocated

593

Lovon

Unallocated

593

Carmona

Unallocated

593

Sarah David

Unallocated

432

Ronan Ross

Unallocated

432

Fishing Vessel Licences.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

288 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources further to a parliamentary question of 22 February 2005, the measures he intends taking to review the need for restrictions on the practice of pair trawling in the Shannon estuary following a submission he since received from the Irish whale and dolphin group; if the vessels involved in such fishing are large enough to capture dolphins and that dolphin calves in particular remain vulnerable to such fishing for the first two years of their lives; if his Department will support a dedicated survey to ascertain both the size of the fishery and the demands of the dolphin population in the estuary. [9269/06]

The submission to which the Deputy refers appears to be from the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation, SDWG, and I have noted the comments of that group. The fishery in question generally involves one or two pairs of boats of approximately 65 feet in length. While there does not appear to be any significant threat to the dolphin population in this area from fishing activity at this time, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, which has primary responsibility for the conservation of marine mammals in this State, is scheduled to carry out an assessment of the dolphin population in the area later this year. When the results of this assessment have been received, the matter can be reviewed again in conjunction with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

EU Directives.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

289 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will confirm that EU Directive 2004/8/EC was implemented before 21 February 2006; if the directive was not implemented by that date, the reason Ireland did not meet its obligations to implement this directive before the deadline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9302/06]

EU Directive 2004/8/EC requires member states to take a number of actions in respect of the promotion of combined heat and power, CHP, including the requirement to introduce a new definition of high efficiency CHP. This definition requires the provision of efficiency reference values for the separate production of electricity and heat, and the European Commission had committed to establishing a harmonised set of efficiency reference values by 21 February 2006. These values have not yet been finalised. In anticipation of the establishment of these values, Ireland drafted provisions for the new definition and these are included in the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006, the text of which has been approved by the Government. Arrangements are in hand to publish the Bill in the coming days and the harmonised efficiency reference values will be inserted by ministerial order once established by the Commission.

Harbours and Piers.

Pat Breen

Question:

290 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources further to Question No. 267 of 19 April 2005, if funding will be provided to increase the pier at Doonbeg, County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9313/06]

Doonbeg pier is owned by Clare County Council and responsibility for its repair and maintenance rests with the local authority in the first instance. The Department's programme of funding for small fishery harbours for 2006 is under consideration. The question of providing funding for Doonbeg pier will depend on the amount of Exchequer funding available for works at fishery harbours generally and overall national priorities.

Alternative Energy Projects.

John Deasy

Question:

291 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when he intends implementing the renewable energy grants schemes announced by the Minister for Finance in budget 2006 on 7 December 2005; if the proposed scheme will include the installation of geothermal heat pumps and solar heating systems in individual homes; if the installation of such systems in individual houses currently being planned or being built will be eligible for grant aid under the proposed scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9323/06]

The multi-annual financial package for renewables announced in budget 2006 includes a grant aid package for the domestic sector, which will provide for individual grants to install renewable energy technologies including solar panels, geothermal heat pumps and wood pellet boilers. My Department, in conjunction with Sustainable Energy Ireland, SEI, is developing the necessary detailed measures to roll out the new programme, which will be announced shortly. Once the scheme has been launched, applicants will be required to apply for, and receive, approval before any materials are purchased or any works are commenced.

Jackie Healy-Rae

Question:

292 Mr. Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the windmills that have been built and are planned to be built overproduce electricity and are not used by the national grid, if there is a facility in place in order to sell the extra electricity produced to Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9351/06]

The renewables directive, Directive 2001/77/EC, obliges Ireland to develop and implement a programme capable of increasing the amount of electricity from renewable energy sources to 13.2% of total consumption by 2010. The target of 13.2% approximates to 1,450 MW of installed generating capacity to be operational to the electricity network by 2010. Ireland has approximately 765 MW of renewable capacity connected. This consists of approximately 495 MW of wind powered plant, 240 MW of hydro-powered plant with the balance of approximately 30 MW made up of different biomass technologies.

The additional new capacity required to achieve the 1,450 MW target will be delivered by projects under the previous AER V and AER VI competitions and the new renewable energy feed in tariff REFIT programme. Wind energy will be the dominant technology in achieving the target. As an island nation the facility to export electricity directly to Europe is not in place. However, the Government is fully committed to the development of east-west electricity interconnection as a matter of priority. The Commission for Energy Regulation has been engaged in a process of rigorous exploration of the options for such development and I expect to receive advice from the Commission on next steps shortly.

Broadband Network.

Enda Kenny

Question:

293 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of broadband subscribers on a county basis in tabular format; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9384/06]

Enda Kenny

Question:

294 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of companies competing for broadband customers on a county basis in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9385/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 293 and 294 together.

The collation of data on broadband subscriber numbers is a matter for broadband service providers in co-operation with the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg. The Department's websitewww.broadband.gov.ie lists broadband providers and their product offerings on a by town or district basis. Service providers make available the information to the Department on a voluntary basis.

Enda Kenny

Question:

295 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of broadband enabled lines in existence on a county basis in tabular format; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9386/06]

The provision of telecommunications services, including broadband, is a matter in the first instance for the fully liberalised private sector, regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg. The upgrading of telephone exchanges for the provision of broadband is an operational matter for Eircom, and I do not have any function in the matter.

Mobile Telephony.

Michael Collins

Question:

296 Mr. Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the number of mobile telecommunications masts which were monitored by ComReg during 2006; if they have monitored the structure next to a school (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if not, their plans to do so in view of the written requests from community representatives. [9426/06]

The Commission for Communication Regulation — ComReg — audits emissions of non-ionising radiation from telecommunication sites including masts. So far in 2006, 17 sites have been monitored, with a further 20 sites to be monitored over the next month. To date, ComReg has not received any written requests to monitor any mast or site in Glin, County Limerick, or its environs. I will ask officials to liaise with ComReg to arrange an audit of the site in question.

Illegal Immigrants.

Pat Breen

Question:

297 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government will be lobbying for the enacting of the McCain-Kennedy Bill for immigration reform in the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8801/06]

Finian McGrath

Question:

298 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will raise the issue of the Kennedy-McCain Bill and the undocumented Irish with the President of the USA, Mr. George W. Bush, on 17 March 2006. [8891/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 297 and 298 together.

The Government attaches the highest priority to the issue of the undocumented Irish in the United States. In all of our contacts with US political leaders we raise our concerns and emphasise the importance of addressing the situation in a positive and sympathetic way. The coming St. Patrick's Day period will provide a particularly valuable opportunity for the Taoiseach and me to discuss all aspects of the situation, including of course the Kennedy-McCain bill, with the President, his Administration and leading figures in Congress.

The Deputies can be assured that this timely and very valuable lobbying opportunity will be availed of to the full by both the Taoiseach and myself.

Diplomatic Representation.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

299 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his proposals to help Irish citizens living in an increasingly disturbed and volatile situation in Zimbabwe; the consular assistance available to persons wishing to leave; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8861/06]

The Irish Embassy in South Africa, which is also accredited to Zimbabwe, provides consular assistance to Irish citizens who live in, or travel to, Zimbabwe. The embassy estimates that there are now approximately 3,000 Irish citizens resident in Zimbabwe.

The embassy is in regular contact with the Irish community in Zimbabwe at every level. Staff from the embassy visit Zimbabwe approximately every four to six weeks and regularly meet members of the Irish community, Irish religious, and Irish NGOs during such visits.

The embassy is aware that a number of Irish citizens in Zimbabwe are considering the possibility of moving to Ireland. The embassy offers advice and information on the various issues that arise relating to a move to Ireland. The citizens concerned also benefit from the support and advice offered by the Safe Home Programme Limited. The Department of Foreign Affairs gives a significant financial contribution to the Safe Home Programme —€184,743 in 2005 — to support it in its work with Irish citizens in Britain and elsewhere, including Zimbabwe.

The embassy monitors and reviews the position of the Irish community in Zimbabwe on an ongoing basis, and maintains close and continuing contact with community representatives there.

Departmental Staff.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

300 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of persons with disabilities employed in his Department; the percentage of the total staff that this represents; the human resources policy of his Department with regard to the recruitment of persons with disabilities; the qualification criteria for persons with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8896/06]

The target for the employment of people with disabilities in the Civil Service is 3%. Policy on this target is the responsibility of the Department of Finance.

The guidelines for monitoring the target are set out in the 1994 code of practice for the Civil Service. In this context, the term "people with disabilities" means people with a physical, sensory or psychological impairment which may "have a tangible impact on their functional capability to do a particular job; or have an impact on their ability to function in a particular physical environment; or lead to a discrimination in obtaining or keeping employment of a kind for which they would otherwise be suited".

The Department of Foreign Affairs, through its human resources strategy, is strongly committed to positive action designed to enhance employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. The compilation of statistics in this area is very sensitive. Some officials who would be considered as "disabled" under the above definition might well not welcome being included in any public categorisation in this area. In these circumstances, including the protection of the also sensitive monitoring process, I would prefer not to go further than to state that the percentage of staff with a disability in the Department currently stands at approximately 3.5%, that is, significantly above the 3% target.

European Enlargement.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

301 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the implications for Serbia-Montenegro’s future EU membership prospects on the failure to deliver the fugitive General Ratko Mladic to the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8982/06]

Serbia and Montenegro opened negotiations on a stabilisation and association agreement with the European Union in October 2005. This was a reflection of the progress the country has made in its reform process. The pace and conclusion of the negotiations will depend in particular on Serbia and Montenegro's progress in developing its legislative framework and administrative capacity, the effective implementation of its constitutional charter, and full co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Full co-operation with the tribunal is essential to achieving lasting reconciliation in the region and lifting a fundamental obstacle to EU integration. Recalling Security Council resolutions 1503 and 1534, Ireland, together with its EU partners, has emphasised its expectation that Serbia and Montenegro take decisive action to ensure that all fugitive indictees, notably Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadic, are finally brought to justice. Successive General Affairs and External Relations Councils have stressed the importance of full co-operation with the tribunal, and Enlargement Commissioner Rehn and Commission President Barroso again emphasised the need for it during their recent visit to Belgrade in February.

At the most recent meeting of the Council in Brussels last week, Ministers stressed that full co-operation with ICTY must be achieved in order to ensure that Serbia and Montenegro's SAA negotiations are not disrupted. The Council also urged Serbia and Montenegro, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina, to take decisive action to ensure that all remaining fugitive indictees are brought to justice without delay. The EU Presidency and Commission will remain in close contact with the chief prosecutor of the tribunal on the matter and continue to keep the Council fully informed. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

302 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his assessment of the impact of the events in Dublin on the weekend of 24 to 27 February, 2006 on the future direction of the Northern Ireland peace process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8983/06]

I condemn once again those who came to the city centre on 25 February intent on causing violence and destruction. The disorder was engineered by a small number of organised thugs supported by opportunistic hooligans. These acts have been condemned by all right-thinking people and by their political representatives on all sides.

It is important that the events of 25 February in no way alter our political programme or intimidate us into caution or inaction. They will not stop us taking risks for peace or stop us working with all sides and shades of opinion if they are committed to peaceful means in support of their agenda. They will not stop us sitting down at the table with Unionists in a spirit of friendship and co-operation or from reaching out to progressive voices in loyalism. We will, in fact, work to do the exact opposite of what these people intended, by further intensifying our efforts to strengthen inclusivity, preserve democracy and build a shared future for all the people of this island, free from violence and the threat of it.

International Agreements.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

303 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if specific agreements between the Republic of Ireland and the USA on combating terrorism exist; if so, if any provide for independent policing operations within each others territories; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9273/06]

Ireland has not concluded any specific bilateral agreements on combating terrorism with the United States. A bilateral extradition treaty between Ireland and the United States of America has been in force since 1983 that puts in place a general extradition arrangement between the two States. In addition, Ireland and the US are both parties to the following 12 multilateral terrorism conventions: Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 14 December 1973; International Convention against the Taking of Hostages, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 17 December 1979; International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 15 December 1997; International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 9 December 1999; Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft, signed at Tokyo on 14 September 1963; Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, signed at the Hague on 16 December 1970; Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, signed at Montreal on 23 September 1971; Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, signed at Vienna on 3 March 1980; Protocol on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence at Airports Serving International Civil Aviation, supplementary to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, signed at Montreal on 24 February 1988; Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, done at Rome on 10 March 1988; Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf, done at Rome on 10 March 1988; Convention on the Marking of Plastic Explosives for the Purpose of Detection, signed at Montreal on 1 March 1991.

Neither the bilateral agreement nor any of the above conventions or protocols provide for any of the State's parties carrying out independent policing operations in the territory of other State's parties.

Human Rights Abuses.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

304 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government has information regarding the existence of secret detention centres within Irish territory or elsewhere in Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9274/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

305 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the authorities have been contacted by authorities or secret services of other countries requesting permission for the secret detention or rendition of prisoners on national territory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9275/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

306 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government has requested information from the American authorities regarding the alleged existence of secret detention centres in Europe; if so, the replies it has received to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9276/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 304 to 306, inclusive, together.

I refer the Deputy to my previous replies on the subject, in particular, to Questions Nos. 43, 47, 66 and 118 of 14 December 2005. In my reply to those questions, I recorded the Government's deep concern at the allegation that there is or has been a network of secret prisons in Europe. The existence of such secret prisons would plainly be in breach of international law and of the principles upon which the EU is founded; these include liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law. The Government has no information regarding the possible existence of such prisons other than what has been stated in the allegations. If the allegations were proven to be true, the Government would view such a development with the gravest concern.

In the Government's contacts with the United States authorities, on which I have reported to the House in considerable detail, most recently on 22 February 2006, we have been concerned above all to ensure that no extraordinary rendition of prisoners has occurred or is occurring through Ireland, and we have received categoric assurances from the US authorities in this respect. I am not aware of any suggestion that a secret detention centre might have operated within Irish territory, and consequently I have not raised the matter in my discussions with the US authorities. The concern in member states at the possible existence of such centres in the EU has, however, been flagged to the US, in a letter from the Presidency to the US Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleeza Rice, sent last November. The Government has not been contacted to seek its permission for the secret detention or extraordinary rendition of prisoners in or through the national territory.

On the question of secret detention centres in Ireland, I refer the Deputy to the Government's reply of 20 February 2006 to a questionnaire on the subject of what has been termed "unacknowledged deprivation of liberty", circulated by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr. Terry Davis, to its 46 member states. The reply made clear that there are no secret detention centres in Ireland and that there is no indication of any occurrence of the unacknowledged deprivation of liberty. On 1 March 2006, the Secretary General identified our reply as one of only 13 he deemed sufficiently comprehensive not to require further material.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

307 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government is aware of any flights to, from or over national territory by aircraft chartered by the CIA or related agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9277/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

308 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if permission was requested by the CIA or related agencies to fly to, from or over national territory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9278/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

309 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the information required from an agency in support of a request to fly to, from or over national territory; if a passenger list would be required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9279/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

310 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government knows of the illegal transportation of prisoners on flights to, from or over national territory; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9280/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

311 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the legal basis for the transportation of prisoners through Irish territories by a third country; if the Government has ever authorised this kind of transportation; if so, the kind of assurances the Government demanded regarding the conditions under which these prisoners were held; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9281/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

312 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government’s attention has been drawn to landings by any aircraft that may have been involved in the illegal movement or rendition of prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9282/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

313 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government knows of, or has been passively or actively involved in, the carrying out of abductions by foreign secret services on national territory or that of other States; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9283/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

314 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government has requested information from the American authorities regarding alleged flights to, from or over national territory by aircraft chartered by the CIA which may have been used for the illegal transportation of prisoners; if so, the replies which have been received to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9284/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 307 to 314, inclusive, together.

I refer the Deputy to my replies to Questions Nos. 246, 247 and 249 of 1 February, and 117, 119 and 120 of 2 February.

I know of no landings on the State's territory of aircraft which have been illegally carrying prisoners transiting Ireland. Moreover, as I have made clear to the House on numerous occasions in responding to questions, the United States has given Ireland repeated, clear and explicit assurances that no prisoners have been transferred through Irish territory, nor would they be, without our permission.

I am aware of media and other reports concerning allegations that aircraft, which it is claimed may at some stage have been used in so-called extraordinary rendition operations between countries other than Ireland, might on different occasions have transited Shannon Airport. In his reply of 13 December 2005, my colleague the Minister for Transport furnished details in regard to the movements of a small number of aircraft cited in such reports. There is no authoritative basis on which to come to a view on the truth of the allegations which have been made regarding the activity of such aircraft outside our jurisdiction. Moreover, none of these reports have included any concrete evidence or specific allegations that prisoners have been transported through Irish airports or airspace as part of an extraordinary rendition operation.

In accordance with the terms of the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, civil aircraft are not required to seek permission to land here unless they are engaged in commercial operations in this country. Under the Chicago convention, such aircraft are not required to submit details of their cargo or passenger manifests when making technical stops, for example to refuel.

State aircraft, on the other hand, are required to apply for permission before landing in Ireland. In the event that the US authorities were to request such permission for a State aircraft operating for the CIA, the Department of Foreign Affairs would require, in keeping with standard practice, an undertaking from the US Embassy that the aircraft would be unarmed; would not be carrying arms, ammunition or explosives; would not be engaged in intelligence gathering; and was not taking part in military exercises or operations. These conditions are not legal requirements but are policy stipulations which are applied at the direction of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Other data sought would include the type and registration number of the aircraft, its call sign, the purpose of the flight, the nature of any cargo, its destination and point of departure, and estimated times of arrival and departure.

On the Deputy's question on the legal basis for the transportation of prisoners through Irish territory by a third country, Irish law permits the transit through Irish territory of a person being detained by the authorities of another State in two circumstances. Section 40(1) of the Extradition Act 1965 allows the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to permit the transit through the State of a person being conveyed from one country to another upon that person's surrender pursuant to an agreement in the nature of an extradition agreement. This is subject to any relevant extradition provisions and to such conditions, if any, that the Minister thinks proper.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform may also consent to the transfer of a sentenced prisoner through Irish territory pursuant to the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons 1983, when he is satisfied that Article 16 of that convention is applicable. The convention defines a sentence as a punishment involving deprivation of liberty ordered by a court on account of a criminal offence. As stated above, any authorisations in this area would be a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The issues raised by the Deputy's question were also fully addressed in Ireland's reply of 20 February 2006 to a questionnaire circulated by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr. Terry Davis, to its 46 member states. On 1 March 2006, the Secretary General identified our reply as one of only thirteen he deemed sufficiently comprehensive not to require further material. I reiterate that the Government has made its complete opposition to the practice of extraordinary rendition clear on numerous occasions.

State Visits.

Joe Higgins

Question:

315 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he had prior knowledge of the visit of US President, George W. Bush, to Shannon Airport on 1 March 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9325/06]

Joe Higgins

Question:

316 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he authorised the commander in chief of a foreign army to conduct a meeting in Shannon Airport with US troops under his command who are in military occupation of another country. [9326/06]

Joe Higgins

Question:

317 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he was consulted beforehand on the meeting between US President George W. Bush and United States’ troops at Shannon Airport. [9327/06]

Enda Kenny

Question:

321 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when his Department was notified that the US President would stop over at Shannon Airport to refuel; if his Department was notified that the US President would also address troops as part of this stopover; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9388/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 315 to 317, inclusive, and 321 together.

A request for the aircraft carrying the President of the United States, George W. Bush, to land at Shannon Airport was applied for several days in advance by the US embassy and permission was granted in accordance with the normal procedures. It is entirely normal and appropriate to extend such courtesies to visiting Heads of State and other dignitaries. President Bush's meeting with US military personnel at the airport appears to have been a spontaneous act. Such personnel were in transit as part of a multinational force authorised by the United Nations Security Council.

Illegal Immigrants.

Michael Ring

Question:

318 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason a specific query asked in a previous parliamentary question (details supplied) was not responded to. [9349/06]

In my reply of 28 February to the Deputy's question I emphasised that a particular priority of the Taoiseach's and my own visit to Washington over the St. Patrick's Day period would be to convey to President Bush and his Administration and key players in Congress the Government's strong support for measures to address the position of our undocumented. I am certain our undocumented citizens would share this priority.

As I conveyed in my reply of 28 February, I am acutely aware of the concerns of the undocumented, not least from my visits to the United States. These concerns are also conveyed through regular reports from the embassy and consulates, including of meetings with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, ILIR. I have been happy to make a grant of €30,000 available to the ILIR which actively represents the interests of our undocumented. I very much hope to meet representatives of the ILIR during my visit to Washington. In addition to my earlier reply, I assume this envisaged meeting with the ILIR subsumes the sense of the Deputy's question.

Presidential Visit.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

319 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if any representative of the Government met with President George W. Bush during his time here, either formally or informally; if he will report on discussions he had with President Bush during his visit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9364/06]

There was no meeting between a representative of the Government and President Bush on this occasion.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

320 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the cost to the State of the visit of President George W. Bush on 28 February-1 March 2006, broken down by category of expenditure made or income forfeited; the number of gardaí assigned to duties related to this visit; the number of members of the Defence Forces assigned to duties related to this visit; the additional security resources which were allocated to Shannon Airport to facilitate the stopover; the cost of these resources; the duration of the security operation; if permission was needed, requested or granted for the President to disembark from his aeroplane to meet American troops at Shannon Airport; if fees or tariffs were charged to the US Government in relation to this visit; if permission was granted for weapons to be carried on President Bush’s aircraft; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9365/06]

Permission for President Bush's aircraft to land was granted by my Department in accordance with the normal procedures. However, operational issues with respect to landing an aircraft in the State and the security of visiting Heads of State are not matters for my Department. Queries on these matters are more appropriately addressed to the civil aviation authorities and the Garda Síochána.

President Bush's meeting with US military personnel at the airport appears to have been a spontaneous act. Such personnel were in transit as part of a multinational force authorised by the United Nations Security Council. Permission for this meeting was not required.

Question No. 321 answered with QuestionNo. 315.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Phil Hogan

Question:

322 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when the necessary finance will be made available for the provision of a new swimming pool at Kilkenny City; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8841/06]

Under the local authority swimming pool programme, there are four stages in the development of a swimming pool project. These are, in order of progress: feasibility study-preliminary report; contract documents; tender; and construction. My Department's technical advisers, the Office of Public Works, evaluate each stage and local authorities cannot proceed to the next stage of a project unless prior approval issues from my Department. Grant aid is formally allocated when the tender for the project is approved.

In March 2005, I approved the preliminary report for the proposed replacement swimming pool in Kilkenny submitted by Kilkenny County Council. This approval allowed the council to have detailed contract documents prepared for the work proposed. The matter will be considered further when the council submits the tender documentation for the project to my Department.

Departmental Staff.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

323 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of persons with disabilities employed in his Department; the percentage of the total staff that this represents; the human resources policy of his Department with regard to the recruitment of persons with disabilities; the qualification criteria for persons with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8897/06]

There are currently eight persons with disabilities employed in my Department. This figure represents more than 4% of staff. My Department is fully committed to the employment of persons with disabilities, where possible, and is fully aware of the requirements of the Disability Act 2005 in this regard. However, all assignments to my Department are currently made with a view to the decentralisation of the Department to Killarney in 2007 in line with central arrangements in this regard. This may have an effect on the numbers of persons with disabilities employed in the Department in the short term.

Departmental Funding.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

324 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the funding that has been advanced to community projects and groups in County Cavan in each year since 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8980/06]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

325 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the funding that has been advanced to community projects and groups in County Monaghan in each year since 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8981/06]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

333 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the funding advanced to community projects and groups in County Monaghan in each year since 2000 as a percentage of the national total funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9339/06]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

334 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the funding advanced to community projects and groups in County Cavan in each year since 2000 as a percentage of the national total funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9340/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 324, 325, 333 and 334 together.

The national lottery funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The following funding has been paid to grantees into counties Cavan and Monaghan since the establishment of my Department in June 2002.

Cavan

Cavan

Monaghan

Monaghan

Year

Funding

National Total

Funding

National Total

%

%

2002

691,200

0.9

1,233,000

1.6

2003

580,000

1

685,000

1.2

2004

1,075,000

1.7

996,000

1.6

2005

785,000

1.4

744,000

1.3

In addition the following funding was paid in respect of cultural projects in Monaghan.

Year

Amount

2003

31,500

2004

460,770

2005

916,725

2006

34,893

Sports Funding.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

326 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the funding allocated under the Government sporting grant schemes in 2005 and for 2006; and the breakdown of the way in which and where the funding was allocated. [9001/06]

In 2005, my Department's total expenditure on sport amounted to €184.5 million on the sports capital programme, local authority swimming pool programme, redevelopment of Lansdowne Road, Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Limited, Irish Sports Council, Horseracing Ireland and Bord na gCon. The provision for sport in 2006 in the Book of Estimates amounts to €228.795 million, an increase of 24% over 2005.

The national lottery funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, is the primary means of providing capital funding for sports facilities to clubs and voluntary and community organisations throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis. In 2005 a total of €56.8 million was paid out in respect of grants allocated under the sports capital programmes. Since 1998 a total of €395 million has now been allocated to 4,923 projects throughout the country providing for the needs of organisations and participants in the areas of physical recreation, training, coaching and competition at all levels of sport. Almost €68 million has been provided in the 2006 Estimates for the provision of national lottery funded sport and physical recreational facilities.

In 2005, €14.1 million was spent under my Department's local authority swimming pool programme supporting the construction-refurbishment of swimming pools. In that year, two new pools opened to the public — in Tuam and Ballymun — and two refurbished pools opened — in Clonmel and Churchfield in Cork city. In addition, five projects were approved for grant assistance allowing construction-refurbishment work to commence at various locations. Seven pool projects were approved to seek tenders for construction and a further nine projects had their preliminary reports approved allowing the preparation of contract documents. In 2006, €32 million has been provided in my Department's Vote in respect of this programme and so far this year I have allocated a further €11,427,642 towards three swimming pool projects at Portlaoise, Portarlington and Longford.

In January 2004 the Government agreed to provide funding of €191 million, phased over five years, to the joint IRFU-FAI project for the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road stadium as a 50,000 seat state-of-the-art stadium. This project has now been taken to the planning stage and an application for planning permission was lodged with Dublin City Council in January. Expenditure in 2005 amounted to €9.5 million, with €20 million being provided for expenditure in 2006.

In 2005, a total of €1.4 million in current funding was provided to CSID, the company charged with the development of the sports campus. In November 2005, the Government approved the commencement of phase one of the development of facilities at Abbotstown and funds for the delivery of the project have been provided in my Department's multiannual capital envelope for 2006-10. Phase one provides for the development of a national field sports training centre, catering for rugby, soccer, Gaelic games and hockey. In addition, a national indoor training centre is planned to provide world class training facilities for more than 30 sports, accommodation for sportsmen and sportswomen, sports science and medical facilities and publicly accessible all-weather floodlit synthetic pitches for community use are also included. Current and capital funding totalling €10.798 million has been provided in the 2006 Estimates.

The Irish Sports Council was established in 1999 as the statutory body responsible for the promotion and development of sport in Ireland. It spent more than €34 million in 2005 on initiating, developing and enhancing a wide range of programmes aimed at increasing participation and raising standards in sport. Almost €41 million has been allocated to the council for 2006, which will ensure the continuation of its work in advancing and supporting sport at all levels.

Government support for the horse and greyhound racing industries is provided under the horse and greyhound racing fund, as approved by the Oireachtas. Under the provisions of the Horse and Greyhound Racing Act 2001, the fund receives a guaranteed level of finance based on the excise duty on off-course betting. A total of €68.35 million was provided under the fund in 2005 of which €54.84 million was allocated to current expenditure and €13.51 million to capital programmes. In 2004 the Oireachtas approved regulations to increase the limit of the fund from €254 million to €550 million to continue the fund for a further four years to 2008. A total of €70.06 million has been provided for the fund in 2006.

This unprecedented level of investment in sport is clear evidence of the importance which the Government attaches to establishing modern, well equipped and well managed sporting facilities supported by a wide range of programmes which are having a real benefit to our communities.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

327 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the steps being taken by his Department to promote Olympic sports here. [9002/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

331 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the steps which are being taken by his Department to promote and invest in minority sports, such as tennis, skateboarding, ice hockey, hill climbing and so on; and if he will report on the matter. [9007/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 327 and 331 together.

My Department's role is to provide the overall policy framework and the necessary funding to assist in the provision of sports facilities and to enable its State agency, the Irish Sports Council, to carry out its various functions. The Irish Sports Council was established in 1999 as the statutory body with responsibility for the promotion and development of sport. The provision in funding for the Sports Council in the 2006 Estimates is €40.9 million, in comparison with just over €13 million in 2000. This increased level of funding has enabled the council to initiate, develop and enhance a wide range of programmes to assist the governing bodies of Olympic, major and minority sports in strengthening their capacities, increasing participation and raising standards in their sports.

The Irish Sports Council has already this year allocated grants totalling €7.7 million to 59 national governing bodies of sport, including Olympic and minority sports. The core activities covered by the grants include administration of the sports, the employment of professional staff, coach development and assorted development activities. For certain sports it may also include hosting events and programmes aimed at increasing participation. The sports council also works in partnership with the Olympic Council of Ireland, Paralympic Council of Ireland and relevant Olympic governing bodies of sport in the preparation and participation of Irish competitors at the Olympic and paralympic games.

Arising from the Athens review 2005, the sports council put together an operational plan which identifies key performance indicators, timescales and costings and the roles of the various agencies in supporting Ireland's Olympic and paralympic preparations for Beijing 2008 and beyond. The plan encompasses elements such as the introduction of targeted sport performance plans, including prioritising junior, development and elite athletes; the international carding scheme; proposals for the development of an Irish institute of sport; maintaining and enhancing the role of the Olympic and paralympic performance committees to ensure optimum co-operation in the preparation and performance of the Irish team for the Beijing games and beyond and the strengthening of the Olympic Council of Ireland's administrative capability.

The sports council has established performance planning for a number of targeted Olympic-paralympic sports. Grants are allocated to each sport, which have clear performance pathways and targets. This approach will help put into place longer term planning within high performance sports linking directly into the 2012 London games. In 2006, additional grants totalling €3.9 million have been allocated to 13 Olympic-paralympic sports.

The Olympic performance committee and paralympic performance committees, with representatives of the council, the Olympic Council of Ireland and the Paralympic Council of Ireland, meet regularly to address various topics that arise in the run-up to the games. The meetings focus on strengthening co-operation between the key agencies on athlete preparation, particularly in relation to pre-games training camps, acclimatisation and full medical and science support.

The national lottery funded sports capital programme administered by my Department allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level. The programme is advertised on an annual basis. Since 1998 a total of €395 million has been allocated to 4,923 projects providing for the needs of organisations and participants in the areas of physical recreation, training, coaching and competition at all levels of sport, including Olympic and minority sports. Among the major projects which have received substantial funding are the National Aquatic Centre and national centres for rowing, tennis, hockey, boxing, basketball and athletics, all catering for Olympic sports.

The local authority swimming pool programme, which is also administered by my Department, provides grant aid towards the capital costs of a new swimming pool, a replacement pool or the refurbishment of an existing pool. I allocated a total of more than €19 million under the local authority swimming pool programme in 2005 towards five swimming pool projects. So far in 2006 I have allocated a further €11.4 million towards three swimming pool projects.

The Government has approved the commencement of phase one of the development of facilities at Abbotstown and funds for the delivery of the project have been provided in my Department's multiannual capital envelope for 2006-10. Phase one provides for the development of a national field sports training centre catering for rugby, soccer Gaelic games and hockey. In addition, a national indoor training centre is planned to provide world class training facilities for more than 30 sports, accommodation for sportsmen and sportswomen, sports science and medical facilities and publicly accessible all-weather floodlit synthetic pitches for community use are also included.

The Irish Sports Council is also finalising its proposals for the development of an Irish institute of sport. The planned facilities at the sports campus at Abbotstown and the considerable progress being made in providing a network of high quality facilities throughout the country, complemented by the support of the sports council, help deliver the infrastructure and programmes needed for the further development of our elite competitors as well as participants at all levels in all types of sport in Ireland.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

328 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the steps which are being taken to invest funds in communities here for new, modern sport facilities. [9003/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

329 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the steps which are being taken by his Department to invest funding for sporting facilities into designated areas of disadvantage here, such as the CLÁR and RAPID areas. [9004/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 328 and 329 together.

The national lottery funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, provides funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country towards the provision of sport and recreational facilities. Since 1998, almost €395 million has been allocated in sports capital funding to some 4,923 projects in villages, towns and parishes throughout the country. Over that period, the annual allocation has increased by more than 830% from just over €7.55 million in 1998 to almost €63.2 million in 2005. Of the 2005 allocation, in excess of €12.7 million was allocated to projects classified as community-mixed, which would include recreational facilities provided in community centres and community based facilities and projects where more than one sport or recreational activity was available.

One of the stated objectives of the sports capital programme is to prioritise the needs of disadvantaged areas in the provision of sports facilities. Such areas are those designated by Government for special support through the schemes administered by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Pobal, the agency with responsibility for the administration of the RAPID programme, that is, RAPID I and II, local drugs task force and CLÁR areas.

Projects identified as being located in areas designated as disadvantaged are targeted and prioritised in a number of ways during assessment of applications under the programme. They are permitted to have a lower level of own funding available — 20% as against the normal 30% — towards their project and also receive a higher assessment score under a number of assessment criteria. In addition, applications which include programmes aimed at improving social inclusion also receive higher assessment scores.

Over the period 2001-05, a total of €141 million was allocated under the sports capital programme to almost 1,500 projects in respect of the provision of facilities in areas categorised as disadvantaged. In addition, successful projects located in CLÁR and RAPID areas may qualify to receive additional top-up funding, payable by the Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, in addition to their sports capital allocation. In the case of projects located in CLÁR areas, this top-up funding can be up to 20% of the sports capital grant amount; in the case of projects located in RAPID areas which are also endorsed by their local area implementation team, the top-up funding can be up to 30%.

My Department continues to liaise closely with both the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Pobal with regard to continuing to prioritise applications for sports capital funding from areas designated by Government as disadvantaged.

The local authority swimming pool programme, which is also administered by my Department, provides grant aid towards the capital costs of a new swimming pool, a replacement pool or the refurbishment of an existing pool. The programme provides for a maximum grant level of 80% of eligible costs — 90% in the case of disadvantaged areas — subject to a maximum of €3.8 million. The current round of the swimming pool programme was closed to applications on 31 July 2000 and the priority in relation to the programme is to support the 57 projects which applied for funding prior to the closing date. Since 2000, just over €93 million has been allocated towards the cost of swimming pool projects.

I am sure the Deputy will agree that, given the massive increase in investment I have outlined, it is clear there has been a significant improvement in the level of sport and recreational facilities being provided in communities all over the country. However, my Department is continually assessing the economic and social potential of sport and has established an inter-agency steering group to oversee the development of a sports facilities strategy.

Section 847A of the Taxes Consolidation Act provides for a scheme for tax relief for relevant donations to approved sports bodies towards the funding of sports capital projects. Approved sports status can be awarded by my Department for suitable capital projects, allowing for tax relief to be claimed by a club on donations towards the project that exceed the minimum qualifying threshold of €250 per annum. Full details of the tax relief scheme are available on my Department's website at www.dast.gov.ie.

Sport and Recreational Development.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

330 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the steps which are being taken by his Department to promote sport on an all Ireland basis. [9006/06]

The Irish Sports Council and the Sports Council for Northern Ireland have an excellent working relationship and engage in a number of joint initiatives, such as the code of ethics and good practice for children's sport, the all-island sports development conference and programmes such as Youth Sport West. The high level all-island planning group, which includes the chairperson and chief executive of each council, meets on a regular basis to ensure consistency in policy and practice in sports development. There is co-operation on such issues as research, development of high performance sport and anti-doping. The group ensures that there is no duplication of effort in planning and support for governing bodies of sport and individual athletes.

Regular meetings take place between officials of my Department and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure at which sporting topics are discussed to the mutual benefit of each Department.

The selection of London last July as the host city for the 2012 games offers Ireland an unprecedented opportunity for businesses, tourism and sport. I have met David Hanson MP, Northern Ireland's Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure for discussions on a number of sports issues, including the opportunities in relation to London hosting the 2012 summer Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. The Minister and I agreed there were tremendous opportunities for both Northern Ireland and the Republic to benefit from the games. The existing close working relationships both at departmental and sports council levels will provide a solid basis upon which to maximise the opportunities ahead. I have also discussed the situation with Richard Caborn MP, the British Minister for Sport, who has warmly welcomed the approach being undertaken on an all-island basis here.

Question No. 331 answered with QuestionNo. 327.

Appointments to State Boards.

Dan Boyle

Question:

332 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, further to Parliamentary Question No. 707 of 25 January 2006, the State boards or bodies to which the 157 appointments were made under the aegis of his Department since 2002. [9226/06]

I wish to refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 162 of 2 March 2006 which gives the most up-to-date information on appointments to State boards under the aegis of my Department.

Questions Nos. 333 and 334 answered with Question No. 324.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

335 Mr. Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the progress achieved to date towards the delivering of a new swimming pool complex for the community at Athy, County Kildare; when the project will move to construction phase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9380/06]

Under the local authority swimming pool programme, there are four stages in the development of a swimming pool project. These are, in order of progress, feasibility study-preliminary report; contract documents; tender; and construction. My Department's technical advisers, the Office of Public Works, evaluate each stage and prior approval is required before local authorities can proceed from one stage to the next. Grant aid is formally allocated when the tender for the project is approved.

I approved the contract documents submitted by Kildare County Council for the proposed replacement swimming pool in Athy town in June 2005. This approval allowed Kildare County Council to invite tenders for the work proposed. The matter will be considered further when the council submits the tender documentation for the project to my Department.

Physical Education Facilities.

Michael Ring

Question:

336 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if funding will be provided to upgrade the sports hall floor in a school (details supplied) in County Mayo. [9602/06]

In my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 2702 on 26 January 2006 the Deputy was advised of the position regarding the project in question. There has been no change in the position since then. The national lottery funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

Schools may only apply for funding jointly with local sports clubs or community groups and must: show a clear need for the proposed sports facility in the area as formally agreed with other local groups and-or the local authority; show how the proposed facility will meet that need; and show that the local community will have significant access to the proposed facility when it is not being used by the school or college. In this regard, significant access is a requirement for a minimum of at least 30 hours a week throughout the year. Applications from primary and post-primary schools and colleges on their own will not be considered under the programme.

Applications for funding under the 2006 programme were invited through advertisements in the press on 27 and 28 November last. The closing date for receipt of applications was 20 January 2006. All applications received before the deadline, including one from the organisation in question, will be evaluated against the programme's requirements and assessment criteria, which are outlined in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme. I intend to announce the grant allocations for the programme as soon as possible after the assessment process has been completed.

Decentralisation Programme.

John McGuinness

Question:

337 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of staff who have requested to relocate to Thomastown, County Kilkenny, from the Health and Safety Authority or elsewhere as part of the programme of decentralisation; the timeframe for the move; the progress to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9031/06]

I understand from the Health and Safety Authority that the number of staff who have requested to relocate to Thomastown based on central applications facility applications are 11 existing HSA staff; 41 civil servants; and ten other public servants. In addition, the authority has recruited or promoted 18 staff who have signed contracts which contain a Thomastown relocation clause.

As regards the timeframe for the move, the authority has been advised by the OPW that the site procurement is in the final stages and that the current timeline for availability for occupancy is mid-2008. The authority is also actively seeking an interim base in Kilkenny city to accommodate 21 staff who are in the process of recruitment for the registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals strategy and some serving staff who wish to move in advance of the Thomastown premises being made available. All staff who move in the interim to Kilkenny city will transfer to Thomastown when the premises are complete.

With regard to progress to date, I have been advised by the authority that a detailed implementation plan has been prepared and submitted to the decentralisation implementation group. This plan was considered and approved by the board of the authority and is reviewed on a regular basis having regard to any developments that have taken place in the meantime. The matter is under active discussion with the staff unions at the authority's industrial relations council.

Employment Agencies.

Mary Upton

Question:

338 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the fact that many non-national contract workers who obtain work through employment agencies receive no pay when there is no work and cannot claim benefits; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8846/06]

The practice in the employment agency sector in Ireland is that, in general, temporary employment agency workers are not paid by employment agencies while such workers are out of work. Accordingly, the position of non-national temporary employment agency workers is exactly the same as for Irish temporary employment agency workers. Such workers can seek other employment.

It is not unreasonable for employment agencies not to pay temporary employment agency workers while they are out of work as the situation would be the same for non-employment agency workers who are unemployed. The Deputy will be reassured to know that employment agencies are, in general, not granted permits to employ non-EU nationals. The question of the payment of social welfare benefits to non-national temporary agency workers while they are out of work is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs.

Departmental Staff.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

339 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of persons with disabilities employed in his Department; the percentage of the total staff that this represents; the human resources policy of his Department with regard to the recruitment of persons with disabilities; the qualification criteria for persons with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8898/06]

Currently, 44 people are employed in my Department who are recorded as having a disability, representing 4.5% of the total staff number. My Department therefore exceeds the 3% target for the employment of people with disabilities required of all Departments.

The Public Appointments Service, following approval from the Department of Finance, undertakes the recruitment of staff to all Department posts, including my Department. Provided the qualifying criteria for each particular competition are satisfied, persons with disabilities are eligible to compete in all such competitions. Every effort is made to ensure that the particular needs of staff with disabilities are met throughout the selection process. Furthermore, my Department is to participate in the willing able mentoring, WAM, project during this summer. The WAM project, which is administered by the Association of Higher Education Access and Disability, aims to provide temporary placements with public and private sector employers to graduates with disabilities.

Hazardous Substances.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

340 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in view of the inherent risks posed by the inappropriate use of aerosol cans, legislation will be introduced to oblige manufacturers to indicate clearly these risks in a similar manner to the warnings carried on cigarette packages; his views on restricting the sale of such products to over-18s; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8924/06]

The principal legislative provisions covering warning labels on dangerous substance products are contained in the European Communities (Classification, Packaging, Labelling and Notification of Dangerous Substances) Regulations 2003 and the use of products by the European Communities (Dangerous Substances and Preparations) (Marketing and Use) Regulations 2003. These regulations are enforced by the Health and Safety Authority and implement and transpose into Irish law the latest EU directives in the dangerous substances area. Implementation of the regulations governing the labelling and use of dangerous substances is designed to alert users in the most effective manner as to the potential dangers associated with such products and to heighten the general level of awareness of the public in their use of substances of this nature.

With specific regard to aerosols, I draw the Deputy's attention to the European Communities (Aerosol Dispensers) Regulations 1977 and the European Communities (Aerosol Dispensers) (Amendment) Regulations 1995, which address issues related to the manufacture, filling, marketing and labelling of aerosol dispensers. In addition, the European Communities (General Product Safety) Regulations 2004 place a requirement on producers and distributors to ensure that the products they place on the market do not pose a hazard to consumers. Enforcement of these regulations is the responsibility of the Director of Consumer Affairs. The director is given authority to ensure that products placed on the market are safe and that producers and distributors of such products comply with their obligations under these regulations.

Work Permits.

Phil Hogan

Question:

341 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason that approvals for work permits in respect of forestry employees is difficult and slow; the consequent impact on business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8949/06]

It is Government policy that employers should be able to source their workforce needs from within the European Economic Area, except in cases where high levels of skills and qualifications are required for the job and such skills are not available within this area. Work permit applications in respect of forestry workers would be refused on the grounds that they are not highly skilled and highly paid.

Industrial Development.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

342 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the discussions he has had with Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland regarding the declining numbers of jobs being created by their client companies in the Waterford constituency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9063/06]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

343 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs lost in the Waterford constituency in IDA and Enterprise Ireland client companies in the years 2002 to 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9065/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 342 and 343 together.

Job creation and retention are matters for the development agencies concerned and not ones in which I have a direct function. I am informed that data on job gains and losses are compiled from the annual employment survey carried out by Forfás. The following figures indicate the number of jobs lost by the client companies of Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland in the period 2002 to 2005. It should be noted that, as the Forfás employment survey for 2005 is now being completed and is in the process of being analysed, the figures are provisional and subject to change. The number of jobs lost in Waterford by Enterprise Ireland client companies for the years 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 were 527, 269, 549 and 583, respectively. The number of jobs lost in Waterford by IDA Ireland client companies for the years 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 were 241, 174, 339 and 132, respectively.

The Forfás figures indicate a net gain in jobs in IDA supported companies in County Waterford, increasing from 5,334 in 2002 to 5,800 in 2005. In Enterprise Ireland supported companies, the figures indicate a net loss in jobs over the same period, decreasing from 5,728 in 2002 to 5,246 in 2005. The major contributor to the job losses in Enterprise Ireland companies was the redundancy programme in Waterford Crystal which involved a total of 485 jobs. This involved the closure of its Dungarvan plant as well as further downsizing in its main plant in Kilbarry, County Waterford.

In terms of job creation, Enterprise Ireland activity is focused on the creation of new jobs through supporting entrepreneurs, setting up new high potential start-up companies, the retention and creation of new jobs in existing companies and enhancing the innovation capability of Ireland at a national and regional level through support of research in companies and third level institutions.

Since the beginning of 2003, Enterprise Ireland approved support of more than €8.4 million and made payments of more than €8 million in County Waterford to support investment in areas such as research and development, capability building and process development. In addition, Enterprise Ireland staff provide supports for companies engaging in a range of international activities.

Enterprise Ireland also assists with the development of infrastructure to support start-up businesses and facilitate job creation and has provided €2.54 million for the construction of an incubation centre at the Waterford Institute of Technology. The centre has now been completed and the first tenants have recently taken up residence. Enterprise Ireland also provided funding for the development of 13 community enterprise centres in the south-east region over the past ten years, four of which are in County Waterford. As the gateway location for the south east, IDA Ireland is seeking to develop Waterford city as a first-class location for overseas investment with the necessary infrastructure, skills availability and support services capable of attracting investment into Waterford and the entire region. The key greenfield sectors being targeted are pharmaceuticals, medical technologies, ICT and international services. IDA Ireland is developing a major greenfield site at Belview, three miles from Waterford city, which will be capable of accommodating large-scale utility intensive industry, most likely in the pharmaceutical and ICT sectors. In addition, IDA Ireland is continuing to actively market its new 70 acre business and technology park on the Cork Road in Waterford city through its network of overseas offices.

In 2005 the US financial services company, Bisys Hedge Fund Services, announced plans to establish a new hedge funds operation in IDA Ireland's business and technology park in Waterford which will create 250 new jobs over five years. Further announcements regarding job creation in IDA Ireland supported companies over the last few years include a new centre in Waterford for Ubiqus which will create 69 jobs, an expansion by ABB Transformers providing an additional 70 jobs and an expansion by AOL of its contact centre in Waterford providing 125 new jobs.

EU Directives.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

344 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will confirm that EU Directive 2003/10/EC was implemented by 14 February 2006; if the directive was not implemented by that date, the reason Ireland did not meet its obligations to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9301/06]

Ireland was required to transpose this directive into national law by 14 February 2006. However this has not been possible owing to the heavy legislative workload being processed by the Health and Safety Authority. A draft statutory instrument setting out regulations to transpose the directive, which concerns the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents — noise — is being finalised by the authority.

I understand from the authority that it will shortly issue the draft regulations for public consultation for a period of 30 days in accordance with the provisions of section 57 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. When this process is complete and when due account has been taken of any representations made, the regulations will be sent for final legal drafting in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.

Workplace Fatalities.

Phil Hogan

Question:

345 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the names and addresses of the 23 construction workers who suffered fatal injuries on sites during 2004 and 2005; the location of the site in each case; the precise training in respect of each worker; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9423/06]

In 2004, there were 16 construction fatalities, as well as two fatalities on construction sites of workers in other sectors, and in 2005 there were 23 construction fatalities. Following is a list of those fatally injured in 2004 and 2005 on construction sites or in construction related workplace activities during that period. The list sets out the names of the deceased, the date of the accident and the site location.

The addresses of the victims and their individual training records are personal to the deceased and, accordingly, this information is not being released. In many of the cases, files have been prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions and prosecutions are pending. In other cases, files are being prepared for consideration by the Director of Public Prosecutions. In such cases, the training record of the deceased may be used in court as evidence and release of this information could prejudice potential proceedings.

Construction Fatalities from 1 January 2004 to 31 December 2004

Date

Victim

Site Address

6 January 2004

John Byrne

Castlerea Community School, Castlerea, County Roscommon

3 February 2004

Eoin Roe O’Neill

Shannon Bridge Power Station, Shannon Bridge, County Offaly

10 February 2004

John Donnell

Gate Lodge, Church Hill, Ballinasloe, County Galway

19 February 2004

Enda Murphy

Ballinacarrig Bridge, Chapelstown, Tullow Road, County Carlow

20 February 2004

Michael McDonald

Clonfadda, Dunhill, Waterford

19 March 2004

Eric Connellan

Technological Park, Plassey, Limerick

22 April 2004

Patrick Lough

Tullyard Road, Glenties, County Donegal

26 May 2004

David Kearon

IFI site Site, Arklow, County Wicklow

17 June 2004

Martin Conroy

Ballyhane, Cappoquinn, County Waterford

17 June 2004

William Cuthbertson

Kinnegad Bypass, County Kildare

10 August 2004

Colm Gibbons

Corradrehid, Strokestown, County Roscommon

11 August 2004

John Murray

Ward Brae, Corlea, Ballyshannon, County Donegal

20 August 2004

Austin Gore

Aikens Village, Lambs Cross, Sandyford, Dublin

13 October 2004

Peter Lynch

Road Works, Kilshane, Tipperary- Bansha Rd, Bansha, County Tipperary

20 October 2004

Peter Cahalan

Benamore Business Park, Roscrea, County Tipperary

10 November 2004

Joe Feehan

N6 Motor Way, Tyrellspass, Kinnegad, County Westmeath

10 November 2004

Mark Lyons

Rear Main Street, Townparks, Ballinasloe, County Galway

22 December 2004

Ashling Gallagher

N59, Murrevagh, Mulranny, County Mayo

Construction Fatalities from 1 January 2005 to 31 December 2005

Date

Victim

Site Address

11 January 2005

Tomasz Kaminski

Cois Bhearú Development, Rathstewart, Monasterevan Road, Athy, County Kildare

19 January 2005

Donal Nodwell

39, Lindville Gardens, Blackrock Road, Cork

22 January 2005

Sean McQuillan

Tullygagan, Glenties, Lifford, County Donegal

27 January 2005

Ciarán McNally

Dundalk Western Bypass, Off M1 Roundabout, Dundalk, County Louth

19 February 2005

William Helm

McDermott Tower, Main Street, Ballymun, Dublin

23 February 2005

Philip McDermot

Trumera, Mountrath, County Laois

15 March 2005

Eddie Merideth

Blocks 2/3 Gallery Quay Development, Off Charlotte Quay, Pearse Street, Dublin

29 April 2005

Joseph Connors

Road Works N62 Roscrea-Templemore Road, Roscrea to Templemore, Templemore, County Tipperary

9 May 2005

Sean Healy

Ballyclough, Mallow, County Cork

24 June 2005

Sylvester Mulvey

8, Kennington Crescent, Templeogue, Dublin

27 June 2005

Peter Fitzgerald

St. Joseph’s Hospital-Construction Site, Clonmel, County Tipperary

30 June 2005

Garry Wood

Construction Site, University of Limerick, Village 5, Garraun, Clonlara, County Clare

22 July 2005

Danny Marron

Site of Extension to Baggage Hall, Dublin Airport, Dublin

5 August 2005

Shaun McGowan

Dock Road, County Limerick

9 August 2005

Ion Scurcan

Dun Brinn, Fortbarrington Road, Athy, County Kildare

31 August 2005

Trevor Furlong

Railway Square Development, Millar’s Marsh Car Park, Waterford

16 September 2005

Chris Sinclair

Industrial Extension, Little Island, Cork

19 October 2005

Jacques Coetzee

Mullinadarragh, Carrigallen, County Leitrim

21 October 2005

Adrian Dwzil

Cluaininn Site, Portlaoise Road, Mountrath, County Laois

26 October 2005

Michael Burns

Housing Development, Dromneavane, Kenmare, County Kerry

23 November 2005

Pádraic Daly

Lough na Corra, Williamstown, County Galway

25 November 2005

Brendan Brambrick

Fair Green, Mountmellick Road, Portlaoise, County Laois

6 December 2005

Eoin Cahalane

Ballyrobin, Ferrybank, County Kilkenny

Job Creation.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

346 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the details of all talks engaged in by job creation agencies in his Department a company (details supplied) in County Donegal; if it is the case that the company is now transferring to another jurisdiction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9486/06]

I understand that Enterprise Ireland met the company concerned to review its business plan to establish a manufacturing facility in County Donegal. Enterprise Ireland considered that the business plan required further development before it could consider investing in the business but confirmed that it would work with the company to develop its business proposition and the relevant application forms were provided to the company.

Enterprise Ireland later made contact with the company, which indicated that it had decided not to go ahead with the project. I understand from the agency that the company is engaged in exploring opportunities to establish a manufacturing plant in eastern Europe and might consider setting up a related facility in Ireland at a later date. Enterprise Ireland has encouraged the company to remain in contact if it wishes to pursue this opportunity.

Social Welfare Code.

Paul McGrath

Question:

347 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, further to the calculation of rent allowance, if there is a protocol in place whereby the community welfare officer would inspect an entire house, including the contents of every wardrobe in the house; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8952/06]

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 decisions on individual claims.

To qualify for rent supplement, a person must satisfy a number of conditions. The person must be a bona fide tenant, be habitually resident in this country, have a housing need and satisfy a means test. The means test is based on the household income. In addition, the executive must be satisfied that the accommodation is suited to the person's accommodation needs and the rent payable is within the prescribed limits. In determining whether the accommodation is suited to the person's accommodation needs, the executive must establish the household composition, the size of the accommodation unit and identify any special needs that the person may have. As part of this process, the executive normally carries out a visit to the residential premises in question. This home visit is also used to confirm the applicant's residence.

To determine ongoing entitlement to a rent supplement payment, the executive carries out regular reviews of claims. These reviews may require the landlord to confirm tenancy details, such as the household composition, the rent payable and whether rent has fallen into arrears. As part of the review process, the tenant may also be interviewed by the executive or a further home visit may be carried out. It is a matter for the executive to carry out whatever checks it considers necessary to establish entitlement to a rent supplement payment.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

348 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if the rent subsidy paid to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 12 is correct; the way in which this is calculated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8802/06]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, SWA, 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 standard SWA rules, rent supplements are normally calculated to ensure that a person, after the payment of rent, has an income equal to the rate of SWA appropriate to their family circumstances, less a minimum contribution, currently €13, which recipients are required to pay from their own resources. Many recipients pay more than €13 because recipients are also required, subject to income disregards, to contribute any additional assessable means that they have over and above the appropriate basic SWA rate towards their accommodation costs.

The Dublin and mid-Leinster area of the Health Service Executive has advised that the person concerned was paid a proportionate amount of rent supplement for February because she was not in her accommodation unit for the full month. The person in question will receive a rent supplement of €344.20 per month from her next payment date. The details of calculation of her rent supplement will be forwarded separately to the Deputy.

John McGuinness

Question:

349 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if rent allowance and payment of a deposit will be approved in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if payment on their doctors certificates for the period 2 December 2005 to 16 January 2006 will be expedited. [8874/06]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Neither I nor my Department have any function in decisions on individual claims. The supplementary welfare allowance scheme provides for exceptional needs payments to assist with essential, once-off expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of his or her household income or other resources. The scheme also provides for the payment of a rent supplement. The purpose of the rent supplement scheme is to provide short-term income support to eligible people living in private rented accommodation whose means are insufficient to meet their accommodation costs and who do not have accommodation available to them from any other source.

The southern area of the executive has advised that the person concerned was in receipt of rent supplement but that this payment ceased when it came to light that the person concerned was no longer resident in the accommodation. The executive further advised that it has not received any subsequent application for assistance from the person concerned for new accommodation. If the person concerned wishes to apply for rent supplement or an exceptional needs payment in respect of a rent deposit then he should contact the community welfare officer at his local health centre.

The person concerned also had a claim to disability benefit from 8 December 2005 to 21 January 2006. One of the qualifying conditions for payment of disability benefit is that the claimant must have a minimum of 13 paid qualifying contributions in one of the following years: the governing contribution year, which was 2003 in the case of the person concerned; the two contribution years preceding the governing contribution year; or a subsequent contribution year. The records of the Department show that the person concerned has no qualifying paid contributions since the 1999 to 2000 year. Consequently, he was not qualified for disability benefit. However, he does qualify for the award of credited PRSI contributions which could help to qualify him for benefit in the future.

Departmental Staff.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

350 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of persons with disabilities employed in his Department; the percentage of the total staff that this represents; the human resources policy of his Department with regard to the recruitment of persons with disabilities; the qualification criteria for persons with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8899/06]

The current position in my Department is that 155 or 3.3% of the total staff of my Department are persons with disabilities. The majority of people with disabilities who are employed in my Department were recruited by way of competitions conducted by the Public Appointments Service, PAS. Persons with disabilities can avail of two recruitment processes operated by PAS, standard open competitions and confined competitions held specifically for persons with disabilities. The entry requirements and the standard necessary to pass these confined competitions are identical to those pertaining to the open competitions. My Department works closely with PAS to ensure best practice regarding the recruitment and assignment of staff with disabilities.

My Department is directly responsible for the recruitment of its services grades staff. Recruitment for these grades is conducted through advertisement with PAS. A number of services grade staff in my Department are persons with disabilities. The Department also engages in some direct recruitment of temporary staff outside Dublin to cover short-term absences such as the summer term time period or maternity leave. The Department is committed to ensuring that its human resource practices, including recruitment, are fully in line with Civil Service policy on equality of opportunity. Under that policy, a range of measures have been put in place to ensure equal opportunity and prohibit discrimination on any of the nine grounds covered by equality legislation, including disability.

Social Welfare Code.

Pat Carey

Question:

351 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on extending the right to free travel for Irish pensioners living in the UK when these pensioners visit here; if discussions are under way with his UK counterpart or with the office of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer on the introduction of this measure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8911/06]

The free travel scheme is available to all people living in the State aged 66 years or over. All carers in receipt of carer's allowance and carers of people in receipt of constant attendance or prescribed relative's allowance, regardless of their age, receive a free travel pass. It is also available to people under age 66 who are in receipt of certain disability type welfare payments, such as disability allowance, invalidity pension and blind person's pension.

People living in the state who are in receipt of a social security invalidity or similar disability payment from a country covered by EU regulations or from a country with which Ireland has a bilateral social security agreement and who have been on this payment for at least 12 months are also eligible for free travel.

There have been a number of requests and inquiries with regard to the extension of entitlement to free travel to Irish-born people living outside Ireland or to those in receipt of pensions from my Department, from the UK in particular. The legal advice available to me on this issue is that such proposals would be contrary to the EC treaties which prohibit discrimination on the grounds of nationality. However, I am continuing to examine all aspects of a possible scheme.

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.

John McGuinness

Question:

352 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will review the application for supplementary welfare allowance for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if he will grant the assistance applied for to cover the specific timeframe involved while the family settle their extremely difficult separation arrangements in the interests of their spouse and children. [8956/06]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on my behalf by the community welfare division of the Health Service Executive, provides for exceptional needs payments to assist with essential once-off expenditure which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of his or her household income or other resources. There is no automatic entitlement to this payment. Each application is determined by the executive based on the particular circumstances of the case. Exceptional needs payments are subject to a means test. Eligible people would normally be in receipt of a social welfare or health service executive payment.

The south-eastern area of the Health Service Executive has advised that an application for an exceptional needs payment was made by the Deputy on behalf of the person concerned on 16 February 2006. The application was refused by the executive on the grounds that the person concerned is in full-time employment and that the household income was deemed sufficient to meet expenditure needs. It is open to the person concerned to appeal this decision to the designated appeals officer of the executive.

Social Welfare Code.

Seamus Kirk

Question:

353 Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs his views on extending the fuel allowance to a year-round basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9342/06]

The aim of the national fuel scheme is to assist householders on long-term social welfare or health service executive payments with meeting the cost of their additional heating needs during the winter season. Fuel allowances are paid for 29 weeks from the end of September to mid-April. The allowance represents a contribution towards a person's normal heating expenses. In addition, many of the households concerned qualify for electricity or gas allowances.

The scheme has been improved in recent budgets. The means test has been eased and the duration of payment increased from 26 weeks to 29 weeks. The budget for 2006 provided for an increase in the rate of fuel allowance of €5 from €9 to €14, €17.90 in designated smokeless areas. Some 264,400 customers, 145,800 with basic fuel allowance and 118,600 with smokeless fuel supplement, will benefit in 2006 at an estimated cost of €125.1 million. In addition to the fuel allowance, more than 320,000 pensioners and other households qualify for electricity or gas allowances through the household benefits package payable towards their heating, light and cooking costs throughout the year at an overall cost of €109 million in 2005. As currently structured, these allowances are linked to unit energy consumption, so that these people are protected against unit price increases in electricity or gas.

There is also a facility available through the supplementary welfare allowance scheme to assist people in certain circumstances with special heating needs. If a person has an exceptional heating cost by virtue of a particular infirmity or medical condition which he or she is unable to meet out of household income, it is open to him or her to apply to the local community welfare officer for a special heating supplement under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme.

Any changes in the means rules or other conditions of the scheme would have significant cost implications and would have to be considered in the context of the budget and in the light of the resources available to me for improvements in social welfare generally.

Paul McGrath

Question:

354 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, with regard to maternity benefit, his views on whether time spent caring for a special needs child can be assessed as contributions for the purpose of maternity benefit; if there are allowances for full-time carers of one child with special needs upon the birth of a second child; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9357/06]

Entitlement to maternity benefit is generally contingent in the first instance on entitlement to statutory leave. The right to maternity leave is established under the maternity protection legislation, which is the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Maternity benefit payments serve as a non-means tested income transfer in lieu of earnings forgone during a period of maternity leave. As with all other social insurance-based payments, the criteria set out for eligibility require a recent link to the labour force as reflected in a minimum number of contributions paid and a number paid or credited in the period prior to claiming the benefit. Women who have accrued the required number of PRSI contributions at class A, E, H or S may establish entitlement to maternity benefit. Only those employees who are entitled to statutory maternity leave or are self-employed can establish eligibility towards maternity benefit. As such, carers who provide care beyond their statutory entitlement to leave are not entitled to receive these payments.

However, my Department operates a number of schemes that cater for the needs of carers. The carer's schemes provide both means-tested and social insurance based payments. Carer's allowance is a means-tested payment directed at carers on low incomes who live with and look after certain people who need full-time care and attention. This includes those needing care due to advanced age, physical or learning disability or chronic illness. Carer's benefit is a weekly social insurance payment that supports those who are entitled to statutory carers leave and leave their job temporarily to care for someone. This payment is based on the social insurance contributions paid by the carer. Payments made under these schemes qualify for credited contributions for the duration of the payment. However, this would not be sufficient to establish entitlement to maternity benefit as there is no certification from an employer as to entitlement to statutory maternity leave.

David Stanton

Question:

355 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if, with regard to the case of a person (details supplied) in County Cork, he intends to issue mandatory instruction to community welfare officers regarding the awarding of rent or mortgage interest supplements to one-parent family payment recipients who become full-time students to further their education, update their qualifications or secure future full-time employment; the way in which assessment of entitlement to rent supplement by community welfare officers can result in rent supplement being awarded in some areas but not in others; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9428/06]

David Stanton

Question:

356 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the way in which, despite the issuance of departmental circulars on supplementary welfare allowances, community welfare officers in various Health Service Executive areas have reached different conclusions on the payment of rent supplement to a one-parent family payment recipient (details supplied) in County Cork; his views on the denial of rent allowance to a one-parent family payment recipient on the basis that he or she no longer qualifies for payment owing to involvement in full-time third-level education; his further views on whether this practice is in line with his Department’s policy of improving access to education and employment for lone parents; and the action he intends to take to rectify this situation. [9429/06]

David Stanton

Question:

357 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the way in which a one-parent family payment recipient (details supplied) in County Cork can be deemed eligible for rent supplement in one area but deemed ineligible by a community welfare office after moving to a different area to return to full-time third level education; and if he intends to alter guidelines or introduce legislation to ensure that this discrepancy does not re-occur. [9430/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 355 to 357, inclusive, together.

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

Under section 190(1) of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2001, people in full-time education are not eligible normally to receive assistance, including rent supplements, under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. However, there is a special provision for retention of rent supplement by qualifying social welfare scheme recipients, including people on one-parent family payment, in the specific situation where they resume full-time education after a defined period with the assistance of the back to education allowance scheme. People participating in approved courses under this facility receive a standard weekly rate of payment equivalent to the maximum rate of their relevant social welfare payment and may retain any secondary benefits, such as rent supplements, which may have been in payment prior to participating in the scheme.

Section 190(3) of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005 provides that, in a case where there are exceptional circumstances, supplementary welfare allowance may be granted to a person who would otherwise qualify but for exclusion under section 190(1). This discretion is aimed at enabling assistance to be provided through the scheme, if necessary, to people who face an exceptional non-recurring cost which they cannot meet from their own resources. This exceptional needs provision is not intended to circumvent existing standard rules for other schemes.

The HSE southern area has advised that it refused a claim for rent supplement from the person concerned on the basis that, as a full-time student, she did not satisfy the eligibility criteria for participation in the back to education allowance scheme and that there were no special circumstances to warrant payment of assistance on an exceptional basis. The decision to refuse rent supplement in this case was not based on the person moving to a new location but on the basis of the person becoming a full-time student. The HSE southern area advised that it is not the case that entitlement to rent supplement is assessed differently in different areas.

This decision was appealed to an appeals officer in the executive who upheld the decision of the community welfare officer. The decision was then appealed to the chief appeals officer in the social welfare appeals office who decided that in the circumstances of this particular case, rent supplement should be paid. The executive has advised that the person concerned moved back into the family home while awaiting the outcome of the appeal from the chief appeals officer.

Every case is decided by the community welfare service on the basis of the individual circumstances of the case in question. In this regard, I am satisfied that the current arrangements actively support social welfare recipients in returning to education and progressing into employment and I do not intend to issue any general instruction to community welfare officers or to introduce amendments to existing legislation in relation to the payment of rent or mortgage interest supplements to full-time students.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

358 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo cannot be allowed participate in the back to work scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9564/06]

The back to work enterprise allowance is designed to encourage the long-term unemployed to take up self-employment opportunities by allowing them to retain a reducing proportion of their social welfare payment, plus secondary benefits, over four years. From 1 March 2006, I have reduced the qualifying period for the back to work enterprise allowance — self employed — from the previous three years, for unemployment benefit-assistance recipients, to two years.

The person concerned has not made an application for a back to work allowance but has discussed the matter with my Department's local facilitator. He has only been in receipt of unemployment benefit since 24 January 2005 and is, therefore, not eligible for the allowance at present.

Driving Licences.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

359 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the legal procedure on the surrender of a driving licence following disqualification from driving; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8967/06]

In the case of a disqualification resulting from the accumulation of 12 penalty points section 5 of the Road Traffic Act 2002 provides for a notification to be sent to the driver specifying that he or she will be disqualified for holding a licence for six months and directing that the licence held by him or her be submitted to the licensing authority that granted the licence not later than 14 days from the date of disqualification.

In the case of a disqualification handed down by the court, Article 45 of the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 1999 requires that the licence of the disqualified person be delivered to the court within five days of the coming into operation of the court order. The court endorses the licence and forwards it to the licensing authority. Under Article 52 of said regulations the licensing authority retains the licence until expiration or removal of the disqualification.

Question No. 360 answered with QuestionNo. 151.

Enda Kenny

Question:

361 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport the statistics for the years 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 for the number of driving licences issued for class A, B, C, D and E and the number of provisional driving licences for cars only differentiating between first time provisional driving licences and second or subsequent provisional driving licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9221/06]

The information sought by the Deputy has been requested from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government which holds and administers the national driver file and will be forwarded to the Deputy when it is available.

State Assets.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

362 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the proposed method of disposal of the State share in Aer Lingus; and if he will provide the rationale for same. [9519/06]

Seán Crowe

Question:

364 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport if, in view of the ongoing success and prosperity of Aer Lingus and its strategic importance to the State, he will agree to put a halt to his plans to privatise this company. [9567/06]

I propose to take Question Nos. 362 and 364 together.

I refer the Deputies to my reply to Questions Nos. 50 and 53 today.

Traffic Management.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

363 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if he, his department or his Minister of State has made representations to Dublin City Council with regard to the proposed new heavy goods vehicle management strategy which is due to be introduced following the opening of the Dublin Port tunnel; his views on the contention of the consultants hired by Dublin City Council that following the opening of the tunnel there should not be the provision for free access to and from the port from the south side of the river due to the continued problems that such provision would create for the residential areas on any such port access route. [9522/06]

Preparation and adoption of the HGV traffic management strategy to ensure optimum use of the Dublin Port tunnel by HGV traffic is a matter in the first instance for Dublin City Council. My Department's formal role will be to put in place the necessary regulatory framework as regards traffic signs, etc. to support the strategy.

As a major new element in Dublin's road network, the Dublin Port tunnel will have a major beneficial impact on traffic flow in the Dublin area. It will be of particular benefit in facilitating improved access to Dublin Port for HGVs while reducing HGV traffic in the city. My Department's primary objective is to ensure that those benefits are realised. I am very conscious of the need to co-ordinate the commissioning of the completion of the Dublin Port tunnel with the upgrade of the M50. My officials and I are consulting all stakeholders, including Dublin City Council, to ensure that a co-ordinated traffic management strategy is developed for the opening of the tunnel. The HGV management strategy is an important part of this process.

It is not for me to give a determination to Dublin City Council on specific issues such as access to the port from the south side of the river. My focus is to bring about a co-ordinated strategy that will balance the needs of all concerned. I will, however, continue to liaise with Dublin City Council so that I may be assured that the primary objective of the Department is achieved in a manner which maximises the overall traffic benefit of the tunnel.

Question No. 364 answered with QuestionNo. 362.

Driving Tests.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

365 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Transport the number on driving test waiting lists in each category in each county; the waiting time for each county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8866/06]

Statistical information on the waiting list for driving tests is not broken down by vehicle category or county. The number of applicants waiting in each test centre and the waiting times in each centre is set out in the following table.

Driving Test Applicants on waiting list — 27/02/06

Centre

Applications

Average Weeks Waiting

North Leinster

Finglas

11,510

29

Dundalk

3,795

33

Mullingar

1,814

21

Navan

5,010

41

Raheny

7,887

37

South Leinster

Churchtown

11,999

33

Gorey

2,413

46

Naas

6,330

34

Tullamore

1,999

40

Wicklow

2,782

41

Tallaght

9,973

35

West

Athlone

1,211

26

Birr

1,350

33

Castlebar

2,109

25

Centre

Applications

Average Weeks Waiting

Clifden

334

22

Ennis

1,427

27

Galway

3,608

37

Loughrea

1,143

28

Roscommon

1,123

29

Tuam

1,222

32

North West

Ballina

1,065

29

Buncrana

704

21

Carrick-on-Shannon

935

26

Cavan

1,685

28

Donegal

1,242

41

Letterkenny

2,291

34

Longford

970

26

Monaghan

1,157

23

Sligo

1,742

25

South East

Carlow

2,387

37

Clonmel

1,963

40

Dungarvan

1,425

47

Kilkenny

1,669

25

Nenagh

776

34

Portlaoise

1,847

25

Thurles

1,026

41

Tipperary

1,108

43

Waterford

2,778

31

Wexford

2,209

29

South West

Cork

7,519

29

Killarney

1,823

35

Kilrush

533

33

Limerick

4,246

44

Mallow

2,173

36

Newcastle West

1,724

30

Shannon

1,035

44

Skibbereen

1,872

37

Tralee

1,567

21

Region Totals

North Leinster

30,015

South Leinster

35,495

West

13,526

North West

11,791

South East

17,187

South West

22,494

Total

130,508

Paudge Connolly

Question:

366 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Transport the number of driving tests carried out in each category in each year since 2002; the success rate in each category yearly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8867/06]

Information on the number of driving tests carried out in each category in each year since 2002 is set out in the following table.

Driving Test Results by Vehicle Category

2005

2004

2003

2002

Category Description

Category

Totals

% Pass

Totals

% Pass

Totals

% Pass

Totals

% Pass

Motorcycle (exceeding 125cc)

A

2,938

70.5

3,073

72.8

2,616

71.5

2,728

72.8

Motorcycle (51-125cc)

A1

650

42.9

733

45.7

825

46.7

854

49.8

Motorcycle (not exceeding 50cc and/or 45km/h)

M

48

35.4

43

46.5

49

38.8

40

47.5

Car

B

124,271

52.2

141,134

52.7

143,772

53.4

136,772

53.0

Truck (G.V.W. exceeding 7,500 kg)

C

5,558

66.4

5,254

67.0

5,449

66.9

4,934

68.2

Truck (G.V.W. 3,501-7,500 kg)

C1

337

75.7

137

67.2

158

68.4

122

66.4

Bus

D

1,116

66.4

1,046

69.3

1,020

67.5

900

68.4

Minibus (9-16 passenger seats)

D1

752

68.0

696

65.8

758

62.5

809

60.9

Car + Trailer

EB

119

74.8

116

74.1

48

79.2

45

73.3

Truck + Trailer

EC

1,686

70.9

1,730

74.2

1,678

76.6

1,747

75.4

C1 Truck + Trailer

EC1

2

50.0

2

100.0

5

0.0

0

0.0

Bus + Trailer

ED

0

0.0

0

0.0

0

0.0

0

0.0

Minibus + Trailer

ED1

0

0.0

2

50.0

1

0.0

0

0.0

Work vehicle/Tractor

W

23

95.7

17

88.2

36

88.9

32

81.3

Total

14

137,500

53.6

153,983

54.0

156,415

54.5

148,983

54.3

Departmental Staff.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

367 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Transport the number of persons with disabilities employed in his Department; the percentage of the total staff that this represents; the human resources policy of his Department with regard to the recruitment of persons with disabilities; the qualification criteria for persons with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8900/06]

There are 22 civil servants with disabilities employed in my Department, representing approximately 3% of the overall staff complement. My Department operates under the code of practice for the employment of people with disabilities in the Civil Service and is involved with the willing able mentoring, WAM, project. The project aims to give between three to six months quality work experience to graduates with disabilities.

Public Transport.

Willie Penrose

Question:

368 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Transport if his Department has received an application for clearance to operate a local link bus from an organisation (details supplied) for the greater Mullingar area; if same will be processed as it is required in the context of ongoing development and the significant increase in population around Mullingar; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8917/06]

My Department does not have a notification from the operator referred to by the Deputy to operate a local bus service in Mullingar, County Westmeath.

Rail Services.

Pat Carey

Question:

369 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Transport if, as part of Transport 21, consideration is being given to providing a Luas line or a metro link to the rapidly expanding Finglas area including Finglas village; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8993/06]

The Finglas area has been given consideration in the provision of Luas and metro links contained in Transport 21. The Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, is preparing a detailed implementation plan for the metro north line. This includes the initial public consultation on route options, which was launched on 28 February 2006. The RPA has carried out a feasibility study and a preliminary environmental assessment of possible alignments for metro north. This study identified three broad corridor options, including the west route option through the Finglas area.

The west route starts at St. Stephen's Green, continues through the city centre with possible stops at Tara Street and the Rotunda Hospital, travelling through Broadstone, Liffey Junction, Finglas, Finglas North, turning east to the airport, and on to Swords, Swords Estuary and the terminus at Lissenhall.

The final route and location of stops will be defined through the public consultation and statutory approval process. However the RPA's evaluation to date indicates that the central route via Ballymun is strongest from a number of points of view, including construction feasibility, fulfilling transport needs and capital cost. Added to this the RPA will also give consideration to an alignment through the Finglas area in the proposed routes for metro west. This project, which is also included for funding under Transport 21, is an orbital line from Tallaght via Liffey Valley, Blanchardstown to Ballymun. The detailed planning work, public consultation and the statutory approval process will determine the precise route that metro west will take.

Transport 21 also contains a Luas line from the city centre via Broadstone to Liffey junction in Cabra. The Dublin Transportation Office's A Platform for Change provides for a continuation of this line via Finglas to Sillogue. Transport 21 has a provision for funding for a feasibility study on extending the Luas line from Liffey Junction via Finglas to Sillogue. However, funding to bring this proposal to construction is not included in Transport 21.

State Assets.

Richard Bruton

Question:

370 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport his plans to publish a policy evaluation on the question of the sale of shares in Aer Lingus; and if the Government has appointed advisers to examine the issues independently of the advice being obtained by the management and board of the company. [8995/06]

In my reply to Questions Nos. 50 and 53, I have set out the reasons for the Government's decision to dispose of a majority shareholding in Aer Lingus.

Following a competitive tender process, UBS and AIB Capital Markets were appointed to provide financial advice and assistance to both myself and the Minister for Finance in relation to an Aer Lingus sale or investment transaction. William Fry and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer were appointed as legal advisers for the assignment. I can confirm that these advisers are independent of the advisers appointed by the management and board of Aer Lingus.

The first phase of the advisers' work was to recommend the most appropriate transaction mechanism and advise on the size and timing of a transaction. The advisers submitted their report before the end of last year and the key conclusions and recommendations are being considered by myself and the Minister for Finance. No decision has yet been made on the basis on which the investment transaction will be implemented.

Question No. 371 answered with QuestionNo. 151.
Question No. 372 answered with QuestionNo. 91.

EU Directives.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

373 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport if he will confirm that EU Directive 2005/12/EC will be implemented before 11 March 2006; if the directive will not be implemented by then, the reason Ireland will not meet its obligations to implement this directive before the deadline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9310/06]

To transpose EU Directive 2005/12/EC, I signed the European Communities (Merchant Shipping) (Ro-Ro Passenger Ship Survivability) (Amendment) Rules 2006 on 20 February 2006.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

374 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Transport if he will confirm that EU Directive 2005/21/EC will be implemented before 8 March 2006; if the directive will not be implemented by then the reason Ireland will not meet its obligations to implement this directive before the deadline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9311/06]

Directive 2005/21/EC, adapting to technical progress Council Directive 72/306/EEC relating to emissions of pollutants from diesel engines for use in vehicles, was transposed into Irish law by the European Communities (Motor Vehicles Type Approval) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2005, SI 783 of 2005. The directive provides for technical amendments to the requirements on manufacturers under EU type approval law with regard to diesel engines for use in vehicles in regard to emissions of pollutants. The new arrangements will apply from 9 March 2006.

Departmental Programmes.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

375 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the work programme for 2006 of his Department’s road haulage division; the work carried out by this division in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9320/06]

As part of a reorganisation of the road haulage functions of my Department earlier this year, the operator licensing functions are now in a division which also deals with motor insurance and intelligence transport systems. The control of drivers' hours and rest periods and general enforcement functions are in a division dealing with vehicle standards and their enforcement. It is the intention that these latter functions would transfer to the Road Safety Authority when the Road Safety Authority Bill is passed into law.

Each functional area has a separate work programme for the year the main elements of which are operator licensing, with the issue of road freight carriers' licences and road passenger transport operators' licences, including the issue of community authorisations, permits, certificates of professional competence and letters of attestation to drivers who are not EU nationals; enforcement, with enforcement of drivers' rule and rest periods and issue of digital smart card to all lorry and bus drivers, operators and workshops; and the general area. Both divisions will continue with preparations for decentralisation to Loughrea in accordance with the Government's decentralisation programme; upgrading the current IT database system; implementation of the recommendations of the strategy for the successful development of the Irish road haulage agreed between the Minister of State and IRHA last Easter; reviewing and, as appropriate, amending existing legislation to improve licensing rules.

In 2005, in addition to licensing and enforcement functions, the road haulage division prepared the necessary legislation for the Minister on implementing EU directives on drivers' hours and rest periods and the working time directive; and placing a requirement on all licensed road haulage and bus operators to have adequate parking facilities for the vehicles they operate. The technical preparations necessary for the issue of digital smart cards were also completed. A system of discs to be displayed on all lorries and buses operated by licensed operators was also introduced which avoids the need for operators to have vehicles plated by the Garda Síochána.

Road Traffic Offences.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

376 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if on-the-spot fines for illegal or non-compliant haulage operators has been implemented; if not, the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9321/06]

Section 16 of the Road Transport Act 1999 provides for on the spot fines in lieu of prosecution for offences under the Road Transport Acts and EU drivers hours and working time regulations. The commencement of this section has been the subject of discussions with the Attorney General's office and the advice now is that an enabling provision in primary legislation will be required to ensure compatibility with current fixed penalty charges legislation before this section can be brought into effect. I propose to include this enabling provision in the new Road Traffic Bill, which is being prepared in my Department.

Driving Tests.

John Perry

Question:

377 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that a person (details supplied) only received nine days’ notification of their driving test, which they had to cancel as the letter was dated 9 January 2006, and they did not have the ten days for notification of cancellation; if a new date will be arranged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9372/06]

In the case of this application a letter was attached from the employer stating that he needed a test date urgently. A test was organised at short notice, which the applicant cancelled. A further driving test will now be arranged for the person concerned shortly.

Question No. 378 answered with QuestionNo. 135.

Cycle Facilities.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

379 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if he will allow access to cycle lanes for motor cyclists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9444/06]

The use of cycle lanes is provided for in the Road Traffic (Traffic & Parking) Regulations 1997 and 1998. These lanes are reserved for use by cyclists to facilitate and promote cycling as a mode of transport in urban areas. On the grounds of road safety I have no proposals to amend the current regulations to grant access to motorcyclists to use cycle lanes or cycle tracks.

Road Traffic Offences.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

380 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the number of people who have so far incurred the maximum number of penalty points; if such people have had to take a new driving test or have had their licence suspended or endorsed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9446/06]

In accordance with the provisions of section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 2002, penalty points are endorsed on the entry in the licence record relating to the person and not on the driving licence. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, on receipt of notifications from the Garda Síochána or the Courts Service that a fixed charge has been paid, or a person has been convicted of a penalty point offence, endorses the licence record in the national driver file with the appropriate number of penalty points and issues a notification to the person concerned.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has advised that at 17 February 2006, 21 licence holders had accumulated 12 points, 16 of whom were disqualified at that date and five of whom have been notified that they will be disqualified with effect from 28 days after the date of the notice that they had accumulated 12 points. In addition there are 28 drivers whose disqualification period of six months has expired and who are no longer disqualified.

Any driver who accumulates 12 points is disqualified for a period of six months under section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 2002 and is directed, under section 5 of that Act to surrender his or her licence to the licensing authority that granted the licence. It is not necessary to resit the driving test in these circumstances.

Air Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

381 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent to which scheduled air transport services linking all the major towns and cities in Ireland is envisaged; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9448/06]

In the EU there is an open skies policy in which airlines are free to operate what routes they choose, including domestic routes, provided they satisfy the necessary requirements.

The provision of scheduled air services between the major towns and cities in Ireland is essentially a matter for airlines, if they consider there would be a demand for a particular service on a particular route. This is not a matter in which I or my Department would normally be involved, except as regards public service obligation, PSO, air services. Member states of the EU are allowed to provide financial compensation for the operation of PSO air services to regional airports where it would not be economically viable for airlines to operate on a commercial basis. In 2005, I announced the award of contracts for the provision of PSO services from 2005 to 2008 on routes linking Dublin with the regional airports in Galway, Kerry, Sligo, Donegal, Knock and City of Derry. There are no plans to expand this programme as the existing network of PSO routes is sufficient for the air access needs of the regions concerned.

Ireland is adequately served by a network of airports, both international and regional. Furthermore, road and rail transport links between major towns and cities have improved significantly in recent years and further major improvements are planned as part of Transport 21.

Road Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

382 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport if remedial works on the port tunnel have been effective; if any examination has been done as to the reason leaking took place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9449/06]

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the Dublin Port tunnel, is a matter for the National Roads Authority, NRA, and the local authorities concerned, in this case, Dublin City Council. I understand from the NRA that dealing with water infiltration during the construction phase is part and parcel of the process of building any tunnel that passes below the surrounding ground water level. It is routinely encountered and dealt with on tunnel projects throughout the world and is being similarly dealt with in the Dublin Port tunnel. If remedial measures are called for at any stage, the contractor is required to implement them at its own expense.

The contractor on the project is operating a planned programme of addressing remaining items of work on the project, including carrying out any remedial works identified as necessary. The work is still ongoing and I am informed that all remedial works completed to date have been effective and satisfactory. The contractor on the project carries the obligation to complete the tunnel to the high standards set out in the construction contract and Dublin City Council and its construction supervisors will ensure that that is the case.

Question No. 383 answered with QuestionNo. 117.
Question No. 384 answered with QuestionNo. 98.

Rail Network.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

385 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the full extent of the availability of rolling stock on all rail routes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9452/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

387 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the extent of the commuter capacity of each of the rail stations throughout north Kildare; the extent to which it is expected to increase passenger numbers; the timescale for such; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9454/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 385 and 387 together.

I have asked Iarnród Éireann to compile the information requested by the Deputy and forward it to him when completed.

Question No. 386 answered with QuestionNo. 57.
Question No. 387 answered with QuestionNo. 385.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

388 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the programme for increased capacity of the rail line through Sallins, Newbridge and Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9455/06]

Significant service improvements are planned for the Kildare commuter route over the coming years. Transport 21 provides the funding for the implementation of the Kildare route project. The project involves the quadrupling of a critical section of the Kildare line between Cherry Orchard and Hazelhatch. The project will allow separation of long distance and commuter services and improve speed, capacity and frequencies for commuter, regional and intercity services.

The public inquiry into the project was held from 24 January 2006 to 2 February 2006. I will make a decision on the granting of the railway order after I receive the inspector's report into the public inquiry. Subject to the completion of the railway order process, construction work on the project will begin toward the end of 2006 and is due for completion at the end of 2010. The company also proposes to expand its suburban rolling stock to meet the demands on all routes into Dublin, including the increased level of service on the Kildare commuter route.

Question No. 389 answered with QuestionNo. 92.
Question No. 390 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

Security of the Elderly.

John McGuinness

Question:

391 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if a grant to install an alarm in the home of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be approved. [8877/06]

The community support scheme for older people encourages and assists the community's support for older people by means of a community-based grant scheme to improve the security of its older members.

The scheme is open to people aged 65 and over who have a genuine need for assistance within its provisions and is administered by community and voluntary organisations throughout the country, on an annual basis, with support provided by my Department. A list of such groups in the Kilkenny area that applied for funding under the 2005 scheme follows. The person in question may wish to contact one of the groups listed with a view to making an application to my Department on her behalf under the 2006 scheme, which will be advertised in the coming months.

In 2005 maximum individual grants provided under the scheme were: €300 for the once-off installation cost of socially monitored alarms; €150 for door locks, window locks and door chains; €150 for security lighting and €50 for smoke alarms.

Organisation

Address

Telephone

Slieverue Community Alert

Ballinlaw, Slieverue, County Kilkenny

087 6869568

Callan Community Alert Group

1 Pralogue, Callan, County Kilkenny

056 7725028

Windgap Parish Community Alert

Tullahought, Piltown, County Kilkenny

051 648070

Carers Assoc Kilkenny

Priors Orchard, Johns Quay, Kilkenny

056 7721424

Moneenroe Community Council Ltd.

The Enterprise Centre, Massford, Castlecomer

056 4442840

National Association for Deaf People Kilkenny

44 Friary Street, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny

056 7763508

Clogh Family Resource Centre

Clogh, Castlecomer, County Kilkenny

056 4442800

Newmarket Hugginstown Comm. Alert

Newmarket, Hugginstown, County Kilkenny

056 7768624

Kilmacow Community Alert

Moinéar, Skeard, Kilmacow

051 885211

Skeoughvosteen Community Alert

Skeoughvosteen via Borris, County Kilkenny

059 9775251

Kilkenny Social Services

Waterford Road, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny

056 7721

CDCD Network

Market Square, Castlecomer, County Kilkenny

056 4441966

Rower Inistioge Community Alert

Ballynunnery, The Rower, Thomastown

051 423674

Recreational Facilities.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

392 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his Department’s plans to tackle the lack of play facilities in designated areas of disadvantage, such as the CLÁR and RAPID areas; and if he will report on same. [9000/06]

The Deputy will be aware that my Department already offers a wide range of schemes which support play facilities in disadvantaged areas. The CLÁR primary school outdoor play facilities enhancement scheme is co-funded equally by CLÁR and the Department of Education and Science at a total cost of €2.4 million, made up of €1.2 million from each. The scheme aims to improve outdoor play facilities in small rural primary schools in CLÁR areas. The type of projects being funded cover grassing and tarmacadam of play areas, the supply of goalposts, nets, basketball hoops, etc. and other recreational facilities for outdoor play areas.

Under the CLÁR village and countryside enhancement scheme and the CLÁR local authority housing estate enhancement scheme funding is available for community playgrounds and the enhancement of play area projects. The CLÁR village and countryside enhancement is co-funded equally between the LEADER groups, a community contribution, CLÁR and the local authorities. The local authority housing estate enhancement scheme is co-funded by CLÁR and the local authorities with a community contribution.

Under the minor health funding measures for 2004-06 CLÁR is providing co-funding with the Health Service Executive, HSE, on the basis of €2 from the HSE for each €1 from CLÁR. Projects selected for funding include small scale capital projects. The measure provides for the construction of outdoor play areas and for the provision of equipment for playgroups.

Under the RAPID leverage playground grants scheme, run in 2004 and 2005, a total of €6 million has been allocated to the 45 RAPID areas to support the development of new playgrounds or the refurbishment of existing playgrounds. Both these schemes were funded on a 50-50 basis by my Department and the Department of Health and Children through the Health Service Executive. In each area the local authority consulted with the RAPID area implementation team to agree the precise nature and location of the playgrounds to be funded.

In 2004, each strand 1 RAPID area was allocated €72,000 and each strand 2 area was allocated €60,000. In 2005, the areas in strand 1 and 2 were allocated the same amount of €66,000 each. A decision on funding for 2006 for the playground grants scheme will be taken shortly.

The dormant accounts fund disbursements board has approved funding of €1,385,397 for 22 groups to enhance play facilities in disadvantaged areas. The drawdown of funding is subject to the satisfactory completion of legal contracts with individual groups.

Details of the approved projects funded by dormant accounts are as follows.

Group/Organisation

Location

Grant

Proposal Description

Vista Community Development Project

Donore Avenue, Dublin 8

8,000.00

Expanding the range of play club activities provided

CANDO Ltd

Carlow Town

6,000.00

Providing playground markings in two schools and two communities in Carlow

Leenane Development Association

County Galway

7,040.00

Developing a playground

Drogheda Borough Council

County Louth

18,000.00

Developing a playground

Dublin 15 Playground Action Group

Blanchardstown, Dublin 15

26,800.00

Developing two innovative play areas for children

Ballymoe Development Centre Ltd.

County Galway

60,000.00

Developing a community based playground on a green area adjacent to Ballymoe Development Centre

Loughlinstown Playground Development Group

County Dublin

51,250.00

Developing a purpose-built play facility

Ballyduff National School

County Waterford

21,000.00

Establishing play area for children with autistic spectrum disorders

Wexford Borough Council

Wexford

160,000.00

Providing three play areas within local estates and a youth shelter

Waterford City Council

Waterford

200,000.00

Improving and enhancing open spaces in the area and providing recreational and play spaces in the Larchfield/Lisduggan area

Ballyowens Meadow School

Stillorgan, Dublin 14

50,000.00

Building an outdoor playground/play area for autistic children who attend Ballyowen Meadows School

Clonmel Borough Council/SEHB

County Tipperary

7,449.38

Providing a marked play space for children and young people

Clonmel Borough Council

County Tipperary

74,431.03

The development of a playground for children and young people

Duneske Leisure Limited

Cahir, County Tipperary

104,491.00

Providing an outdoor playground

Dundalk Town Council

County Louth

40,500.00

Developing a playground facility

Dundalk Town Council

County Louth

41,000.00

Developing a playground facility

Glengariff Playground Development Ltd.

County Cork

58,553.00

Establishing a children’s playground

Tallaght Centre for the Unemployed Ltd.

Dublin 24

125,000.00

Providing a playbus

Dublin City Council

Dublin 8

72,000.00

Developing a playground

Mahon Childcare Network

Cork City

126,413.00

Providing a developmental outdoor play area

New Ross Town Council

County Wexford

97,470.00

Providing playground facilities

Scoil Chiarán, Our Lady of Consolation

Donnycarney, Dublin 5

30,000.00

providing a play area to benefit autistic children

My Department has received an application from Galway County Council for assistance with the cost of constructing play facilities on Inis Oirr, County Galway. This application is being evaluated in the context of the funding available to me for island development and the various demands on that funding.

Community Development.

Denis Naughten

Question:

393 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason he is forcing the amalgamation of leader companies with partnership companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8847/06]

Enda Kenny

Question:

398 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the future responsibilities of the south-west Mayo development group and the western rural development group; his proposals in respect of the IRD groups, that is, Kiltimagh, Moy Valley, Connacht Gold; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9316/06]

Enda Kenny

Question:

399 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his proposals in respect of the future responsibilities of Meitheal Mhaigh Eo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9317/06]