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 9, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 10 to 35, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 36 to 42, inclusive, answered orally.

Overseas Missions.

Joe Costello

Question:

43 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on his recent visit to Liberia; if he will report on his meeting with the new Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11770/06]

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

59 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on his recent visit to Liberia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11845/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

74 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Defence if, during his recent visit to Liberia, he gave a commitment to the Liberian Government that Ireland would play a long-term role in the maintenance of peace in Liberia; the role he envisages Ireland playing in Liberia in the future; if he will make available to the Liberian Government a number of Irish military specialists to advise its military; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11771/06]

John Gormley

Question:

88 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Defence if Ireland’s UN peacekeeping role in Liberia will be extended beyond the end of 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11800/06]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

115 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Defence if he has received representations from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for Irish troops to remain in Liberia beyond the planned withdrawal date at the end of 2006; if so, the likely response to this request; the basis on which the request was made; if a decision has been made on this issue; if a Dáil Éireann decision is required to extend the mission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11769/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

119 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on his recent visit to Liberia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11803/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 43, 59, 74, 88, 115 and 119 together.

During the period 28 February 2006 to 2 March 2006 I took the opportunity to pay a short visit to Liberia where I met the Irish personnel of 94th infantry battalion, United Nations Mission in Liberia, UNMIL. The primary purpose of my visit was to see at first hand the work of the Defence Forces personnel serving with UNMIL and to convey to them, on behalf of the Government and the people, the deep appreciation felt regarding the outstanding manner in which they perform their duties in this challenging mission. On my visit, I was accompanied by the Secretary General of the Department, the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces and Ireland's ambassador to Nigeria, who is accredited to Liberia.

During the course of my visit, I also met the newly elected President of Liberia, EllenJohnson-Sirleaf, and the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General, SRSG, AlanDoss. I also paid a courtesy call to the DeputyForce Commander UNMIL, Major GeneralMuhammad Tahir.

Sadly, Ireland's first contingent to UNMIL suffered one fatality, Sergeant Derek Mooney, who died in a motor accident in Liberia in November 2003. During the course of my visit to Camp Clara, I laid a wreath at the UN memorial for Irish troops killed in peacekeeping action. A number of humanitarian projects are currently being assisted by the Irish battalion with funding from Irish Aid. While in Liberia I visited St. Michael's Hospice, which is one of the projects being supported.

During my meeting with President Johnson-Sirleaf, who was accompanied by her Minister for Foreign Affairs, George Wallace, and her special security adviser, the President expressed her gratitude to the Irish Government for the Defence Forces contribution to peace in Liberia and the vital role played by them in maintaining the peace, which she stated has been exceptional. She said that while the UN had brought peace to Liberia, the danger of violence has not gone away. She hoped that Ireland would continue its strong support for Liberia to ensure stability and encourage economic growth. In this regard, the President raised the question of extending the stay of the Irish contingent into 2007. I informed her that the Irish Government has extended the contingent's stay until the end of this year. However, I indicated that if security matters changed dramatically, the Government might look at the situation again.

Special Representative Doss thanked the Government for the vital assistance provided by the Irish personnel serving with UNMIL and also raised the question of extending the stay of the Irish contingent into 2007. In his recent report on the UNMIL mission to the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary General, Kofu Annan, has recommended that, following an initial reduction in force levels by one infantry battalion in mid-2006 and another in early 2007, a downsizing of the mission begin in early 2007, subject to the political and security situation in Liberia at that time.

From the outset the Government has signalled its intention that Defence Forces involvement in UNMIL would not exceed two to three years in duration and the United Nations has been advised accordingly. We have reiterated and confirmed the position regarding our withdrawal to the UN on many occasions since then. The Irish commitment to UNMIL is until November 2006, when we are due to withdraw from the mission together with our Swedish partners. It is intended to commence downsizing in June 2006.

In a letter to the Taoiseach on 3 March 2006, the UN Secretary General has requested Ireland to consider postponing the withdrawal of its troops from UNMIL for a period of at least six months in order to give the UN time to find a suitable replacement for the quick reaction force, QRF, capability. This request is currently under consideration. The UN has made a similar request to the Swedish authorities.

For the moment our clear focus is on withdrawal towards the end of this year. However, if the situation in Liberia deteriorated significantly later this year, we would obviously look again at the situation. We would not abandon the mission. Our current assessment is that the situation, while continuing to be fragile, is stable and progressing positively and the remaining forces should be well capable of handling the ongoing security situation.

That said, I assure Deputies that Ireland remains committed to peace support operations in Africa under a UN flag. We will obviously consider the request of the UN Secretary General in detail. It may be the case that further consultations with the UN could help elaborate the specific issues which are concerning the Secretary General and that we could consider the matter further in that context.

Defence Forces Investigations.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

44 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Defence the changes that have been made to internal Defence Force procedures following the publication of the investigation into the death of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11833/06]

Richard Bruton

Question:

62 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Defence the situation with respect to the investigation into the death of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11850/06]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

70 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Defence the progress made following the February 2006 publication of the Hurley report into the interaction between persons (details supplied), the Defence Forces and his Department; if he has received a report from the gardaí following their re-examination of files relating to this case; if a decision on a full inquiry has subsequently been made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11780/06]

John Perry

Question:

96 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the recent meeting with persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11825/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 44, 62, 70 and 96 together.

On 28 October 2005, I appointed Mr. Sean Hurley to carry out an independent review of the interaction between the Department of Defence-Defence Forces and parents and family of Private Kevin Barrett in the aftermath of his tragic death on 18 February 1999 while serving with the 84th infantry battalion in Lebanon.

I received Mr. Hurley's report on 2 February 2006. Mr. Hurley has conducted a very thorough inquiry and has provided a detailed and frank report. It is clear and concise and covers the issues raised with me by Private Barrett's family. Mr. Hurley has looked in detail at how the Department and the Defence Forces interacted with the Barrett family after Kevin's death and has identified some clear failings and shortcomings. Important lessons have been learned for the future and errors that have occurred in the handling of this tragic case, outlined by Mr. Hurley, must never be repeated. Mr. Hurley acknowledges that some of these have since been addressed in the new guidelines for dealing with bereaved families introduced by the Defence Forces in 2001.

Since the publication of Mr. Hurley's report, the recommendations and conclusions in relation to procedural and operational issues have been considered by the Defence Forces to see how they might best be implemented. The military authorities have undertaken a review of the guidelines for dealing with bereaved families in the light of Mr. Hurley's recommendations. I am advised that while there is no proposal to further amend the current arrangements, which were introduced in 2001 following a comprehensive review, the guidelines are being kept under continuous review.

In addition, Defence Forces standard operating procedures in relation to the investigation, reporting and handling of such incidents are also being reviewed to take account of the various other recommendations in the report and any changes deemed necessary will be incorporated into Defence Forces administrative instructions and directives. Finally, the role of the attending medical officer in relation to the conduct of autopsies conducted outside the jurisdiction is also being reviewed to see how this might be implemented, having regard to the fact that the medical officer may have no standing in the foreign jurisdiction.

Separate from these issues, on receipt of Mr. Hurley's report, I contacted the Garda Commissioner and asked him to provide me with his early views in relation to any possible assistance that the Garda Síochána might be in a position to provide. A Garda officer has since been assigned to the case and is currently examining my Department's and the Defence Forces files in the case with a view to determining whether the gardaí can provide any assistance in the matter. Liaison arrangements have been set up between the gardaí and the Defence Forces.

On 8 March 2006, my colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Defence, Deputy Kitt, at my request, met the parents of the late Private Barrett. This meeting had been arranged with the family after they had sufficient time to consider Mr. Hurley's report and to outline to them the actions I had taken to date. The Minister of State took the opportunity to personally thank the parents and family, on my behalf and on his own behalf, for their patience and co-operation in the preparation of the review. The Minister of State repeated my apology to the Barrett family for the pain and suffering they endured following Kevin's tragic death. He updated the parents on the status of my request to the Garda Commissioner. He promised that my Department would co-operate fully with the gardaí and facilitate them in whatever way it could in their examination. It was agreed that a further meeting would be held with the family when I have further information. In the meantime, the family will be kept informed of any developments.

Overseas Missions.

David Stanton

Question:

45 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Defence if legislation is required to enable members of the Reserve Defence Force who are selected for overseas duties to return to their previous employment once their service overseas has been completed; if so, when he expects to introduce this legislation; if he will provide details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11767/06]

David Stanton

Question:

65 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Defence the protections in place to enable members of the Reserve Defence Forces who are in employment to return to their employment once their overseas duties are complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11766/06]

Paul McGrath

Question:

113 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Defence the steps which have been taken to facilitate the service of members of the Reserve Defence Forces overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11864/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 45, 65 and 113 together.

The White Paper on Defence outlines the blue print for a new Reserve Defence Force. An implementation plan has been developed that will ensure the realisation of the White Paper vision. This will be rolled out over the period to end 2009. The new reserve will have a clearly defined role, an enhanced relationship with the PDF, better equipment and training and opportunities to serve on overseas peace support missions.

The reserve has already seen significant improvements in terms of clothing, equipment, training and resourcing. It is now organised along similar lines to the PDF and the introduction of the integrated element of the reserve is currently being addressed. All of these changes will enhance the capabilities of the reserve as well as improving interoperability with the PDF. These factors are significant enablers in facilitating any future participation by reserve personnel in overseas missions.

While there are no immediate plans for participation by members of the reserve in overseas missions, policies to support the selection of suitably qualified personnel for overseas duties will be developed over the lifetime of the implementation plan, that is, over the period to end 2009. In other countries, service by reservists on overseas peace support missions is quite common, although as specified in the plan, any such participation by members of the reserve is likely to be in specialised areas such as medical, transport, engineering and communications and information services. This will also be subject to personnel having suitable qualifications, their personal availability and appropriate advance training.

Development of policies to support the selection of suitably qualified reserve personnel for overseas duties will include consideration of the impact of overseas duties on the employment of reserve personnel. The question of legislation will also be considered in this context.

Defence Forces Property.

Phil Hogan

Question:

46 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Defence if recent approaches have been made to him with a view to developing Casement Aerodrome at Baldonnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11851/06]

Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, is the principal base of the Air Corps. With the withdrawal of aircraft from Gormanston and the relocation of Air Corps headquarters to Baldonnel, the Air Corps has the basis for better management of its resources. Baldonnel will continue to be the centre of military aviation in Ireland.

Periodic interest by the private sector has been expressed during the past decade or so in relation to the use of Casement Aerodrome for civil aviation purposes. No recent approaches, however, have been made to my Department in this regard. The establishment of facilities for civil aviation purposes is primarily a matter for the Minister for Transport. Under the Irish Aviation Authority Act 1993, however, aerodromes under my authority are precluded from regulation by the Irish Aviation Authority. Only the regulation of military aviation activities at military aerodromes comes within my remit.

Before any consideration could be given to having commercial aviation at Baldonnel, it would be necessary to bring Casement Aerodrome within the licensing and regulatory control of the Irish Aviation Authority, which would require an amendment to section 3 of the Irish Aviation Authority Act 1993. This is a matter for consideration in the first instance by the Minister for Transport.

Defence Forces Equipment.

John Moloney

Question:

47 Mr. Moloney asked the Minister for Defence when he expects the Defence Forces to take delivery of the 12,000 helmets purchased earlier in 2006; his plans to replace the personal body armour currently worn by members of the Defence Forces; if these new purchases will mean the weight of combat order equipment being reduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11611/06]

The individual soldier is now required to carry an array of equipment on operational duties. In that regard, one of the essential ongoing equipment acquisition projects relates to the provision of a modern integrated protection and load carrying system for members of the Defence Forces on operational duties. This involves, inter alia, the personal protective equipment consisting of body armour and helmet.

The requirement for new helmets and body armour was driven by the need to provide members of the Defence Forces with the best available protection conducive to their operational deployments both at home and overseas. The critical factors in determining such a requirement were that new helmets and body armour must provide a significant improvement in protection and comfort over the old helmet and body armour, be compatible for operational deployments and, where possible, make savings in weight without compromising protection.

In that regard, a tender competition was held in 2005 for the provision of body armour for the individual soldier. An order has now been placed for 6,000 units for delivery this year. The new body armour provides significantly greater protection, comfort and coverage than the old model as well as a doubling of the range of sizes available. In addition, a separate tender competition for helmets was also held in 2005 for the acquisition of 12,000 helmets. An order has now been placed for the helmets, which will also be delivered this year. The new helmet was selected after an extensive evaluation process. This helmet provides a significant increase in protection, comfort and coverage over the previous model.

Overseas Missions.

Damien English

Question:

48 Mr. English asked the Minister for Defence if he has had a request for troops to serve as part of a peacekeeping force in the Congo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11848/06]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

64 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Defence if a decision has been taken at European level concerning the composition of an EU peacekeeping mission to safeguard upcoming elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo; if a decision has been taken on which country will take the lead role in this mission; the Government’s view on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11773/06]

Dan Boyle

Question:

83 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Defence if Defence Forces will be sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of a proposed EU military force in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11801/06]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

100 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Defence his views on a new EU peacekeeping mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo; if the Defence Forces capability is suitable for involvement in such a mission; when troops may be deployed on this mission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11774/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 48, 64, 83 and 100 together.

Following on from a request from the UN, the EU is currently examining the question of providing a supporting operation, under an EU flag, for MONUC, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Various options for the mission are currently being considered within the EU, which has indicated that it is positively disposed towards supporting MONUC. Fact-finding missions to the DRC and also to the UN in New York have been undertaken.

The main purpose of the mission is to be available to support MONUC during the upcoming election process. The EU will not be substituting for MONUC but rather providing a supporting role in the event of unrest during the election period. The current plan is that a protection force — possibly up to 400 — will be located on the ground, probably in Kinshasa. Outside of this, there will be an Over the Horizon force, either in Europe or possibly in a neighbouring state, ready to deploy, should it be required. Total numbers could be around 1,500. Germany will provide the operational headquarters for the mission which will be based in Potsdam. The force headquarters, which will be supplied by France, will be based in Kinshasa. Together Germany and France will provide approximately two thirds of the force. The mission is currently in the initial planning stages. The specific structure, organisation, tasks and roles of the force and the contributors to it have yet to be fully elaborated. This should happen over the next few weeks.

Ireland is positively disposed towards the proposed mission and supports a positive response from the EU to the UN. In this regard, Ireland wrote to the chairman of the EU military staff confirming that Ireland was prepared to offer up to ten headquarters personnel for the mission subject to national decision making procedures. Our proposed contribution is well in line with that of other contributing member states and has to be looked at in the context of our existing major commitments to peacekeeping operations in Africa and in the Balkans.

I assure the Deputy that any contribution will satisfy the requirements of the Defence Acts in relation to participation. Discussions are ongoing in the UN in relation to an appropriate mandate for the mission. As the proposed offer involves fewer than ten troops, Dáil approval is not required in this instance. I cannot state specifically when the UN Security Council resolution will be passed or when Government decision will be made at this time. However, I would expect this to be in the next few weeks, given that the elections in the DRC are due in June. I also understand that Germany, which will lead the force, expects to deploy at the end of May or the beginning of June.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

Jim Glennon

Question:

49 Mr. Glennon asked the Minister for Defence the number of cadets and the number of private soldiers who were accepted into the Defence Forces in 2004 and 2005; the number of applications received in each of those years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11561/06]

The number of applications received for general service enlistment to the Permanent Defence Force in 2004 and 2005 was 1,943 and 1,125, respectively. A total of 579 general service recruits enlisted in the Permanent Defence Force in 2004 and a further 384 recruits enlisted in 2005.

The number of applications received for cadetships in 2004 and 2005 was 916 and 1,004, respectively. In 2004 a total of 67 cadets were enlisted of which two cadets were Naval Service cadets from the 2003 cadet competition who transferred from the Naval Service to the Army cadet class of 2004. From the 2005 cadetship competition 55 cadets were enlisted.

It is my intention to maintain the established Government policy of ongoing recruitment to the Defence Forces. Recruitment into the Permanent Defence Force will continue to maintain the strength at a level required to meet military needs an as set out in the White Paper, that is, 10,500 Permanent Defence Force all ranks.

Overseas Missions.

Barry Andrews

Question:

50 Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Defence the number of Irish troops currently on service overseas on missions in Liberia, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina; the nature of their duties there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11658/06]

Seán Crowe

Question:

57 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Defence the number of Irish soldiers in Afghanistan; and the role they are undertaking there. [11813/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

92 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has received requests from the UN for further deployment of Irish troops on peacekeeping missions overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11797/06]

Pat Breen

Question:

97 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Defence the number of members of the Defence Forces which will serve in Sierra Leone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11832/06]

Michael Noonan

Question:

103 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Defence the number of Defence Force personnel currently on service overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11842/06]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

107 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Defence the number of Defence Force personnel serving in Liberia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11840/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

512 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of Irish troops currently serving on the various UN missions abroad; his projections in respect of future requirements in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12261/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

521 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he expects Irish troops to be asked to participate in peacekeeping missions requiring a deployment in excess of the numbers of Defence Forces currently serving overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12270/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50, 57, 92, 97, 103, 107, 512 and 521 together.

Ireland is currently contributing approximately 764 Defence Forces personnel to 19 different missions throughout the world. Full details of all personnel currently serving overseas are listed in the following tabular statement.

The main commitments are to the United Nations Mission in Liberia, UNMIL, with 427 personnel, to the NATO-led international security presence, KFOR, in Kosovo, with 211 personnel and to EUFOR, the EU-led operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with 57 personnel. Other personnel are serving as monitors and observers with the United Nations, the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE. Staff are also deployed at the organisational headquarters of the UN, the EU and NATO.

Ireland has participated in UNMIL since December 2003. Ireland, together with an infantry company group from Sweden, provides the quick reaction force, QRF, to the UNMIL force commander. The Irish contingent currently comprises 427 personnel. The QRF acts as the rapid response element within UNMIL, responding to any crises that arise within the area of operations and supporting deployed contingents through long range patrols into the countryside. While it has been a difficult mission, particularly in terms of the operating environment, it is working very well for the Defence Forces.

In September 2005 the mandate for UNMIL was expanded to include responsibility for the security of the special court for Sierra Leone in Freetown. Ireland and Sweden agreed to expand the area of operations of QRF from 1 December 2005, thus allowing Irish and Swedish troops to be made available for extraction operations should there be a requirement to evacuate the staff and detainees from the special court.

On 11 November 2005, the UN Security Council further extended UNMIL's mandate to include the apprehension, detention and transfer to the special court for Sierra Leone of the former Liberian President, Charles Taylor, in the event of his return to Liberia.

In his recent report on the UNMIL mission to the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary General has recommended that, following an initial reduction in force levels by one infantry battalion in mid-2006 and another in early 2007, a downsizing of the mission begin in early 2007, depending on the political and security situation in Liberia at that time. The Irish commitment to UNMIL is until November 2006 when we are due to withdraw from the mission together with our Swedish partners. It is intended to commence downsizing in June 2006. The UN has been advised accordingly.

The Irish infantry group in KFOR operates as part of a multinational grouping, within the Czech-led multi-national task force — centre. It comprises a Mowag APC mounted company together with support and logistic elements. The main tasks of the Irish infantry group include the following; provision of general security to all ethnic groups, institutions and cultural sites; provision of support to UNMIK police and other agencies with security tasks; identification of and reporting on extremist groups and activities; vehicle and foot patrols; vehicle checkpoints and operation of observation posts.

The role of the Defence Forces personnel serving in EUFOR within the task force — north — is to provide personnel for the headquarters, the military police unit, verification teams and a national support element. Ireland currently acts as the framework nation for the military police unit and verification teams.

Seven members of the Permanent Defence Force are serving with the international security assistance force, ISAF, in Afghanistan. Three of these personnel hold appointments at the force headquarters in Kabul. The remaining four personnel are based at the multi-national brigade headquarters in Kabul, where they serve as members of liaison teams with the Afghan national directorate of security.

Ireland's commitment under the United Nations stand-by arrangements system, UNSAS, is 850, which represents 10% of the total Army strength. This is the figure set in the White Paper on Defence and is the maximum sustainable commitment that Ireland can make to overseas operations. There are no plans at this time to increase the level of our commitment to UNSAS and any contribution to EU or UN missions will be met within the context of the 850 ceiling.

Ireland receives requests from time to time in relation to participation in various missions and these are considered on a case-by-case basis. To date in 2006, no such requests have been received from the United Nations. In reply to an earlier question, I informed the House that last week Ireland indicated that it would make available up to ten Defence Forces personnel for the headquarters of a supporting operation, under a EU flag, for MONUC, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the planning for which mission is currently in the initial stages.

Members of the Permanent Defence Force serving Overseas as of 01 March, 2006

No.

1. UN Missions

(i)UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon)

5

(ii) UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation) — Israel, Syria and Lebanon

12

(iii)MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara)

4

(iv)UNMIK (United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo)

4

(v)MONUC (United Nations Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo)

3

(vi)UNOCI (United Nations Mission in Ivory Coast)

2

(vii)UNMIL (United Nations Mission in Liberia) FHQ

7

UNMIL 94th Inf Bn

420

TOTAL

457

UN Mandated Missions

(viii)EUFOR (EU-led Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina)

57

(ix)KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo)

211

(x)ISAF (International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan)

7

Total number of personnel serving with UN missions

732

2. EU Missions

(i) European Union Monitor Mission (EUMM) to the former Yugoslavia

5

(ii) EU support to UN authorised African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS)

3

(iii) ACEH Monitoring Mission (AMM)

1

TOTAL NUMBER OF PERSONNEL SERVING WITH EU MISSIONS

9

3. Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

(i) OSCE Mission to Bosnia & Herzegovina

1

(ii) OSCE Mission in Montenegro

1

(iii) OSCE Presence in Albania

1

(iv) OSCE Mission in FRY

2

(v) OSCE Mission in Georgia

1

(vi) Staff Officer, Higher Level Planning Group, Vienna

1

Total number of personnel serving OSCE

7

4. Head of Military Staff (Brussels)

1

5. EU Military Staff (Brussels)

4

6. EU Military Staff (New York)

1

7. Liaison Office of Ireland, PfP (Brussels)

2

8. Permanent Representative to EU (Brussels)

3

9. Military Representatives/ Advisers

(i) Military Adviser, Permanent Mission to UN, New York

1

(ii) Military Adviser, Irish Delegation to OSCE, Vienna

1

(iii) Military Representative to Partnership Co-ordination Cell/Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), Mons, Belgium

1

10. Appointments — UN HQ (New York)

Officers seconded to DPKO (Department of Peace Keeping Operations)

2

TOTAL NUMBER DEFENCE FORCES PERSONNEL SERVING OVERSEAS

764

Paul Kehoe

Question:

51 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Defence his plans to expand the role of the Naval Service to increase its involvement in humanitarian tasks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11862/06]

The role of the Defence Forces is set out in the White Paper on Defence. The Naval Service provides the maritime element of the Defence Forces and has a general responsibility to meet contingent and actual maritime defence requirements. Arising from the White Paper, the primary role of the Naval Service is to provide a fishery protection service in accordance with the State's obligations as a member of the EU. Fishery protection accounts for over 90% of operations.

There are no plans to expand the role of the Naval Service or for the involvement of Naval Service assets in overseas missions, although individual members of the Naval Service may be deployed on overseas peace support operations, as they have been in the past, within the ceiling of 850 personnel serving overseas at any one time.

National Emergency Plan.

Liz McManus

Question:

52 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the meeting of the Government’s interdepartmental working group on emergency planning regarding the threat of bird flu to Ireland that he recently chaired; the number of meetings that the group has had on these issues; the level of estimated threat to Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11775/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

55 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Defence when the task force on emergency planning last met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11841/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

111 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding the deliberations of the interdepartmental working group on emergency planning and the task force on emergency planning regarding the threat of avian flu. [11804/06]

Enda Kenny

Question:

121 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Defence the number of times the Government task force on emergency planning met in 2005; the number of meetings held to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11826/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 52, 55, 111 and 121 together.

The Government task force on emergency planning has worked since it was set up in 2001 to co-ordinate emergency planning and response arrangements across those Departments that lead and support the State's response in an emergency. The task force met on eight occasions in 2005 and on two occasions to date this year. The task force met most recently on Thursday, 9 March 2006.

The interdepartmental working group on emergency planning supports the work of the task force. The working group is a forum for developing strategic guidance for all those involved in emergency planning and for sharing information on emergency planning. The interdepartmental working group met on seven occasions in 2005 and on two occasions to date this year, most recently on Wednesday, 1 March 2006.

The most recent meetings of the task force and the interdepartmental working group were specifically convened to provide the various Department representatives with updated briefings from the Department of Agriculture and Food with regard to avian flu and from the Department of Health and Children with regard to a possible human influenza pandemic.

The Department of Agriculture and Food is represented on both the task force and the interdepartmental working group and has provided regular briefings on avian flu developments at these meetings over the past number of months. The situation with regard to avian flu will continue to be monitored and reviewed by that Department in close co-operation with the Department of Health and Children.

My colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, has introduced a range of measures aimed at minimising the risk of the virus being introduced to Ireland. The Minister and her Department are keeping their contingency arrangements under constant review and refining them as necessary. Her Department's approach is being informed by the most up to date scientific and veterinary advice available and the Minister appointed an expert advisory group to advise her as to the adequacy of the control measures in place.

The task force and interdepartmental working group meetings this month were also briefed by the Department of Health and Children representatives in relation to the preparations and plans which are being put in place to deal with any possible human influenza pandemic. My colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, who has lead responsibility in this area, is addressing the various issues that may arise if such a situation occurs.

Avian flu or H5N1 is primarily a disease of birds. To date, there have been a very small number of human cases of H5N1 infection documented, in situations where there has been very close contact with infected birds. There is no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

A detailed plan for response to an influenza pandemic was prepared in 2004. This plan is currently being refined to reflect the most up to date advice of the influenza pandemic expert group and the World Health Organisation.

An inter-departmental standing committee chaired by the Department of Health and Children also met on the 27 February. This committee will support the Department of Health and Children in planning for and responding to a public health emergency focusing initially on pandemic flu planning. Both the task force and the inter-departmental working group will continue to be briefed and updated on these matters and related emergency planning issues on a regular and ongoing basis.

Research and Technology Fund.

Martin Ferris

Question:

53 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Defence if he will make a statement on the common defence research and technology fund agreed by EU Defence Ministers in March 2006. [11820/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

89 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Defence the common defence research and technology fund agreed to in March 2006 between EU Defence Ministers and aimed at narrowing the gap between the US and the EU in high-tech military equipment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11807/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

110 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Defence the implications for Ireland’s defence budget of the new EU common defence research and technology fund, in view of the fact that member states are to pool part of their defence budgets for EU co-operation on military research; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11808/06]

John Gormley

Question:

507 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Defence the implications for Ireland’s defence budget of the new EU common defence research and technology fund, in view of the fact that member states are to pool part of their defence budgets for EU co-operation on military research; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12185/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 53, 89, 110 and 507 together.

The European Defence Agency, EDA, steering board met in Defence Ministers formation in Innsbruck, Austria, on 7 March 2006 and one of the items discussed was the need for a new mechanism for joint investment in research and technology projects. The EDA is proposing to establish a category A or opt-out programme, with an associated budget. The first area of joint work being considered is force protection, which is the detection and neutralisation of a range of threats to military personnel, vehicles and installations in the context of ESDP missions.

The agenda item was premised on the view that category A or opt-out programmes would enable more member states to contribute to the overall research and technology effort; would allow each member state to take its own decision on whether to contribute to such a programme; and would leave control firmly in the hands of those member states which choose to contribute.

While discussions took place at the meeting on the outline concept of such a programme, significant further elaboration and refinement is required before decisions can be taken, probably at the next steering board meeting in May. Participation in any EDA programme is a matter for each member state on a case by case basis and the EDA does not have the authority to force states to contribute to, or to participate in, any particular programme.

The main focus of the EDA is on obtaining better value for existing spending levels and securing improvements and greater efficiency, particularly in the area of research, technology, manufacturing and procurement. Ireland has advocated that the EU should prioritise the development of qualitative aspects of capability development. I am aware that this view, and a recognition of the need for greater efficiency and effectiveness in defence expenditure, is shared by many of my ministerial colleagues at EU level, at a time when the majority of member states, including Ireland, have no plans to increase their defence spending.

The EDA is an important forum through which the EU can seek to improve competitiveness and efficiency in the defence equipment sector, which has been notable for fragmentation and duplication. While Ireland is not a major consumer of defence equipment in relative terms, we should encourage developments which improve market efficiencies or which may yield some economies of scale for equipment procurement for the Defence Forces.

At the steering board meeting Ministers also received a progress report from the chief executive of the EDA dealing with capabilities, research and technology, long-term vision and the code of conduct on defence procurement.

Defence Forces Investigations.

Seán Ryan

Question:

54 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Defence the position in relation to the investigation into the allegations regarding the misappropriation of funds by two quartermasters; if he has received the military police report; the action that will be taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11782/06]

Máire Hoctor

Question:

75 Ms Hoctor asked the Minister for Defence the status of an investigation into alleged irregularities in the operation of a Reserve Defence Force unit fund account which commenced in September 2005 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11677/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 54 and 75 together.

The report of the military police investigation into alleged irregularities in the operation of the unit fund account of the 3rd field artillery regiment, Reserve Defence Force, was received in Defence Forces headquarters on 24 March. The report has been referred to the Garda Síochána for its consideration.

The sum of €66,213 was received by my Department on 27 March in respect of amounts improperly claimed by the unit in question under the arrangements whereby units of the Reserve are reimbursed by the Department for the cost of meals provided to reservists in civilian establishments during attendance at field days, etc.

Question No. 55 answered with QuestionNo. 52.

Defence Forces Equipment.

John Moloney

Question:

56 Mr. Moloney asked the Minister for Defence the amount spent by his Department in 2004, 2005 and to date in 2006 on the purchase of uniforms, boots and other clothing worn by members of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11610/06]

The amount spent by my Department on the purchase of uniforms, boots and other clothing worn by members of the Defence Forces in the period mentioned is as follows: 2004 —€2.30 million; 2005 —€2.60 million; and 2006 to date —€0.087 million.

In the main this expenditure has been incurred by the purchase of the following uniforms, etc.

2004

2005

2006

Total

€m

€m

€m (proposed)

€m

Service Dress (Package)

0.129

0.273

0.250

0.652

DPM Dress (Package)

1.795

1.195

1.100

4.090

Footwear

0.376

1.132

1.150

2.658

There have been significant improvements in the clothing of members of the Defence Forces over the last number of years. In this connection, I would particularly mention the introduction of the DPM dress package and the service dress package. The term "package" refers to the provision of a full outfit of matching clothing for the individual soldier. The introduction of these new uniforms have proved both economical and practical and has been an asset to the Defence Forces in their many operations.

Question No. 57 answered with QuestionNo. 50.

National Emergency Plan.

Michael Ring

Question:

58 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Defence if he will publish the findings of the simulated emergency situations staged in different parts of the country to test the effectiveness of the response in crises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11822/06]

The lead responsibility for specific emergency planning functions remains with the relevant lead Departments and those bodies under their aegis. Emergency plans are co-ordinated and exercised by the various lead Departments at a national level and through the local authorities, including the fire services, the Health Service Executive and the Garda divisions at regional and local level. The publication of details pertaining to specific exercises is a matter for the lead Department and the relevant public authorities concerned.

Question No. 59 answered with QuestionNo. 43.

Commemorative Events.

Bernard Allen

Question:

60 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Defence the preparations the Defence Forces have carried out for the Easter parade commemoration in 2006. [11854/06]

John McGuinness

Question:

72 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Defence the involvement of the Defence Forces in the preparation and organisation of the 2006 Easter 1916 commemoration parade; the proposed format for the parade; the vehicles to be used in the parade; the way in which the Defence Forces record of service with the United Nations will be represented in the parade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11736/06]

Paul McGrath

Question:

77 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Defence if the Civil Defence will take part in the 2006 Easter commemoration parade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11856/06]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

79 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Defence if he will expand on his recent comments that efforts will be made to ensure that the upcoming Easter Rising commemoration in Dublin will not be hijacked by similar elements to those who were involved in rioting in Dublin during the Love Ulster parade; if he has met the Garda and Defence Forces to discuss security arrangements for the parade; his views on whether it is necessary to increase security following the events at the Love Ulster march; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11776/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 60, 72, 77 and 79 together.

The Easter Rising of 1916 will be commemorated by a military parade in Dublin on Sunday, 16 April 2006. Preparations for the parade, as announced by the Taoiseach last October, are being made by the Defence Forces. Approximately 2,500 personnel representing all branches of the forces together with representatives of ex-service personnel and veterans of UN service will be included. The parade will also include members of the Garda Síochána, representing their service abroad with the United Nations. A fly past by the Air Corps is also envisaged.

There are a total of 60 military vehicles scheduled to participate in the parade. The vehicles selected are drawn from all corps and formations and are representative of the equipment currently in use in the Defence Forces. The Defence Forces record of service with the United Nations will be marked by the carrying of flags of all nations in which Defence Force Personnel have served on UN duty. The unit colours of all military units of the Defence Forces which deployed overseas will also be carried. A representative group of approximately 150 personnel from the Irish United Nations Veterans Association will march in the parade.

It is not envisaged that volunteers from Civil Defence will take part in this year's parade which is primarily focused on the Defence Forces, ex-servicemen, United Nations veterans and members of the police in recognition of their service abroad. However, consideration will be given to participation by Civil Defence in the centenary celebrations in 2016.

The parade will depart from Dublin Castle, passing through Dame Street, College Green and O'Connell Street. There will be a reading of the Proclamation outside the GPO and appropriate military honours will be rendered. The event will be televised live and it will be possible to view the parade along the route from Dublin Castle to O'Connell Street. This 90th anniversary of the Rising will also be marked by a wreath laying ceremony in Kilmainham Gaol earlier that morning and by a Government reception at Dublin Castle that evening.

Officials of my Department and officers of the Defence Forces are represented on an inter-departmental working group, chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach, which is overseeing all the logistical arrangements for the parade and associated events. This group meets regularly and includes, inter alia, representatives from the Garda Síochána, Dublin City Council, the fire services, and the Office of Public Works. As the Deputies will appreciate many logistical issues such as the parade route, road closures, health and safety regulations, publicity, etc., have to be addressed as well as the security arrangements for the event and this group is dealing with these issues.

Overseas Missions.

Willie Penrose

Question:

61 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Defence if the planned meeting between representatives from his Department, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Defence Forces of Sweden and Ireland to discuss possible Irish participation in the Nordic battlegroup took place; if other discussions have taken place with countries that have agreed to participate in EU battlegroups regarding becoming partner countries with Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11779/06]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

68 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Defence the arrangements which will be made to facilitate the Defence Force engaging in joint training missions as part of our involvement in a future EU battlegroup; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11831/06]

Jim Glennon

Question:

71 Mr. Glennon asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the opening discussions between officials of his Department and their Swedish counterparts regarding Ireland’s possible participation in the Swedish-led Nordic battlegroup; the length of time he anticipates these talks will last; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11562/06]

John Gormley

Question:

85 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Defence when legislation will be forthcoming to facilitate the participation of Irish military forces in EU battlegroups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11799/06]

Gerard Murphy

Question:

86 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Defence the number of EU member states that Ireland has approached as potential partners in the formation of an EU battlegroup; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11837/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

91 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the position in relation to the composition and Ireland’s participation in EU battlegroups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11798/06]

Simon Coveney

Question:

117 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Defence the number of members of the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps that Ireland will commit to a future EU battlegroup; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11838/06]

Bernard Allen

Question:

118 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Defence the countries which Ireland has approached with regard to co-operation in the formation of an EU battlegroup; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11836/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

520 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the developments which have taken place at EU level in regard to the formation of rapid response forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12269/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

523 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the role he sees for Defence Forces in the context of the formation of EU battlegroups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12272/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61, 68, 71, 85, 86, 91, 117, 118, 520 and 523 together.

The ambition of the EU to be able to respond rapidly to emerging crises has, and continues to be, a key objective of the development of the European Security and Defence Policy, ESDP. The tasks to be carried out under ESDP, the so-called Petersberg Tasks, are defined in the Amsterdam treaty as "humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking". Our participation in ESDP and in the Petersberg Tasks has been endorsed and supported directly by the people in the referendum on the Treaty on European Union, TEU, and the subsequent referenda on the Amsterdam and Nice treaties. Our participation in ESDP is also fully in accordance with our traditional support for the UN and our obligations as members of the international community, to respond to crises, events and humanitarian disasters, wherever they may occur.

The European Union has the potential to play an increasing role in responding to emergency crises, in providing humanitarian relief and in supporting the maintenance of international peace and security in furtherance of the aims of the United Nations and the UN charter. Accepting this role is not just an EU ambition, it is an EU obligation and an obligation for Ireland as a member of both the EU and of the UN.

Ireland favours the development of the EU's rapid response capability in support of UN authorised missions and is positively disposed towards participation in battlegroups in this regard. To this end, I established the interdepartmental group to examine all issues relating to Ireland's potential participation in an EU-led rapid response capability. The group reported in November 2005 and, since then, its report has been considered by the Cabinet sub-committee on European affairs and, informally, by the Government.

Following on from the report of the interdepartmental group and consideration of its report, discussions with other like-minded nations on a potential contribution by Ireland to a battlegroup have now commenced. A delegation consisting of representatives from the Departments of Defence and Foreign Affairs and the Defence Forces met their Swedish counterparts in Stockholm on 9 to 10 March to discuss possible participation by the Defence Forces in the Nordic battlegroup. Our representatives outlined Ireland's position in relation to battlegroup participation and international peacekeeping generally and gave a presentation on the capabilities which Ireland can make available to a battlegroup. These range from smaller niche capabilities up to an APC mounted light infantry company group of approximately 200 personnel plus support elements.

This is now being considered by Sweden, which is the framework nation for the Nordic battlegroup. Further consultations between the Defence Forces and the Swedish Armed Forces and between officials of the respective Ministries are planned. I would expect these discussions to conclude within the next few months. Any decision on a specific contribution to a battlegroup will be subject to formal Government approval. I expect that there will be ongoing discussion with other member states over the coming months, in particular, with Finland and Austria with whom we have also had some initial informal exploratory discussions. While not conclusive, the study raised possible questions as to whether Defence Forces can be sent on such overseas training. It is important to the development of capabilities and the ongoing training of the Defence Forces that they can undertake training overseas and learn from best practice in other countries. This training is essential to the development and maintenance of high standards in the military and our existing peace support operations, where we work alongside many other armies. I intend to introduce amending legislation to put this issue beyond doubt amongst a number of other issues about which I have previously informed the House.

There are no plans for the involvement of Naval or Air Corps assets, although individual members of the Naval Service or Air Corps may be deployed on overseas peace support operations as they have been in the past. Any commitment to a battlegroup will be met within the context of the overall ceiling of 850 personnel serving overseas at any one time set in the White Paper on Defence.

Participation by the Defence Forces in EU battlegroups raises no policy issues in terms of Ireland's commitment and approach to the maintenance of international peace and security, which is, and will remain, grounded in the framework of the UN charter. There is no conflict between Ireland's participation in regional arrangements including EU battlegroups and our traditional policy of support for the UN. Participation in any EU operation remains a national sovereign decision and our current policy on the triple lock will not be compromised by participating in battlegroups.

Question No. 62 answered with QuestionNo. 44.

Defence Forces Investigations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

63 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Defence if he will consider an inquiry into the death of a person (details supplied); his views on whether there is a basis to reopen this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11783/06]

I am advised by the military authorities that on 15 September 1961, Trooper Patrick Mullins and Corporal Michael Nolan were killed in action in the Congo when their armoured vehicle was hit by anti-tank fire from armed elements. While the remains of Corporal Nolan were recovered, those of Trooper Mullins were not. An investigation into Trooper Mullins's death by the military authorities at the time concluded on 29 January 1962, that he was killed in action at Ave Du Cuivre, Lubumbashi, Elisabethville, Katanga in the Republic of the Congo as a result of the hostile action. Trooper Mullins was posthumously awarded An Réalt Mileata, the military star.

Given the remove of 45 years since the incident, it is difficult to anticipate whether a re-opening of the case would yield any information not already known. However, I will ask the military authorities to further consider the matter and provide me with a report.

Question No. 64 answered with QuestionNo. 48.
Question No. 65 answered with QuestionNo. 45.

Human Rights Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

66 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence the steps he has taken to rectify the absence of human rights safeguards, identified by this Deputy, governing the provision of training to foreign soldiers. [11819/06]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

90 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Defence if he will address concerns of a Deputy regarding the absence of human rights safeguards governing the provision of training to foreign soldiers as promised. [11818/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66 and 90 together.

I was aware of the Deputy's previous questions in this area. As previously outlined in replies to the Deputy, Defence Forces training syllabi reflect the full range of contemporary developments in international humanitarian law, human rights law and the various specific humanitarian issues that may arise in theatre specific circumstances. These high level courses are directed at the role of national armed forces in the sphere of international peacekeeping duties under the direct auspices of the United Nations or with UN — mandated multinational missions. Ireland has a well deserved and quite outstanding international reputation in this area of international peacekeeping operations.

As the Deputy will be aware, countries which are NATO members participate in UN peacekeeping operations and it is in that capacity, as UN peacekeepers, current or potential, that Defence Forces training courses are provided. It is a notable tribute to the international standing of the Defence Forces, and the great esteem in which they are held abroad, that Defence Forces courses are selected for these personnel.

It is also a fact that Irish military contingents with a United Nations mission must work closely on a day to day basis with all the other military contingents of those sovereign states which are participating in that UN mission. It is hardly sensible or consistent to raise political objections about our Defence Forces interacting with individual members of the armed forces of such states because they participate in a Defence Forces training course here in Ireland, particularly where course content is focused on international peacekeeping and human rights concerns.

The course modules and content covering standards of international law and human rights standards and criteria are set out in common for all participants, regardless of their state of origin, as described. The Defence Forces are happy to be in a position to provide this exemplary professional training.

Third Level Education.

John McGuinness

Question:

67 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Defence the number of commissioned non-commissioned personnel attending third level education; the range of courses involved; the cost incurred in 2004 and 2005; the funding provided for third level education under the refund of fees scheme operated by his Department; the number of applications received in 2004 and 2005; the number of applicants successful in receiving grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11735/06]

The military has advised that the numbers of military personnel attending education courses at third level, ranging from certificate to masters degree level in 2004 included 129 commissioned personnel and 26 non-commissioned personnel. In 2005, the numbers attending such courses included 143 commissioned personnel and 44 non-commissioned personnel. The fees incurred in relation to such courses amounted to €663,188 in 2004 and to €578,130 in 2005.

The number of applications received from military personnel for refunds of course fees, in respect of third level education in the individual's own time, was 35 in 2004. The figure for 2005 was 51. All applications made were granted. The level of funding available for the refunds of fees scheme for military personnel for third level courses was €70,000 in 2004 and €72,000 in 2005.

In addition, a number of military personnel attend certain specialised, career specific, third level education courses, on local assignment from their home corps. However, statistics in relation to these courses are not readily available centrally. The relevant data will be collated and provided to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Question No. 68 answered with QuestionNo. 61.

Commemorative Events.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

69 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence if he has arranged further meetings of the all-party group to plan commemorations of the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising; the issues that were discussed at that meeting; how often he expects this group to meet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11778/06]

The all-party group held its first meeting on Wednesday, 1 March 2006. The arrangements for Easter Sunday to mark the ninetieth anniversary of the Easter Rising were outlined and the group discussed these. Preliminary discussions were also held in relation to the framework for the centenary programme. I envisage that the next meeting of this group will be after Easter to progress the development of the centenary programme. The group will then meet as necessary to continue this work.

Question No. 70 answered with QuestionNo. 44.
Question No. 71 answered with QuestionNo. 61.
Question No. 72 answered with QuestionNo. 60.
Question No. 73 answered with QuestionNo. 41.
Question No. 74 answered with QuestionNo. 43.
Question No. 75 answered with QuestionNo. 54.

National Emergency Plan.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

76 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the March meetings of the interdepartmental working group on emergency planning and the task force on emergency planning; if the security measures surrounding the transit of President George W. Bush through Shannon Airport would have been considered by those groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11806/06]

The Government task force on emergency planning has worked since it was set up in 2001 to co-ordinate emergency planning and response arrangements across those Departments that lead and support the State's response in an emergency. The interdepartmental working group on emergency planning supports the work of the task force. The working group is a forum for developing strategic guidance for all those involved in emergency planning and for sharing information on emergency planning.

A meeting of the task force was held on Thursday, 9 March 2006 and of the interdepartmental working group met on Wednesday, 1 March 2006.

Both of these meetings were specifically convened to provide the various Department representatives with updated briefings from the Department of Agriculture and Food with regard to avian flu and from the Department of Health and Children with regard to a possible human flu pandemic.

The Department of Agriculture and Food is represented on both the task force and the interdepartmental working group and has been providing regular briefings on avian flu developments at these meetings over the past number of months. The situation with regard to avian flu will continue to be monitored and reviewed by that Department in close co-operation with the Department of Health and Children. The recent task force and interdepartmental working group meetings were also briefed by the Department of Health and Children representatives in relation to the preparations and plans which are being put in place to deal with any possible human influenza pandemic. My colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, who has lead responsibility in this area, is addressing the various issues that may arise if such a situation occurs.

As the Deputy will be aware, it is standard practice for the Government and the Garda Síochána to be made aware of visits by heads of state and this practice was adhered to with regard to President Bush's recent stopover. Specific operational arrangements with regard to such visits would be a matter for the Garda Síochána. It is not policy to discuss specific matters of security in relation to the protection of visiting heads of state to Ireland.

Question No. 77 answered with QuestionNo. 60.

EU Ministerial Meetings.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

78 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the meeting of European Defence Ministers in Innsbruck on 7 March 2006; the issues that were discussed at this meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11772/06]

Dan Boyle

Question:

101 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Defence the discussions in the meeting of European Defence Ministers in Austria in March 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11802/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 78 and 101 together.

An Informal meeting of EU Defence Ministers was held in Innsbruck, Austria, on 6 March 2006. At the meeting, Ministers discussed civil-military co-ordination, CMCO, which was an initiative begun under the UK Presidency to improve the management of operations involving EU civil and military elements in a manner which would support greater coherence across the range of EU instruments and actors by bringing together the different tools available to the EU in a co-ordinated manner. The Austrian Presidency prepared a paper on CMCO management of operations which set a range of questions to facilitate an exchange of views on the issue.

Also discussed at the meeting were operations in Africa, in particular the proposed EU support mission to the UN MONUC operation and operations in the western Balkans. As the meeting was informal, and not a decision-making forum, no formal conclusions were drawn. A meeting of the European Defence Agency steering board followed the informal meeting.

Question No. 79 answered with QuestionNo. 60.

Hearing Impairment.

Simon Coveney

Question:

80 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Defence the number of recruits in the Army, the Naval Service and the Air Corps who have been discharged on the grounds of hearing difficulties from 2000 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11868/06]

No recruits of the Army, the Air Corps or the Naval Service have been discharged from the Defence Forces on the grounds of hearing difficulties from 2000 to the present date.

Military Archives.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

81 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Defence the position in relation to increasing the staff and facilities at the military archives in Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11871/06]

The military authorities advise that at present the staff strength of the military archives is three, comprising a commissioned officer, a non-commissioned officer and a private. Approval has been granted to source two additional officers. One such graduate officer has been identified and it is planned to have this individual undergo postgraduate archival studies in UCD in September 2006.

The military archives is a statutory place of deposit under section 14 of the National Archives Act 1986 for the records of the Defence Forces, the Department of Defence and the Army Pensions Board. The archive holds in excess of 35,000 linear feet-boxes of records in five storage areas, four areas in Cathal Brugha Barracks, Rathmines, Dublin 6, and one area in the Defence Forces training centre at the Curragh. The records of the bureau of military history and in excess of 950 private paper collections gathered from serving and retired members of the Defence Forces, their families and friends are also held by the military archives.

The function of the archive is to collect, to preserve and to make available material relating to the history of the development of the Defence Forces from the formation of the Irish Volunteers in November 1913 up to the present day, inclusive of Defence Forces overseas service with the United Nations from 1958.

Members of the public may arrange access to the archives by a system of prior appointment. This is necessary due to limitations on available space. In order to make an appointment, interested members of the public should contact the officer commanding military archives, Cathal Brugha Barracks, Rathmines, Dublin 6, Telephone 01 8046457. These details are also available on the Defence Forces website at www.defenceforces.ie.

The question of identifying a new suitable permanent location for the military archives, ideally within the National Museum of Ireland facility at the former Collins Barracks, Benburb Street, remains an option for the future. The matter has been considered in some detail by an inter-departmental committee in recent years. However, the location and historic nature of the Collins Barracks site raises critical issues around environmental planning, conservation considerations and realistic cost parameters.

Website Use.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

82 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Defence if he has received any indication from the owners of a particular website (details supplied) since his reply to Parliamentary Question No. 17 of 3 November 2005 that material bearing the title “Óglaigh na hÉireann” will be removed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11572/06]

The presence on this website of a range of items for sale bearing the title "Óglaigh na hÉireann" came to the attention of my Department and the Defence Forces late last year. Section 16 of the Defence Acts 1954 to 1998 provides that: "It shall be lawful for the Government to raise train, equip, arm and maintain Defence Forces to be called and known as Óglaigh na hÉireann or (in English) the Defence Forces." Accordingly, only the Defence Forces properly established are entitled to use the nomenclature "Óglaigh na hÉireann". No permission for use of the title "Óglaigh na hÉireann" on the items featured on the website has been sought from the Department of Defence, nor could such permission be given.

I first wrote to the leadership of the political party whose name appears on this website on 3 November 2005 requesting that the material in question be removed for sale from the site. I wrote again on 21 December 2005 and on 24 February last and while the first two letters have been acknowledged, I have still not received a substantive response to the issue raised.

Question No. 83 answered with QuestionNo. 48.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Pat Breen

Question:

84 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Defence the number of nuclear, chemical and biological suits available to each branch of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11834/06]

The Defence Forces have available to them equipment for monitoring and protecting their members in dealing with nuclear, biological or chemical, NBC, threats identified from time to time. They hold an extensive range of modern NBC equipment that meets their current requirements. This range includes approximately 9,500 NBC suits, of which 800 were delivered in January 2006. The suits are allocated to all brigades and the Defence Forces training centre as required for training purposes.

Questions Nos. 85 and 86 answered withQuestion No. 61.

Defence Forces Travel.

Shane McEntee

Question:

87 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Defence if members of the Defence Forces other than those on UN service, travelled abroad as part of the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations; if so, details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11870/06]

It is customary for all contingents on United Nations service to host functions to mark their national day. Defence Forces personnel, when serving overseas have traditionally celebrated St. Patrick's Day as Ireland's national day. This year a small number of officers and pipers visited Defence Force missions in Liberia, Damascus, Brussels and Sarajevo and participated in St. Patrick's Day functions and parades hosted by the Defence Forces in those locations. The 28th infantry battalion pipe band travelled to New York at its own expense to take part in a range of events from 15 to 20 March. The Air Corps pipe band travelled to Boston and participated in events from 10 to 20 March.

Question No. 88 answered with QuestionNo. 43.
Question No. 89 answered with QuestionNo. 53.
Question No. 90 answered with QuestionNo. 66.
Question No. 91 answered with QuestionNo. 61.
Question No. 92 answered with QuestionNo. 50.

Defence Forces Property.

Richard Bruton

Question:

93 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Defence if tourist-friendly signage will be put up to outline the range areas and details with regard to live firing practices at the Glen of Imaal, County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11858/06]

Copies of an explanatory leaflet, which contains a map of the Glen of Imaal and includes details of "dos and don'ts" are available at the range warden service advice centre at Seskin school and are distributed locally. Notices of intent to fire are posted in advance on notice boards at the Army information and advice centre in Seskin, the post office at Knockanarrigan and at local youth hostels. In addition, in the period prior to bank holiday weekends, advertisements are placed in newspapers warning of the dangers that may be encountered in the area. The safety of individuals visiting the Glen of Imaal is of paramount importance to the Department of Defence and the design and location of warning notices is kept under review in order to achieve that objective.

Overseas Missions.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

94 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Defence the number of apprentice mechanics working on the Irish overseas mission to Liberia; if all the fitter mechanics currently operating on this mission are apprentices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11784/06]

There are currently 16 fitter mechanics serving with the 94th infantry battalion in the United Nations Mission in Liberia, UNMIL, of whom ten are apprentice mechanics. Fitter mechanics undergo a four-year apprenticeship involving seven phases. On-the-job experience is gained in the third, fifth and seventh phases of the course. Apprentices can volunteer to avail of on-the-job experience on overseas missions at the fifth and seventh phases only. The normal practice is to have a ratio of one fitter mechanic to every four or five apprentices.

Question No. 95 answered with QuestionNo. 41.
Question No. 96 answered with QuestionNo. 44.
Question No. 97 answered with QuestionNo. 50.
Question No. 98 answered with QuestionNo. 41.

Security Escorts.

Pat Carey

Question:

99 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Defence the amount received from the banks in 1996, in respect of cash escorts supplied by the Defence Forces; the amount received in 2006 and due to be received in 2007; the way in which these amounts are calculated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11586/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

515 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the expenditure associated with provision of military security for cash transportation; the amount received from the financial institutions in lieu thereof in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12264/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 99 and 515 together.

An annual contribution of €2.86 million has been paid by the banks to my Department in respect of the provision of cash escorts since 1995. This figure was set by the Department of Finance in the 1995 budget and had not been altered since. The contribution from the banks was designed to part-cover the total costs to the State of providing cash escorts. At that time, the contribution covered approximately 72% of the total cost arising to the Defence Forces. Based on annual costings by the Department, the relative level of the contribution had fallen in real terms over the years to the situation where it was only covering 43% of the total costs.

The total cost in respect of the provision by the Defence Forces of assistance to the Garda Síochána in protecting movements of cash for the years 2000 to 2004 — the figures for 2005 are currently being collated — was as follows:

Year

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

Total number of escorts

2,285

2,488

2,516

2,335

2,425

Cost of Escorts

€5.7m

€6.57m

€6.87m

€6.5m

€7.5m

Pay accounts for about 54% of the total costs of providing cash escorts. The non-pay costs include security duty allowance, 7%, subsistence, 8%, transport, 28%, and aerial surveillance, 3%.

As the Deputy may be aware, I had a number of discussions with the Irish Bankers Federation, IBF, in relation to this matter last year, with a view to increasing the level of contribution by the banks in respect of the costs incurred by the Department in the provision of cash escorts. Following detailed and intensive discussions between officials of the IBF, the member banks and the Department, a detailed formal agreement was signed on 11 May 2005.

This agreement, which is for a five year period, provides that the banks will pay the total actual costs incurred by the Defence Forces in the provision of cash escorts. Costs in respect of each 12 month period to end-December will be paid the following year on or before 1 June. This is to allow for the compilation of returns from the brigades and allocation of costs following the year end. The first payment under the new system — costs for 2005 — are currently being collated and are due to be paid in June 2006. At the banks' request, I agreed to defer the first payment to that date to meet the banks budgeting and accounting timeframe. In return for my agreement to this deferral, a transitional payment of €1 million, payable before the end of 2005, was negotiated as part of the overall agreement. Therefore, in 2005 the banks made their annual payment of €2.86 million plus the additional €1 million making a total contribution of €3.86 million. The amount to be paid in 2007 — costs for 2006 — will not be available until early 2007.

Question No. 100 answered with QuestionNo. 48.
Question No. 101 answered with QuestionNo. 78.

Defence Forces Investigations.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

102 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence the position with regard to the investigation into the circumstances in which a medical appointment (details supplied) was made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11839/06]

The position is that legal advice has been sought by my Department as to the performance of the specialist medical recruitment agency engaged to provide suitably qualified doctors for service with the Irish contingent of the United Nations Mission in Liberia. This advice is still awaited.

As the first priority was the welfare of the troops who were attended to by Dr. Lieberthal, the director of the medical corps contacted each person who had served in Liberia during the period in question alerting them to the situation and advising them of the measures the medical corps were putting in place to deal with any concerns they may have.

As a result any Defence Force member treated by the person concerned and who wished to discuss any aspect of his or her treatment with a medical officer was invited to consult their local military medical officer or alternatively to contact the special medical hotline established by the Army medical corps. To date, there have been nine calls to this number.

Question No. 103 answered with QuestionNo. 50.

National Emergency Plan.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

104 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Defence if the task force on emergency planning has discussed the response to the recent riots in Dublin; if the task force has made recommendations with regard to the planning for future marches; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11828/06]

The response to the recent riots in Dublin were discussed in detail in the House on 28 February 2006 during the debate on public order offences, which included detailed statements by my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The Government task force on emergency planning last met on 9 March 2006. This was a specifically convened meeting of the task force for the sole purpose of receiving updated briefings from the Department of Agriculture and Food with regard to avian flu and from the Department of Health and Children with regard to preparations for a possible human influenza pandemic. The response to the recent riots was not discussed at this meeting.

The maintenance of public order is a matter for the Garda authorities and the Government task force on emergency planning is not involved in such operational matters. I would, however, as chairman of the Government task force, condemn the behaviour of those involved in the rioting on the day in question and, on behalf of the Government and this House, commend the bravery of the members of the Garda Síochána in exercising its public order duties.

Defence Forces Investigations.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

105 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding allegations into the theft of diesel by a Defence Forces’ member in Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11781/06]

The military authorities advise that the military police investigation is still ongoing into the alleged larceny of diesel oil from military vehicles in Donegal. It would be inappropriate to comment on the details of the investigation but it can be confirmed that a member of the Defence Forces has been interviewed in the course of the investigation. As the investigation is continuing and several lines of inquiry remain to be completed, it is not possible to determine when the investigation will be concluded.

Defence Forces Deployment.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

106 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Defence the security preparations involving the Defence Forces at Shannon Airport to facilitate the transit of the US President, Mr. George W. Bush, through Shannon Airport in early March 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11805/06]

The Garda Síochána has the primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State. Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces is the provision of aid to the civil power, meaning in practice to assist, when requested, the Garda Síochána, which duties include the protection and guarding of vital installations, the provision of certain security escorts, etc. As the Deputy will appreciate, it would not be appropriate for me, for reasons of security, to comment on the exact nature of the deployment to Shannon Airport on 1 and 5 March last. The estimated additional cost to the Defence Forces was approximately €60,000 in respect of security duty allowance, food, fuel and hire of equipment.

Question No. 107 answered with QuestionNo. 50.

Proposed Legislation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

108 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Defence if there are planned changes to defence legislation for the remainder of the lifetime of this Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11844/06]

The Government's legislative programme for the current Dáil session, which commenced on 25 January 2006, as announced by my colleague, Deputy Kitt, Chief Whip and Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, lists in section A my intention to publish a Bill amending Part V, discipline, of the Defence Act 1954, as amended, and certain other provisions of the Act.

Since its enactment over 50 years ago, Part V, discipline, of the Defence Act 1954 has been subject to relatively minor revisions, including the establishment in 1983 of the Courts-Martial Appeals Court, CMAC, the introduction of a special legal aid scheme and some subsequent updating of the punishments available for breaches of military law.

There have been relevant developments in the intervening period. The military legal authorities have had regard to various decisions of the Courts-Martial Appeals Court since 1983, to developments in the ordinary criminal courts of the State and to developments in the administration of military law in other common law jurisdictions. They have been especially aware of the need for the Irish military legal system to be fully compliant with all of the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights which was incorporated into Irish law through the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003. In this regard, the military authorities are entirely cognisant of recent decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in the area of military law.

In July, 2001 the deputy chief of staff, support, convened a military law review board to review the current provisions of the Defence Act 1954, as amended, to ensure that the military law justice system is both expeditious and fair to the individual and contributes significantly to the maintenance of discipline within the Defence Forces and complies with the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. The board report, together with legal advice from the Attorney General's office, have been considered within my Department with a view to deciding upon the most suitable approach to be taken to the recommendations, in light of the general legislative programme of the Government.

Accordingly, in June 2005 the Government approved the urgent drafting of the Defence (Amendment) Bill which is currently being drafted by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, in consultation with officials from my Department, for enactment by mid-2006.

The legislative programme also lists in section C my intention to publish a Curragh of Kildare Bill which will provide for the establishment of a statutory body to manage the Curragh with the exception of the military establishment at the Defence Forces training centre and to update the existing Curragh of Kildare Act. This Bill is being drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and is expected to be published in mid-2006.

As I have previously advised the House, the interdepartmental group on battlegroups, as part of its study, recommended changes to current legislation on overseas deployments in light of the increasing range of operations where military forces can play a role and the need for increased interoperability and training so we can be more effective and more efficient once deployed.

It is important to the development of capabilities and the ongoing training of the Defence Forces that they can undertake training overseas and learn from best practice in other countries. While not conclusive, the study raised possible questions as to whether Defence Forces can be sent on such overseas training. This training is essential to the development and maintenance of high standards in the military and our existing peace support operations, where we work alongside many other armies.

I intend to introduce amending legislation to put this issue beyond doubt. Moreover, in light of developments since the Defence Act was amended in 1960 to provide for participation in UN peace support operations, for the avoidance of doubt, I also intend to update the wording in the Act to more closely reflect current practice in the formulation of UN Security Council resolutions endorsing peace support operations. The triple lock requirement of UN, Government and Dáil approval will stand.

I also propose to provide for the participation by Defence Forces personnel in humanitarian operations in response to natural and man-made disasters such as the tsunami in south east Asia or the earthquake in Pakistan. Currently personnel must volunteer for service with a civil undertaking, in the same manner as any ordinary citizens and cannot be deployed at the behest of the Government.

These issues are important and must be addressed. The requirement for this amending legislation arises irrespective of our participation in battlegroups. With the co-operation of the Oireachtas which I expect will be readily forthcoming, I hope to have the necessary legislation enacted before the summer recess.

Defence Forces Property.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

109 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Defence the approaches which have been made to his Department seeking to purchase property at Rockbrac House, Bray, County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11860/06]

My Department currently holds the house and lands at the location in question, comprising an area of 4.83 acres in all, under lease. Over the years the Department has received approaches regarding the disposal of its interest in the property. It is not the practice to divulge the identity of such interested parties. The Department's property portfolio is kept under continual review and any properties deemed surplus to military requirements will be disposed of to fund much needed investment, to meet the equipment and infrastructure needs of the Defence Forces.

Question No. 110 answered with QuestionNo. 53.
Question No. 111 answered with QuestionNo. 52.

Defence Forces Strength.

John Perry

Question:

112 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Defence the full complement of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11827/06]

Dan Neville

Question:

123 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Defence the strength of the Defence Forces and Reserve Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11835/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 112 and 123 together.

The White Paper on Defence of February 2000 sets out a figure of 10,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force, comprising 930 for the Air Corps, 1,144 for the Naval Service and 8,426 for the Army. It is my intention to maintain the established Government policy of ongoing recruitment to the Defence Forces. Recruitment into the Permanent Defence Force will continue to maintain the strength at the level set out in the White Paper as required to meet military needs. The Defence Forces continue to have a proactive approach to all aspects of recruiting.

The strength of the Permanent Defence Force and the Reserve Defence Force, as advised by the military authorities, is provided in the following tabular statement. The figures provided are as at 28 February 2006.

Strength of the Permanent Defence Force

28 February, 2006

Lt Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Gen

Col

Lt Col

Comdt

Capt

Lt

Total Offrs

Sm

Bqms

Cs

Cqms

Sgts

Cpls

Total NCOs

Ptes

Cadets

Total

Army

1

2

6

38

127

335

279

255

1,043

34

42

133

244

1,041

1,547

3,041

4,305

87

8,476

Air Corps

0

0

1

2

14

31

45

39

132

7

4

51

15

132

194

403

292

20

847

Naval Serv-ice

0

0

1

2

12

48

38

62

163

6

7

78

15

207

151

464

431

16

1,074

Lt GenLieutenant General
SMSergeant Major
Maj GenMajor General
BQMSBattalion Quartermaster Sergeant
Brig GenBrigadier General
CSCompany Sergeant
ColColonel
CQMSCompany Quartermaster Sergeant
Lt ColLieutenant Colonel
SgtsSergeants
ComdtCommandant
CplsCorporals
CaptCaptain
NCOsNon Commissioned Officers
LtLieutenant
PtesPrivates
Strength of the Reserve Defence Forces

28 February, 2006.

Lt. Col

Comdt

Capt

Lt

Total Officers

Sm

Bqms

Cs

Cqms

Sgts

Cpls

Total NCOs

Ptes

Total

Army Reserve

4

112

189

383

688

22

21

117

113

889

1,459

2,621

6,116

9,425

Naval Reserve

0

4

10

12

26

0

4

13

1

23

32

73

274

373

Strength of the First Line Reserve

28 February, 2006.

Total Officers

Total NCOs

Ptes

Total

Army

98

13

138

249

Air Corps

24

2

14

40

Naval Service

39

12

46

97

Question No. 113 answered with QuestionNo. 45.

Decentralisation Programme.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

114 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Defence the position with regard to decentralisation within his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11829/06]

The Government decision on decentralisation announced by the Minister for Finance in his Budget Statement on 3 December 2003 provides for the transfer of my Department's Dublin based Civil Service staff to Newbridge, County Kildare. The number of staff to be relocated to Newbridge is 200. While the Office of Public Works has identified a suitable site in Newbridge for the Department's new headquarters, negotiations on the acquisition of the site have not yet been completed. A total of 385 personnel, of whom 65 are currently serving in the Department, have volunteered to relocate to Newbridge.

Question No. 115 answered with QuestionNo. 43.
Question No. 116 answered with QuestionNo. 41.
Questions Nos. 117 and 118 answered withQuestion No. 61.
Question No. 119 answered with QuestionNo. 43.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

120 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Defence if the Defence Forces will be replacing the existing FN pistols; the stage such replacement programme is at; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11571/06]

A tender competition was initiated in 2005 to replace the existing FN 9mm Browning automatic pistol within the Defence Forces. The requirement is for up to 1,400 new pistols. The tender competition is still in train but it is likely that a contract for the acquisition of the pistols will be placed in the near future. It is expected that the new pistols will be delivered by the end of this year. The Deputy will appreciate that as the tender competition is ongoing, I cannot disclose any further information in the matter at this stage.

Question No. 121 answered with QuestionNo. 52.
Question No. 122 answered with QuestionNo. 41.
Question No. 123 answered with QuestionNo. 112.

Defence Forces Investigations.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

124 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide details of the inquiry that is to be established into the events surrounding the Niemba ambush in the Congo in 1960; the length of time he expects this inquiry to last; the remit of the inquiry; the personnel involved in the inquiry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12078/06]

On Question Time on 23 February 2006, I undertook to ask the military authorities to revisit this matter in light of the questions raised on that date. The Chief of Staff has appointed a senior officer to examine all aspects of the Niemba ambush in the Congo in November 1960. The senior officer will also examine all records in military archives, interview former Army Privates Kenny and Fitzpatrick and other survivors of the unit who may be in a position to contribute and also the authors of any books or articles related to the ambush. I will contact the Deputy when this process has been completed.

Industrial Wage.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

125 Mr. Morgan asked the Taoiseach the percentage of the workforce who at present receive less than the average industrial wage. [11453/06]

The exact information requested by the Deputy is not available. The average earnings per hour for industrial workers, excluding clerical and managerial workers, in the manufacturing sector was €13.92 in September 2005. The quarterly survey from which these figures are produced does not enable the compilation of tables on the distribution of earnings.

However, the CSO has introduced a new survey, the national employment survey, for this purpose. The survey was first conducted in 2003 and it is being repeated this year. Preliminary figures from 2003 show that average hourly earnings for industrial workers in the manufacturing sector was €12.78. Approximately 48% of all employees, excluding agriculture, forestry and fishing employees, had earnings per hour below this figure. A detailed report on the 2003 national employment survey is currently being prepared.

Official Engagements.

Michael Ring

Question:

126 Mr. Ring asked the Taoiseach his itinerary during his recent trip to America, including details of all the people and groups he met and the topics of discussion at each meeting or event. [11710/06]

On the occasion of the St. Patrick's Day celebrations, I fulfilled a number of engagements in San Jose, California, and in Washington. In the course of my various engagements, I focused on three key themes — the progress made in the peace process in the past year and our clear determination to resolve the outstanding issues this year, the plight of the undocumented Irish and the positive story of the success of modern Ireland. I spoke of what we believe is the "Irish Advantage", a theme which was also articulated by Ministers in many other engagements throughout the world during the St. Patrick's Day period.

I met Mr. Mark Hurd, CEO, Hewlett-Packard, at the company headquarters in Palo Alto. Hewlett Packard is a significant multinational company and a major investor and employer in Ireland. I met Enterprise Ireland clients and IDA guests when I attended the Enterprise Ireland reception in San Jose. A number of announcements were made, including Lotus Automation acquisitions, Scandata partnership with O'Neil Software, Innerworkings and the Interactive Services deal with Comcast. I also attended the Spirit of Ireland dinner in San Jose. My speech focused on the sister city relationship between San Jose and Dublin and the links between San Jose and Ireland. Ireland's contribution to Silicon Valley and the continued strength of the Irish economy were topics that were also mentioned.

I attended the Irish ambassador's St. Patrick's Day reception in Washington on 15 March. I met the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, ILIR, on the margins of the reception. We discussed our mutual desire to see a successful resolution to the situation for all the undocumented Irish currently living in the United States.

During my visit to Capitol Hill on 16 March, I met a number of Senators, including John McCain, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Edward Kennedy, Chris Dodd and Patrick Leahy. I also met a delegation from the Friends of Ireland, led by Congressman Jim Walsh.

At all of these meetings, we discussed the significant progress made in the peace process since March 2005. I also outlined the Government's views on the proposed immigration reform and the need to address the issues of the undocumented Irish in the US. I also raised the Pat Finucane case. On the same day, I attended the Speaker's lunch, which was hosted by Speaker Denis Hastert and was also attended by President Bush.

While I was in Washington I had the opportunity to meet the Ireland-US Economic Advisory Board. We discussed the Northern Ireland situation, the continuing success of the Irish economy, the future opportunities and challenges for Ireland and business prospects in the United States and internationally. I attended the American-Ireland Fund, AIF, national gala on 16 March in the National Building Museum, Washington, where I was the guest speaker.

On 17 March, I attended the traditional St. Patrick's Day ceremony at the White House and presented the bowl of shamrock to President Bush. This traditional ceremony marks the strong relationship between the US and Ireland. I also had a bilateral meeting with President Bush in the Oval Office. We discussed the peace process, the Pat Finucane case, Irish-US relations, immigration reform and the undocumented Irish and a range of international issues. In the course of various functions in Washington, I had the opportunity to meet the Northern Ireland Secretary of State and Northern political leaders.

Official Census.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

127 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if the upcoming census will include a question as to whether the respondent is a member of the Roma community; and if so, the steps the Central Statistics Office will take to prevent undercounting of this community. [11893/06]

The Central Statistics Office began a consultation process in November 2003 to consider topics to be included in the 2006 census which will be taken on 23 April. Notices were placed in the national press and on the CSO website inviting public submissions on the suggested content of the 2006 census questionnaire.

A broadly-based consultative group was set up in December 2003 to assist the CSO in assessing the merits of the various submissions received. The group agreed the content of the test questionnaire which was used in a census pilot survey. The survey was carried out in April 2004 and covered approximately 8,000 households in selected areas throughout the country. The results of the census pilot survey were discussed with the consultative group following which the director general of CSO submitted a list of proposed topics to Government for its approval. The Government decided on the final content of the census 2006 questionnaire in January 2005.

Among the new questions included in the 2006 census form is question no.14 on ethnicity or cultural background. The layout of the question was agreed with the consultative committee on racism and interculturalism, the Equality Authority and Pavee Point. The question wording is as follows:

14. What is your ethnic or cultural background?

Choose ONE section from A to D, then the appropriate box.

A White

1 Irish

2 Irish Traveller

3 Any other White background

B Black or Black Irish

4 African

5 Any other Black background

C Asian or Asian Irish

6 Chinese

7 Any other Asian background

D Other, including mixed background

8 Other, write in description

While a specific box is not provided for members of the Roma community, it will be possible for them, should they wish, to indicate an affiliation to the Roma community, to write in the appropriate description in section 8 of question no. 14. These descriptions can then be separately coded and depending on the number of respondents it may be possible to identify the Roma community as a separate publication category.

With a view to maximising public awareness, the CSO is conducting an intensive publicity campaign commencing with the census launch on 29 March. The campaign will run for eight weeks and will make use of radio, TV, press and outdoor media. The emphasis will be on the comprehensive and inclusive nature of the census which is summed up in the census 2006 copy line "BE PART OF THE BIGGER PICTURE". CSO's independence and the confidentiality of the information supplied will also be stressed. Particular attention is being paid to the enumeration of minority population groups.

The 2006 census form has been translated into 11 foreign languages to assist anyone who is not familiar with English or Irish. Romanian is included among these languages and this should be of particular assistance to members of the Roma community. As part of the fieldwork preparations CSO staff have made contact with immigrant groups both at national and local levels to explain the importance of ensuring that everyone is enumerated on census day. As recently as 21 March a seminar on census 2006 was organised as part of national day against racism. The attendance at the seminar included members of the Roma community.

Alcohol Action Ireland Survey.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

128 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the results of the Alcohol Action Ireland survey entitled Alcohol in Ireland — Time for Action have been brought to her attention; the action the Government intends to take on foot of the results; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11569/06]

I am aware of the recently published survey referred to by the Deputy. Officials from this Department have invited Alcohol Action Ireland to submit a copy. A strategic task force on alcohol was established in January 2002 and given a remit to recommend specific evidence-based measures to Government to prevent and reduce alcohol related harm. It has published two reports which together provide approximately 100 recommendations across a wide range of sectors. Significant progress has been made across Departments in implementing the task force's recommendations.

Legislative measures which have been adopted include the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003 which assists in regulating availability. "Happy hours" have been abolished and restrictions on the access of children to licensed premises have been introduced. The Road Traffic Act 2003 extended the grounds for requesting a breath test to detect alcohol and the Minister for Transport has indicated his commitment to the introduction of random breath testing.

A voluntary code of practice on alcohol advertising has been agreed between the Department of Health and Children and the drinks, media and advertising industries. This addresses many of the concerns over alcohol advertising. The Tánaiste has indicated her intention to introduce legislation if there is insufficient adherence to the voluntary code.

Significant progress has also been made in terms of research projects, the delivery of responsible server training, awareness-raising campaigns, etc. Community mobilisation projects have been identified internationally as one of the most effective measures at reducing alcohol related harm. Resources have been allocated to the Health Service Executive to support such projects in this country. As the Deputy will be aware, the executive functions of this Department have transferred to the Health Service Executive, which will now have responsibility for progressing many of the task force's recommendations.

A working group on alcohol was established under the special initiative on tackling alcohol and drug misuse in Sustaining Progress to help mobilise the stakeholders through social partnership to achieve a targeted and measurable reduction in alcohol misuse. Its remit was to examine the areas of high risk drinking, under age drinking and drink driving and to identify actions which member organisations could adopt to address these issues with a view to developing a programme of action. The group's report was submitted to the Tánaiste last week and future action is now being considered by my Department.

Health Services.

Barry Andrews

Question:

129 Mr. Andrews asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an application for funding to recruit a speech therapist has been made by a school (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11794/06]

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.

European Conventions.

Mary Upton

Question:

130 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason Ireland has yet to ratify the European Convention for the Protection of Vertebrate Animals used for Experimental and other Scientific Purposes; when Ireland will ratify same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11940/06]

The convention in question is primarily designed to reduce both the number of experiments and the number of animals used for such purposes. Parties to the convention are encouraged not to experiment on animals except where there is no alternative and to encourage research into alternative methods. Animals to be experimented on should be selected on the basis of clearly established quantitative criteria and must be well cared for and spared avoidable suffering whenever possible.

In Ireland, these outcomes are achieved in practice by the European Communities (Amendment to the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876) Regulations 2002 which give effect to Council Directive 86/609/EEC regarding the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes. However, ratification of the convention would require primary legislation and, as there would be no additional protection of experimental animals, I could not justify allocating resources for this purpose. Accordingly, there are no proposals to proceed with ratifying the convention.

Mary Upton

Question:

131 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason Ireland has yet to sign or ratify the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the application of Biology and Medicine: Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine; when Ireland will sign and ratify same, together with its protocols; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11942/06]

Ireland is not a signatory to the Council of Europe Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine as there are difficulties with some articles that have implications for the destruction of human embryos. The question of Ireland signing the convention with formal reservations in respect of those articles with which difficulties have been identified has been kept under review.

These, and other issues, were examined by the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction, the report of which was published in May 2005. The Government has referred the report to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children to allow for further political consideration of the complex issues involved. Once concluded, the deliberations of the joint committee will provide a basis for further public debate prior to the finalisation of any policy proposals. The question of ratifying the convention will be examined in the light of the outcome of this debate.

Health Services.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

132 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of nursing home subventions and enhanced subventions which were paid per county in 2004 and 2005; the sum of these payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12277/06]

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.

Seán Crowe

Question:

133 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the blind person’s allowance of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 has not been backdated; and the reason therefor. [11576/06]

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.

Seán Crowe

Question:

134 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of beds available for rehabilitating drug addicts; and her views on whether this figure is sufficient. [11588/06]

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.

General Practitioner Training.

Richard Bruton

Question:

135 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the projected number of additional general practitioners which her Department estimates will be needed in each of the next five years, both nationally and in Dublin; the number of net new places for general practitioners created in the past year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11609/06]

General practitioners, GPs, are private medical practitioners operating in their own right. The State contracts with GPs for the provision of services under a number of schemes, the most significant of which is the general medical services scheme, GMS. The State funds GPs' vocational training, which is conducted under the auspices of the Irish College of General Practitioners, ICGP, with funding from the Health Service Executive, HSE.

In 2004 my Department agreed with the ICGP to fund an increase in the number of GP vocational training places from 84 to 150 over a three-year period, commencing in 2005. This was viewed as a short-term to medium-term measure in order to address immediate concerns in this area.

To date, an additional €4 million has been provided for the HSE to provide additional GP vocational training places. The HSE has indicated that due to capacity difficulties with the existing GP training programmes, of 22 additional posts funded in 2005, 17 were filled and, in 2006, 17 of a further 22 posts are expected to be filled. The HSE and the ICGP are jointly working on a plan to bring a total of 66 training places on stream by 2008.

My Department is considering the most appropriate way in which to address the longer-term GP manpower and training needs, in the context of such factors as the projected growth of the population, the demographic profile of the GP workforce, the changing nature of general practice and primary care and future service requirements generally.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

136 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange for four new ambulances in the services; and if same will be made a priority. [11618/06]

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.

Medical Cards.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

137 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of general practitioner visit cards that have been issued since the scheme commenced. [11630/06]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

138 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of general practitioner visit cards that have been issued in Cork since the scheme commenced. [11631/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 137 and 138 together.

The Health Service Executive has indicated that, as at 1 March 2006, 10,034 persons held a GP visit card. Of these, 1,570 were in Cork.

Health Services.

Pat Breen

Question:

139 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of an application for the renewal of a medical card for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11639/06]

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.

Pat Breen

Question:

140 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 121 of 15 December 2005, when a refund will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare in respect of nursing home charges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11640/06]

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

Pat Breen

Question:

141 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 123 of 16 February 2006, when a refund will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Clare in respect of nursing home charges; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11641/06]

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

Pat Breen

Question:

142 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 105 of 27 October 2005, when repairs will be carried out to a house under the housing aid for the elderly scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11642/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

143 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a decision has been made on an application for the housing aid for the elderly scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11643/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

144 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a decision will be made on an appeal regarding the housing aid for the elderly scheme for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11644/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pat Breen

Question:

145 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with surgery in St. James’s Hospital, Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11647/06]

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 McGuinness

Question:

146 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a medical card or a general practitioner only card will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will expedite a response. [11649/06]

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.

Finian McGrath

Question:

147 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if the person’s speech therapy and language service will be improved. [11654/06]

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:

148 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of people who were refused orthodontic treatment for each of the past five years following assessment; the number of people who appealed this decision, were subsequently reassessed and then placed on the treatment waiting list; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11655/06]

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:

149 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an audit will be carried out into the way that children are assessed and deemed eligible or otherwise by the Health Service Executive for orthodontic treatment; her plans to review the 1985 guidelines to ensure that the same severity index is used to determine the need for treatment in order that patients with malocclusion will get treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11656/06]

The Deputy's question regarding the way that children are assessed and deemed eligible for orthodontic treatment 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.

The aim of my Department is to promote the development of the treatment capacity of orthodontics in a sustainable way in the longer term. Given the potential level of demand for orthodontic services, the provision of those services will continue to be based on prioritisation of cases based on treatment need, as happens under the existing guidelines. These guidelines were issued in 1985 and are intended to enable the Health Service Executive to identify in a consistent way those in greatest need and to commence timely treatment for them. My Department has no plans to review these guidelines.

Michael Ring

Question:

150 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number referred for orthodontic assessment in each of the Health Service Executive areas for each of the past five years; the number of people who were placed on the treatment waiting list; and the number who were refused treatment as they did not come within the 1985 guidelines. [11657/06]

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 hasrequested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Bernard Allen

Question:

151 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will investigate a situation whereby a person (details supplied) in County Cork is awaiting a hip operation. [11664/06]

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

Paul Kehoe

Question:

152 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Wexford is still waiting for an appointment; the efforts which are being made to reduce the unreasonable waiting times; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11665/06]

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

Mental Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

153 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken to implement the recommendations from the expert group on mental health policy report, A Vision For Change, which states that up to 200,000 people here have an eating disorder; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11668/06]

The future direction and delivery of all aspects of our mental health services, including services for persons with eating disorders, were considered in the context of the work of the expert group on mental health policy. The group's report, A Vision for Change, was published on 24 January 2006. The report sets out how positive mental health can be promoted generally in our society, and how specialist mental health services can be delivered efficiently to persons with eating disorders who need them.

A Vision for Change acknowledges gaps in the current provision of mental health services for persons with eating disorders and makes several recommendations for the further improvement of these services. Recommendations include support for health promotion initiatives that encourage greater community and family awareness of eating disorders, the further development of primary and community care services and the provision of a full multidisciplinary team in a national centre for eating disorders. It is recommended that this national centre be located in one of the national children's hospitals for complex cases that cannot be managed by local child and adolescent community mental health teams. The Government has accepted the expert group's report as the basis for the future development of the mental health services. In this connection an additional €25 million was made available this year to the HSE for the further development of our mental health services.

The Health Service Executive, which has primary responsibility for implementing the recommendations of A Vision for Change is in the process of establishing an implementation group to ensure that the recommendations are realised in a timely and co-ordinated manner. I have also recently appointed an independent monitoring group, as recommended in the report, to oversee the implementation of A Vision for Change. This group will hold its inaugural meeting shortly.

Health Services.

Seán Ardagh

Question:

154 Mr. Ardagh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress which is being made in the application by a person (details supplied) for a medical card. [11672/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has 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.

Barry Andrews

Question:

155 Mr. Andrews asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the ongoing MRSA situation, there is a screening process for hospital staff to ascertain if any such staff are carriers of MRSA; and the procedures which are in place to limit the exposure of patients and other staff. [11674/06]

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

Paddy McHugh

Question:

156 Mr. McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if negotiations will commence with a person (details supplied) for lands for the construction of a health centre in County Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11687/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has 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

Cancer Incidence.

Liz McManus

Question:

157 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the trend among children to use sunbeds when preparing for occasions such as First Holy Communion; if her attention has further been drawn to the fact that the Irish Cancer Society has called for a ban on the use of sunbeds for under 18s; her plans to introduce stricter regulations for the industry, in view of the possible implications for the health of those using these sunbeds; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11688/06]

I am advised by the medical staff in the Department of Health and Children that ultraviolet light, through either natural exposure or sunbed exposure, increases the risk of developing skin cancer, particularly melanoma. The use of sunbeds leads to damage from ultraviolet radiation in the same way as sunlight exposure. Exposure in childhood is associated with even greater risks of subsequent melanoma.

The national cancer forum has considered measures to reduce exposure to ultraviolet radiation in the context of the development of the new national cancer control strategy. The forum submitted the strategy to me in January and the Department of Health and Children is considering the document prior to submission to Government.

National Treatment Purchase Fund.

Barry Andrews

Question:

158 Mr. Andrews asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the well-being of Irish patients availing of the National Treatment Purchase Fund in the UK following revelations on the BBC’s “Panorama” programme concerning untrained or unqualified surgeons in private medical hospitals under fast-track surgical programmes. [11690/06]

The Department of Health and Children has been assured by the National Treatment Purchase Fund, NTPF, that all the hospitals used by the fund, both in Ireland and the United Kingdom, have been carefully assessed to ensure they meet the relevant quality standards. All consultants who provide treatment for NTPF patients must be fully trained and qualified. This requirement is overseen by the fund's chief medical adviser.

Alcohol Policy.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

159 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the person who is the national adviser on alcohol policy; if the Health Service Executive now has responsibility for this appointment; and, if so, the reason therefor, given that responsibility for alcohol policy and legislation remains with the Department of Health and Children. [11692/06]

The Department of Health and Children remains responsible for the development of alcohol policy. However, it is recognised that an integrated approach is required for effective implementation. The Department has led on the establishment of a strategic task force on alcohol and a working group on alcohol and the three reports of these groups form the basis for current alcohol policy. Since the restructuring of the Department, the Health Service Executive has assumed responsibility for the implementation of many of the recommendations outlined in these reports. It is a matter for the HSE to decide on the structural requirements and levels of expertise needed in this regard.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

160 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has made submissions to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in respect of having alcohol excluded from the relaxation of below-cost selling upon the revocation of the groceries order. [11693/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

161 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to set up an office of alcohol control or to take other measures to deal with the consequences of below-cost selling of alcohol since the repeal of the groceries order. [11694/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

162 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason that assessment of the need for general warnings on alcoholic beverages has been given to the working group on alcohol as opposed to the strategic task force on alcohol. [11695/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

167 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason that assessment of the need for pregnancy specific warnings on alcoholic beverages is being left to the working group on alcohol, whose membership includes no experts on foetal alcohol spectrum disorders. [11700/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 160 to 162, inclusive, and 167 together.

The working group on alcohol was established under the special initiative on tackling alcohol and drug misuse in Sustaining Progress to help mobilise the stakeholders through social partnership to achieve a targeted and measurable reduction in alcohol misuse. Its remit was to examine the areas of high risk drinking, under-age drinking and drink driving and to identify actions which member organisations could adopt to address these issues with a view to developing a programme of action. The group's report was submitted to the Tánaiste last week and future action is now being considered by the Department of Health and Children. The issues of labelling and the groceries order were discussed by the working group and its report makes a number of recommendations with regard to these. I have no plans to establish an office of alcohol control at this stage. However, the Department will keep the matter under review.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

163 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to studies (details supplied), which report that more than 80% of pregnant women here drink alcohol; the implications this statistic has for the incidence of foetal alcohol spectrum disorders, given that foetal alcohol spectrum disorders occur in 1% of all live births in the US, which has an alcohol consumption rate among pregnant women of only 22%; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11696/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

164 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether it is long past time that the Department of Health and Children dealt with the issue of alcohol and pregnancy and the resulting foetal alcohol spectrum disorders; and if she will establish a dedicated working group to address the issue. [11697/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

165 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the rate over the past ten years of foetal alcohol syndrome with confirmed maternal alcohol consumption; with unconfirmed maternal alcohol consumption; with partial foetal alcohol syndrome; alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorders and alcohol-related birth defects. [11698/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

166 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of avoidable damage to children as a result of pre-natal exposure to alcohol, which would represent an acceptable figure for the Department of Health and Children. [11699/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 163 to 166, inclusive, together.

The Department of Health and Children has funded a research project which involves a review of maternal records held by the Coombe Women's Hospital for the period 1996 to 2004. The aims of the project are to describe the prevalence and patterns of alcohol and nicotine use in a sample of pregnant women in Ireland between 1986 and 2004; to examine the association between a set of pregnancy outcome indicators — birth weight — Apgar score — and the consumption patterns; and to examine how alcohol consumption in Ireland, in a sample of pregnant women, relates to use in a similar population in other countries. The results are expected to be available later this year and will inform any future action required.

Question No. 167 answered with QuestionNo. 160.

Health Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

168 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a medical card has been refused to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 with severe multiple sclerosis. [11704/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has 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.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

169 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 with severe multiple sclerosis is only receiving €100 per week for care from the Health Service Executive when they require full-time care and need to subsidise carers from a €210 weekly widow’s pension and a €650 monthly Guinness pension. [11705/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has 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.

Jimmy Devins

Question:

170 Dr. Devins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the current and capital financial allocation to University College Hospital, Cork and University College Hospital, Galway during 2005. [11720/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has 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 Charges.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

171 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if patients who are admitted to hospitals and who spend time on a trolley are charged; the amount of money charged to such patients over the past three years; if court actions were taken to recoup the money owed in some cases; if so, the number of court cases which were taken; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11726/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, the management and delivery of health and personal social services is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. The questions raised by the Deputy are operational matters which come within the remit of the executive. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

The legal position regarding charging is asfollows: the Health (Out-Patient Charges)(Amendment) Regulations 2005 provide for a statutory charge of €60 for attendance at accident and emergency departments. This charge is levied only on persons who attend at accident and emergency departments without a referral note from their doctor and applies only for the first visit of any episode of care. The Health (In-Patient Charges)(Amendment) Regulations 2005 impose a charge of €60 per night up to a maximum of €600 in any 12 consecutive months, during which an individual is maintained as an inpatient in a public hospital. As well as those with full eligibility, categories exempted from the charges include children up to the age of six weeks, women receiving services in respect of motherhood and children suffering from specified diseases.

Home Care Services.

Pat Carey

Question:

172 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the way in which, other than paying for private physiotherapy treatment, old age pensioners can avoid the long delays if they have to wait for treatment as public patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11737/06]

The Deputy will be aware that €30 million has been made available to the Health Service Executive for 2006 for the provision of an additional 2,000 homecare packages. Theseperson-centred packages can include a range of services, including physiotherapy, and will be directed primarily at older persons who might otherwise need to enter hospital or long-term care.

The management and delivery of health and personal social services is the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to consider the matters raised by the Deputy and to have a reply issued directly to him.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

173 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans in conjunction with the Health Service Executive to extend the bed capacity at a hospital (details supplied) in County Kildare to meet the demands on the director of nursing and staff due to the extent of the applications for respite and long-term care from the people of Kildare and west Wicklow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11761/06]

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.

Hospitals Building Programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

174 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the proposed upgrading and refurbishment of the Alzheimer’s unit at a hospital (details supplied) in County Kildare; her proposals to extend the bed spaces at the unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11762/06]

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

Special Educational Needs.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

175 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the breakdown of the usage made of the sums referred to in DOHC 09/09/03 — CS/10210, which states that Meath would receive €170,000 to provide for the therapeutic needs of five specific families and all families with multiple children with ASD would receive a sum of €60,000 until the end of the year; the basis on which and by whom a decision was taken to apparently divert essential moneys from these families coping with multiple children with autism spectrum disorder into the North Eastern Health Board’s wider funding needs; the steps she proposes to take to restore the original intent of the quotations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11763/06]

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

Animal Welfare.

Mary Upton

Question:

176 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps she has taken to halt the rise in experiments without anaesthetic on animals in Irish universities; if she will make a statement regarding the amount which has been spent by her Department in each of the past five years on the enforcement of legislation governing the experimentation on animals here; and if copies of a statistical report on the use of animals for experimental and other scientific purposes for 2003 and 2004 will be provided. [11764/06]

The use of live animals in scientific research and other experimental activity is strictly controlled in accordance with the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, as amended. Under the Act, experiments on live animals can be performed by persons licensed by the Minister for Health and Children. In addition, animals must be properly anaesthetised for the duration of an experiment, unless a certificate has been given in advance certifying that anaesthesia is considered to be more traumatic to the animal than the experiment, or anaesthesia is incompatible with the object of the experiment and the required certificate or certificates have been given in advance certifying that insensibility cannot be produced without necessarily frustrating the object of the proposed experiment. Applicants must complete an official application form that requires full disclosure of relevant information about the proposed experiments. Applications and certificates must be endorsed by two qualified persons of professorial standing, as specified in the Act, from a relevant scientific, medical or veterinary discipline before submission for licence appraisal.

Under the Act, any case of non-compliance must be notified to the authority, which is the Minister for Health and Children. The Department has not received any such notifications in the period referred to by the Deputy. Statistics on the use of animals for experimental and other scientific purposes are compiled and made available every third year as required by the European Commission under directive 86/609/EEC, which relates to the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes. The latest published statistics relate to 2002. The Department is compiling the 2005 statistics, which will be made available by the end of June on the Department's website, www.dohc.ie.

Health Service Staff.

Marian Harkin

Question:

177 Ms Harkin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to increase the numbers of medical staff qualified to diagnose and treat myasthenia gravis. [11787/06]

Marian Harkin

Question:

178 Ms Harkin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on Government support for those who are diagnosed with myasthenia gravis and their families. [11788/06]

Marian Harkin

Question:

179 Ms Harkin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to increase awareness regarding myasthenia gravis among members of the medical profession. [11789/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 177 to 179, inclusive, together.

Myasthenia gravis is a neurological disorder, the usual cause of which is an acquired immunological abnormality, although some cases result from genetic abnormalities at the neuromuscular junction. The 2006 Estimates for the health services specifically allocated additional funding of €3 million for the further development of neurology and neurophysiology services. This funding was provided to allow the Health Service Executive to progress further the implementation of the recommendations of the former Comhairle nan-Ospidéal in respect of the services. The Comhairle report recommended a significant enhancement of services, including the appointment of additional consultants. While it will take some time to reach the full complement of consultant posts as recommended, major improvements in patient care can be achieved in the short term through a combination of additional consultant posts and the appointment of a number of clinical nurse specialists and allied health professionals. The Department of Health and Children has been advised by the HSE that the development of three new neurology units — in the mid west, the north west and the south east — will commence in 2006 with the appointment of multidisciplinary teams comprising consultant neurologists and support staff. The Department has asked the HSE's parliamentary affairs division to arrange to have the Deputy's specific queries about myasthenia gravis examined and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy about these matters.

Commemorative Events.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

180 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the events that she is attending in an official capacity to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising. [11879/06]

I will attend the military parade for the commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising on the morning of Sunday, 16 April 2006.

Hospital Accommodation.

Billy Timmins

Question:

181 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the closure of the isolation unit in Peamount Hospital in view of the incidences of new cases of tuberculosis which have been increasing since 2001; her views on the short-sightedness of closing the tuberculosis unit; if, in view of the present circumstances, she will consider reopening Peamount Hospital for patients who need to be admitted to hospital; her plans to treat these people; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11919/06]

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

Health Services.

Liam Twomey

Question:

182 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will intervene to ensure that an agreement reached between unions representing home helps and the Health Service Executive in April 2005 concerning zero hour contracts is honoured; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11920/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, for which the Health Service Executive is responsible under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, the Department of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange for this matter to be investigated and a reply to be issued directly to the Deputy. I recognise the valuable role of the home help service in enabling people who might otherwise need to be cared for in institutional care to remain at home where it is appropriate. I am aware that a high level group has been established, with representatives of the HSE and staff representatives of SIPTU and IMPACT, to address issues pertaining to the standardisation of home help services. The group held its first meeting on 23 March last and further meetings are scheduled.

Nursing Home Subventions.

John McGuinness

Question:

183 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the level of subvention being awarded in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be increased substantially; if she will expedite the appeal and ensure the full costs of care is covered by the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11921/06]

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

Health Services.

Máire Hoctor

Question:

184 Ms Hoctor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the funding which has been allocated to north and south Tipperary for the provision of adult respite care since 2000; the centres for adult respite which exist in north and south Tipperary; the transport arrangements which are in place for those adults who attend these centres; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11922/06]

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

Health Service Staff.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

185 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the decision to appoint community dieticians has not been implemented in the Health Service Executive mid western region; if such posts have been filled in other Health Service Executive regions; if so, the number of posts that have been filled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11923/06]

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

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

186 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding a care plan for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if the maximum support and advice will be given. [11963/06]

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

Accident and Emergency Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

187 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the membership of the task force she is assembling to address the accident and emergency crisis; and in particular, who is or are the patient representative(s) on the task force. [11964/06]

The Health Service Executive has established a dedicated team to drive the implementation of its framework for addressing accident and emergency services. The team includes: Ms Angela Fitzgerald, who is the acute hospitals network manager of the HSE and the chairperson of the dedicated team; Mr. Jim Breslin, who is the assistant director of primary, community and continuing care in the HSE; Mr. Gerard McCarthy, who is an accident and emergency consultant at Cork University Hospital; Mr. GerryLane who is an accident and emergency consultant at Letterkenny General Hospital; Dr. Conor Burke, who is a respiratory physician at James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown; Dr. Dermot Power, who is a consultant geriatrician at Mater Misericordiae Hospital; Ms Mary McHugh, who is the director of nursing at University College Hospital, Galway; Mr. Ian Carter, who is the chief executive officer of St. James's Hospital; and Dr. Emer Feely, who is a specialist in public health medicine with the HSE.

The proposed approach of the accident and emergency framework is to focus on hospitals which have persistent challenges in accident and emergency departments, to establish clear targets for performance improvement and to develop practical and focussed ways of delivering sustained improvement in accident and emergency services. The key objectives of the framework are to reduce the numbers waiting in accident and emergency departments, to reduce the length of time patients spend waiting and to improve the overall patient experience. Every available action that can be taken will be taken to improve patients' experience of care.

Hospital Procedures.

James Breen

Question:

188 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of cases to date of caesarean sections performed in maternity hospitals here which were elective; the number which were emergency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11978/06]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

200 Ms Lynch asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of the current cases of caesarean sections performed in maternity hospitals here which are elective; and the number which are emergency. [12252/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 188 and 200 together.

The hospital inpatient inquiry system records details on discharges from publicly funded acute hospitals. A new coding system, which was introduced in January 2005, allows separate classification of elective and emergency caesarean sections. This was not possible prior to 2005. Data from the hospital inpatient inquiry system for 2005 are not yet complete — approximately 79% of all data have been received to date. It should be noted that the hospital inpatient inquiry system does not receive data on all births nationally and, in particular, does not cover private maternity hospitals. The data which are available indicate that of the 13,155 caesarean sections which were carried out, 5,897, or 44.8%, were elective procedures and 7,258, or 55.2%, were emergency procedures.

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

189 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an application for a medical card for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be expedited. [11979/06]

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

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

190 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will arrange an appeal in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if she will expedite a response. [11980/06]

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

Hospital Services.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

191 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a response has not been received by this Deputy from the parliamentary affairs division of the Health Service Executive, following the response to Question No. 92 of 16 February 2006 that a direct reply would issue; and if her attention has been drawn to the seriously ill condition of the person in question. [12002/06]

The Department of Health and Children has been informed by the Health Service Executive that a reply issued to the Deputy about the patient in question on 24 March 2006.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

192 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the exact policies within primary, community and continuing care in respect of home help; if a relative can deliver home help in cases where this would more suitably meet the needs of the care recipient who in many instances may not want a stranger or neighbour meeting their home help needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12065/06]

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

Hospital Accommodation.

Liz McManus

Question:

193 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the changes being made at the Meath Hospital; the number of beds lost as a result of the provision of communal rooms; is she has satisfied herself that the loss of these beds is justified; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12066/06]

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

Infectious Diseases.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

194 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the information which is available to her Department on the incidence of the MRSA virus in the general population; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12094/06]

Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is a bacteria and a resistant form of staphylococcus aureus. MRSA can exist without affecting people's health. Information on the incidence of such asymptomatic carriage is not routinely reported. For the purpose of the surveillance, prevention and control of this infection, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre collects data on MRSA bacteraemia as part of the European antimicrobial resistance surveillance system, which collects data on the first episode of blood stream infection per patient per quarter and was designed to allow comparison of antimicrobial resistance data between countries and possibly between regions.

Since 1 January 2004, MRSA bacteraemia has been included in the list of notifiable diseases under the Infectious Diseases Regulations 1981, as amended. The reporting process is done on a quarterly basis from laboratories to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre via the European antimicrobial resistance surveillance system. The cases reported by the centre refer to hospitalised cases and are not representative of the general population. MRSA infections occur almost exclusively in hospital practice in Ireland, among hospital inpatients or patients who have frequent contact with hospitals. Community-acquired MRSA infections are generally caused by strains of MRSA bacteria which are different to strains associated with hospitals. The national MRSA reference laboratory carried out a preliminary study in 2005 to look for evidence of community-acquired strains of MRSA in Ireland. It identified five patients with such strains, four of whom appear to have acquired the infection outside Ireland. Current evidence suggests that MRSA is still confined to hospitals in Ireland.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

195 Mr. Sargent asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the steps recommended by her Department to those hospitals that provide accident and emergency services to the general population to protect against the transmission of the MRSA virus from the general population to the hospitalised population. [12095/06]

In the context of the 2006 Estimates and the 2006 HSE service plan, I wrote to the chairman of the board of the HSE setting out priorities for 2006. I highlighted the need to identify the necessary structures and processes which are required to control the emergence and spread of health care associated infections, including MRSA. The publication of the revised SARI guidelines on the control and prevention of MRSA in hospitals and the community, the clean hands campaign, the national hygiene audits and the development of national standards on infection control and hospital hygiene are some of the measures aimed at bringing about change in the hospital system. As the management and delivery of health and personal social services are the responsibility of the HSE, the Department of Health and Children has asked the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy regarding the issues raised.

Health Services.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

196 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount which has been awarded to solicitors in each county for people not paying for their stay in hospital in 2000 to 2005, inclusive, and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12116/06]

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

Pat Breen

Question:

197 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. [12167/06]

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

Pat Breen

Question:

198 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will receive an appointment for a hip replacement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12168/06]

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

Care of the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

199 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of an application under the housing aid for the elderly for a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12170/06]

The Deputy's question relates to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. This includes responsibility for the provision of the housing aid scheme for the elderly, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Accordingly, the Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Question No. 200 answered with QuestionNo. 188.

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

201 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 work with the Department of Social and Family Affairs in assisting this person. [12253/06]

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

Driving Tests.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

202 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if, in view of the recent arbitration board decision not to permit outsourcing of the driving test, he is considering renegotiating section 21 of the national pay agreement to allow for outsourcing of public services in times of emergency and crisis; his views on whether it is appropriate for the power of the State to outsource existing public services be prevented due to the constraints of the partnership agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11591/06]

Most services provided by Government Departments and other public service agencies are best provided directly by the staff of the Departments and agencies. There is, however, a variety of situations where work can be carried out or services delivered more effectively or efficiently by contracting out of work. There are various instances across the public service where work is contracted out at present.

The current driver testing backlog is unacceptable and must be eliminated as quickly as possible. My colleague, the Minister for Transport, has gone to exceptional lengths to maximise the contribution that can be made to reducing this problem from within the existing system. As well as additional recruitment and redeployment of existing civil servants the measures proposed included bonus payments for the existing staff. These measures, however, would still not be sufficient to clear the backlog quickly enough. It is for this reason that the temporary contracting out of some of the work was proposed.

Agreement could not be reached with the relevant unions either directly or through the services of the Labour Relations Commission, despite the special incentive arrangements that had been put in place for the driver testers. It is disappointing that such agreement could not be reached particularly given what should be the normal partnership approach to addressing pressing issues of public interest. In the absence of agreement the matter was referred to the Civil Service arbitration board, acting in an ad hoc capacity. The finding of the arbitration board turned in particular on the interpretation of paragraph 21.9 of Sustaining Progress. It was the clear intention and understanding of the public service employers when Sustaining Progress was negotiated that the effect of this paragraph, which forms part of the section of the agreement that deals with modernisation and flexibility, was to provide greater rather than less scope for contracting out of work where it made sense to do so. The arbitration board has interpreted this paragraph more narrowly.

The arbitration board's finding was concerned solely with the strict interpretation of the relevant paragraph in Sustaining Progress. The board in its adjudication pointed out repeatedly that it was not concerned with the merits of the dispute as to how the backlog of driving tests should be solved. However, it felt its continuance represents a potential threat to road safety. The board urged a resumption of discussions at which all options — and they emphasised all options — should be considered, with a view to ensuring that such a solution is implemented without delay. I understand that there have since been discussions between the Minister for Transport and the main union concerned. I hope a satisfactory outcome will emerge.

One of the central themes of the ongoing agenda for modernisation of the public service is the need to increase flexibility in working arrangements and to eliminate rigidities and restrictive practices, with a view to enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the services being delivered. In appropriate circumstances contracting out of work is one of the tools which can make an important contribution in this regard. This issue will have to be addressed again in discussions on the arrangements to follow Sustaining Progress, which expires at the end of June 2006 in the public service, in order to ensure that barriers to best practice in the delivery of public services are eliminated.

Garda Equipment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

203 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Finance the status and details of the tender for the Tetra communications system for An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11898/06]

An inter-agency procurement group, chaired by my Department, was established in late 2004 and began working in 2005 to determine an approach for digital radio services for the entire Irish public service, with particular emphasis on the emergency and security services.

The group decided to procure digital radio services provision rather than a system based on any particular technology. It also decided, following legal advice, to use the restricted procurement procedure for the exercise. The first phase of the procedure was advertised in January 2006 and closed in mid-February. Following evaluation of the responses received, five candidates were shortlisted to be invited to the second phase of the procurement in which they will receive the full tender documentation, subject to confidentiality and non-disclosure conditions. That second phase is expected to commence in the near future and the ensuing tendering and evaluation process will take at least four months to complete. The inter-agency procurement group has decided that a service performance evaluation will be required to ensure the appropriateness, performance and robustness of the preferred solution, before a contract can be awarded. It is estimated that such an evaluation could take approximately six months.

Architectural Heritage.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

204 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance if consideration been given to transferring Liffey Vale on the Chapelizod Road, Dublin 20, to Dublin City Council in order that some body will be responsible for protecting this listed building from the neglect and vandalism which has befallen it since it came into the possession of the Office of Public Works a number of years ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12085/06]

Mary Upton

Question:

217 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works will agree to retain ownership of a listed building (details supplied) and restore same to its original condition;. [12083/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 204 and 217 together.

The Commissioners of Public Works are considering the development potential of the property. A planning application is under preparation. The Commissioners of Public Works will consider all options for the property once the planning application has been determined.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

205 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance the reason the Office of Public Works have failed to protect the cromlech at Knockmary Hill, Phoenix Park, Dublin 20, which has been deteriorating in recent years due to traffic and other activity; and when the plaque explaining the history of the cromlech will be erected by the Office of Public Works. [12086/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

206 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works have given consideration to initiating an archaeological dig at the cromlech at Knockmary Hill, Phoenix Park, Dublin 20, as a study in 1959 revealed the possibility of an adjacent bronze age settlement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12087/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 205 and 206 together.

An archaeological inspection carried out in 2003 at the portal tomb at Knockmary Hill, Phoenix Park, reported no evidence of damage at this monument since the capstone was repaired in 1973. In any event the site is not at risk from traffic. An archaeological excavation is normally only undertaken in conjunction with conservation work or where archaeological deposits are in danger of destruction. The possibility of erecting an information plaque at the site will, however, be examined.

Traffic Regulations.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

207 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works have given consideration to the reopening of the gate into Phoenix Park from the top of Knockmaroon Hill, Chapelizod, Dublin 20, to ease the traffic chaos in Dublin’s oldest village; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12088/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

208 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works have entered into communications with Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council or local residents associations regarding the reopening of the gate into Phoenix Park from the top of Knockmaroon Hill, Chapelizod, Dublin 20 to ease the traffic chaos in Dublin’s oldest village; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12089/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 207 and 208 together.

A comprehensive traffic management study by independent consultants has been commissioned by the Office of Public Works for the making of traffic initiatives in the Phoenix Park. The issue of the reopening of White's Gate will be given consideration in this context.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

209 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement in respect of the preparation of tax certificates and tax credits statements for widowed people; and if there is a problem with the classification of tax credits for widows being instead only offered with many widows, particularly newly widowed people, being offered tax credits for single people. [11632/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that there is no general problem with the classification of tax credits for widowed persons including newly widowed persons. Revenue advise, however, that in the recent bulk issue of over 2.2 million tax credit certificates, reflecting the budget changes, some widowed persons were not allocated their full entitlements. I am assured by Revenue that these cases were speedily identified and corrected certificates were immediately issued both to the appropriate employer and to the person concerned. The revised and corrected entitlements took effect from the start of the tax year.

Tax Collection.

Seán Haughey

Question:

210 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Finance if a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 has paid too much tax in 2006; if the correct certificate of tax credits has been issued to them having regard to problems in the Revenue Commissioners in this connection; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11686/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that, based on the information available to them, the person has been granted the correct tax credits. A certificate of tax credits issued on 8 February. Unfortunately, the person's pension from the UK was wrongly described as trading profit. However, the certificate is otherwise correct. A revised certificate with the correct description will issue shortly. The person's tax liability for 2006 cannot be finally determined until after 31 December 2006 when exact details of her income from all sources will be available but, based on the information available, she will pay the correct amount of tax this year.

The person's Revenue district has written to her requesting full details of her income for 2005 so that her liability can be reviewed for that year in order to establish whether any refund is due.

Billy Timmins

Question:

211 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Finance the position in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow regarding their tax allowances; if the correct allowances will be allocated to them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11732/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the tax credits of the person concerned have been updated for the current tax year to include the home carers credit for his spouse. A review of his tax liability for 2005, to include home carers credit, has been dealt with and a PAYE balancing statement will issue shortly. Tax relief for mortgage payments is deducted at source by the mortgage lender and this would appear to be in effect in this particular case already. There is no tax relief available for expenses incurred in travel to or from one's workplace or for personal expenditure such as electricity, etc.

Pat Carey

Question:

212 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Finance if there are circumstances where PAYE taxpayers can recover child care fees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11738/06]

There are no circumstances whereby PAYE taxpayers can recover child care fees. However, as the Deputy may be aware, the tax code provides a tax exemption from benefit-in-kind where employees receive free or subsidised child care from their employers. The exemption applies whether the employer provides the facilities in-house or in premises made available by the employer in another location. The exemption also applies if an employer provides child care facilities jointly with others for example, with other employers. The exemption was extended in Finance Act 2001 to cover situations where an employer does not wish to get involved in the day-to-day running of the facility but makes a contribution to the capital costs of an independent supplier of child care facilities. The exemption does not apply if the employer simply pays or subsidises the cost to an employee of an independent child care facility.

This Government acknowledges the continuing cost pressures on parents, particularly those with young children. Child care is probably the single biggest issue facing working parents today. That is why the Government introduced a suite of measures in this year's budget, including the early child care supplement of €1,000 in a full year for each child up to his or her sixth birthday, increased child benefit payments, extended paid and unpaid maternity leave and a new national child care investment programme which aims to fund an additional 50,000 child care places over the next five years. In total, over €2.5 billion extra will be invested in this area over the next five years.

I am satisfied that these measures will play a significant role in addressing the issue of child care and the welfare of children.

Ivor Callely

Question:

213 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Finance the understanding of his Department and that of the Revenue Commissioners to the promotion of the financial investment scheme known as pyramid selling scheme; the tax implications for investors; the legislation that impacts on such schemes; the proposals to facilitate such schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11751/06]

The responsibility for general policy and legislation relating to pyramid selling schemes is a matter, in the first instance, for the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

As regards taxation, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they are currently examining a particular pyramid selling scheme. The tax implications for those investing in a pyramid selling scheme will depend on the precise details of the particular scheme. However, the general position for income tax purposes is that section 18(2) of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, which is one of the main income tax charging provisions, provides for a charge to tax on any profits or gains which are not otherwise subject to an income tax charge. Depending, therefore, on the facts and the detail available with regard to any particular scheme, this provision may be applied to tax financial gains accruing to members of a pyramid selling scheme. I have no proposals to facilitate pyramid schemes in any way and I would repeat the cautionary advice given by other Government colleagues on participating in these schemes.

Price Inflation.

Jack Wall

Question:

214 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Finance the effects the Budget 2006 changes have had on home heating oil prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11757/06]

The changes I announced in the budget — a halving of the excise rates for kerosene and LPG — were undertaken in order that consumers would benefit directly from such a move. In addition, I announced in advance that these excise rates will be reduced to zero in next year's budget.

The excise tax reductions should ensure that the price of kerosene is approximately €16 per 1,000 litres cheaper than would be the case without the excise reduction. In the case of LPG the appropriate reduction is €10 per 1,000 litres. Of course, prices can fluctuate due to a range of non-tax factors, and this is particularly the case in respect of oil products given the day-to-day movements in price arising from supply issues. In addition, as is the case with motor fuels, prices can vary between suppliers. Notwithstanding this, my Department has made contact with the relevant industry body stressing that the excise tax reductions should be passed on to consumers.

Government Publications.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

215 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Finance the cost per thousand of the production of the Constitution of Ireland which is produced by the Government Publications Office. [11758/06}

The printing cost per 1,000 of the Constitution of Ireland is €1,249.60, exclusive of VAT.

Commemorative Events.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

216 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance the events that he is attending in an official capacity to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising. [11880/06]

The Government is mindful of the fundamental importance of the Easter Rising of 1916 to the establishment of the State and, as such, believes it is appropriate that commemorative events should be organised to respectfully acknowledge the achievements and sacrifices of past generations and to inculcate an awareness and appreciation in modern Ireland of the events and issues of those times. The 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916 will, therefore, be commemorated by a parade in Dublin on Sunday, 16 April 2006. Later that evening, a reception will be held in Dublin Castle to mark the occasion. I have accepted invitations to attend both events on the day.

Question No. 217 answered with QuestionNo. 204.

Architectural Heritage.

Mary Upton

Question:

218 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works attention has been drawn to the deteriorating condition of a cromlech (details supplied); if he will arrange to have the status of the cromlech reviewed. [12084/06]

An archaeological assessment carried out in 2003 of the portal tomb at Knockmary Hill in the Phoenix Park found no evidence of damage occurring since the monument was repaired in 1973. My office will continue to actively monitor the status of the monument.

Tax Code.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

219 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Finance the steps which are being taken to ensure that the condition of the section 50 tax relief scheme which stipulates that apartments built under the scheme must be occupied by students during the college term is being observed; his views on recent reports from student bodies that these 5,000 units built at a tax forgone sum of an estimated €214 million to the Exchequer may be let by some landlords to non students during the college term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12188/06]

Qualifying developments in this section 50 scheme must conform with guidelines issued by the Minister for Education and Science. One of the conditions of such guidelines is that the developments must be occupied by students as defined therein in the college term. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they are not aware of any significant abuses of the so-called section 50 scheme of relief for the construction of student accommodation. However, Revenue has noted the newspaper report of a claim made at last week's Union of Students in Ireland Congress that some section 50 apartments are being let to non-students during college terms. Revenue will follow up on this with the person who made the claim and I am assured that appropriate action will be taken, if warranted.

Site Acquisitions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

220 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance when the site selection process in respect of a school (details supplied) will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12243/06]

The Commissioners of Public Works are pursuing a preferred site option for Kill national school and all discussions and negotiations are subject to contract. It is not possible at this stage to estimate a timescale for the completion of the transaction.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

221 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Finance if a site has been acquired for the new Garda divisional headquarters for Wexford and Wicklow division; the amount paid for the site; when work will commence on this station; when it is expected that the new headquarters will be operational; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12245/06]

Negotiations for the acquisition of a site for a new divisional headquarters Garda station in Wexford are at an advanced stage. It is not the practice to disclose the purchase price before completion of negotiations. When the site has been acquired, the planning for the construction of the new Garda station will proceed. The objective will be to complete construction as soon as is reasonably possible.

Public Private Partnerships.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

222 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance the amount which has been invested by the National Pensions Reserve Fund in public private partnership projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12246/06]

I understand that, to date, no moneys have been invested by the Commission in any such projects. The National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission is independent of Government in the exercise of its functions. Under the National Pensions Reserve Fund Act 2000, it controls and manages the fund with discretionary authority to determine and implement the fund's investment strategy. This investment strategy is based on a commercial investment mandate with the objective of securing the optimal return over the long term subject to prudent risk management.

The independence of the commission is a cornerstone of the legislation which ensures that the commission will invest in a manner that maximises returns. Essentially, it is similar to the trustee arrangements that apply to private pension funds and places an obligation on the commission to act commercially and in the best interests of the fund.

With regard to commercial investment in public sector projects in this country, the annual report of the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission for 2004 states that the commission made an initial allocation of €200 million for investment in public private partnerships in Ireland and will increase this allocation should suitable opportunities arise. The report also states that the commission will make equity and/or debt finance available to the winning bidder in the tender process for public private partnership projects, provided it is satisfied with the prospective rate of return.

On a more general note, development of the public private partnership process is not dependent on investment in PPPs by the National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission.

Fisheries Protection.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

223 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the status of an application (details supplied) for compensation under the second round of the fisheries decommissioning scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11553/06]

The applicant referred to by the Deputy has been advised by BIM, which is the implementing authority for the scheme, that his application did not meet the mandatory eligibility criteria on its initial assessment. The applicant was also advised that his application would be reviewed in the light of any further supporting data regarding eligibility supplied.

BIM has advised that the vessel does not meet one of the key mandatory criteria for the scheme, which is that eligible vessels must have carried out a fishing activity for at least 75 days at sea in each of the two periods of 12 months preceding 1 October 2005. The 75 days at sea criteria is set down in EU regulations which govern the decommissioning of fishing vessels with public funds. Neither BIM nor the Department has any discretion in applying these regulations.

Departmental Expenditure.

Tony Gregory

Question:

224 D'fhiafraigh Mr. Gregory den Aire Cumarsáide, Mara agus Acmhainní Nádúrtha cén costas a bhí ar an leagan Béarla is déanaí de Thuarascáil Bhliantúil na Roinne agus san áireamh air sin briseadh síos ar gach costas ullmhúcháin agus déantúis, costais foirne, costais chlódóireachta, grianghraf agus deartha agus gach uile chostas eile a bhain lena cur ar fáil; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina leith. [11602/06]

Is é an Tuarascáil Bhliantúil 2004 an Tuarascáil is deanaí atá foilsithe ag an Roinn. Tá an faisnéis atá á lorg ag an Teachta Dála le fáil sa tábla thios.

Tuarascáil Bhliantúil 2004(leagan Béarla)

Costais chlódóireachta

9,650 (míle cóip)

Deartha

475

Leagan amach agus obair ealaíne

3,310

Leagan HTML agus leagan PDF don Tuarascáil Bhliantúil a dhéanamh

3,451.53

Corrib Gas Pipeline.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

225 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his Department will provide a copy of the final Advantica report on the safety of the Corrib gas pipeline to Opposition Members; and when he intends to publish the report. [11744/06]

I intend to publish and to make copies of the final Advantica report on the safety of the Corrib gas pipeline available to members of the House in the near future.

Harbours and Piers.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

226 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his Department’s plans to spend money on the old and new piers in Duncannon, County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11749/06]

Duncannon pier is owned by Wexford County Council and responsibility for its repair and maintenance rests with the local authority in the first instance. In 2002 the Department made a contribution of €143,368 to Wexford County Council towards a pier extension study. In 2003 the council submitted a proposal for an extension to the existing pier, dredging and reclamation works at an estimated total cost of €2.5 million. The question of providing funding for the works in question will depend on the amount of funding available for works at fishery harbours generally and overall national priorities.

Commemorative Events.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

227 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the events that he is attending in an official capacity to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising. [11881/06]

My diary is not finalised for the Easter period yet.

Energy Sector.

John Deasy

Question:

228 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Ireland has the seventh most expensive energy prices among the 25 EU member states; the action he plans to take to increase competition in the electricity and gas markets, thus reducing prices; his views on whether it will be necessary to unbundle the electricity and gas markets to allow operators from other EU states enter the Irish market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11974/06]

I am aware of varying energy costs within the European Union. I do not have any function in regard to the domestic pricing of electricity and gas, as this falls within the remit of the Commission for Energy Regulation, CER, the independent regulator for electricity and gas.

The conditions for competition are being created through progressive liberalisation of the electricity and gas markets. In regard to the opening of the electricity market, the position is that liberalisation of the electricity market has proceeded on a phased basis since February 2000 under the regulatory oversight of the CER.

In accordance with the Electricity Regulation Act 1999 (Eligible Customer) (Consumption of Electricity) Order 2003, on 19 February 2005, the market opened fully to competition. From that date, all customers have been eligible to source their electricity from any licensed supplier and the entire market became contestable. Scope now exists for all customers, household and non-household alike, to seek out keener prices in the competitive market. This is well in advance of the July 2007 deadline set down in Electricity Directive 2003/54/EC. The opening of the market has benefited customers by broadening customer choice and already some 42% of the market by volume is supplied by independent suppliers.

Since full market opening the CER has ensured that the support systems and processes are in place to enable new entrant electricity suppliers to serve any customer in Ireland. To date, suppliers have focused on larger customers because this was the first segment of the market to open to competition — a pattern that is very common in other newly liberalising markets. Over time, as suppliers target the domestic market, the CER expect to see those benefits extended to the domestic customer.

In regard to unbundling of electricity utilities, the Department is working to conclude outstanding matters to ensure that EirGrid plc becomes fully operational as a licensed transmission system operator, TSO, in the coming months. The gas market is at an advanced stage of opening. EU Directive 2003/55/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning common rules for the Internal Market in natural gas provides for the opening of the market on a phased basis. The directive required market opening for all non-household customers from 1 July 2004 and this was done. Overall market opening by volume currently stands at 86%, comprising all industrial and commercial consumers. Provisions for the final stage of market opening — to all domestic consumers — are contained in the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006, as published. Again, this is in advance of the deadline of July 2007 set down in the directive.

A statutory instrument, European Communities (Internal Market in Natural Gas) (BGÉ) Regulations 2005, S.I. No. 760 of 2005, was signed into law last December. The regulations impose a legal obligation on Bord Gáis Éireann to unbundle its transmission and distribution system operators. Bord Gáis is currently taking measures to comply with this through the establishment of an independent system operator subsidiary.

In regard to both the electricity and gas markets, any company, regardless of the nationality of its parent company and which meets the requirements of Irish law may apply to CER for a supply, or, also in the case of electricity, generation, licence.

Telecommunications Services.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

229 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the towns in County Galway which have been approved for infrastructural works (details supplied); the extent of the works involved; when works will commence; the estimated cost of the installations; when works will be complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11990/06]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

230 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to provide fibre optic broadband to a town (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11991/06]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

231 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason he has not given approval to a proposal from Galway County Council (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11992/06]

Paddy McHugh

Question:

232 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason his Department is not giving support to the aims of the national spatial strategy in regard to the areas of infrastructural development for which he has responsibility, his lack of support as manifested by his refusal to approve a project (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11993/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 229 to 232, inclusive, together.

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

Broadband is currently available in Tuam. My Department's sponsored website, www.broadband.gov.ie, which facilitates consumers trying to locate broadband service providers in their area, lists 12 Internet service providers offering broadband on digital subscriber line, DSL, one company offering it via wireless and eleven satellite broadband providers.

It has been clear for some time that the sector has failed to invest at the level necessary to keep pace with the demand for broadband, so my Department's regional broadband programme is addressing the infrastructure deficit by building high speed open access broadband networks, in association with the local and regional authorities, in the major towns and cities. These metropolitan area networks, MANs, will allow the private sector to offer world class broadband services at competitive costs.

A total of 27 MANs have been completed on time and under budget under phase one of this programme. These completed networks are being managed independently for the State by e-net, the management services entity, and offer wholesale open access to all service providers.

In planning the next phase of the MANs programme, a review of the availability of DSL broadband in the regions showed that over 90 towns with a population of 1,500 and above that were not being offered a broadband option by the private sector. These towns were selected for investment under phase two of the MANs programme. A number of regional towns, including Tuam, already had DSL broadband on offer from the service providers, so priority was given to the provision of essential broadband infrastructure in those towns where none existed.

Five towns in County Galway will have MANs constructed under this phase. They are, Athenry, Ballinasloe, Clifden, Gort and Loughrea. The detailed design stage is already under way. Project managers have been appointed and construction is expected to start over the coming months. The total cost of the projects in Galway is over €7 million and my Department will be providing grant aid of over €6 million. These networks should be completed within 12 to 18 months thereafter. Tuam is not part of the current rollout but may be included in further phases subject to the necessary approvals and Exchequer funding being made available. Galway County Council has submitted a strong case for a MAN to be built in Tuam and this is being kept under review.

The Department also offers funding assistance for smaller towns and rural communities through the county and group broadband scheme. The scheme is technology neutral, allowing the community to select the most suitable broadband delivery platform for the area. To date, a total capital investment of €2.19 million has been made in GBS projects in Galway involving a total of €533,000 in grant aid to implement these projects.

A joint industry-Government fund of €18 million has been established for the broadband for schools programme, which will provide schools across the country, including Galway, with broadband during 2006. This is a crucial strand in the strategy of integrating ICT into teaching and learning, and the Department's wider vision of promoting the use of broadband technologies in local communities around the country. The construction-installation phase is now under way, and the project is on target for completion within the set timeframe.

Fisheries Protection.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

233 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the additional measures he will undertake to protect coarse fish stocks in rivers and lakes here which are under threat from illegal fishing; if he will encourage a catch and release ethos, strengthen legislation and regulation, as required, and improve enforcement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12097/06]

The Central Fisheries Board is currently undertaking a review of coarse fish policy in Ireland with a view to advising me, as Minister of State with responsibility for the marine, on developing an informed national policy for the management, development and protection of this important natural resource. I understand that the group undertaking the review expects to complete its work in March 2006 and intends to forward its report to me, following due consideration by the fisheries boards. I can assure the Deputy that I will consider the findings of this report, once I have received it.

In the meantime, the National Fishery Managers Executive is considering appropriate fish conservation measures that might be put in place in the short term. I am awaiting its advice, which is due imminently.

Departmental Appointments.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

234 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will report on the membership of the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board: when the current members were appointed and the term for which they were; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12098/06]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

235 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals to fill vacancies in the membership of the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12099/06]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

236 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his proposals to review the terms of reference of the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12100/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 234 to 236, inclusive, together.

The following table sets out the current membership of the Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board, the dates on which the members were appointed and the dates on which their terms of office are due to terminate.

Body

Membership

Appointment date

Date of expiry

Aquaculture Licences Appeals Board

Mr. Conleth Bradley BL (Chairperson)

17/7/03

16/7/08

Mr. Sean Murphy

1/1/05

31/12/07

Mr. Lorcan Ó Cinnéide

1/1/05

31/12/07

Mr. Mario J Minehane

1/1/05

31/12/07

Ms Mary MacMahon

1/1/05

31/12/06

Ms Karin Dubsky

1/1/05

31/12/06

Mr. Damian McDonald

1/1/05

31/12/06

There are no vacancies on the board at present. Section 61 of the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 1997 sets down the matters of which the board shall take account in determining an appeal against a decision on an application for a licence or a revocation or amendment of a licence. There are no proposals at present to amend this provision of the Act.

Fisheries Protection.

John Deasy

Question:

237 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the status regarding the compensation or buy-out scheme for salmon fishermen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12251/06]

On Friday 24 March I announced my proposals for revisions to the wild salmon and sea trout tagging scheme for the 2006 season. In doing so I reaffirmed the Government's intention to introduce measures to fully align the management of the fishery with the scientific advice for 2007.

I recognise the considerable efforts made by the commercial fishing industry in recent years to build a sustainable fishery and that it has endured large cuts in the quotas available to it. I realise that these reductions have caused difficulty for the fishing industry and that full alignment with the scientific advice will likely compound these problems. For these reasons, I have decided to appoint an independent group to examine the implications of the new regulations for the commercial sector in 2007 and beyond and to make recommendations on the options available to address any financial hardship that may arise for individuals involved in commercial salmon fishing.

The group will comprise Padraic White, former chief executive of the Industrial Development Agency and author of the decommissioning report on the Irish whitefish fleet, Professor Tom Collins, chair of the national rural water monitoring committee, and John Malone, a former Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture and Food. The specific remit of the group will include: to advise the Government of the implications of fully aligning with the scientific advice and in particular the hardship that may arise for individuals in coastal communities; to determine the scale of financial loss which will be experienced as a result of measures imposed on the commercial salmon fishery; to make recommendations, if appropriate, to address any financial hardship experienced; to consider the extent to which those stakeholders, who would be the main economic beneficiaries of more salmon being returned to the rivers, should contribute to any scheme, whether in cash or in kind including improved tourist access and; to determine the implications for the angling sector.

The group will be expected to draw on the reports already generated through the National Salmon Commission, by the National Fisheries Managers Executive and the standing scientific committee and engage in appropriate consultation with relevant stakeholders. The independent group will report to me within a five-month timeframe.

Official Engagements.

Michael Ring

Question:

238 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his itinerary during his recent trip to America, including details of all the people and groups he met and the topics of discussion at each meeting or event. [11712/06]

I travelled to the United States from 11 to 17 March to represent the Government at promotional events in Dallas before attending the customary St. Patrick's Day ceremonies in Washington. On 17 March, I accompanied the Taoiseach to the White House for the traditional presentation of shamrock, followed by a meeting with President Bush in the Oval Office. Our discussions with the President covered Northern Ireland, immigration reform and other, including current international, issues. The Taoiseach and I also had a series of valuable meetings with key members of Congress, including Senators Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Kennedy, Leahy and McCain. We also met with Congressman Jim Walsh and members of the Friends of Ireland Group in Congress. The focus of these meetings was Northern Ireland and immigration reform. This special opportunity, unique to Ireland, for direct and detailed dialogue with the President of the United States and his Administration, and also key players on Capitol Hill, is exceptionally valued by the Government.

My programme in Washington also included attendance at the American-Ireland Fund national gala dinner, the lunch hosted by Speaker Hastert, and the ambassador's St. Patrick's Day reception. In addition, the Taoiseach and I had a very valuable meeting on immigration reform with Niall O'Dowd and Grant Lally of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. I also accompanied the Taoiseach to a meeting with the Ireland-America Economic Advisory Board. Discussions with the board focused on the successes of the Irish economy, business prospects in the US and developments in Northern Ireland.

In Dallas, my programme included attendance at the Irish-American Society dinner, the downtown parade and a breakfast hosted by the American-Ireland Fund. I also had a briefing session with the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News, and addressed a lunch hosted by the Dallas Chamber of Commerce. My address to the business lunch focused on the success of the Irish economy, highlighting the theme of the Irish advantage, which was also articulated by the Taoiseach and Ministers at a wide variety of events throughout the world over the St. Patrick's Day period. The importance of the Irish-American relationship, the peace process and immigration reform also featured in my remarks and discussions in Dallas.

Michael Ring

Question:

239 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the discussions which took place during his recent trip to America with regard to the undocumented Irish people living there; if he met with the lobby group ILIR; and if so, the outcome of that meeting. [11713/06]

The Government attaches the highest priority to the status of the undocumented Irish in the United Sates, and takes every opportunity in contacts with US political leaders to emphasise the importance of addressing the matter in a constructive and sympathetic manner.

The Taoiseach and I availed fully of the valuable opportunity of our St. Patrick's Day discussions to convey our concern in this matter directly to President Bush, to his Administration and to key Congressional figures, including Senators Kennedy and McCain.

The President was appreciative of our concerns and again reiterated his support for a broad approach, involving reform as well as enforcement, an approach which he again underlined in speeches later in the month. The Taoiseach and I expressed appreciation for his understanding and emphasised our strong support for the resolution sponsored by Senators Kennedy and McCain.

The Taoiseach and I also had a valuable meeting with Niall O'Dowd and Grant Lally of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, ILIR. I warmly commend the work of the ILIR organisation which has had a significant impact on the debate in Washington, and elsewhere in the US, and whose work I have been very pleased to support financially. We discussed the ILIR campaign and recent initiatives by the organisation, such as the very successful day of action in Washington on the 8 March. We agreed to remain in close contact, including on reviewing our tactics and approach, as the legislative process in Washington moves forward.

Commemorative Events.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

240 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the events that he is attending in an official capacity to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising. [11882/06]

On Easter Sunday, 16 April 2006, I will attend the military parade in Dublin to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of the Easter Rising.

Human Rights Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

241 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the lack of progress in moving Roma refugees out of the toxic waste dump in which they have lived in Mitrovica, Kosovo, since 1999, he will consider increasing the funding the State has provided for this purpose to the full €500,000 requested from each western Government by the UN Secretary General in Kosovo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11943/06]

I share the concerns expressed at the conditions in which many displaced families from minority Roma and other communities are still living in Kosovo and in neighbouring regions of Serbia. The conditions in which Roma families are living in northern Kosovo, including the effect on their health of emissions from a toxic waste dump in the area, are particularly poor. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Kosovo and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, Mr. Soren Jessen-Petersen, stated that €1.3 million is required to enable the relocation of these displaced families.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government, through Irish Aid, has pledged €250,000 to this project to date, and approximately €1.8 million in overall bilateral assistance to Kosovo over the past two years. My Department continues to follow this matter closely and will consider additional funding, if the UN authorities indicate that it is required.

Talks on the Kosovo status process are currently under way. In this context, together with EU colleagues, we have urged the provisional institutions of self-government to intensify efforts to achieve, in parallel with the status process, concrete and rapid progress on standards implementation, particularly regarding the protection of minority communities.

Visa Applications.

Michael Ring

Question:

242 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when visa applications, submitted in Beijing will be approved for persons (details supplied). [11944/06]

The applications referred to by the Deputy were refused on 16 March by our embassy in Beijing on the grounds that the embassy did not believe that the applicants would abide by the conditions of their visas, if granted.

Visa refusals may be appealed within 28 days of the date of decision at the embassy in Beijing, or within two months of the date of decision to the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform. The address for the appeals officer in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is: Visa Appeals Officer, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, 13/14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2.

Any further information or additional documentation which the applicant wishes to have taken into account should be included with their letter of appeal, and the relevant visa reference number must be quoted. There is no charge for an appeal against refusal of a visa. Appeal decisions are usually taken four to six weeks from receipt of the appeal. The visa reference numbers for the applicants in question are: 1727883 Huang Quinglin; 1727884 Wu Shulin.

Michael Ring

Question:

243 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when a visa will be issued to a person (details supplied). [11946/06]

I am informed that the visa application in question was approved by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on 23 March. Details of the Deputy's specific request regarding the issuing of the visa have been passed to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for the required follow-up. That Department has also been asked to make contact with the Deputy to confirm the arrangements.

Passport Applications.

Enda Kenny

Question:

244 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount spent to date on developing an on-line passport application service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11969/06]

As stated previously, the development of an on-line passport application service is the subject of ongoing discussions with Reach with a view to agreeing the infrastructure, the time schedule and the costs which are likely to be involved. In this regard, it was first necessary to complete the development and installation of the new passport system before full consideration of the project. In the circumstances, no funding has been required or spent to date on the project. It is hoped that significant progress in advancing this project will be made in 2006. However, at the same time, I should make the point that the particular priority this year will be to deliver on the biometric e-passport project in order, among other things, to ensure that Ireland remains within the US visa waiver system.

Pre-Clearance Facilities at State Airports.

Pat Carey

Question:

245 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to discussions between the US authorities and Dublin Airport Authority on the wish of the USA to provide full pre-clearance facilities at Dublin and Shannon Airports which would allow greater flexibility for Irish and other EU citizens to travel to the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12073/06]

Irish citizens travelling to the United States are best facilitated by the provision of pre-clearance facilities at our airports. This is particularly so in view of the large rise in the number of Irish citizens travelling to the United States, and also given the current security climate in relation to international air travel. The present system of pre-clearance at Dublin and Shannon Airports is widely appreciated by our citizens and, in principle, I would be very pleased to see it developed further.

While primary ministerial responsibility for the issue lies with the Minister for Transport, I can confirm that the US authorities have raised their wish to extend the pre-clearance facilities at Dublin Airport with officials of my Department.

Sports Capital Programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

246 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position regarding correspondence (details supplied) for capital lottery funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11874/06]

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.

Applications for funding under the 2006 programme were invited through advertisements in the press on November 27 and 28 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, are currently being evaluated against the programme's 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.

Arts Funding.

Sean Fleming

Question:

247 Mr. Fleming asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of capital projects in his Department that have incorporated the percentage for arts scheme and the number that did not include the percentage for arts scheme for the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11876/06]

It is a condition of funding for major capital grants for arts and cultural infrastructure, for projects funded under the local authority swimming pool programme and for national projects in the arts, tourism and sport areas that the per cent for arts scheme be complied with. National guidelines for the scheme were launched at the end of 2004. This Department has awarded major capital grants to 61 projects in the arts and culture area, including the arts culture capital enhancement support scheme, ACCESS, in respect of each of which a requirement to observe the per cent for arts scheme was imposed.

The application of the scheme to any projects being funded under the local authority swimming pool programme commenced in January 2006. Since then the scheme has applied to the three pool projects approved for funding. The per cent for arts scheme was complied with in the National Aquatic Centre project. The extension of the scheme to major projects being developed by local authorities and which receive funding from my Department under the sport capital programme is being considered in the context of allocations under the 2006 sport capital programme.

Sports Capital Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

248 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if funding under the sports capital programme 2006 will be granted on foot of an application made by a group (details supplied) in County Kildare; when a decision is likely to be made in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11877/06]

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. Applications for funding under the 2006 programme were invited through advertisements in the press on November 27 and 28 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, are currently being evaluated against the programme's 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.

Commemorative Events.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

249 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the events that he is attending in an official capacity to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising. [11883/06]

I will attend the official opening of the 1916 exhibition at Collins Barracks on Sunday, 9 April 2006 with the Taoiseach. I also propose to be in attendance at the 1916 commemoration event in O'Connell Street, Dublin on 16 April and that evening at a State reception in Dublin Castle.

Sports Capital Programme.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

250 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will allocate a grant under the sports capital programme to a project (details supplied) in County Galway in order to allow the project to proceed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11976/06]

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.

Applications for funding under the 2006 programme were invited through advertisements in the press on November 27 and 28 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, are currently being evaluated against the programme's 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.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

251 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he will allocate a grant under the sports capital programme to a project (details supplied) in County Galway in order to allow the project to proceed further; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11994/06]

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.

Applications for funding under the 2006 programme were invited through advertisements in the press on November 27 and 28 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, are currently being evaluated against the programme's 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.

Michael Ring

Question:

252 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when funding will be approved for a group (details supplied) in County Mayo under the 2006 sports capital programme. [12068/06]

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.

Applications for funding under the 2006 programme were invited through advertisements in the press on November 27 and 28 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, are currently being evaluated against the programme's 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.

Willie Penrose

Question:

253 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department has received an application from an organisation (details supplied) in County Westmeath; if in the context of the information provided funding will be provided to enable this important project to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12119/06]

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.

Applications for funding under the 2006 programme were invited through advertisements in the press on November 27 and 28 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, are currently being evaluated against the programme's 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.

Community Employment Schemes.

Jack Wall

Question:

254 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position of an application for funding for educational purposes for a group (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11634/06]

The Kildare centres for the unemployed in Leixlip, Athy and Newbridge are currently funded by FÁS through the community employment scheme. Community employment funding to projects is provided for wages, training and materials. The grant amounts for training and materials-administration are fixed by reference to participant numbers. The total funding being allocated by FÁS to the community employment projects sponsored by the County Kildare centres for the unemployed is about €650,000.

Employment Statistics.

Michael Ring

Question:

255 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the jobs which have been created in County Mayo in the past five years; and the jobs which were lost in County Mayo for the past five years. [11555/06]

The following tabular statements show the number of new jobs created and jobs lost at agency-assisted companies in County Mayo during the five years to 2005. Permanent employment in agency-assisted companies in County Mayo at the end of 2005 stands at 6,793.

Full-time jobs created in companies assisted by the Enterprise Development Agencies.

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

All Ownership

752

414

414

446

609

Foreign

357

97

109

149

95

Irish

395

317

305

297

514

Full-time jobs lost in companies assisted by the Enterprise Development Agencies.

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

All Ownership

-492

-792

-463

-757

-474

Foreign

-242

-498

-160

-407

-263

Irish

-250

-294

-303

-350

-211

Trade Union Recognition.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

256 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has considered the implications for trade union recognition here of the findings of the European Court of Human Rights in a case (details supplied). [11620/06]

The case to which the Deputy refers involved the use of financial incentives to induce employees to surrender their rights under United Kingdom law to union representation for collective bargaining. The court found that the use of such incentives was a violation of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. However, the court did not consider that the absence under UK law of an obligation on employers to enter into collective bargaining gave rise, in itself, to a violation of Article 11 of the convention. Accordingly, I do not consider that there are any new implications for trade union recognition in Ireland as a result of the findings of the European Court of Human Rights in this case.

Direct Selling Agencies.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

257 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the concerns expressed regarding the treatment of commercial agents employed by direct selling agencies, such as those in the cosmetics business; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that in many such cases those engaged have no security and no rights in regard to terms or conditions; his views on introducing legislation to provide statutory rights for such people in view of the growth of direct selling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11621/06]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

258 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to concerns expressed regarding the accuracy of advertisements used by direct selling companies to recruit agents; his views on the introduction of regulations to ensure the accuracy of such advertisements and to ensure that applicants for such positions are fully aware of terms and conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11622/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 257 and 258 together.

There is already legislation in the area of self-employed commercial agents. In 1986 the European Community adopted Council Directive 86/653 EEC of 18/12/86 obliging member states to give legal protection to self-employed commercial agents. This directive was transposed into Irish law by two statutory instruments, SI No. 33 of 1994 and SI No.31 of 1997. Under the legislation a commercial agent is a self-employed intermediary who has continuing authority to negotiate the sale or purchase of goods on behalf of another person, the principal. The directive and the two statutory instruments contain a wide variety of requirements dealing with the regulation and protection of commercial agents and their principals and their respective rights and obligations. The legislation primarily governs the remuneration structure and contains details of commission calculations as well as minimum notice requirements to terminate the contract between the agent and the principal.

My officials have checked with the various relevant enforcement agencies of my Department and they have not received complaints in the nature described by the Deputy. However, if the Deputy has additional information that he can supply we can consider the matter further. The Deputy will be aware that commercial agents are not employees and, as such, are not covered by employment rights legislation.

National Minimum Wage.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

259 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he proposes to take to ensure his Department will give accurate and up to date information to non-nationals regarding minimum wage rates on the foreign language section of his Department’s website; the reason the minimum wage rates were not updated on the foreign language section of the website since they were adjusted on 1 May 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11627/06]

I am aware of the problem recently raised with regard to the information available on the Department's website concerning the current national minimum wage rates per hour. Following the increase in the national minimum wage in 2005, new updated foreign language information booklets, containing accurate information, were placed on the website on 11 May 2005. However, due to an administrative oversight, some web links to the out-of-date foreign language booklets were not reset to point to the new material and, instead, remained on the website unaltered. When the problem was highlighted I had the matter investigated and it was rectified within 24 hours. Procedures are now in place to ensure that this type of administrative error does not recur.

Industrial Development.

Jack Wall

Question:

260 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position of IDA lands (details supplied) in County Kildare; if there has been an expression of interest or if interested bodies have visited the site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11651/06]

The management of IDA Ireland's industrial property portfolio, is a day-to-day operational matter for the agency and not a matter in which I have a function. I understand from IDA Ireland that Blackpark industrial estate is not an IDA property and that there have been no IDA visits to the industrial estate in question.

Rights Commissioners.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

261 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of Rights Commissioners on 31 December 2005 and on that date in each of the previous five years; if he is planning to increase their number in 2006; and if so, by how many. [11660/06]

Information in relation to the number of rights commissioners in place at 31 December of each year since 2000 is set out in the following table. There was one vacancy in the rights commissioner service at 31 December 2005, which is currently in the process of being filled. In addition, one additional rights commissioner post has been approved in 2006 and this is also in the process of being filled. This will bring the complement of rights commissioners up to nine. The question of further increasing the resources of the rights commissioner service, and of the other bodies responsible for the protection of, and ensuring compliance with, employment standards, is under consideration in the context of the current social partnership discussions.

31 December

Number of Rights Commissioners

2005

7

2004

8

2003

6

2002

5

2001

5

2000

4

Departmental Staff.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

262 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of staff employed in the employment rights enforcement unit within his Department. [11661/06]

The employment rights compliance section of the Department consists of three units: employment rights information, ERIU, labour inspectorate, LI and prosecution and enforcement unit, PE. The overall complement of staff across the three units is 57, broken down as follows: ERIU 13, LI 38 and PE six. The assignment of previously announced additional labour inspectors was completed in November 2005. That brought the complement of serving inspectors to 31 officers. That increase in staffing represents almost a doubling of the number of labour inspectors in the last 18 months. It should be noted that in addition to the employment rights compliance section, there is a wide range of employment rights bodies and services. These include the Employment Appeals Tribunal, the redundancy and insolvency sections of this Department, the rights commissioner services provided by the Labour Relations Commission and the services provided by the Labour Court. Between them, these various services have a complement of staff in excess of 150 people.

Pension Provisions.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

263 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if it is his intention to implement the recommendation in the Mercer human resource consulting study of the construction sector, carried out on behalf of the Pensions Board, that the construction industry monitoring agency be given new statutory powers to enforce compliance with the construction industry’s mandatory pension scheme. [11675/06]

The construction federation operatives pension scheme, generally referred to as CFOPS, has been established on foot of a registered employment agreement for the construction industry. A separate registered employment agreement in the construction sector provides for the establishment of statutory rates of pay and related working conditions of employment. The terms of both agreements apply to a range of categories of workers in the industry.

Compliance with CFOPS has been an issue of concern for some time and it prompted the Pensions Board to engage Mercer Consultants to carry out a review. Mercer's report sets out a range of recommendations that have policy and operational implications for various Departments that are being examined at present.

At present, enforcement of compliance with the CFOPS is a matter primarily for the Labour Court. In pursuing the matter the Labour Court can be assisted by the labour inspectorate. Acting on specific information from the court, the employment records of an employer will be examined by an inspector and any relevant information gathered is communicated back to the court subsequently. The inspectorate has no other function in the matter.

The current social partnership talks have a focus on the broad spectrum of employment standards and, in this context, are considering a range of issues in regard to compliance and enforcement of the obligations, rights and entitlements provided for in the existing comprehensive corpus of employment rights legislation. Compliance with the two registered employment agreements that cover the construction industry will feature in those deliberations and are likely to take cognisance of the Mercer report.

Health and Safety Regulations.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

264 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the proposal made by SIPTU in August 2005 that a scientific review body be established to examine illnesses and injuries which are workplace related in order to assess the true level of occupational fatalities here; and if he will implement this proposal. [11691/06]

In August 2005, SIPTU asked me to establish a scientific review body to examine all work-related illnesses and injuries. The union was concerned that only work-related fatalities that occur due to injuries-accidents inside in the workplace are counted in official statistics and was of the view that there are other examples of work-related deaths that occur but are not counted as such.

Arising from SIPTU's request, the Health and Safety Authority has approved the payment of a grant to the school of public health and population science at University College Dublin, to carry out a project examining the official data sources and collection methods used to capture work-related death statistics in the Republic of Ireland. The project is expected to be completed in about six months.

Bullying in the Workplace.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

265 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the percentage of workers who were victims of bullying in 2005 and in each of the previous five years. [11715/06]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

266 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the reason the recommendations of the report of the expert advisory group on workplace bullying published in August 2005 have not been implemented to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11722/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 265 and 266 together.

The Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, carried out a national survey on the incidence of workplace bullying over the period October 2000 to February 2001, which was commissioned by the task force on the prevention of workplace bullying. The results of the survey show that in aggregate terms, 7% of the workforce at that time were either experiencing bullying currently or had done so in the past six months. In absolute terms, this equated to about 115,000 persons who said that they were being bullied at work.

In order to implement one of the main recommendations of the expert advisory group's report on workplace bullying, which I published in August last year, the Department is evaluating tenders to update the ESRI survey and submit a study of the new survey findings for consideration by the Department. Present indications are that this new study will not be available until about next October.

While the expert advisory group set out a role which it considered for existing State agencies, there was not full agreement within the group on its recommendations. One example of this is the recommendation that either the Employment Appeals Tribunal or the Labour Court should be the final decision maker on bullying appeals and that the decision of whichever body was given statutory responsibility should be enforceable through the civil courts.

The Department has received the preliminary views of the social partners, other interested bodies and some members of the public on the recommendations of the group. I have already given a commitment to publish the results of the survey, which will be brought to Government along with the report and the views of the social partners and other interested parties, for decision on how best to implement the report's recommendations.

Labour Inspectorate.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

267 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the recommendations in relation to the mandate of the labour inspectorate which were proposed in the report, Mandate and Resourcing of the Labour Inspectorate, circulated by his Department to the social partners in early 2005. [11754/06]

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment circulated a discussion document, Mandate and Resourcing of the Labour Inspectorate, to the social partners in early 2005. That document was the basis for further consideration by the employment rights compliance group, ERCG. The ERCG, which was made up of representatives of the social partners, including the CIF and SIPTU, together with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Finance, has completed its report. The report will inform the current national partnership discussions.

Some of the key proposals in the report are: a streamlining of access to redress through the existing employment rights bodies, thus enabling individuals with the information and facility to more easily vindicate their employment rights and entitlements; greater emphasis on proper record keeping together with increased transparency regarding pay and the associated information provided to employees on payslips; organisational improvements in the service provided by the employment rights compliance section of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, including the labour inspectorate, which includes a regionalised structure; and major investment in education and information dissemination on employment rights obligations and entitlements for both employers and employees. The resourcing of the labour inspectorate and options to enhance the effectiveness of our employment rights compliance regime are being considered in the current round of social partnership discussions.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

268 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the Acts for which the labour inspectorate has responsibility for inspecting compliance with. [11759/06]

The labour inspectorate is responsible for monitoring certain employment conditions for all categories of workers in Ireland under the following legislative instruments: Industrial Relations Acts 1946 to 2004, including employment regulation orders and registered employment agreements; Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996; Organisation of Working Time Act 1997; Parental Leave Act 1998; National Minimum Wage Act 2000; and Carers Leave Act 2001. Furthermore, officers assigned to the labour inspectorate perform the duty of authorised officers under the following legislative instruments: Redundancy Payments Acts 1967 to 2003; Employment Agency Act 1971; Protection Of Employment Act 1977; Protection of Employees (Employers' Insolvency) Acts 1984 to 2004; and Payment of Wages Act 1991.

Departmental Expenditure.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

269 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the amount spent in each of the past five years by his Department on campaigns to raise awareness among workers of their employment rights; and the breakdown of those figures by specific campaigns. [11760/06]

Information campaigns to publicise increases in the national minimum wage were conducted in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2005. These campaigns included advertising on television, radio and in the national and regional newspapers. The campaigns also involved the distribution of thousands of information leaflets and booklets to citizen information centres and post offices around the country. The following table sets out the details. In addition, the employment rights information unit provides an information service to raise the awareness and understanding of both employers and employees regarding the wide range of employment legislation administered by my Department. It also produces a guide to each of the main pieces of relevant labour legislation within the Department's remit as well as an overall guide to labour law.

The information service is delivered by the provision of: telephone service during normal business hours, including lunchtime; out of business hours answer phone service; personal callers — one to one interviews in privacy; written replies to correspondence; electronic mail service; attendance at exhibitions and seminars to explain entitlements and distribute explanatory materials on a range of employment legislation; and a series of explanatory information leaflets in ten languages. Unlike the defined programme of actions associated with changes in the national minimum wage, the other work mentioned is part of the normal day-to-day activity of the Department and as such, no specific data on these costs are extracted from the general operational budget lines concerned.

Expenditure on national minimum wage campaigns.

Year

Cost of Campaign

2001

£96,612.86

2002

€115,967.44

2003

-

2004

€122,795.99

2005

€132,480.26

Legislative Programme.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

270 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when new legislation to amend and update the Employment Agency Act 1971 will be published. [11791/06]

As part of the Government's commitments under Sustaining Progress, in June 2005 the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment issued a White Paper on the review of the Employment Agency Act 1971. The deadline for submissions was 15 July 2005. The Department is currently finalising the heads of a Bill based on submissions received. This process will be completed by the end of June 2006, in further consultations with the various interests. Government approval will then be sought to have a Bill drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government. It is hoped to publish this Bill in the second half of 2006.

This Bill will, inter alia, propose a system of registration of employment agencies based in Ireland, supported by an industry regulatory code which will set out in detail, the practices and standards that employment agencies would be expected to follow. It may also be necessary to take account, first, of the potential impact of revised proposals from the European Commission on the draft EU services directive, which is expected to be published in April 2006, and, second, the free movement of persons, services and capital within the EU as laid down in the EU Treaty.

Job Creation.

Michael Noonan

Question:

271 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of new jobs granted by the IDA and established in the mid-west region in each year from 2002 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11792/06]

The IDA mid-west region consists of counties Clare, Limerick, north Tipperary and north Kerry. In the period 2002 to 2005 a total of 15 projects were approved for assistance by IDA Ireland. These projects had the potential to create over 1,900 jobs in both new and expanding enterprises. The following tabular statement shows the job figures on an annual basis. However, there is always a time lag, often stretching over many years, between the announcement of new jobs and their creation. That time is required for such activities as locating and acquiring a suitable site for the company's operations, constructing a facility and installing machinery and recruiting and training staff. The numbers eventually created may turn out to be higher or lower than originally envisaged by the investing company as a result of developments in their product markets, general economic conditions, investment decisions and overall corporate strategy.

Also, in the period 2002 to 2005, a total of 1,950 jobs were created in IDA supported companies in the region. The job creation figures can not be directly related to the projects which were approved for grant aid in that period. The following tabular statement shows the number of jobs created in each of those years. IDA Ireland's sectoral emphasis in the mid-west region is on attracting new knowledge intensive projects in information communications and technology, globally traded businesses, medical technologies and life sciences.

Table showing the number of jobs approved for assistance and jobs created in IDA supported companies in the mid-west region in each of the years 2002 to 2005.

Year

2002

2003

2004

2005

No. of potential New jobs approved for assistance

0

860

25

0

No. of potential Expansion jobs approved for assistance

406

25

332

254

Total potential jobs approved for assistance

406

885

357

254

Number of new jobs created (Source: Forfás Annual Employment Survey)

511

227

582

630

Industrial Development.

Michael Noonan

Question:

272 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of site visits by promoters of inward investment for industrial purposes which have been organised by the IDA and Shannon Development in the mid-west region in each year from 2002 to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11795/06]

IDA Ireland has statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to the mid-west region, except for the Shannon free zone, which falls within the remit of Shannon Development. Shannon Development is also responsible for supporting indigenous enterprises in the mid-west region where it acts as agent for Enterprise Ireland. Responsibility for the provision of industrial property solutions within the mid-west region also lies with Shannon Development and IDA Ireland works closely with Shannon Development in the promotion and marketing of these tailored property solutions. In addition, Shannon Development in association with local authorities is also spearheading the drive to bring high-speed Internet access to the region.

In the period from 2002 to date in 2006, there were 97 itineraries organised by IDA Ireland to the mid-west region, which for IDA purposes consists of counties Clare, Limerick, north Tipperary and north Kerry, while, in the same period, Shannon Development organized 84 visits to the Shannon free zone. The following tabular statement sets out the number of visits made by the IDA to the mid-west region in each of the years 2002 to date in 2006 together with the number of itineraries made in the Shannon free zone in the same period.

Visits to the mid-west region by IDA Ireland.

Location

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006*

Mid West Total

28

22

22

23

2

*Figures to end of 15 March 2006.
Visits to Shannon Free Zone.

Year

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006 Jan-Feb

Number of visits

19

24

17

22

2

Commemorative Events.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

273 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the events that he is attending in an official capacity to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising. [11884/06]

I expect to attend one event to be held in Cork in an official capacity to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising. However, the details of this event are not yet finalised.

Foreign Direct Investment.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

274 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of visits to a town (details supplied) in County Galway arranged by the IDA for potential foreign direct investors, industrial developers or potential locating multinationals in each year since 2000; the level of priority for investment purposes given to the town by comparison with other towns in Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11959/06]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland and its regions. The marketing of individual areas, including Tuam, for new or expansion FDI investments and jobs is a day-to-day operational matter for the agency. While I may give general policy directives to the agency, I am precluded under the Acts from giving directives regarding individual undertakings or from giving preference to one area over others. I have been informed by IDA Ireland that in the period 2000 to 2005 there have been a total of 12 site visits to Tuam, three visits in 2001; two visits in each of the years 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2004; and one visit in 2005.

A central goal for IDA Ireland is the achievement of balanced regional development. The national spatial strategy provides a framework for the achievement of this goal through the prioritisation of development and investment in the gateway and hub locations. On this basis, IDA Ireland seeks to attract foreign direct investment into the western region via the Galway gateway, the hub towns of Tuam and Ballina-Castlebar, and the towns of Westport and Ballinasloe. IDA Ireland's sectoral emphasis is on attracting new knowledge intensive projects in medical technologies, life sciences, information communications and technology and international services.

IDA Ireland is committed to securing knowledge based, value added, FDI for Tuam and is actively marketing the town to potential investors. To this end the agency has invested upwards of €3.5 million on the acquisition of land and the development of a new business and technology park on the Dunmore Road in Tuam. In addition, the agency is actively working with its existing base of overseas companies in the county and the Tuam area to encourage them to grow and expand. Furthermore, the agency is working with local groups, utility providers and other agencies to ensure that the county secures the appropriate infrastructure to enable the existing companies grow and develop and to make the area sufficiently attractive for new projects.

Despite increasing competition, Galway county continues to be very successful in winning foreign direct investment. There are now almost 10,000 permanent jobs in IDA supported companies in the county. I am confident the strategies and policies pursued by IDA Ireland in Tuam and in County Galway in general, together with the ongoing commitment by Government to regional development, will continue to bear fruit in terms of overseas investment and jobs for the people of Tuam and the county of Galway as a whole.

Industrial Development.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

275 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of visits to a town (details supplied) in County Galway arranged by the IDA for potential foreign direct investors, industrial developers or potential locating multinationals in each year since 2000; the level of priority for investment purposes given to the town by comparison with other towns in Galway. [11960/06]

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland and its regions. The marketing of individual areas, including Loughrea, for new or expansion foreign direct investment investments and jobs is a day-to-day operational matter for the agency. While I may give general policy directives to the agency, I am precluded under the Acts from giving directives regarding individual undertakings or from giving preference to one area over others. I have been informed by IDA Ireland that in the period 2000 to 2005 there have been a total of three site visits to Loughrea, one visit in each of the years 2001, 2002 and 2003.

A central goal for IDA Ireland is the achievement of balanced regional development. The national spatial strategy provides a framework for the achievement of this goal through the prioritisation of development and investment in the gateway and hub locations. On this basis, IDA Ireland seeks to attract foreign direct investment into the gateways and hubs, as well as a small number of additional locations, throughout the west, namely, Galway, Tuam, the linked hub of Ballina and Castlebar, Westport and Ballinasloe. IDA Ireland's sectoral emphasis is on attracting new knowledge intensive projects in medical technologies, life sciences, information communications and technology and international services.

With specific regard to Loughrea, IDA Ireland has informed me that it is actively working with the existing base of overseas companies in the county and in Loughrea to encourage them to grow and expand. Indeed, Loughrea has benefited very significantly from the Cigna Corporation, particularly from the company's 220-job expansion announced in 2003. These jobs are now coming on stream and, as a result, the company is now one of the largest IDA Ireland supported international services companies in the west.

Despite increasing competition, County Galway continues to be very successful in winning foreign direct investment. IDA supported employment numbers in Galway are very strong, now accounting for almost 10,000 permanent jobs. I am confident, therefore, that the strategies and policies being pursued by IDA Ireland in Loughrea and in County Galway in general, together with the ongoing commitment by Government to regional development, will continue to bear fruit in terms of overseas investment and jobs for the people of Loughrea and the county of Galway as a whole.

Work Practices.

Richard Bruton

Question:

276 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the recent discovery that workers on an ESB contract were not being paid proper pay and conditions; and if this requires changes in practices or legislation. [11977/06]

The labour inspectorate contacted the principal parties in regard to this issue on Tuesday, 13 March and subsequently met with senior representatives of the ESB and its agents, and these contacts have been ongoing since. In the meantime, labour inspectors have commenced inquiries with the contractor concerned in this case and have visited both the head office and the site in Moneypoint. Those inquiries are continuing and a further visit is planned. The inspectorate is examining documentation already obtained from the contractor, who has been fully co-operating with the investigation. Additional documentation has been sought and the contractor has undertaken to provide this material without delay.

The inspectorate is aware that the ESB, its main contractor for the project, and the subcontractor are working to identify the details of any underpayments that may have occurred and it is understood that these will be rectified. A further audit, on behalf of the ESB, is to take place shortly to ensure that all matters have been corrected. The labour inspectorate will, however, pursue its own checks independently of that process.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment circulated a discussion document, Mandate and Resourcing of the Labour Inspectorate, to the social partners in early 2005. That document was the basis for further consideration by the employment rights compliance group, ERCG. The ERCG, which was made up of representatives of the social partners, including the CIF and SIPTU, together with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Finance, has completed its report. The report will inform the current national partnership discussions.

Some of the key proposals in the report are: a streamlining of access to redress through the existing employment rights bodies, thus enabling individuals with the information and facility to more easily vindicate their employment rights and entitlements; greater emphasis on proper record keeping together with increased transparency regarding pay and the associated information provided to employees on payslips; organisational improvements in the service provided by the employment rights compliance section of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, including the labour inspectorate, which includes a regionalised structure; and major investment in education and information dissemination on employment rights obligations and entitlements for both employers and employees. The resourcing of the labour inspectorate and options to enhance the effectiveness of our employment rights compliance regime are being considered in the current round of social partnership discussions.

Community Employment Schemes.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

277 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if core funding will be provided for community employment positions which are currently supporting personal social services for people with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12075/06]

The main purpose of the community employment, CE, programme operated by FÁS is to provide work experience and training for the long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged persons including those with a disability by giving them an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a fixed term basis. CE helps unemployed people to re-enter the active workforce by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to a work routine and to assist them to enhance-develop both their technical and personal skills. The ring-fencing and prioritisation of places for health related services, including those for persons with disabilities, was introduced in order to maintain the delivery of essential services. As a result health-related service provision levels have been maintained at a constant level.

CE remains as an active labour market programme with the emphasis on progression into employment. The programme is managed within this context and with consideration to the needs of participants and the community and the demand for CE resources from those organisations delivering services. Decisions regarding the provision of core funding for the health services generally are not a matter for this Department.

Job Creation.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

278 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs which have been created by Enterprise Ireland (details supplied) in each of the years from 1995 to 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12121/06]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

282 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs which Enterprise Ireland has created in New Ross, County Wexford in each of the years from 1995 to 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12126/06]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

283 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs which Enterprise Ireland has created in the Enniscorthy district, County Wexford in each of the years from 1995 to 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12127/06]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

284 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs which Enterprise Ireland has created in the Wexford district, County Wexford in each of the years from 1995 to 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12128/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 278 and 282 to 284, inclusive, together.

The issue of job creation in Enterprise Ireland supported companies is a day-to-day matter for the agency itself, and not one in which I am directly involved. The Forfás annual employment survey is the indicator used to record jobs gained and lost in Enterprise Ireland in any one year. Figures are published for the previous year on a cumulative basis at the beginning of the following year. However, this survey collates data on employment at county level. There is no mechanism in place to identify employment statistics at a sub-county level. The Forfás employment survey for 2005, giving figures for the period 1996-2005, is now complete and will be published in the coming months.

Figures indicate that the total number of full-time jobs created in client companies by Enterprise Ireland and its predecessors in County Wexford in the period 1996 to 2005 amounts to 3,475. On an annual basis, the figures are as follows: 1996: 302 new jobs; 1997: 366; 1998: 303; 1999: 346; 2000: 405; 2001: 371; 2002: 416; 2003: 523; 2004: 178; and 2005: 265. Enterprise Ireland's job creation 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 in enhancing the innovation capability of Ireland at a national and regional level through support of research in companies and third level institutions. Enterprise Ireland approved funding of over €5.4 million and made payments of over €4.9 million to client companies in County Wexford in the period 2003 to date to assist them with development projects.

The development of community based enterprise centres is a crucial part of the drive to create new regional enterprise. Enterprise Ireland has paid in excess of €650,000 in support of the development of community enterprise centres in Tagoat, Wexford, Enniscorthy and New Ross in County Wexford. In addition almost €60,000 has been approved in support of management development in these centres.

The centres in Wexford and Enniscorthy have been very successful and are fully occupied at present. I am informed that the centre at Tagoat was not commercially viable, and the centre at New Ross was sold by the local management committee. Feasibility funding of €6,350 was provided for Gorey. However, I understand that the decision of the community in Gorey, at the completion of the feasibility study, was to allow private investment drive the provision of incubation space in the area.

As part of its regional development role, Enterprise Ireland works with other agencies in County Wexford to develop the local business infrastructure. During the month of April 2006, Enterprise Ireland, in association with Wexford County Enterprise Board and the South East Business Innovation Centre, will be hosting a First Steps event in Wexford. This programme aims to stimulate interest in entrepreneurship in the county. If there is sufficient interest in the First Steps programme, a 12-session programme called Enterprise Start will then be run in the county.

Another Enterprise Ireland initiative to foster start-up companies includes support for the south-east enterprise platform programme run by Waterford Institute of Technology with expertise from Waterford Institute of Technology, Tipperary Institute and external consultants. Graduates are expected to go on to set up new businesses in the region following the programme. Four candidates from County Wexford are participating in the 2005-06 programme. The programme will continue to be promoted in all of the south-east during the coming year.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

279 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs the IDA has created in New Ross, County Wexford in each of the years from 1995 to 2005. [12122/06]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

280 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs which the IDA has created in Enniscorthy, County Wexford in each of the years from 1995 to 2005. [12123/06]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

281 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of jobs which the IDA has created in Gorey, County Wexford in each of the years from 1995 to 2005. [12124/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 279 to 281, inclusive, together.

IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland and its regions. The Forfás annual employment survey records jobs gained and lost in companies supported by the industrial development agencies. Data are compiled on a county by county basis only. The following tabular statement sets out the number of new jobs created in IDA supported companies in Wexford in each of the years from 1995 to 2005. IDA Ireland is actively marketing the region to potential investors through its overseas network of offices. The agency is also working with infrastructure and utility providers, as well as the educational institutions, to make the county a more attractive location for attracting investment and jobs.

County Wexford

New jobs created in IDA supported companies in each year from 1995 to 2005, inclusive.

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

186

229

139

123

82

152

78

173

134

333

69

Source: Forfás Annual Employment Survey.

Questions Nos. 282 to 284, inclusive, answeredwith Question No. 278.

General Register.

Enda Kenny

Question:

285 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the amount spent to date on developing an on-line application process for birth, death and marriage certificates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11971/06]

As part of the public services broker programme, the application for life event certificates, ALEC, service has been developed as an on-line service by REACH in partnership with the General Register Office, GRO. The ALEC service enables customers anywhere in the world to purchase life event certificates on-line using their credit cards. The certificates are delivered via the postal services to the customer's address. The service includes a "shopping cart" capability whereby many certificates may be purchased in a single transaction. In addition the public services broker provides a "history file" in which customers can keep a record of previous purchases. The cost to REACH of developing the ALEC software was €68,861. It is currently waiting deployment as a live service to the customers of the GRO.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

286 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the estimated cost per annum of increasing paid maternity leave to 52 weeks where maternity benefit would be 100% of pay up to the present maximum. [12109/06]

Entitlement to maternity benefit for employees is contingent on entitlement to maternity leave — legislation which is the responsibility of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Where women have accrued the requisite number of contributions required to establish entitlement and they are certified by their employers as entitled to statutory maternity leave, maternity benefit is paid for 20 weeks of their absence from work.

Maternity leave and benefit arrangements have been significantly improved in recent years. Most recently, budget 2006 provided for paid maternity leave — and thus maternity benefit payments — to be extended from 18 to 22 weeks. These additional four weeks of maternity leave became effective on 1 March 2006 and will assist some 10,800 women each week. The full year cost of this extension to the social insurance fund will be €32.5 million. A further four-week extension will be implemented in 2007, bringing the total period of paid maternity leave and benefit to 26 weeks. Taken together, the full year cost of the 2006 and 2007 extensions will be €64 million.

The cost implications of extending the duration from 22 weeks to 52 weeks while also increasing the payment rate to 100% of reckonable earnings with the existing ceiling would depend on the spread of earnings of those who are claiming. This will require a data extraction of current claims to ensure the reply is based on firm calculations. I will, therefore, write to the Deputy over the next few days with the relevant information.

Under the current arrangements maternity benefit is not taxable. The percentage figure of 80% was designed to give a payment corresponding to net pay less tax refunds. If maternity benefit payments were to be assessed at 100% of reckonable earnings, some consideration would have to be given to whether to current tax arrangements would be appropriate.

Commemorative Events.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

287 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the events that he is attending in an official capacity to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising. [11885/06]

I plan to attend the Government's two official commemorations on Easter Sunday, April 16, the parade in Dublin and the reception in Dublin Castle that evening. It is also my intention to attend, as a Deputy, my party's commemoration ceremony on Sunday, April 23 in Arbour Hill. I hope also to visit the exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, entitled Easter Rising: Understanding 1916.

Social Welfare Benefits.

John McGuinness

Question:

288 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 39 of 21 March 2006 if rent allowance will be awarded for a short term; if he will expedite a response; and if a short-term solution will be put in place. [11926/06]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme which is administered on my behalf by the community welfare staff of the Health Service Executive is one of a number of social assistance schemes which, with effect from 1 May 2004, is subject to a habitual residence condition. The effect of the condition is that a person whose habitual residence is deemed to be other than in this State or the common travel area has no entitlement to certain social welfare payments, including supplementary welfare allowance. The question of what is a person's habitual residence for social welfare purposes is decided in accordance with European Court of Justice case law. The condition is not determined on the basis of citizenship, nationality, immigration status or any other factors.

The Health Service Executive was contacted regarding this case and has advised that the person concerned was previously refused a rent supplement on the grounds that he did not satisfy the habitual residency condition. The person concerned contacted the HSE and advised that his wife and children had joined him in the State. The HSE advised the person concerned to make a new application for rent supplement and the person concerned was provided with the appropriate application forms. The HSE has advised that the person concerned has not completed and returned these forms. A determination of possible entitlement to supplementary welfare allowance cannot be made until this is done. The HSE has further advised that the person concerned was awarded an exceptional needs payment of €150 to assist with his immediate accommodation costs.

Decentralisation Programme.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

289 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of jobs from his Department to be decentralised to County Donegal; the locations in Donegal to where the jobs are to be transferred; the preparations carried out to date in 2006; when he expects that the process of decentralisation to the county will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11927/06]

Under the Government's programme of decentralisation, 230 posts in the Department are to relocate to Donegal town and 120 posts to Buncrana. The decentralisation implementation group, DIG, recommended to the Minister for Finance the locations and organisations to be included in the first phase of the programme and those to be regarded as potential early movers. The locations designated to be included in the first phase for the Department were Sligo and Drogheda while Carrick-on-Shannon was identified as a potential early mover.

According to the DIG progress report to the Minister for Finance on 30 June 2005, the indicative construction start date for accommodation in Donegal town is the end of 2007 and the construction completion date is indicated as mid-2009. In the case of Buncrana, the indicative construction start date is the end of 2007 while the completion date is indicated as early 2009.

The Office of Public Works has been charged with securing accommodation in the various locations identified for decentralisation. The OPW has advised the Department that a suitable site has been identified in Donegal town and a site has been purchased in Buncrana.

Social Welfare Appeals.

Michael Ring

Question:

290 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs when a decision will be made on an appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Mayo for a retrospective payment of unemployment assistance from 17 December 2005 to 8 February 2006; and the outcome of the appeal lodged by this person. [11929/06]

A claim for unemployment assistance by the person concerned was disallowed by the deciding officer on the grounds that she has not shown there was good cause for delay in making her claim and that she has failed to prove that she was unemployed, capable, available and genuinely seeking employment during the period in question. She has been in receipt of unemployment assistance since 8 February 2006.

The person appealed against this decision to the social welfare appeals office and, in accordance with the statutory requirements, the relevant departmental papers and comments of my Department were sought. These are now to hand and the case has been referred to an appeals officer who proposes to hold an oral hearing. The person will be informed as soon as the arrangements for the hearing are in place. Under social welfare legislation decisions in relation to claims must be made by deciding officers and appeals officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Family Support Services.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

291 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if he will report on his plans for the future development of the money advice and budgeting services which are funded by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12081/06]

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service, MABS, provides assistance to people who are over-indebted and need intensive help and advice in coping with debt problems. There are 52 independent companies nationwide operating the service and support is provided by MABS National Development Limited, a support company for the service. MABS was established on a pilot basis in 1992 and it has now grown to a countrywide service with a budget of €16.41 million.

The programme provides money advice to individuals and families who have problems with debt and who are on low income or in receipt of social welfare payments. It places an emphasis on practical budget-based measures that help people to move permanently from dependence on moneylenders and to access alternative sources of low cost credit, particularly in their local credit union. Many voluntary and statutory bodies such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the community welfare service, credit unions, citizens' information centres, centres for the unemployed, the clergy, Garda, and local authorities work closely with the programme.

In November 2005 I informed the MABS national advisory committee that I intended to review the MABS Bill 2002 and invited each of the stakeholders to make submissions to me with a view to producing a more streamlined structure. I have already received a number of submissions. Consultation is continuing and I expect that it will conclude in the near future.

The support structure which now exists has been invaluable for management and staff and has been very effective in the areas of community education, social policy and communications. A national system with support at the local level is the direction for the future. The service at present is highly regarded and respected and it is important that this continues to be the case. I intend to have legislation enacted as early as possible following the conclusion of the necessary consultation with the various stakeholders.

Social Welfare Allowances.

Mary Upton

Question:

292 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a person (details supplied) will be allowed to retain their rent allowance while attending a third level course. [12082/06]

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 has 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 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.

The Health Service Executive was contacted regarding this case and has advised that the person concerned is in receipt of the correct amount of rent supplement based on her current means and circumstances. If the person concerned wishes to apply for the back-to-education allowance or takes up other education or training opportunities, she should contact her local community welfare officer to clarify her continuing entitlement to rent supplement. It is not possible to establish her possible entitlement in advance of her contacting her local community welfare officer to discuss her particular circumstances.

Road Network.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

293 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the amount of revenue which is expected to be generated from road tolling over the next 20 years; the amount which will accrue to the State and to the private sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11678/06]

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. The NRA has been asked to forward the information sought to the Deputy.

Great Southern Hotels Group.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

294 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Transport the current and planned joint ventures between the Great Southern Hotel Group and a company (details supplied); and if all such ventures are put out to public tender. [11875/06]

This is a day to day operational matter for the Great Southern Hotels, GSH, group and the Dublin Airport Authority. However, I am informed that a joint venture was entered into between GSH and the company referred to by the Deputy. This joint venture was the outcome of a public procurement process undertaken by the GSH last year. I am informed that there are no other joint ventures with the company concerned.

Road Traffic Offences.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

295 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport if there are plans to introduce the offence of breaking a three-tonne restriction on the penalty point system. [11987/06]

Provisions for imposition of a weight restriction on large vehicles entering a road are set out in article 17 of the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997, SI 182 of 1997. It is a matter for each local authority to determine if, and where, such restrictions should apply in its area. The restriction does not apply where it is necessary for a vehicle to enter a road solely for the purpose of gaining access or egress from premises accessible only from that road.

The offence of contravening article 17 is not scheduled in the Road Traffic Act 2002 to be a penalty point offence and I have no proposals to amend primary legislation to include this offence in the penalty point system. However, it is one of the offences that I am declaring to be a fixed charge offence enforceable by the Garda Síochána from 3 April 2006. A driver who contravenes article 17 will be liable to be issued with a fixed charge notice to pay €60 within a 28 day period or €90 within the following 28 day period in lieu of being prosecuted in court for the alleged offence.

Tony Gregory

Question:

296 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Transport the circumstances whereby the Garda Síochána can confiscate motorcycles, quad bikes and so on in public parks or open spaces. [11604/06]

For the purposes of the Road Traffic Acts "public place" means any public road, and any street, road or other place to which the public have access with vehicles whether as of right or by permission and whether subject to or free of charge. Road traffic law does not extend to the use of mechanically propelled vehicles in private property.

Section 41 of the 1994 Road Traffic Act and the Road Traffic Act (Section 41) Regulations 1995 set out the law relating to the detention of vehicles by the Garda Síochána in a public place. There are three grounds set out in these regulations and the second and third grounds expressly relate to vehicles that are registered in the State. These grounds are: if the person driving the vehicle refuses or fails to produce there and then a driving licence then having effect and licensing him or her to drive the vehicle and the garda is of opinion that the person by reason of his or her age is ineligible to hold a driving licence to drive the vehicle; the vehicle is registered in the State and the garda reasonably believes that a policy of insurance is not in place for the vehicle; and the vehicle is registered in the State and motor tax has not been paid in respect of a continuous period of three months or more immediately prior to use.

The Road Traffic Act 2004 makes it an offence to supply a mechanically propelled vehicle to a person under 16 years of age. With effect from 24 January 2005, a person convicted of supplying a vehicle to a minor faces a fine of up to €3,000 or a term of imprisonment up to six months or to both. Mini-motorised scooters, micro-motorcycles and quadricycles come within the definition of a mechanically propelled vehicle for road traffic law purposes and that supply includes giving a gift. As a result, it is illegal to supply such a vehicle to a person under 16 years of age.

A range of requirements must be satisfied in relation to both the vehicle and the driver in order to use a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place. A vehicle when in use in a public place must comply with the requirements of the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to 2002 and the Road Traffic (Lighting of Vehicles) Regulations 1963 to 1996. These regulations prescribe the requirements in relation to essential matters such as — brakes, steering, mirrors, safety glass, wipers, headlamps, rear lighting, indicators, reflectors, etc. Some of these small vehicles do not comply with one or more of these requirements and are, therefore, not suitable for use in a public place.

A driving licence is required in order to drive a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place. A person under 16 years may not hold a driving licence or a provisional licence. The minimum age for a driving licence for vehicles of category M, which covers mopeds and small motorcycles, is 16 years while for a category B licence, which includes quadricycles, the minimum age is 17 years. It is a further requirement of road traffic law that to use a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place the driver has third party insurance cover to meet personal injury and property damage caused by their negligent driving.

The penalties for breaches of the road traffic law in respect of the above mentioned requirements are a fine not exceeding €800 in the case of a first offence, a fine not exceeding €1,500 in the case of a second or subsequent offence, and a fine of €1,500 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding three months or both in the case of a third or subsequent offence in a period of 12 consecutive months. A person convicted of driving without insurance incurs five penalty points on his or her driving licence. The Garda Síochána can use section 20 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 to perform an examination of the roadworthiness of any vehicle being used in a public place.

In addition to the requirements of road traffic law, a mechanically propelled vehicle for use in a public place is required to be registered and liable to motor tax, which are matters for the Revenue Commissioners and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, respectively.

Aer Lingus Privatisation.

Finian McGrath

Question:

297 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport if he will support the anti-privatisation campaign by SIPTU; if his attention has been drawn to the case of the Air New Zealand privatisation in the late 1980s that went bankrupt in the 1990s under private ownership and was subsequently rescued by the state at twice the price and is now prospering under public ownership which has benefited the New Zealand people; and if he will ensure that Aer Lingus is retained under public control as a strategic asset for the economic security of the State. [11616/06]

I am aware of the case that the Deputy has referred to. As the Deputy will be aware, in its decision of 18 May 2005 the Government 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 decision to dispose of a majority shareholding in Aer Lingus was made following detailed and comprehensive consideration of the issue by myself and my colleagues in Government. The Government agreed in its decision that the strategic development of the State airports and Aer Lingus was essential to underpin Ireland's competitiveness, industry and tourism. Furthermore, its consideration was based on an acknowledgement that the company had an immediate need for access to equity capital to enable it to compete effectively and to fund growth and that this investment could not, and should not, come from the Government. It is precisely because of the strategic importance to Ireland of a wide range of cost effective air services that a third party investment in the airline is being sought. The question of reviewing the Government's decision therefore does not arise

Driving Tests.

Jack Wall

Question:

298 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport the waiting times in relation to obtaining a driving test at the Naas, Carlow and Portlaoise centres; his plans to address the problems of waiting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11756/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 77 on Tuesday, 7 March. The current waiting times for each of the test centres referred to is set out in the following table.

Centre

Longest Weeks Waiting

Average Weeks Waiting

Naas

52

30

Carlow

45

36

Portlaoise

53

33

Commemorative Events.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

299 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Transport the events that he is attending in an official capacity to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising. [11886/06]

I will be attending the commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising at the Dublin Parade on Easter Sunday morning, 16 April 2006.

Pension Provisions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

300 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport the procedures under which the Government will provide moneys to supplement the Aer Lingus pension fund; if such top-ups of the fund include persons who were formerly Aer Lingus employees but are now employed separately as a result of disposals or contracting out arrangements; and the most recent reports which he has received in respect of shortfalls in the pension funds. [11947/06]

The Minister for Finance and I are currently considering the report prepared by our advisors on the nature, scale and timing of an investment transaction for Aer Lingus. The advisers report identifies issues that should be resolved in relation 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, CPI. I also understand that, under the rules of the scheme, there is no guarantee in relation 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 then the scheme would in fact 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 participating employers and the members of the scheme.

However, in light of the issues raised in the adviser's report on the Aer Lingus investment transaction, 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. Recently I asked the company to engage intensively with the trade unions and their advisers in relation to their 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 Traffic Offences.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

301 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if, in relation to the Road Traffic Act 2002, Part 4, offence reference number 11, there is a list of Garda signals to which the offence refers; and if such a list will be detailed in the forthcoming edition of the Rules of the Road. [11948/06]

This offence relates to the signals given by members of the Garda Síochána when on point duty. As indicated in the Road Traffic Act 2002, Part 4, offence reference number 11, the offence concerned is contained in article 19 of the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997, SI 182 of 1997. A description of each of the five Garda signals involved and the duties of drivers in respect of these are set out in Table C in the Second Schedule to those 1997 regulations. Details of the signals are already set out in the current edition of the Rules of the Road and they will feature in the forthcoming revised edition also.

Road Signage.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

302 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if, in relation to the Road Traffic Act of 2002, Part 4, offence reference number 17, his plans to issue instructions to the National Roads Authority and the local authorities to standardise the use of continuous white lines and to oblige the National Roads Authority and local authorities to only use continuous white lines where an actual danger exists. [11949/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

303 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if, in relation to the Road Traffic Act of 2002, Part 4, offence reference number 18, he has issued, or plans to issue, instructions to the National Roads Authority and local authorities to standardise the use, placement and design of hatched marked areas and to mandate that their placement and design should not create additional hazards for drivers. [11950/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

304 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport in relation to the Road Traffic Act of 2002, Part 4, offence reference number 21, his plans to introduce signage or road markings to indicate to drivers the place beyond which they are sufficiently removed from an amber traffic light in order to be able to stop safely at the stop line. [11951/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

306 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport in relation to the Road Traffic Act of 2002, Part 4, offence reference number 5, if he has issued, or plans to issue, instructions to the National Roads Authority and the local authorities to standardise the use of lane markings at junctions and signage giving advance warning of lane markings at junctions; and if inadequacy of lane markings or signage at a junction is an acceptable defence for this offence. [11953/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

309 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if, in relation to the Road Traffic Act of 2002, Part 4, offence reference number 19, he has issued, or plans to issue, instructions to the National Roads Authority and the local authorities to standardise the use of traffic lane markings in terms of use, placement and design. [11956/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

310 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if, in relation to the Road Traffic Act of 2002, Part 4, offence reference number 20, he has issued, or plans to issue, instructions to the National Roads Authority and the local authorities to standardise the use of signage and road markings indicating the presence of a one-way street to ensure drivers have effective advance warning of same. [11957/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 302 to 304, inclusive, 306, 309 and 310 together.

The legislative framework for the provision of traffic signs is set out in section 95 of the Road Traffic Act 1961, as amended by the Road Traffic Act 1968 and section 37 of the Road Traffic Act 1994. Regulatory provisions underpinning the provision of specified traffic signs are set out in the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997-2005.

The Road Traffic (Signs) Regulations 1997-2005 prescribe traffic signs, which include upright signs, road markings, traffic lights and other devices which may be provided on roads by road authorities, to indicate the existence of a road regulation, to implement such a regulation or to indicate the existence of a provision in an enactment relating to road traffic.

Responsibility for the provision, positioning and maintenance of traffic signs on non-national roads is a matter for individual road authorities and, in the case of national roads and motorways, for the National Roads Authority.

The Traffic Signs Manual sets out comprehensive directions given to road authorities by the Minister for Transport pursuant to section 95(16) of the Road Traffic Act 1961 regarding the provision and use of traffic signs. A copy of the manual is available in the Oireachtas Library.

My Department is currently pursuing a detailed review of the present Traffic Signs Manual in association with the National Roads Authority and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to identify any additions or revisions necessary. It is intended that the use of the revised manual by road authorities will ensure a high quality of signposting in the State through uniformity of practice and the creation of a consistent approach to signing generally.

Road Traffic Offences.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

305 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport in relation to the Road Traffic Act of 2002, Part 4, offence reference number 25, his plans to extend this offence in order that it also applies on dual carriageways. [11952/06]

I have no proposals to extend the application of this measure to non-motorway roads.

Question No. 306 answered with QuestionNo. 302.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

307 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if, in relation to the Road Traffic Act of 2002, Part 4, offence reference number 5, this offence also relates to incorrect usage of lanes on a roundabout; and if so, if he has issued, or plans to issue, instructions to the National Roads Authority and the local authorities to standardise the use of lane markings and signage giving advance warning of lane markings at roundabouts. [11954/06]

The offence at reference number 5 relates to contraventions of article 11 of the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997, SI 182 of 1997, and relates to requirements for turning at junctions. The advice in the current Rules of the Road is that a driver should treat a roundabout as a normal junction which means he or she must yield right of way to traffic approaching on the roundabout. Provisions regarding the use of traffic signs, including roadway markings, are set out in the Traffic Signs Manual. The manual currently is being subjected to detailed examination with a view to having the provisions revised as necessary.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

308 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport if, in relation to the Road Traffic Act of 2002, Part 4, offence reference number 6, he will specify the situations when it is permitted to reverse onto a main road; when it is not permitted to reverse onto a main road; and the definition of the term “main road”. [11955/06]

Section 12 of the Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) Regulations 1997, SI 182 of 1997, provides the following provisions in relation to the reversing of a vehicle: before reversing, a driver shall ensure that to so reverse would not endanger other traffic or pedestrians; a driver shall not reverse onto a major road from another road; and (3) a driver shall not reverse from a place adjacent to a public road onto a public road save where it is clear to the driver that to so reverse would not endanger other traffic or pedestrians. The term "major" road is not defined in the regulations so the prohibition not to reverse from a side road on to a major road will depend on the prevailing circumstances at any given junction location.

Questions Nos. 309 and 310 answered with Question No. 302.

Departmental Schemes.

Sean Fleming

Question:

311 Mr. Fleming asked the Minister for Transport the number of capital projects in his Department that have incorporated the percentage for arts scheme and the number that did not include the percentage for arts scheme for the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11958/06]

The following projects incorporated the percentage for arts scheme during the period in question: refurbishment of 59 Dawson Street for occupancy by Department of Transport staff; modernisation of seven coastal unit station houses; and 20 road project schemes. The percentage for arts scheme was not included in ten other roads projects, the CIE projects funded by my Department nor in the Luas red and green lines. Expenditure in respect of State and regional airports over the period in question did not provide an opportunity for the public display of artwork. However, the development of terminal two at Dublin Airport will facilitate the display of art work and consideration is also being given to the new facilities at Cork Airport.

Park and Ride Facilities.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

312 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if he has advertised for applications for funding to develop park and ride facilities in the greater Dublin area; the number of applications received from same; if not, the reason therefor; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11966/06]

The provision of park and ride facilities is an important component in our strategy for attracting people out of private cars and onto public transport, so reducing congestion and improving the environment. Last year I approved the Dublin Transportation Office, DTO, strategy for rail-based park and ride, which envisages facilities at 22 locations on the existing and proposed rail network within the greater Dublin area, GDA. Financial provision for park and ride facilities has been included in Transport 21, and I have indicated that €5 million in capital funding is being made available for suitable park and ride projects in the GDA during 2006.

Provided that they are a good fit with the DTO park and ride strategy, applications for funding for specific park and ride projects will be considered by my Department. They will be evaluated according to their business cases on a first come, first served basis, and against the strategic value they offer, as assessed against the DTO strategy. As the principal bodies with interests in the provision of park and ride facilities at the 22 identified locations are already aware of the position, I consider it not necessary to issue a public invitation to apply for funding at this time.

Driver Licensing.

Enda Kenny

Question:

313 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Transport the amount spent to date on developing an on-line driving licence application service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11970/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 489 on Tuesday, 21 March 2006. No moneys have been spent on developing an on-line driving licence application service.

Road Safety.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

314 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport the reason for his failure to establish a nationwide network of motorcycle instructors to facilitate the delivery of training to motorcyclists as promised in October 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11997/06]

My Department has supported an initiative by the Irish Motorcyclists' Action Group through the Irish Rider Training Association to establish a network of motorcycle instructors throughout the country so that motorcycle training can be made as widely available as possible. There are 33 qualified motorcycle instructors in place covering most, but not all, of the country. Motorcycle training is also provided by the Dublin local authorities.

The necessary amendment to primary legislation to facilitate the introduction of compulsory initial practical training for motorcyclists will be introduced shortly. In the meantime, a working group comprising of motorcycle interests has been considering the appropriate standards that will apply in this area and the standards that instructors must comply with. Overseeing the introduction of such training will be the responsibility of the proposed road safety authority.

Road Network.

Seamus Kirk

Question:

315 Mr. Kirk asked the Minister for Transport if it is intended to make provision along the motorways for heavy goods vehicles to park to facilitate rest periods for drivers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12067/06]

Under section 54 of the Roads Act 1993, the National Roads Authority has responsibility for the provision of service and rest areas along motorways.

At my request the NRA carried out a review of its policy on the placement of service and rest areas on the major interurban routes. The authority completed this review in January 2006 and has published a policy statement on its website, www.nra.ie. The statement envisages the provision of service and rest areas at regular intervals along both motorways and dual carriageways. These service and rest areas will contain facilities of benefit to both the road haulage sector and the private motorist.

State Airports.

Pat Carey

Question:

316 Mr. Carey asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to discussions between the US Authorities and Dublin Airport Authority on the wish of the USA to provide full pre-clearance facilities at Dublin and Shannon airports which would allow greater flexibility for Irish and other EU citizens to travel to the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12074/06]

I am informed by the Dublin Airport Authority that there are continuing discussions between the US authorities and Dublin Airport Authority on this matter and that the subject is receiving careful consideration in the DAA.

Road Network.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

317 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Transport if consideration has been given to the redesignation of the R109 from a regional road to a local road to facilitate Chapelizod residents in stopping trucks travelling up Knockmaroon Hill, Chapelizod, Dublin 20 and to allow Dublin City Council to draw up traffic plans which take account of the reality that this road is not capable due to width and a low bridge of taking the volume of heavy goods traffic which uses this route based on published maps and the current designation. [12090/06]

A comprehensive review of the national and regional road system was last concluded in 1994 as set out in statutory instruments made at that time.

The update of these statutory instruments is currently in hand and is designed to take account of road improvements and route changes since 1994. The classification of the R109 will be reviewed in the update. It is anticipated that the update will shortly be concluded.

Rail Network.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

318 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Transport if a date has been fixed for the start of construction for the Kildare route project; if this project could be extended to Straffan Station thereby servicing the communities of Ardclough and Straffan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12091/06]

Following Irish Rail's application to me for a railway order for the Kildare route project in October last year, a public inquiry was held from 24 January to 2 February. I am now awaiting the inspector's report of the inquiry.

I will make a decision as to the granting of the railway order when I have given due consideration to that report and to the submissions I received in respect of the project. Subject to the granting of the railway order, I understand from Irish Rail that construction will start by the end of this year.

The decision to limit the geographic scope of the project to Hazlehatch is based on the view that service provision will be sufficient to meet capacity demands in the medium term beyond 2015. Commuters from the Straffan area will nonetheless be conveniently served by the Hazlehatch station and the park and ride facilities to be developed there as part of the Kildare route project.

Driver Testing.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

319 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport when a reply will issue as promised to Parliamentary Question No. 315 of 28 February 2006. [12115/06]

My Department has today confirmed with the Public Appointments Service that a reply will issue to the Deputy in the coming days.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

320 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if driver testers have a set target productivity level which they must reach, outside of the additional bonus scheme currently being offered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12187/06]

The bonus scheme which driver testers are currently availing of applies to additional tests conducted at lunchtimes, in the evenings and on Saturdays. As part of this scheme a target number of tests must be reached before a bonus is payable.

A set target productivity level to be reached in normal hours, outside of the additional bonus scheme currently being offered has not been included. The number of driving tests scheduled to be conducted by a driver tester each day depends upon the time of year, the category of vehicle being tested, the test location and if the tester is working overtime. A driver tester's normal working hours are from 9.15 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. In the case of driving tests in cars, eight 50 minute tests per day are normally scheduled. Driving tests in higher category vehicles normally take two car test slots and motorcycle tests are scheduled for an hour. In addition, the schedule of tests is altered during the winter months when testers are scheduled for a test during their normal lunch time to compensate for tests lost due to shorter daylight hours. Tests actually conducted by individual testers are affected by a range of factors which include late cancellations or applicants failing to attend, time allowances for staff to travel to test centres, non-compliance with conditions and weather conditions.

Harbours and Piers.

James Breen

Question:

321 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when necessary work to improve the pier at Doolin, County Clare will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11650/06]

Under the CLÁR programme, I provided 75% funding for a geo-technical survey to see how the safety problems identified in transhipping passengers from the pier to the ferry boats at medium and low tides could be addressed. I requested Clare County Council to commission the study and it, accordingly, engaged the consultants.

My Department and Clare County Council are in ongoing discussions on the findings of the report and the preferred options therein. The Deputy will appreciate, however, that this, in itself, does not imply a commitment to fund any developments.

Departmental Correspondence.

Niall Blaney

Question:

322 Mr. Blaney asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the letters of support which were submitted with a company (details supplied) in County Donegal whose application for funding under the programme of grants for locally based community and voluntary groups 2005 was successful in securing €10,000; and the groups or committees they represent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11663/06]

Letters of support were received with the application in question from Deputy McDaid, the bainisteoir réigiúnach Údarás na Gaeltachta, príomh oide Scoil Cholmchille Tearmann and the co-ordóir forbairt Pobail Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta Teo. As I stated in my answer to Question No. 348 of 28 February 2006 this application, as with all applications under the programme, was assessed strictly against the published criteria for the programme.

Dormant Accounts Fund.

Seán Ardagh

Question:

323 Mr. Ardagh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the process for a school (details supplied) to apply for funds from the dormant accounts fund to enable the school to purchase a school bus. [11670/06]

The Deputy will be aware that disbursements from the dormant accounts fund are designed to assist three broad categories of persons: those who are socially or economically disadvantaged, those who are educationally disadvantaged and persons with a disability. The Government has approved the allocation of €60 million from the dormant accounts fund in 2006, of which €24 million will be allocated towards projects tackling economic and social disadvantage, €18 million will be allocated towards projects tackling educational disadvantage and €18 million will be allocated towards projects assisting persons with a disability.

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

The roll-out of these measures has commenced and applications are being invited for the specific programmes on a phased basis. On funding for the purchase of school buses, I should point out that no specific measure for this purpose is included in the proposals approved by Government under the economic and social disadvantage category.

On the other two categories, educational disadvantage and persons with a disability, the consultation process required under the legislation has now been completed. Proposals which provide for funding of €18 million under each of these categories are in the process of being submitted to the Minister and will be brought to Government shortly for approval.

Official Engagements.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

324 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the events that he is attending in an official capacity to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising. [11887/06]

I will be attending the Easter Rising military parade and the Easter Rising State reception in Dublin on 16 April 2006.

International Agreements.

Mary Upton

Question:

325 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason Ireland has yet to sign or ratify the European Convention for the Protection of Animals during International Transport (Revised); when Ireland will sign and ratify same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11938/06]

The European Convention for the Protection of Animals during International Transport (Revised) was made under the auspices of the Council of Europe in November 2003 and was signed by the EU in June 2004.

In December 2004 the Council of Agricultural Ministers adopted Council Regulation 1 of 2005 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations. The purpose of this legislation is to set improved standards for welfare of animals during transport.

My Department is currently preparing legislation that will give the Council regulation legal effect in Ireland, in the implementation of penalties and provide for the authorisation of Department officers, when it is due to come into operation in January 2007. The provisions of the European Convention for the Protection of Animals during International Transport (Revised) will be taken into account in the context of the proposed new national legislation.

Mary Upton

Question:

326 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if Ireland has plans to sign and ratify the European Convention on the Social Protection of Farmers; if not, the reason for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11941/06]

To date, this convention, which was agreed in 1977, has not been signed or ratified by any Irish Government. Nevertheless, the Government approves the general provisions in the convention and continues to ensure through national and EU legislation that, as far as possible, farmers, members of their families and, if relevant, paid employees enjoy social protection comparable to that enjoyed by other population groups.

Mary Upton

Question:

327 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if Ireland has plans to sign and ratify the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals; if not, the reason for same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11945/06]

My Department's statutory responsibility for the welfare and protection of animals refers only to animals kept for farming purposes and does not include animals kept as pets. I will make inquiries on the specific matter raised and will get in touch with the Deputy about it as soon as possible.

Departmental Programmes.

John Deasy

Question:

328 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will provide details of any grant scheme designed to promote anaerobic fertilisers; the funding available for such projects; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12250/06]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the by-product of anaerobic digestion of livestock manures.

As part of the arrangements to assist farmers meet the additional requirements of the Nitrates Directive, I have announced my intention to introduce a scheme to support the demonstration of new technologies in reducing the volume of livestock manures or their nutrient content. Under the proposed scheme, financial support will be provided for up to ten projects throughout the State for the installation of such systems, including fluidised bed combustion or treatment plants comprising of anaerobic/aerobic digestion systems.

The maximum eligible investment ceiling per project will be €1 million and the total State contribution, at a grant rate of 40%, will therefore be up to €4 million. The scheme will be introduced as soon as the required EU approval has been received.

Grant Payments.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

329 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the outstanding single payment entitlements will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Monaghan who has land leased from a neighbour for a number of years and entitlements to same were legally transferred in spring 2005 and notified to her Department on three occasions; her views on whether this is an unfair delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11554/06]

The person named submitted a private contract clause application by way of a lease agreement under the single payment scheme 2005. This application has been successfully processed and the entitlements have been transferred.

The person named submitted an application under the 2005 single payment scheme on 16 May 2005. Payment for the amount of €16,515.64 which represented 43.3 entitlements issued on 1 December. A further 9.89 entitlements were transferred on 20 March 2005 as outlined above. A supplementary payment in the amount of €1,474.58 has been processed in respect of the 9.89 entitlements and will issue in the coming days.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Martin Ferris

Question:

330 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if farmers involved in the early retirement scheme, who have contracted ten-year leases, will be allowed to change the lease when the ten year period elapses. [11587/06]

Where a person's participation in the early retirement scheme has ceased, because he or she has either completed ten years in the scheme or has reached the maximum age to which the early retirement pension can be paid, it is open to that person to lease his or her land to any party he or she wishes irrespective of whether that party is an eligible farming transferee or not. If the term of the lease extends beyond the date a person's participation in the scheme ends, my Department no longer has any involvement in the matter at that stage and the revocation of such a lease would be a private matter between the lessor and lessee.

Factory Closures.

Jack Wall

Question:

331 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the structure and timescale of the proposed distribution of funding on the closures of the two sugar factories at Carlow and Mallow; the percentage breakdown between the farming community and Greencore; the appeal mechanism available to farmers in their share of the available funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11590/06]

The agreement on reform of the EU sugar regime which comes into effect on 1 July 2006 provides for a restructuring fund in respect of the economic, social and environmental costs of restructuring of the sugar industry, involving factory closure and renunciation of quota. In Ireland's case, this fund would be worth up to €145 million. The agreement provides that at least 10% of the restructuring fund shall be reserved for sugar beet growers and machinery contractors. That proportion may be increased by member states after consultation of interested parties provided that an economically sound balance between the elements of the restructuring plan is ensured.

Where restructuring takes place in the first year of the new regime, following consultations between the processor and the beet growers an application for restructuring aid, including a detailed restructuring plan for the industry, must be made by 31 July 2006 and a decision on the granting of the aid must be made by the member state by 30 September 2006. Where aid is awarded in respect of restructuring in the first year, payment must be made in two instalments: the first instalment of 60% by 31 March 2007 and the balance by 30 November 2007.

The EU Commission is working on detailed rules for the implementation of the restructuring scheme. It is anticipated that the relevant Commission regulation will be adopted in May.

Grant Payments.

Phil Hogan

Question:

332 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the remainder of the single farm payment will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11601/06]

An application under the single payment scheme/disadvantaged area compensatory allowance scheme was received from the person named on 16 May 2005. The application was randomly selected for an on the spot inspection covering area.

During the course of the inspection the total area of forage found was less than the area claimed. As the over-declaration was more than two hectares, the area found was reduced for payment purposes by twice the difference between the area found and the area claimed. The area was subsequently reduced for payment purposes to 18.63 hectares.

Payment of the reduced amount issued on 13 January 2006. If the person named is not satisfied with the result of the inspection she may seek a review by contacting the local office of my Department. She also has the right to appeal the outcome of any such review.

Denis Naughten

Question:

333 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of farmers awaiting the single farm payment; the value of the payments owed to farmers; the value of single farm payment entitlements not drawn down in 2005; the breakdowns of these figures by county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11702/06]

The following table sets out the number of farmers in each county whose payments under the 2005 single payment scheme had issued by 21 March 2006. The number of applications with outstanding problems, which must be solved prior to payment, is also set out. Payments are continuing to issue to farmers as their applications are processed to completion, in accordance with the EU legislation governing the single payment scheme.

It is not possible at this stage to establish the value of entitlements for farmers, who are awaiting payment or a further supplementary payment. This is due to the fact that my Department is processing applications to transfer entitlements by way of inheritance or private contract clause which in many cases were only recently received. In some instances, farmers are still submitting such applications.

For the same reasons it is not possible to establish the value of the entitlements not claimed in 2005. My Department wrote to over 10,000 persons, who held entitlements but where no application for the single payment scheme was received by the final deadline of 10 June 2005. However, the receipt of the letter, which was issued to the persons in question by registered post, has resulted in many situations being clarified. In some cases, existing applicants have contacted my Department indicating that they inherited, purchased or leased the lands owned by the farmers who were allocated the entitlements. In other cases the entitlements were associated with a herd number for farmers, who submitted applications under the 2005 single payment scheme using a different herd number or where the details of the herd number were altered by a deletion or addition of a name. It will not be possible to establish the value of entitlements which were not applied on until all the applications for the measures referred to above are received and processed by the Department.

On the processing of applications under the single payment scheme, member states may commence payment on 1 December of the year of application, with payments being fully processed by the following 30 June. My priority in 2005, the first year of this new scheme, was to maximise the number of payments to eligible applicants by the earliest date possible of 1 December and I am satisfied that this was achieved. Since then, it has been my absolute priority to ensure that the issues that are holding up the remaining cases are resolved with the applicants concerned and that payments are made without undue delay. To this end, I have arranged that payments are issued on a regular basis as soon as the problems with the outstanding cases are resolved.

County

No. of SPS applicants paid up to the 21/03/06

No. of SPS applicants not yet cleared for payment

Carlow

1,705

24

Cavan

4,899

73

Clare

6,122

132

Cork

13,125

288

Donegal

7,871

109

Dublin

673

15

Galway

12,163

171

Kerry

7,668

131

Kildare

2,137

41

Kilkenny

3,560

64

Laois

3,034

52

Leitrim

3,414

52

Limerick

5,308

88

Longford

2,427

36

Louth

1,570

23

Mayo

11,571

164

Meath

3,870

59

Monaghan

4,053

70

Offaly

3,089

63

Roscommon

5,806

81

Sligo

4,022

53

Tipperary

7,144

131

Waterford

2,457

72

Westmeath

3,009

34

Wexford

4,231

86

Wicklow

2,133

42

Totals

12,7061

2,154

Denis Naughten

Question:

334 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the number of applicants awaiting a decision on the national reserve; the breakdown of such applicants by county; the value of the national reserve to be distributed; the reason for the delay in issuing the allocation; when payments will be issued; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11703/06]

The position is that some 17,500 farmers submitted applications to the national reserve but when account is taken of the number of farmers who applied under two or more categories over 23,000 files have to be processed.

The following table sets out the number of farmers per county who applied under national reserve some of whom applied under more than one category.

Number

Carlow

204

Cavan

649

Clare

1,151

Cork

1,886

Donegal

753

Dublin

73

Galway

1,601

Kerry

954

Kildare

230

Kilkenny

513

Laois

390

Leitrim

482

Limerick

731

Longford

637

Louth

156

Mayo

1,461

Meath

438

Monaghan

604

Offaly

399

Roscommon

852

Sligo

584

Tipperary

1,282

Waterford

355

Westmeath

384

Wexford

470

Wicklow

275

Total

17,514

While much work has been done in processing the vast majority of the applications, none of the applications has yet been processed to finality with national reserve allocations attributed. Some 11% of the applications received are still under query with the farmers concerned as my Department has sought additional information in support of their applications. Processing of all applications is continuing and the intention is to make allocations to successful applicants within the next two weeks.

The position is that Ireland's financial ceiling under the single payment scheme for 2005 was €1,260 million of which 3% —€37.8 million — had been provisionally set aside to fund the national reserve. The EU regulations require that where the sum of individual entitlements exceeds the financial ceiling, a percentage linear reduction must be applied in order to observe the ceiling. In Ireland's case, the cost of funding successful applicants under force majeure and new entrants during the reference period has meant that the sum of individual entitlements has exceeded our national ceiling by €15.1 million requiring a 1.18% linear reduction of all entitlements. This linear reduction will be accommodated within the 3% already deducted for the national reserve and the remaining 1.82% —€22.7 million — will be used to fund the national reserve.

Michael Lowry

Question:

335 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the status of an application for single farm payment for a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; if full entitlements will be transferred from a previous herd number; when payment will be issued based on full entitlements; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11727/06]

The person named and the joint owner of the herd number submitted a number of applications under different measures implemented under the single payment scheme in 2005, including applications to transfer entitlements by inheritance, to transfer entitlements from an associated herd number and to convert special condition entitlements to standard entitlements. Following the initial processing of these applications, payment amounting to €5,497.34 issued to the person named and the other joint owner of the herd number. In cases such as this where there are a variety of applications under separate measures, it is necessary to apply to transfer entitlements by inheritance at the end of the process. The inherited entitlements have now been transferred and a supplementary payment will be issued to the applicants by my Department shortly.

Paul McGrath

Question:

336 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason a person (details supplied) in County Westmeath has not been awarded the single farm payment; if she will expedite this payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11873/06]

The person named submitted a single payment application form on 12 May 2005 and was paid €358.24 in respect of entitlements established for the decoupled 2005 dairy premium. However, the applicant's now deceased mother established the remainder of the entitlements during the 2000 to 2002 reference period. As the person named did not submit an application form for the transfer of these entitlements into his name by way of inheritance, the appropriate application form has been sent to him. The case will be processed as quickly as possible when the completed form is submitted to my Department.

Official Engagements.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

337 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the events that she is attending in an official capacity to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising. [11888/06]

I will attend the following events in an official capacity to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising on Sunday, 16 April: the Easter Rising 90th anniversary military parade at the GPO and the Easter Rising 90th anniversary State reception in Dublin Castle.

Grant Payments.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

338 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason for the delay in issuing a single farm payment for a person (details supplied) in County Cork; when this was approved for payment; and if she will arrange for immediate payment. [11961/06]

An application for the single payment scheme was received from the person named on 13 May 2005 and payment in respect of the transferred entitlements issued on 1 December 2005. Arrangements are being made to have the dairy premium element of the single payment paid to the person named shortly.

Joe Walsh

Question:

339 Mr. Walsh asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if payment of the single payment scheme will be made to a person (details supplied) in County Cork who has submitted all details. [11962/06]

My Department has no record of receipt of an application under the 2005 single payment scheme from the person named. The person named recently submitted evidence to my Department to support a claim that the person had submitted an application under the scheme before the closing date for receipt of applications. Following consideration of the evidence submitted, my Department has now decided to process an application from the person named under the 2005 scheme. Subject to there being no errors highlighted following the processing of the application, it is expected that payment will issue shortly.

John McGuinness

Question:

340 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if an application for sheep quota under the national reserve in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be expedited and approved; the timeframe involved for a decision in the case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11981/06]

The person named submitted an application for an allocation of entitlements from the single payments scheme national reserve under category D, which caters for farmers who commenced farming after 31 December 2002 or who commenced farming in 2002 but who received no direct payments in respect of that scheme year.

Our records indicate that the person named did not apply under category B, which caters for farmers who, between 1 January 2000 and 19 October 2003, made an investment in production capacity in a farming sector for which a direct payment under livestock premia and or arable aid schemes would have been payable during the reference period 2000 to 2002. Investments can include purchase or long term lease of land, purchase of suckler and or ewe quota or other investments. I will make arrangements for this case to be examined also under this category. It should be noted however that the rules governing the single payment scheme stipulate that an applicant who is found to be eligible under more than one category in the reserve may only receive an allocation of entitlements under whichever category is most beneficial to him or her.

More than 23,000 applications for an allocation of entitlements from the national reserve were received when account is taken of farmers who applied under more than one category. Processing of these applications is continuing and the intention is to make allocations to successful applicants at the earliest opportunity. My Department will be in touch with individual applicants as soon as their applications are fully processed. Formal letters setting out my Department's decision will be issued.

Rural Environment Protection Scheme.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

341 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason sheep farmers in the Ballycroy, Tiernaur, Bangor and Keenagh areas of County Mayo are being asked to remove stock for six months of the year and to destock up to 70%, when this will mean the total extinction of their farming livelihoods; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the overwhelming majority of those farmers are already involved in the REP scheme and have already heavily destocked in recent times; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11983/06]

This situation pertains to the implementation of the wild birds directive and, as such, is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Owenduff and Nephin Beg complex, which includes the area in question, have been designated by that Department under both the wild birds and habitats directives.

The European Commission secured a judgment against Ireland in the European Court of Justice in June 2002. The case, which was focused on the Owenduff and Nephin Beg area of County Mayo, was taken under the wild birds directive and was about the extent to which the habitat of the red grouse, an annexed species, was compromised by the overgrazing of sheep on commonage. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government was the lead Department in responding to the court proceedings. Following the judgment against Ireland, a reassessment of the commonage took place, which indicated that the actions taken to deal with overgrazing, involving partial destocking in 2002 under the commonage framework plans, had not been enough to allow the habitat to regenerate. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is, therefore, required to take further steps if Ireland is to avoid a large fine.

Destocking under the commonage framework plans was capped at 60% when it was first put into effect. It is now clear, however, that the destocking recommendations must be implemented in full. This will affect approximately 50% of the area in question, where the destocking requirement in the framework plans is greater than 60%. I understand that the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, following consultation with farming representatives, have also advised it will be necessary to have an annual period of total destocking if this area is to regenerate.

That Department has notified the European Commission in February of Ireland's intention to implement the full recommended destocking in the commonage framework plans. It has also informed the Commission that it will require farmers to take all sheep off the commonage for a five month period each year, comprising the months of November and December and the period from mid-February to mid-May.

Many farmers in this area are in REPS, a condition of which is that they must comply with the commonage framework plans. However, the complete removal of sheep for a five month period is additional to REPS requirements and the farmers are entitled to be compensated for it separately by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Farmers who are not in REPS may seek compensation both for the destocking and for the five month no grazing period from that Department under the national scheme operated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

REPS is a voluntary scheme and will continue to make a positive contribution to specific environmental objectives. It will continue to complement the actions the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government are taking to deal with this serious situation. It is in the interests of all farmers to ensure that only environmentally sustainable farming practices are carried out on the site because, otherwise there is a risk that payments which are directly linked to environmental benefits will be brought into question.

EU Directives.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

342 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the Government’s stance on the nitrates directive; if her Department is willing to change the current parameters; her views on whether the nitrates directive, along with destocking directive in the west and the beef directives in the south, will guarantee an end to farming here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11984/06]

The implementation of the nitrates directive is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. In December, the Minister made regulations giving legal effect to Ireland's national action programme under the nitrates directive. These regulations were finalised following difficult negotiations between the European Commission and officials of the Departments of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Agriculture and Food. In these discussions, both Departments made use of the advice provided by Teagasc. It was the Commission, however, which determined the final content of the regulations.

In January, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government announced a short de facto deferral of part 3 of the regulations, which covers nutrient management, to allow Teagasc to submit revised advice on phosphorus limits. This revised advice has been received and both the European Commission and the Departments are examining it. Officials from the Departments and Teagasc have had preliminary discussions with the Commission on the matter and, while the Commission’s agreement will be required for any amendments that may be proposed to the regulations, I am satisfied that the Commission is open to scientifically robust arguments.

A central issue arising from the nitrates directive is the need to secure a derogation which will allow certain farmers to operate, under appropriate conditions and controls, up to a level of 250 kg of organic nitrogen per hectare. The proposal was given an initial presentation to the EU nitrates committee in December and further scientific data have been supplied to the Commission following bilateral discussions. The proposal will need to be discussed again at future meetings of the nitrates committee before approval can be obtained. Securing this derogation is vital for the most productive dairy farmers in particular and it is important that the position on the regulations is clarified at an early date so that the negotiations on the derogation can proceed. I am working with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to bring matters to a quick conclusion so that Ireland can meet its obligations under the nitrates directive while also safeguarding the future of commercial farming in Ireland and the interests of Irish farmers in general.

Destocking of sheep from certain commonages has been necessary because of the damage done by overgrazing. Commonage framework plans recommending the appropriate level of stocking for each commonage were drawn up following an agreement in 1998 which allowed for the introduction of the measure A payment in REPS of up to €242 per hectare. A complementary state funded compensation scheme, to be administered by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, has recently been announced by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. In certain areas of the Owenduff and Nephin Beg complex in County Mayo, the failure of the vegetation to regenerate means that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is required to take further steps. I understand that full compensation is available to the farmers concerned.

Grant Payments.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

343 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the terms and conditions in which a farmer over 35 years of age can resubmit his or her application to a scheme (details supplied) or apply to the said scheme as there are not terms and conditions set out in the scheme document or booklet. [11995/06]

I presume the Deputy is referring to the installation aid scheme, which provides a grant to farmers under the age of 35 establishing themselves for the first time in farming. By virtue of the terms of the scheme, the initial application, IAS 1, must be submitted to the Department within six months of the date of establishment. The application for payment, IAS 2, must then be submitted within 30 months of the date of establishment. Penalties apply where applications are received outside the two deadlines concerned. Where errors are found in either of the application forms, applicants are given a fixed period in which to correct the errors and resubmit the forms to my Department.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

344 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when the single payment will issue to a person (details supplied) County Donegal. [11996/06]

The person named submitted an application for consideration in respect of the inheritance measure of the single payment scheme. Following processing of his application, he was notified that the application was successful and payment will issue shortly.

Departmental Expenditure.

Sean Fleming

Question:

345 Mr. Fleming asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the amount awarded to Laois County Council in 2005 in respect of water rates for her Departments offices in Portlaoise; and the amount which was awarded in respect of each Department office in Portlaoise. [12092/06]

In 2005 a total of €1,658.95 was paid by my Department to Laois County Council in respect of water rates for my Department's office at Old Abbeyleix Road, Portlaoise.

Question No. 346 withdrawn.

Grant Payments.

John Deasy

Question:

347 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason for the delay in issuing payment of suckler cow premium for 2005 to a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and when payment of same will issue. [12257/06]

The person in question submitted an application under the single payment scheme on 16 May 2005 in respect of the herd number supplied. Payment amounting to €19,979.66 in respect of 44.01 entitlements issued on 1 December 2005. An application to transfer 14.11 entitlements, with a net value of €5981.38, to the person named from his spouse has been processed. This brought the total entitlements established by the applicant to 58.12 with a net value of €25,961.04. A supplementary payment in respect of the outstanding entitlements has been requested and will issue in the coming days.

John Deasy

Question:

348 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason for the delay in issuing payment of dairy premium for 2005 to a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and when payment will issue. [12258/06]

The person in question submitted a private contract clause application to have land and entitlements transferred to him by way of a lease agreement. This application was successfully processed and a payment of €999.07 issued on the 1 December 2005. Arrangements are being made to have the dairy premium element of the single payment issued to the person shortly.

John Deasy

Question:

349 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason for the delay in issuing payment of dairy premium for a person (details supplied) in County Waterford; and when payment will issue. [12259/06]

The person in question submitted a private contract clause application to have land and entitlements transferred to him by way of a lease agreement. This application was successfully processed and a payment of €7,878.66 issued to the person on 1 December 2005. Arrangements are being made to have the dairy premium element of the single payment issued shortly.

Tom Hayes

Question:

350 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when full payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary who has submitted all details as requested under the single payment scheme. [12273/06]

The person in question submitted an application under the single payment scheme on 13 May 2005 and also applied to have his entitlements consolidated under the scheme. The person established 120.64 entitlements with a net value of €40,647.82 and declared a forage area of 91.30 hectares in 2005. Payment issued on 1 December 2005 in respect of 91.30 entitlements with a net value of €30,762.65, reflecting the eligible hectares declared on his 2005 SPS application. Following processing of the consolidation application, a supplementary payment issued in the amount of €9,885.17 on 21 December 2005 reflecting the balance due to as a result of consolidation. Full payment has, therefore, issued in this case.

Alternative Farm Enterprises.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

351 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the action she will take to encourage farmers in County Wexford into alternative enterprises after they have to stop growing beet; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12281/06]

Following the introduction of the single payment scheme last year, farmers now have the freedom to choose whatever farming enterprise is most appropriate to their circumstances. Under the agreement on reform of the EU sugar regime, the single payment scheme is being extended to cover sugar beet. The sugar reform agreement also provides for the introduction of aid for diversification measures in the event that sugar beet production completely ceases. This aid, worth almost €44 million to Irish growers, will be drawn down in the framework of a national restructuring programme to be elaborated when the Commission's implementing regulation has been adopted.

One option which could be considered by farmers is the cultivation of energy crops, such as oilseed rape, for biofuel purposes. The promotion of biofuels is receiving attention by the Government, led by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, in the context of renewable energy policies. The budget announcement of the extension of the excise duty relief scheme to cover, when the relief is fully operational, some 163 million litres of biofuels per year should stimulate the production of crops for the manufacture of liquid biofuels. Under the EU energy crops scheme administered by my Department, aid of €45 per hectare per annum is available for areas sown under energy crops intended for biofuel production. I am seeking to have this scheme made more attractive for producers in the context of discussions on the EU biofuels strategy.

Stardust Tragedy.

Finian McGrath

Question:

352 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will meet the Stardust victims and families; and if he will have a full public inquiry into this issue. [11568/06]

As I have indicated on a number of occasions, I will be happy to meet with the Stardust Victims Committee in the event that new evidence arises which could form the basis of a productive discussion. With this in mind, my Department has forwarded a copy of the recent "Prime Time" programme to the forensic science laboratory for evaluation and a report on its content is in preparation. No further submission has been received by my Department since that programme was broadcast. As the Deputy will be aware, a previous submission from the Stardust Victims Committee was evaluated by the Forensic Science Laboratory and the Garda Síochána in 2004 but was not found to warrant a revisiting of the original inquiry.

Human Rights Issues.

Michael Noonan

Question:

353 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the Government will bring forward a national women’s strategy, which, among other things, will deal with violence against women; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11786/06]

I refer the Deputy to my response of 21 March 2006 to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 596 and 621.

International Agreements.

Mary Upton

Question:

354 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason Ireland has yet to sign or ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings; when Ireland will sign and ratify same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11937/06]