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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 4 Apr 2006

Vol. 617 No. 4

Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies received from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 7, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 8 to 36, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 37 to 43, inclusive, answered orally.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

44 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the timetable for the re-establishment of the Assembly and the Executive in Northern Ireland; his views on re-establishing the Assembly without a fully functioning power-sharing Executive; the scenarios that will emerge in the event of the Assembly not agreeing to form an Executive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13126/06]

Liz McManus

Question:

52 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when the proposals for the way forward in Northern Ireland that are currently being agreed with the British Government will be published; the subsequent timetable for the re-establishment of the institutions created under the Good Friday Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13129/06]

Joe Costello

Question:

83 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts he is making to ensure the maintenance of the North-South institutions created under the Good Friday Agreement in the event of a failure to re-establish the Assembly and the power-sharing Executive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13130/06]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

93 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the options he is considering for the future governance of Northern Ireland in the event of the Assembly and the power-sharing Executive not being re-established; if he has met with the British Government on this issue; if he has held discussions with parties in Northern Ireland on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13127/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 44, 52, 83 and 93 together.

When the Taoiseach and Prime Minister Blair met at Farmleigh on 26 January last, they said that 2006 would be the decisive year for the peace process. Almost eight years on from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and more than three years since the suspension of the institutions, it is now time that political power and responsibility is returned to a fully functioning Assembly and Executive and that Northern Ireland politicians begin to do the work they were elected to do. This is what the people in Northern Ireland want to see happen and it is what the two Governments have committed themselves to achieve this year.

The Taoiseach and Prime Minister Blair will meet in Armagh on Thursday, 6 April to set out the Governments' joint strategy for a fully functioning Assembly and Executive, and nothing less than that, in 2006. Work on these proposals is ongoing, and I do not want to anticipate the precise details of what will be announced on Thursday. I can say, however, that the Assembly will be recalled in mid-May and asked to begin immediately to prepare for Government and to elect an Executive within six weeks.

We are fully aware that there are obstacles to progress that need to be addressed and resolved. This can only be done by the parties themselves. Our aim is to create the circumstances in which they can deal with any obstacles and prepare for Government. If the parties cannot overcome these obstacles in six weeks, we are prepared to give the Assembly some additional time, but for a strictly limited period and for the express purpose of implementing the Agreement and electing an Executive.

Whether we are successful in achieving this objective is ultimately the responsibility of the parties themselves. If, within that strictly limited period, the parties collectively are unable to implement the Agreement, then the Governments will have to exercise our responsibilities and ensure that the Agreement is implemented to the maximum possible extent for the benefit of all communities.

The North-South arrangements would be particularly important in that context. They are a vital pillar of the Good Friday Agreement. The North-South Bodies established under the Agreement continue to carry out important public functions and have shown the value of having dedicated institutions to pursue common goals for mutual benefit. The Government is fully committed to advancing North-South co-operation for the benefit of all the people on the island.

Our focus now is on taking the necessary steps which will lead to restoration of all the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, including the North-South Ministerial Council. As I have said, if we are faced with a situation where we have to conclude that fully-functioning institutions are not in prospect this year, then the two Governments will have no choice but to act to sustain the Agreement, including its provisions on North-South co-operation, to the greatest extent possible.

We are now at a critical juncture. The difficult decisions in the coming days and weeks will be for the parties. We believe our joint strategy represents the best opportunity to pave the way for the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland this year. We will be asking all of the parties to consider it carefully and, most importantly, to give it the opportunity to succeed.

Human Rights Issues.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

45 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, during his discussions with US Administration officials while in the USA recently, the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan arose; and his views and the view of the Government regarding this case which, it is claimed, illustrates the US Administration’s flaunting of basic military protection in setting up tribunals dealing with suspected Al-Qaeda suspects. [13106/06]

The Taoiseach raised our concerns regarding Guantanamo Bay at his meeting with President Bush in Washington on 17 March 2006, which I also attended. President Bush said that he fully understood the Taoiseach's concerns and that he would also like to close the detention facility when possible. The President also noted that his Administration was awaiting a ruling by the US Supreme Court on the use of army tribunals to try detainees in Guantanamo. I understand that the case referred to was Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which came before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, 28 March 2006 and which challenges the legality of President Bush’s 2001 military order establishing military commissions to try terrorist suspects. The Supreme Court’s decision is expected in July 2006.

The Government has raised the issue of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay with the US authorities on numerous other occasions. We believe that those detained in Guantanamo must be treated in accordance with the requirements of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. This position is shared by the EU as a whole. I have also made it clear that I fully endorse the UN Secretary General's view that those held in Guantanamo Bay should either be charged or released, and that the US should close this facility. While we continue to press for the closure of the Guantanamo facility and for respect for the principles of international law, the legality of the 2001 military order under US law is a matter for the US courts to determine.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

46 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recent presidential election in Belarus with particular reference to the violence and intimidation towards the political opposition which preceded it, the jailing of the opposition leader, and the treatment of protestors by the police forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13112/06]

Róisín Shortall

Question:

95 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the discussions which have been held at European Union level with regard to the recent elections in Belarus, widely thought to have been rigged; and the sanctions the EU may impose upon the Administration of that country in this light and in the view of ongoing practices such as this since the assuming of power by the current president over ten years ago. [13113/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

144 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts with regard to the sanctions which will be imposed against the regime in Belarus due to the jailing of democratic protestors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13038/06]

John Gormley

Question:

281 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the representations the Government has made to the Government in Belarus regarding human rights violations in that country, including the jailing of political opponents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13168/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 46, 95, 144 and 281 together.

In its declaration of 24 March the European Council stated: "On a continent of open and democratic societies, Belarus is a sad exception". Ireland and the European Union deplore the long-standing failure of the Belorussian authorities to meet their OSCE commitments to democratic elections. In light of the findings of the OSCE-ODIHR international election observation mission, we view the presidential elections of 19 March as fundamentally flawed.

The EU has repeatedly made clear that if the Belarus authorities were to reverse their policies and embark on fundamental democratic and economic reforms, their country could have the benefit of closer economic integration and political co-operation with the EU under the European neighbourhood policy. I sincerely regret that the presidential elections have not advanced this prospect and that the opportunity they offered to the people of Belarus has once again been missed.

Ireland and our EU and international partners are watching developments closely. The arrest and sentencing of Belorussian citizens and others who peacefully exercised their right of assembly and freedom of expression to protest the flawed election results shows the disregard of the Belorussian leadership for civil and political rights. I repeat the demand of the European Council for the immediate release of all those detained. I call on the Belarus authorities to refrain from further harassment or intimidation of those who, in the context of the presidential election, used peaceful means to try to develop civil society and advance democracy in Belarus. The European Council welcomed the message of hope brought by the democratic opposition and civil society and it reiterated the commitment of the European Union to engage with Belorussian society by further strengthening its support for civil society and for democratisation. I fully endorse this approach and will ensure that Ireland plays its part in working with partners to promote the process of democratic change. The people of Belarus must not be isolated from Europe by the policy of their leaders. It will be important therefore to intensify people-to-people contacts and to try to enhance access to independent sources of information.

The Irish Government's long-standing concern about the human rights situation in Belarus is well known to the Belarus authorities. It is communicated mainly through EU channels but also bilaterally by the Irish embassy in Moscow, which is accredited to Belarus, and in diplomatic contacts with the Embassy of Belarus in London. Ireland supported strongly the series of declarations on Belarus made by the EU before and since the presidential elections.

The European Council on 24 March decided to take restrictive measures against those responsible for the violations of international electoral standards, including President Lukashenko. Intensive work is under way and the Presidency hopes that a first measure, in the form of an expanded visa ban list, can be adopted at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 10 April. Ireland is working to ensure that the EU response is targeted and proportionate. It must be directed against the responsible authorities, not against the ordinary people of Belarus. It must also be adaptable in light of future actions by the Belarus authorities, positive as well as negative.

Willie Penrose

Question:

47 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the discussions or exchanges of views which he has had in recent times with representatives of the People’s Republic of China in relation to human rights in general, in the context of their signing of a number of international instruments in relation to human rights, and in particular the repeated reports of oppression against practitioners of Falun Gong. [13125/06]

Willie Penrose

Question:

100 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to recent reports of further atrocities directed against Falun Gong practitioners in China; if, in particular, he has had examined the information suggested in a website (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13124/06]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

115 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the information he has received regarding a reported concentration camp in Shenyang City, Liaoning province in China where, reportedly, 6,000 Falun Gong practitioners are detained (details supplied); the help the Government will offer in this respect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13132/06]

Seamus Healy

Question:

280 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to reports emanating from China regarding the suppression of Falun Dafa, including the existence of the Sujiatun concentration camp, the execution of prisoners and the harvesting of their organs; if he has raised this issue at Government, European Union and at United Nations level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13077/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 47, 100, 115 and 280 together.

I am aware of reports that are circulating on the issues raised. As I stated in response to a written question on this issue on 29 March, I am unable at present to confirm the reliability of these reports. I have asked my Department, in particular through the embassy in Beijing, to look into the situation as a matter of urgency and to report back to me. We are also making inquiries within the EU framework. Without prejudice to the outcome of the above inquiries, Ireland and the EU remain concerned about the situation of Falun Gong practitioners in China and have raised our concerns with the Chinese Government on many occasions.

Human rights issues are a constant and important point of dialogue with the Chinese authorities at both bilateral and European Union level. In our bilateral exchanges, human rights concerns were raised most recently with the Chinese Government during the visit of the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, to China for St. Patrick's Day last month. At EU level, the EU-China human rights dialogue is the agreed formal framework through which the EU raises its concerns with China about individual human rights cases and more general issues such as freedom of expression and the abolition of the death penalty.

At the latest round of the human rights dialogue, held in Beijing on 24 October 2005, the EU raised, inter alia, the right to freedom of religion and the need for reform of the administrative detention system, including the associated re-education through labour, RTL, camps. The EU expressed particular concern in this regard for Falun Gong members and stated that reform of the RTL system is an issue of fundamental importance for the EU in the human rights dialogue. A number of Falun Gong practitioners were also included in the EU’s list of individual cases of concern which was submitted to the Chinese authorities during the dialogue. The next round of the dialogue will take place in Vienna in May.

Questions Nos. 48 and 49 answered with Question No. 43.

European Council Meetings.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

50 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the March 2006 European summit; the decisions which were taken at this summit; the contributions made by the Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13115/06]

I participated at the European Council in Brussels on 23 and 24 March 2006, at which the Irish delegation was led by the Taoiseach. The conclusions of the Council have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and Dáil Éireann had an opportunity to discuss the meeting's outcome on 29 March.

The Council's discussions covered matters across the Union's broad economic and social agenda. In particular, the Council endorsed the idea of a new energy policy for Europe, an initiative Ireland wholeheartedly supported. I should emphasise also that the conclusions make it explicitly clear that decisions on the primary sources of energy, and the choice of energy mix, will remain the responsibility of member states.

On state aids, we secured the inclusion of a text which reflects our long-standing view that the EU's rules in this area need to take external factors into account so as to enable Europe to compete successfully for future inward investment. The Taoiseach also won support for his proposal that the EU should look at ways of reducing mobile phone roaming charges for travellers within the Union.

At Foreign Minister level, the particular focus of our discussions was on the future of Europe and on enlargement. In this regard, I took the opportunity to underline our continuing and firm commitment to the EU constitution.

With regard to future enlargement, I said that we would continue to adopt a constructive and pragmatic approach, while giving due weight to the Union's absorption capacity and the need for future candidates to be able to meet fully the obligations of membership. While the Presidency did not seek to arrive at any conclusions on these topics, our discussion was a useful contribution to the current "period of reflection", which is to be reviewed by the Heads of State and Government when they next meet in June.

I raised the recent ETA ceasefire, and complimented the Spanish Government on its facilitation of this breakthrough. I indicated our willingness to assist the Spanish Government based on our own peace process experience and, in this context, the Taoiseach invited Prime Minister Zapatero to visit Ireland at an early opportunity.

I also referred to the question of Guantanamo Bay, and was one of a number of Ministers who exhorted the Presidency to issue a statement expressing the EU's concerns about the continued operation of the facility and urging its closure.

Decentralisation Programme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

51 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has had recent discussions with non-governmental organisations with regard to their concerns surrounding the decentralisation of Irish Aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13029/06]

David Stanton

Question:

132 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the negotiations which his Department has undertaken with relevant non-governmental organisations with regard to the proposals to decentralise Irish Aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13004/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 51 and 132 together.

I am aware of the concerns of the non-governmental organisations, NGOs, in relation to decentralisation. These concerns were most recently set out in a letter received from Dochas, the umbrella organisation which represents Irish NGOs involved in development overseas, to which my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, replied on 31 January. In his letter, the Minister, Deputy Ahern, stated that decentralisation is a Government decision to which we are committed. My departmental officials are currently involved in detailed planning and implementation of the decentralisation project. We look forward to continued engagement and co-operation with NGOs throughout the process of decentralisation.

Question No. 52 answered with QuestionNo. 44.

Middle East Peace Process.

Dan Boyle

Question:

53 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the so-called quarter powers — the European Union, the US, Russia and the United Nations — have said that a new Hamas-led Government must commit to non-violence, recognise Israel and accept current peace agreements or it could lose the financial support it receives from the international community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13093/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

67 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on efforts by the US Administration to isolate the democratically elected Government of the Palestinian people, in view of the Palestinian parliamentary vote of confidence in the Cabinet on 28 March 2006; and if he will give a commitment that Irish and EU aid to Palestine will remain unaffected by the result of the recent elections. [13081/06]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

70 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on statements by Israeli officials that they have no peace partner in Palestine, in view of the Palestinian parliamentary vote of confidence in its Cabinet on 28 March 2006; and his further views on whether unilateral moves by Israel are justifiable. [13082/06]

Pat Breen

Question:

136 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on his recent meeting with the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council with regard to the Middle East; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13023/06]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

273 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the discussions he and his Department intend holding at either a national or European level with the incoming Israeli Government with a view to contributing towards ongoing progress for the roadmap for peace. [13170/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 53, 67, 70, 136 and 273 together.

The international community has adopted a clear and united approach in relation to the outcome of the democratic Palestinian elections on 25 January and the approval of a new Government by the Palestinian Legislative Council on 28 March. The meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, which I attended on 30 January, emphasised that violence and terror are incompatible with the democratic process. It urged Hamas and all other factions to renounce violence, to recognise Israel's right to exist, and to disarm. The Council also encouraged the formation of a Government committed to a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the conflict, based on existing agreements and on the terms of the roadmap. On the same day, the international Quartet, representing the European Union, the United Nations, the United States and Russia, set out the conditions for engagement with the new Palestinian Government. The Quartet stated that all members of a future Palestinian Government must be committed to non-violence, to recognition of Israel and to acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including those of the road map.

Last week, on 30 March, the Quartet welcomed the efforts of President Mahmoud Abbas to ensure that the new Palestinian Government commits to a platform of peace, but noted with grave concern that it has not committed itself to the principles set out by the international community. The Quartet encouraged continued humanitarian assistance to meet the basic needs of the Palestinian people but reiterated that future assistance to the Palestinian Authority will be reviewed by donors against the Government's commitment to these principles.

The General Affairs and External Relations Council will review developments at its meeting in Luxembourg next Monday. The EU is the largest donor to the Palestinian Authority and to the Palestinian people. The Council, on 27 February, agreed to the early disbursement of over €120 million in assistance. Obviously, future decisions will depend on the approach adopted by the Hamas Government. I continue to hope that it will listen to, and act on, the message it has received from President Abbas, its neighbours in the region and the wider international community. I can assure the Deputies that if there is any evidence of a willingness to make progress on the steps set out by the EU and the Quartet, based unequivocally on the continued absence of violence, I will strongly urge a response from the EU.

The Council will also consider developments since the Israeli general elections. I have offered my congratulations to Acting Prime Minister Olmert on the success of his party, Kadima. It appears that he and the other Israeli political leaders will need some time to negotiate the formation of a new coalition Government.

I believe that nothing which has happened in the region in recent months alters the basic reality that the only way in which a lasting and peaceful settlement of the conflict can be found is through the negotiation of a mutually acceptable and viable two-State solution. This must involve the co-existence in peace and security of the state of Israel and a truly viable Palestinian state. The principles and steps contained in the Quartet roadmap continue to provide the framework for such a solution.

I therefore welcome the statement by Acting Prime Minister Olmert last week that there is no good alternative to a peace agreement and that his Government will work for a negotiated agreement with their Palestinian neighbours. The Government, and our partners in the EU, look forward to developing a good working relationship with the new Israeli Government. We will continue to work for early progress based on the implementation of commitments under the roadmap, and under international law. I will also continue to raise directly with the Israeli Government our concerns, which are shared by our EU partners, on Israeli policies and activities in the occupied territories, which are contrary to international law and which threaten to undermine a solution based on the co-existence of two viable states.

Humanitarian Aid.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

54 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his Department is funding a humanitarian programme in Iraq; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13033/06]

The Government is committed to the provision of humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people. Since 2003, Ireland has delivered over €6.5 million to meet the immediate emergency humanitarian needs of some of the most vulnerable groups in that country. Funding has been delivered through key non-governmental partners such as Concern, GOAL and Trócaire and through UN and international agencies such as the world food programme, the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNOCHA, and the Red Cross family.

Irish Aid also supports the work of the NGO Co-ordination Committee in Iraq, NCCI, which provides a forum for collective NGO activity to enhance the effectiveness of humanitarian action in Iraq at a national level. Funding was also provided to the AMAR, Assisting Marsh Arabs and Refugees, International Charitable Foundation for health care programmes to assist the Marsh Arab population of southern Iraq, which suffered considerably under the former regime.

While the security situation in Iraq has greatly increased the difficulty for those working in the humanitarian field, the Government remains committed to funding humanitarian programmes which can be delivered in this challenging environment.

EU Directives.

John Deasy

Question:

55 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of European directives awaiting implementation by the Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13013/06]

A total of 113 EU directives are at present awaiting transposition into Irish law, 33 of which are overdue for transposition. However, every effort is being made by the relevant Departments to expedite the implementation of these directives.

The Government is strongly committed to meeting the deadlines for transposition. The Interdepartmental Committee on European Union Affairs, chaired by my colleague, Deputy Noel Treacy, Minister of State for European affairs, provides a high level forum overseeing the transposition of EU legislation.

In addition, last December, the Department of the Taoiseach published guidelines on best practice on transposition of EU directives, and the Cabinet Committee on European Affairs keeps the issue of transposition under regular review.

Ukraine Elections.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

56 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the recent elections in Ukraine; the prospects for the future governance of this country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13116/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

288 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which the international community can encourage the democratic process in the Ukraine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13454/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 56 and 288 together.

As I made clear in a statement issued on 27 March, I am greatly encouraged by the findings of the OSCE's international election observer mission on the parliamentary elections in Ukraine. The mission found that the elections of 26 March further consolidated the democratic breakthrough that began less than a year and a half ago in Ukraine and that, overall, fundamental civil and political rights were respected. An inclusive candidate registration process and a vibrant media environment provided for genuine competition in conditions of equality, enabling voters to express their will freely and fairly. The OSCE-ODIHR mission was one of the largest in the region in recent times, with more than 900 observers. Ireland contributed nine observers, including one Member of this house, Deputy Perry.

I congratulate the President, the Government and the people of Ukraine on the freest and fairest elections since their country's independence. As the EU has noted, their achievement set a new and very welcome standard for elections in the region as a whole.

It would be premature to comment on prospects for the future governance of Ukraine. Following the country's democratic elections, Ireland and the EU will co-operate with whatever government is formed in Kiev. We all hope that a majority-backed government will be formed soon and we expect it to confirm and maintain the democratic achievements of the past 15 months.

The House will be aware that the Our Ukraine party of President Yushchenko lost ground in the elections while the Party of Regions of his former rival for the Presidency, Viktor Yanukovich, became the largest grouping. However, other pro-reform parties either held or substantially increased their vote, making the combined strength of the constituent elements of the former Orange coalition greater than that of the non-Orange parties. The make up of a new government is now a matter for negotiation between the various party leaders and no possible combination can be ruled out at this stage.

Ireland and the European Union look forward to working towards a deeper partnership with Ukraine, one that is built on shared values as expressed in the quality of Ukraine's democracy. As long as Ukraine adheres to the path of political and economic reform, it can count on our support and assistance. Continuing implementation of the action plan under the European neighbourhood policy agreed with Ukraine in February 2005 is vital.

Human Rights Issues.

Gerard Murphy

Question:

57 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government supports the renewal of the European Union’s common position on Burma; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13027/06]

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

73 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the latest contacts that have been made with the military regime in Burma with regard to the detention of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13032/06]

Gerard Murphy

Question:

143 Mr. G. Murphy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position with regard to the diplomatic relationship between Ireland and Burma; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13005/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57, 73 and 143 together.

Ireland takes a consistently strong position on Burma in relevant contacts, in the European Union framework and at the United Nations. Together with our EU partners, we avail of all opportunities to condemn the abuse of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Burma and deplore the lack of progress towards democracy.

The EU applies a range of sanctions and restrictive measures against Burma, referred to as the EU common position, which are due to expire on 30 April and which are currently up for renewal. In view of the absence of any progress in Burma, Ireland is strongly supporting the renewal of the measures for a further year. I am confident that this will happen.

The most recent EU meeting with Burma was an EU-Burma informal Troika meeting at official level, held in London on 30 November in the margins of the Asia-Europe senior officials meeting, at which my Department was represented. The EU side recalled our concern at the situation in Burma and the EU's desire to see real progress in the roadmap towards democracy. It called for the immediate release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

I was delighted that the Olof Palme Memorial Fund in Sweden, established in memory of the assassinated former Swedish Prime Minister, awarded Aung San Suu Kyi the Olof Palme Prize 2005 for her unyielding fight for a democratic Burma. The prize was received on her behalf at a ceremony in Stockholm on 28 February. The Nobel laureate has previously been honoured with the freedom of both Dublin and Galway cities. The EU issued a statement on 28 February acknowledging Aung San Suu Kyi's tireless peaceful struggle and deeply regretting that the deprival of her personal freedom prevented her from accepting the award in person. It urged her immediate release and that of all other political prisoners. It also reiterated the EU's commitment to supporting national reconciliation and respect for human rights and democracy in Burma. It called on the Burmese régime to enter into a genuine dialogue with the National League for Democracy and with ethnic representatives.

Ireland announced the establishment of diplomatic relations on a non-resident basis with Burma on 13 February 2004. However, given that the progress which had been anticipated in 2004, most notably the meeting of an open and unhindered national convention and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, did not materialise, the Government decided to put on hold the exchange of ambassadors. Any decision to proceed with an exchange of ambassadors with Burma will have to await positive and significant moves by the Burmese Government.

I assure the Deputies that I will continue to raise concerns about Burma on all possible occasions and to work for real progress there.

Humanitarian Aid.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

58 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the level of humanitarian funding being allocated to Kenya for 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13016/06]

Jack Wall

Question:

79 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts being made, both at an Irish and EU level, to help alleviate the drought and connected difficulties being experienced in Kenya; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13119/06]

Joan Burton

Question:

134 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the level of financial support which Ireland has pledged towards helping alleviate the consequences of drought in Kenya; if more funding is envisaged; the manner in which these moneys are being utilised; his views on the need to fully fund the central emergency response fund, a body which, reports have stated, is currently underfunded with regard to the task at hand; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13122/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 58, 79 and 134 and together.

Kenya and its neighbouring countries in the Horn of Africa are in the grip of a severe drought that is directly affecting up to 11 million people across the region. The drought has already killed thousands of livestock, depriving people of their livelihoods and leaving pastoral communities destitute. The impact of poor rainfall during the long rainy season of March to June last year has been compounded by the failure of the short rains in October-December. It is now estimated that 5 million people in Kenya alone now require food aid. Over 2.5 million Ethiopians and over 2 million Somalis are directly at risk. In addition, populations are suffering the effects of the drought in parts of Burundi, Djibouti and Eritrea.

Ireland has responded promptly to this emergency. In early February, over €5 million in emergency humanitarian funding was provided to agencies working in the Horn of Africa. A total of €3 million of this funding has been provided to the regional emergency response programmes of UN agencies and the International Federation of the Red Cross, while funding of over €1 million has been provided for Somalia and almost €1 million has been provided to the NGOs Concern and Trócaire for emergency programmes specifically in Kenya.

I have continued to monitor developments closely and have decided to make available further funding of €2 million. This will be allocated to key NGOs and international organisations working in response to the emergency, particularly in Somalia where there is the added challenge of providing humanitarian relief in an environment of intense insecurity.

At EU level, the European Commission announced last week that it is providing a further €5 million in emergency humanitarian aid to the affected region. This brings the Commission's total response to the drought in the region to €78 million, including €17 million in emergency response to the crisis.

In terms of strengthening the UN's capacity to respond to such crises, Ireland has also contributed €10 million to the central emergency response fund, CERF. Ireland played an active role, with a number of other countries, in advancing the proposal to set up the new CERF. This new mechanism provides UN agencies with a stand-by, grant-based fund to enable them to respond quickly to humanitarian emergencies.

This fund will ensure a more predictable and timely response to humanitarian crisis. For these reasons, it is vitally important that all Governments contribute to the best of their ability to the CERF and help close the gap between the assessment of humanitarian needs and the release of funds essential to meeting them.

International Criminal Court Trial.

Mary Upton

Question:

59 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his Department’s views of the Charles Taylor case; if there is knowledge of where this person is; and his views on the possible repercussions of this person not standing trial for the fragile peace which pertains in Liberia. [13109/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

118 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government’s position with regard to the former leader of Liberia, Mr. Charles Taylor; and the views he and his Department holds of where, in the event of Mr. Taylor being found, the trial of Mr. Taylor ought to be held, Sierra Leone and Liberia itself having been mentioned as possible locations. [13110/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 59 and 118 together.

On 29 March 2006, Mr. Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia, was arrested in Nigeria, having violated the terms of his exile there, and moved via Liberia to the custody of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Irish members of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, UNMIL, provided an air escort for Mr. Taylor from Liberia to Sierra Leone and delivered him to the Special Court. The Government is proud of the important role played by the Defence Forces in bringing Mr. Taylor to account.

Liberia has made remarkable progress since the comprehensive peace agreement of August 2003. The parliamentary and presidential elections held in October 2005 marked the return of democracy to the country after 14 years of civil war. The extradition of Mr. Taylor further consolidates the new democratic dispensation in Liberia. The Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, visited Liberia last week and I requested him to convey the congratulations of the Government to President Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson when he met with her on 30 March 2006. The fact that this extradition was undertaken in a spirit of regional co-operation between Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone augurs well for future peace in the region.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone was set up in 2002 following a request from the Government of Sierra Leone to the UN that the international community try those with greatest responsibility for the violent conflict that took place there between 1996 and 2002. Mr. Taylor is one of the most high profile indictees. He is indicted on 11 charges related to his support of rebel armed forces in Sierra Leone. These include war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious violations of international law including sexual slavery, mutilations and the use of child soldiers.

At the request of the Special Court, the Netherlands and the International Criminal Court, ICC, have agreed to host his trial on condition that the UN Security Council passes an authorising resolution. Measures are in hand to secure swift agreement on such a resolution in New York. The Netherlands also asked that a third country would accept Mr. Taylor once a verdict had been delivered and that the Special Court would make its own arrangements to use the facilities of the ICC. The trial will remain at all times under the jurisdiction of the Special Court.

I understand that the request to transfer Mr. Taylor's trial to The Hague was prompted by fears that his presence in Sierra Leone could provoke unrest in the region. On 30 March 2006, President Johnson-Sirleaf expressed support for the transfer and extended an invitation to all former associates of Mr. Taylor against whom there is no charge to return and live freely in Liberia. She also reiterated her determination to pursue an agenda dedicated to bringing prosperity and development to Liberia.

Ireland strongly supports the Special Court and has contributed over €1 million to it. An Irish judge, Ms Therese Doherty, sits on the court and is expected to preside over Mr. Taylor's trial.

EU Directives.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

60 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position with regard to the ratification of the EU convention on corruption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13019/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply of 22 February 2006 on this subject. The convention on the fight against corruption involving officials of the European Communities or officials of member states of the European Union entered into force on 28 September 2005, 90 days after the last of the 15 pre-enlargement member states deposited the required instrument of notification. In the case of Ireland, the terms of the convention had been approved by Dáil Éireann on 17 December 2002, and the instrument of ratification deposited on 11 March 2003.

Emigrant Support Services.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

61 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the organisations in the UK working with Irish emigrants that have been grant aided by his Department; the amount given to each organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13064/06]

The strong commitment of the Government to support our community abroad is reflected in the unprecedented level of funding secured for emigrant services. This year, €12 million is available for this purpose which represents an increase of 45% on 2005.

The needs of our Irish community in Britain are a particular priority for the Government. In 2005, groups in Britain received grants from my Department amounting to €7.06 million. I am delighted that the number of grant recipients increased from 58 in 2004 to 118 in 2005. The very significant increase in funding and the rise in the number of grant recipients reflect, in the clearest possible way, the strength of the Government's firm and sustained commitment to our community in Britain.

While the primary emphasis of funding continues to be on supporting frontline welfare services, I am pleased that additional funding has also made it possible to support a number of capital projects as well as projects which support our community in Britain in their wish to express their Irish identity.

The following table gives details of the grants that I approved last year to organisations based in Britain. Applications for grants are currently under consideration and I look forward to making an announcement in due course.

2005 Grants

Acton Homeless Concern

55,128

Age Concern Ealing

50,776

Aisling Return to Ireland

87,045

Angel Drug Service London

40,621

Arlington House London

7,330

Batley IDL Club West Yorkshire

14,507

Birmingham Irish Club

53,833

Birmingham Irish Community Forum Ltd.

87,045

Blackfriars Advice Centre London

54,403

Bolton Irish Community Association

53,678

Brent Adolescent Centre

14,660

Brent Irish Advisory Service

130,643

Brian Boru I.D.L. Wigan

29,015

Broadway (street to home) London

36,269

Cairde na nGael London

50,776

Camden Elderly Irish Network

63,989

Cara London

28,044

Celtic & Irish Cultural Society C.I.C.S Crawley West Sussex

7,254

Comhaltas CeoltóiríÉireann London

79,791

Conradh na Gaeilge Glasgow

29,015

Coventry Irish Society

117,672

Cricklewood Homeless Concern

305,492

Croy Historical Society Glasgow

1,451

Cumann na mBunscoil London

43,522

Dundee Dalriada GAA

7,330

Equinox Care London

14,507

Federation of Irish Societies

870,448

Feis Ghlaschú Glasgow

2,932

Fiann Nottingham

39,170

Finsbury Park Street Drinkers Initiative

36,269

Fireside Day Centre Birmingham

47,225

GEAR Projects Gloucester

29,015

Greenwich Irish Pensioners

2,932

Halifax Irish Amateur F.C.

1,451

Halifax Irish Amateur Rugby League Club

1,451

Halifax Irish Centre

10,155

Halifax Irish Junior FC

1,451

Halifax Irish Society

7,254

Hammersmith Irish Centre

36,269

Haringey Irish Cultural & Community Centre

217,612

Harringey Irish Pensioners

4,398

Harrow Emerald Circle

2,932

Hillingdon Borough Irish Society

59,481

Huddersfield Irish Centre

14,507

Icap London

142,355

IDL-Haslingden Davitt Branch

93,058

Irish Association High Wycombe

14,507

Irish Centre Housing London

21,761

Irish Chaplaincy Traveller Outreach

58,258

Irish Charitable Trust, Hammersmith

90,022

Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas

151,040

Irish Community Care Manchester

184,245

Irish Community Care Merseyside

188,597

Irish Diaspora Foundation Manchester

47,875

Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants

4,000

Irish Heritage in Haslingden

5,658

Irish In Greenwich

137,972

Irish Music Project Leeds

29,015

Irish National Institute Lancashire

14,507

Irish Travellers Movement in Britain

60,048

Irish Welfare and Information Centre, Birmingham

174,595

Irish World Heritage Centre Manchester

14,507

Kilburn Irish Pensioners Club

4,352

Kingdom Kerry Gaels London

7,330

Lancashire Federation of IDL

21,822

Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange (GATE)

52,328

Leeds Irish Health & Homes

180,805

Leicester Irish Forum

35,906

Lewisham Irish Community Centre

53,678

Lichen Films — Tattie Hokers’ film (Support for Production Costs)

10,262

London Gypsy and Traveller Unit

111,435

London Irish Centre

399,930

London Irish Elders Forum

7,653

London Irish Elder’s Forum

10,172

London Irish Pensioners Choir

1,466

London Irish Women’s Centre

101,552

Luton Irish Forum

295,970

Manchester Irish Festival

21,761

Marian Senior Citizens Club London

7,254

New Horizon Youth Centre London

47,951

Noah Enterprise Luton

84,786

Northampton Irish Support Group

82,693

Oldham Irish Society

7,254

Pendle and District Irish Society Lancashire

1,451

Queens Park Senior Citizens Group

4,398

Rehab Irish Elders Centre Coventry

101,552

Round Towers and Treacy Minor GAA Surrey

9,865

Safe Start Foundation London

72,537

Sandwell Irish Society

20,501

Shalloe Pearses GFC London

7,330

Sheffield Gypsy & Traveller Support Group

21,625

Sheffield Support & Development Group

90,763

South London Irish Association

29,091

South London Irish Welfare Society

89,946

Southwark Irish Pensioners

83,135

Southwark Irish Youth

4,352

Southwark Travellers Action Group (STAG)

87,045

St. Patrick’s Festival, Scotland

7,275

St. Anne’s Senior Citizen Club Birmingham

2,932

St. James The Great Branch Comhaltas Glasgow

5,803

St. Mary’s Social Club & Parochial Hall West Yorkshire

14,507

St. Michael’s Irish Centre, Liverpool

42,264

St. Mungo’s London

45,535

St. Patrick’s Festival Committee North Lanarkshire

7,254

St. Patricks Traditional Music Group

2,901

St. Theresa’s House, Peterborough

43,979

Tara Irish Pensioners London

3,661

The Connection at St. Martin’s London

21,761

The Irish Club Warrington

10,764

The London Irish Network

5,513

The Maya Centre

26,552

The Passage

55,833

The Simon Community

52,208

Tír Conaill Harps Glasgow

29,015

Tuesday Club Leeds

4,352

Tyneside Irish Centre

58,030

Tyneside Irish Cultural Society

14,507

Warwickshire GAA

29,015

Official Engagements.

Martin Ferris

Question:

62 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the protocol governing the participation of representatives of this State in ceremonies celebrating soldiers from other countries. [11815/06]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

76 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether the Government should participate in ceremonies marking the home-coming of foreign troops returning from the brutal conflict in Iraq. [11814/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

82 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether the Government should offer support to or legitimise the actions of foreign soldiers returning from the brutal conflict in Iraq who are part of an army that is subject to an investigation for the slaughter of civilians. [11817/06]

Seán Crowe

Question:

125 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether the Government should offer support to or legitimise the actions of soldiers returning from occupying Iraq. [11816/06]

John Gormley

Question:

282 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Minister for Transport, Deputy Martin Cullen, was representing his Department at a wreath-laying ceremony in New York in March 2006, involving both US and Irish troops, in commemoration of the US 69th infantry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13185/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 62, 76, 82, 125, and 282 together.

The Minister for Transport represented the Government at an extensive programme of events in New York over the St. Patrick's Day period. The 69th infantry battalion, the Fighting 69th, is the US army unit with the closest ties to Irish America and has led the St. Patrick's Day Parade on Fifth Avenue for more than 150 years. The 69th has recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. This year's parade was dedicated to the regiment, and the regiment was also guest of honour at the St. Patrick's Day Mass celebrated by Cardinal Egan in St. Patrick's Cathedral.

As part of his programme, the Minister was invited to attend and speak at a public wreath-laying ceremony at the Father Duffy statue in Times Square. The ceremony was organised to commemorate the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who have served with the 69th. The battalion was formed by Irish immigrants in New York in 1851 and its battle flag was presented to the Irish nation by President Kennedy when he addressed the Houses of the Oireachtas in 1963. The flag is on permanent display in this building.

Given the historical links as well as the focus on the 69th at the St. Patrick's Day events in New York this year, the Minister's attendance at the wreath-laying was entirely appropriate. The Fighting 69th is held in affection and respect by Irish America and the Minister's attendance at the public ceremony was deeply appreciated by the community.

As regards the broader issue of the participation of Government representatives in ceremonies of this kind, this is decided on a case by case basis depending on specific circumstances.

With respect to the multinational forces currently serving in Iraq, I would point out that they are operating at the request of the Iraqi Government and under UN mandate. The presence of the multinational force in Iraq was authorised by the UN Security Council in Resolution 1511 of October 2003. This authorisation was reaffirmed in Resolution 1546 of June 2004, and was extended to the end of 2006 by Resolution 1637, which was adopted unanimously by the Security Council in November 2005.

Human Rights Issues.

Phil Hogan

Question:

63 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps that have been taken to implement Amnesty International’s recommendations concerning the UN World Summit 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13021/06]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

86 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on the establishment of a new Human Rights Council at the UN; Ireland’s attitude towards this council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13097/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 63 and 86 together.

While the resolution establishing the Human Rights Council did not contain all that Ireland or Amnesty International had hoped for, it represents a clear improvement on the Commission on Human Rights and was the best compromise possible. The resolution was supported by 170 states, including Ireland and our EU partners, with only four states opposed and three abstaining. It was also endorsed by the Secretary General of the United Nations and the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In addition, Amnesty International and other prominent international human rights NGOs favoured the resolution.

I was particularly aware of the desire for reform in the area of human rights while serving as envoy for the UN Secretary General on reform last year. Ireland played a very active role in the long process of negotiation which led to the establishment of the Human Rights Council on 15 March 2006 and was to the fore in working to guarantee a common EU position in favour of the resolution.

In addition to preserving some of the best features of the Commission on Human Rights, such as its system of special procedures and dialogue with NGOs, the Human Rights Council will have a number of notable new features: it will be a standing body that will meet more frequently during the year; it will periodically examine the observance of human rights by all UN member states; it has been elevated to being a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly; and the criteria for membership will make it more difficult for states guilty of serious human rights violations to serve on the Council. This accords with the principal recommendations made by Amnesty International.

The new council will be elected on 9 May 2006 and will begin its work on 19 June 2006. Ireland will now work to ensure that the important decisions to be taken during the initial stages of the council's operation will develop its capacity to play the fullest and most effective possible role.

Apart from the Human Rights Council, the other major issue to which Amnesty International attaches great importance is the increase in funding for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. As one of the largest voluntary contributors to that office, Ireland was very pleased to see that a commitment to double the contribution to the Office of the High Commissioner from the regular UN budget was included in the summit outcome document.

These revised funding arrangements, together with the new Human Rights Council, represent a valuable opportunity for progress on the human rights agenda.

European Council Meetings.

Damien English

Question:

64 Mr. English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of EU Foreign Ministers meetings that are scheduled in the next six months; the number of these meetings which he will be attending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13043/06]

As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I attend the monthly meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council. Meetings are scheduled for April, May, June, July and September. No meeting is scheduled for August.

The Presidency has indicated its intention to convene a special meeting of Foreign Ministers in late May to discuss the future of Europe. There is also an informal meeting of Foreign Ministers planned for 1-2 September in Lappeenranta, Finland. I would plan to attend all of these meetings.

Overseas Development Aid.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

65 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the five countries which will receive the largest amount of overseas development aid for 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13026/06]

In 2006, it is expected that the largest amounts of Irish development aid will be provided to Mozambique, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia. Ireland's assistance will be delivered via our embassies in these countries and through non-governmental organisations, NGOs, missionaries and UN agencies active on the ground. Funding will also be delivered through global programmes supported by Ireland, such as the global fund for AIDS, TB and malaria. It is estimated that in 2006 assistance amounting to over €150 million will be provided to these five countries. These five countries are among the poorest in the world, ranked from number 146 to number 171, out of 177, on the United Nations human development index, HDI.

Ireland's support is focused on poverty reduction through the provision of basic services, the building of local capacity and the promotion of good governance, including human rights. We work closely with other donors, host governments and civil society to ensure a coherent and co-ordinated approach to development activities. This approach stands the best chance of reversing years of economic and social decline.

At a very practical level our aid programme assists, inter alia, the building of schools, health centres, sanitation facilities and rural roads, the sinking of village wells and the training of teachers, health workers and public servants. We also focus on preventing and mitigating the spread of HIV-AIDS and we facilitate the promotion of a culture of good governance and human rights, through supporting human rights and anti-corruption commissions, as well as national parliaments.

Decentralisation Programme.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

66 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of principal development specialists volunteering to decentralise with Irish Aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13002/06]

Phil Hogan

Question:

84 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of senior development specialists volunteering to decentralise with Irish Aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13001/06]

Pat Breen

Question:

116 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of development specialists volunteering to decentralise with Irish Aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13003/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 66, 84 and 116 together.

There are three categories of specialists employed by Irish Aid — principal development specialists, senior development specialists and development specialists. All specialist positions will be transferring to Limerick. There are also three principal development specialists in Irish Aid headquarters in Dublin. None of the three has applied to decentralise to Limerick.

There are 12 senior development specialists in Irish Aid headquarters. Likewise, from this group, none of the 12 has applied to decentralise to Limerick. Two senior development specialists originally applied to decentralise to Limerick but subsequently withdrew their applications. In addition, there are nine development specialist posts in headquarters. Five development specialists are intending to decentralise. Of these, four commenced employment since the announcement of the decentralisation programme in December 2003, and one applied via the central applications facility.

Discussions are ongoing with representatives of the specialists, their union IMPACT and the Department of Finance about the issues involved in decentralisation which also have a wider Civil Service dimension. It would be my hope that a greater number of specialists will, in time, volunteer to decentralise to Limerick.

Question No. 67 answered with QuestionNo. 53.

Human Rights Issues.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

68 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position of the Government with regard to the election of members to the UN Human Rights Council; if the Government has indicated support for any country being elected to this council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13008/06]

Paul McGrath

Question:

88 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has satisfied himself that the system for the election of members to the new UN Human Rights Council will ensure that countries which have shown manifest disregard for human rights will be able to be removed from this body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13007/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68 and 88 together.

While the resolution establishing the Human Rights Council did not include all that Ireland and the EU had hoped for, I believe this body will represent an improvement on the Commission on Human Rights. The resolution was supported by 170 states, with only four states opposed and three abstaining. It was also endorsed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and prominent international human rights NGOs.

With regard to the election of members of the council, the resolution establishing the body included a number of innovations. Whereas election to the former Commission on Human Rights was based on a simple majority of states present and voting in the General Assembly, states wishing to become members of the Human Rights Council will have to receive the support of an absolute majority of the General Assembly. In addition, states will be elected by secret ballot.

Prospective members of the council also commit themselves to upholding the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, and will be the first to be scrutinised under the new universal periodic review mechanism which will examine the extent to which international human rights standards are respected on the domestic level.

A mechanism has also been established to allow for the expulsion of a member of the council if it is deemed by a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly to be responsible for gross and systematic violations of human rights.

In relation to Ireland's voting intentions, we have been approached by many countries seeking election to the Council. As the date for election is 9 May 2006, and states are still able to present their candidatures, a definitive decision has not been made as to which states Ireland will support. All candidates will be given due consideration but, clearly, Ireland will only support those countries that are firmly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights. In addition, Ireland and our European Union partners have undertaken not to vote for any state that is subject to Security Council sanctions for human rights related reasons.

I am confident these factors will make the situation more conducive to producing a council whose members are genuinely committed to the promotion and protection of human rights.

Foreign Conflicts.

Seán Ryan

Question:

69 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if expertise accrued in his Department in dealing with paramilitary organisations on this island will be offered to help the Spanish Government in potential upcoming negotiations with ETA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13105/06]

Martin Ferris

Question:

98 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the historic opportunity to promote conflict resolution in the Basque country afforded by ETA’s ceasefire, he will take steps at the EU level to bring about the removal of the Basque nationalist political party Batasuna from the EU’s list of terrorist organisations. [13083/06]

Seán Ryan

Question:

131 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position with regard to the recent ceasefire called by ETA; the discussions he and his Department have held or plan to hold with Spanish officials over the coming months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13104/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 69, 98 and 131 together.

I welcome the announcement by ETA of a permanent ceasefire from 24 March 2006. This is a very positive development. Any move to a permanent ceasefire and the acceptance of purely democratic means is to be welcomed. The next steps in the process are for the Spanish Government and elected representatives to consider.

ETA has been included on the EU list of terrorist organisations since December 2001. By a unanimous decision of EU member states, Batasuna was added to this list on 4 June 2003. In taking this decision, the Council was satisfied that Batasuna was a terrorist organisation and that it was an alias of ETA. The question of whether ETA and-or Batasuna will be removed from the EU's list of terrorist organisations is, in the first instance, for the Spanish Government to propose.

While there are similarities between all conflict situations, each has its own specific characteristics and requirements. The peace process on the island of Ireland has followed our own roadmap and addressed issues particular to our own situation. It has been a long and challenging process and we are ready to share our experience if this would be helpful and if we are invited to do so by the Spanish Government. Indeed, the Taoiseach has already extended an invitation to Prime Minister Zapatero to visit Dublin.

We in Ireland have a particular understanding of the value of peace, and I wish the Spanish people and Government every success in the process which is now beginning.

Question No. 70 answered with QuestionNo. 53.

Emigrant Support Services.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

71 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, during his visit to the US for St. Patrick’s Day, he had an opportunity of discussing the plight of the undocumented Irish with politicians there; the people he had discussions with; his views on the prospects of the McCain-Kennedy Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13063/06]

Richard Bruton

Question:

91 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the ongoing contact between his Department and the US Administration with regard to the McCain-Kennedy legislative proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13009/06]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

104 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the contacts he had with Irish emigrant groups in the United States over the St. Patrick’s Day period; if he has raised with US political leaders proposed new anti-immigration legislation that would have potentially disastrous consequences for tens of thousands of undocumented Irish living in America; the response he received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10196/06]

Joe Sherlock

Question:

105 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in the United States with regard to the various legislative proposals being considered in relation to the regularisation of illegal immigrants in that country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13121/06]

Shane McEntee

Question:

108 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the latest developments in Ireland’s efforts to assist the undocumented Irish in the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13028/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

291 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he can foresee a breakthrough in discussions with the US authorities in the matter of an amnesty for the undocumented Irish in the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13460/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

292 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent of his discussions with the US authorities in the matter of the regularisation of the undocumented Irish in the US; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13461/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 71, 91, 104, 105, 108, 291 and 292 together.

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

As Deputies will be aware, the debate in the US on immigration reform has entered a critical phase. The St. Patrick's Day period provided the Government with a particularly timely opportunity to make known our views on this matter and, in particular, our strong support for the approach favoured by Senators Kennedy and McCain. It was an opportunity that we availed of to the full in our meetings with President Bush, his Administration and key figures on Capitol Hill.

President Bush was appreciative of our position and he helpfully reiterated to us his support for a broad approach that involves reform as well as enforcement. This is an approach which he subsequently again underlined in speeches later in the month.

The Taoiseach and I also had a series of valuable meetings with Members of Congress including Senators Kennedy and McCain, as well as Senators Biden, Clinton, Dodd and Leahy and Congressman Jim Walsh and members of the Friends of Ireland Group. In each of these meetings we gave particular prominence to our views on the issue of the undocumented Irish and the need to address the situation.

In addition, the Taoiseach and I had important discussions with Niall O'Dowd and Grant Lally of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, ILIR. I commend the work of the ILIR 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 agreed to remain in close contact as the legislative process in Washington moves forward.

Since our St. Patrick's Day visit, a significant and positive development has been the passage through the Senate Judiciary Committee of a comprehensive immigration reform bill which includes the core elements of the approach favoured by Senators Kennedy and McCain. This is a development which I have warmly welcomed. However, it remains clear that reaching consensus on this sensitive and divisive issue presents US legislators with a very formidable challenge. Consideration of this complex matter has now moved to the floor of the full Senate where it is currently being debated. I can assure the Deputies that the Government will continue to monitor the ongoing debate very closely and to actively convey to all sides our strong support for the regularisation of the status of the undocumented Irish in the US. In this regard, I also warmly welcome last week's visit to Washington of the Chairman and members of the Joint Foreign Affairs Committee.

Overseas Development Aid.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

72 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will, through the EU or the UN, influence a specifically targeted and co-ordinated policy in terms of financial aid, peace-keeping and alleviation of starvation in respect of the most seriously affected African countries; the way in which this might be dealt with in order of priority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13089/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

290 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the African countries which currently suffer the greatest from strife, war, famine and human rights abuse; the degree to which these issues are likely to be addressed in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13456/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

293 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the African countries currently most vulnerable from war, starvation, human rights abuse and AIDS; the extent to which the international community is in a position to make real progress on these issues in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13462/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

295 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will encourage the international community through the EU or the UN to specifically target the African countries most seriously affected by war, starvation, health and humanitarian issues with a view to providing the necessary peace-keeping, aid and other requirements with the objective of making a positive impact at an early date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13464/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 72, 290, 293 and 295 together.

A coherent and co-ordinated approach is vital in addressing the immense needs of the vast continent of Africa, needs which have deepened through a complex combination of factors including food insecurity, poverty, climate change, poor economic growth, conflict, severe infrastructural deficits, poor governance, debt and the effects of HIV-AIDS. That coherent response, namely, the millennium development goals, MDGs, has been developed and refined by the United Nations, the key player in the co-ordination of the global community's response to poverty and suffering in the world today.

The MDGs, fully supported by the leaders of the world and reaffirmed at the UN summit last September, represent the key development targets that must be reached if the challenge of poverty, hunger, disease and lack of development is to be met by 2015. There are eight goals in all, covering the eradication of poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child and maternal mortality, combating HIV-AIDS and other communicable diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development. This is a comprehensive, ambitious but achievable set of goals. Ireland is fully committed to doing its part to ensure that they are attained.

Irish Aid, the Government's official programme of overseas development assistance, has Africa at its core. Our approach to Africa has a number of different elements, each distinct but complementary. There is the humanitarian budget which responds to both complex and sudden-onset emergencies. Other elements are our recovery and long-term development programmes, which seek to assist countries emerging from natural and man-made emergencies and also address the fundamental causes of poverty in all its manifestations.

The core of our aid programme in Africa concerns the building of strong partnerships with six countries in sub-Saharan Africa, namely, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. In addition, we work in many other African countries, either directly or through our partnerships with non-governmental organisations, NGOs, such as Christian Aid, Concern, GOAL, Oxfam, Trócaire and others. In the context of the increasing budget, as we approach the target of 0.7% by 2012, we are considering a further deepening of the engagement with Africa.

As regards peace-keeping and conflict, Ireland is contributing to the security and stability of Liberia through its deployment of troops with UNMIL, the UN Mission in Liberia, since 2003. We are enhancing our engagement in Liberia on a range of key targets.

Ireland works with and seeks to enhance the effectiveness of the multilateral framework provided by the EU, the UN and regional organisations in Africa, particularly the African Union, AU. Ireland is a strong advocate for the developing world and for international peace and security through our membership of the EU and the UN.

The EU is the world's largest contributor of development co-operation. At the emergency humanitarian level, the EU strives to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and food insecure populations of Africa. In 2005, the European Commission's Humanitarian Office, ECHO, allocated over €240 million in humanitarian assistance to Africa.

We support capacity building both regionally and within African nations to respond to the humanitarian, conflict related and development challenges. Working through the African Union and its New Partnership for Africa's Development, NEPAD, programme, African Governments are showing a determination to address these issues collectively. The African Union represents an important strategic partner for the European Union and one with which ever closer relations are being forged in the interests of promoting peace, security, democracy and development on the African continent. Ireland has provided assistance to the African Union for its mission in Sudan, AMIS, as part of the EU's joint actions to foster peace and security in Darfur.

The European Council in December 2005 adopted a long-term strategy for strengthening relations with Africa. The strategy, which is based on the principles of African ownership, equality and partnership, aims at promoting development, security and good governance in Africa and achieving the millennium development goals, as well as enhanced EU-Africa dialogue.

We face huge challenges in working in Africa. However, a well-planned, co-ordinated and multifaceted global response combining the skills and resources of the international community of donors, EU, UN and AU partners is the only way to tackle those challenges and create a better future for all of the peoples of Africa.

Question No. 73 answered with QuestionNo. 57.

Nuclear Disarmament.

David Stanton

Question:

74 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps he has taken on the international stage to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13024/06]

The next scheduled review conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, NPT, will not take place until 2010. It will be preceded by a series of preparatory meetings beginning in 2007. Ireland will in the meantime continue to work with like-minded countries in identifying areas where implementation of the treaty can be strengthened.

At the last NPT review in May 2005, there were a number of specific proposals on actions that states parties might take to meet the challenges confronting the treaty. Regrettably, the conference ended without agreement on substantive conclusions and recommendations on how to strengthen the non-proliferation regime.

I have made clear, including in my address to the United Nations General Assembly in September, the Government's deep disappointment at this outcome. This was a missed opportunity for the international community to tackle some key threats to global peace and security and to agree an effective collective response. We are firmly of the view that the NPT is now more than ever of tremendous importance to the achievement of international peace and security. Action to strengthen the treaty, and ensure full respect for all its provisions, remains essential and we will spare no effort in pursuit of this objective.

Ireland is committed to the full implementation of the NPT and believes that the 13 practical steps outlined in the outcome document of the 2000 NPT review conference set out a clear road by which the objective of nuclear disarmament can be reached.

In Geneva earlier this month, the permanent representative of Ireland to the conference on disarmament reiterated the Irish position with regard to the NPT and emphasised the need for greater transparency on the part of the nuclear weapons states in their respective nuclear disarmament processes.

Middle East Peace Process.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

75 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to a recent EU report from the Jerusalem and Ramallah heads of mission regarding East Jerusalem; his views on the decision not to publish the report; if the EU plans to act on any part of the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13094/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to a question on this matter on 22 February 2006.

The Government, and its partners in the EU, remain very seriously concerned at Israeli activities in the occupied territories, including the building of settlements, house demolitions and continuing construction of the separation barrier on occupied land. These activities are contrary to international law, and to obligations under the Quartet roadmap. They threaten to undermine a solution based on the co-existence of two viable states, and likewise the possibility of a final status agreement on Jerusalem. It remains the clear position of the EU that it will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties.

The Middle East peace process is discussed at every meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council. The meetings which I attended on 7 and 21 November 2005 expressed particular concern about the implementation of Israeli policies in and around east Jerusalem, and repeated the EU position on changes to the pre-1967 borders. The EU's concerns were reaffirmed in the Declaration on the Middle East which was adopted by the European Council on 15 December 2005.

At its meeting on 21 November, the Council had agreed that a detailed EU analysis on east Jerusalem should be prepared for adoption and publication by the Council on 12 December 2005. The matter was discussed in detail at the meeting on 12 December, but consensus was not reached on the publication of an analysis, primarily because of the domestic political developments in Israel in the intervening period. There has been no change, however, in the EU position on these important issues. The Government will continue to raise its concerns directly in discussions with the new Israeli Government. We, and our partners in the EU, will continue to engage constructively with the Israeli Government and with the Palestinian Authority to encourage them to fulfil their obligations under the roadmap, and under international law.

Question No. 76 answered with QuestionNo. 62.

Foreign Conflicts.

Billy Timmins

Question:

77 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation in Kosovo; the diplomatic contacts Ireland has with the area; when a conclusion to the talks will be reached; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13103/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, Kosovo has been under UN administration since the end of the conflict in 1999, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244. On 24 October 2005 the Security Council welcomed the report by the Secretary General's envoy, Ambassador Kai Eide of Norway, on the implementation of standards as well as the overall situation in Kosovo.

As recommended by Ambassador Eide, a process of consideration of the future status of Kosovo, led by the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy, former Finnish President Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, has been under way since late last year. Ireland and our EU partners fully support the work of Mr. Ahtisaari and his team, and look forward to working with all those involved to ensure the development of a truly multi-ethnic society in Kosovo in the future. The EU has also nominated a representative to the Kosovo future status process, Mr. Stefan Lehne, who is working closely with Mr. Ahtisaari. Ireland, together with our EU partners, continues to have ongoing contacts with those involved in these important negotiations.

Talks between Serbia, including representatives of the Kosovo Serb community, and the Kosovo Albanians began in February in Vienna under the auspices of Mr. Ahtisaari. So far the atmosphere appears to have been reasonably constructive, although there remain considerable differences in the position of the delegations on the fundamental issues. The Kosovo Albanians are seeking independence while Serbia wants "less than independence and more than autonomy" for Kosovo. In addition to the direct negotiations, Mr. Ahtisaari has been holding an ongoing series of consultations with all parties involved in the conflict and the members of the contact group, which includes the US, the UK, France, Germany, Russia and the EU. It is expected that the status process will continue over the coming months with a view to achieving agreement, if possible, by the end of this year.

The Irish Embassy in Budapest is accredited to Serbia and Montenegro, including Kosovo. Ireland also currently contributes 211 Defence Force personnel to KFOR, the UN mandated peacekeeping force in Kosovo.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Liz McManus

Question:

78 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding the progress made to date in regard to encouraging all political parties in Northern Ireland to support the PSNI and to take their seats on the Policing Board; if he will insist on the need for all parties to support the PSNI to be a central part of upcoming agreement on political progress in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13128/06]

The Government continues to encourage all sections of the community and all political parties to give their support to the new policing arrangements in Northern Ireland. The Taoiseach and I have repeatedly reiterated that there should be no further delay by Sinn Féin in endorsing these new arrangements including by joining the Policing Board and participating fully in the work of the district policing partnerships. It has been widely acknowledged, including by the independent Oversight Commissioner, that the PSNI has undergone a wide-ranging transformation in recent years, and is now one of the most accountable policing services worldwide. It merits the active support of all sections of the community.

The Government has also made clear that support for policing remains a critical element in putting in place a new political dispensation for Northern Ireland. There is no doubt that a positive decision by Sinn Féin on the policing issue could greatly facilitate the political process. The Government will continue to press for progress in this area in the crucial period ahead.

Question No. 79 answered with QuestionNo. 58.

Foreign Conflicts.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

80 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the security situation in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13011/06]

Paul Connaughton

Question:

122 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation in Afghanistan with regard to security and reconstruction of the state; if Ireland is funding efforts with regard to reconstruction in that state; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13030/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

289 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will give an updated report on the situation in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13455/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80, 122 and 289 together.

It is important to recognise that Afghanistan's transition to democracy and representative government over the past four years is a considerable achievement. Afghanistan now has a democratic constitution, a representative national Parliament and a legitimate elected Government. Efforts are ongoing to consolidate the progress that has been made and reforms are currently under way across all sectors to provide security and essential public services to the Afghan population.

Progress continues to be made in institution-building. Parliamentary committees have been formed and have begun their important oversight work. On 22 March, President Karzai nominated a new cabinet and the Parliament will vote shortly to confirm the ministerial appointments. Parliamentary approval will also be required to confirm President Karzai's nominations to the new Supreme Court.

The security situation, however, remains a cause of serious concern and continues to undermine reconstruction efforts outside the cities. The conflict is complex and is influenced not just by Taliban insurgency but also by a number of other factors including ethnic and tribal tensions, narcotics and crime.

The International Conference on Afghanistan, held in London on 31 January-1 February marked a new stage in Afghanistan's development. The Afghanistan compact, launched at the conference, will guide the joint efforts of the Afghan Government and the international community in meeting outstanding challenges across three pillars of activity: security; governance, rule of law and human rights, and economic and social development. Counter-narcotics has been identified as a cross-cutting priority. The compact notes that Afghanistan's transition to peace and stability is not yet assured and that strong international engagement will be required to address remaining challenges. In the spirit of that engagement, over €8 billion was pledged to Afghanistan by the international community at the conference.

I am pleased that Ireland was in a position to announce a €5 million pledge at the launch of the compact. This latest pledge reflects Ireland's continuing commitment to supporting the reconstruction and reform process in Afghanistan. Funding will be expended over the next two years through the World Bank-administered Afghanistan reconstruction trust fund, ARTF, in support of the Afghan national development strategy and the achievement of Afghanistan's millennium development goals. We will also continue to support the efforts of United Nations agencies and non-governmental organisations towards pro-poor sustainable development in Afghanistan.

Ireland donated €17 million at previous pledging conferences in Tokyo and Berlin in 2002 and 2004 respectively. Funding was expended via the ARTF and through a range of Irish and international non-governmental organisations, including Trócaire, Concern, GOAL, Christian Aid, Halo Trust and Handicap International. Ireland also supported the electoral process through the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, election support programme, which steered the successful presidential election in 2004 and National Assembly and Provincial Council Elections in 2005.

Montenegrin Referendum.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

81 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the discussions which have been held at European level in relation to a proposed referendum in Montenegro later in 2006 at which time the province may vote to secede from Serbia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13114/06]

The State Union of Serbia and Montenegro formally succeeded the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on 4 February 2003. The Constitutional Charter of the State Union provided for referendums on independence to be held in either or both of the republics, subject to a three year moratorium. The Montenegrin Government has declared its intention to hold a referendum on Montenegrin independence and this is now scheduled to take place on 21 May next.

Following discussions at EU level, the Union has sought to ensure that the referendum will be carried out in line with accepted international standards. In December 2005 the Secretary General-High Representative for CFSP, Javier Solana, appointed Ambassador Miroslav Lajcak of Slovakia as his personal representative to facilitate negotiations between the Montenegrin Government and opposition on modalities for the proposed referendum. At the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council, GAERC, meeting on 27 February last, Ministers reviewed developments.

Negotiations between the Government and opposition, facilitated by Ambassador Lajcak, have resulted in a comprehensive referendum law which was passed by the Montenegrin Parliament on 1 March last. We welcome the agreement reached between the Government and opposition on the referendum issue. Together with our EU colleagues we support the right of the people of Montenegro to hold a referendum on independence as provided for in the Constitutional Charter of the State Union. The result of the referendum obviously will be decided by the voters and we will support the outcome.

Question No. 82 answered with QuestionNo. 62.
Question No. 83 answered with QuestionNo. 44.
Question No. 84 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

Overseas Development Aid.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

85 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount expended in renaming Development Co-operation Ireland as Irish Aid; the amount previously expended in renaming Ireland Aid as Development Co-operation Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13010/06]

Dan Neville

Question:

129 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when the decision to rename Development Co-operation Ireland was taken; the costs associated with this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13017/06]

Bernard Allen

Question:

278 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the amount expended in renaming Development Co-operation Ireland as Irish Aid; the amount previously expended in renaming Ireland Aid as Development Co-operation Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12999/06]

I propose to take Question Nos. 85, 129 and 278 together.

In October of last year, following a series of public consultation meetings around the country in advance of the publication of Ireland's first ever White Paper on Development Policy, I decided, in consultation with my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, that we should change the name of Ireland's official development assistance programme from Development Co-operation Ireland to something clearer and more direct.

It was evident from the meetings around the country that awareness of the Government's official aid programme was low and that the name Development Co-operation Ireland, despite being an accurate description of Ireland's aid programme, had gained little recognition among the general public. Following internal discussions in my Department, the name "Irish Aid" was chosen and announced on 27 February.

Irish Aid is simple and straightforward; it explains what we do and is much easier to understand. Irish taxpayers will this year contribute over €730 million to helping some of the world's poorest countries, and they have a right to know how this is spent and to feel proud at what is being achieved on their behalf. The name change has been made in the context of increased efforts to make the work of the Government's aid programme better known and understood within Ireland.

The total cost of the name change is €12,712. This includes the design of the new logo, new stationary design and signage. The cost of the name change in 2003 was €2,807.

Question No. 86 answered with QuestionNo. 63.

Humanitarian Aid.

Mary Upton

Question:

87 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the call by the United Nations that unless sufficient funds are made available upwards of 300,000 children may die in west Africa in 2006 in nations bordering the Sahara desert; the amount which Ireland has pledged to this effort; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13108/06]

The humanitarian situation in the Sahel region of west Africa remains a matter of deepest concern to me. In 2005, the deepening food crisis in Niger and surrounding countries highlighted a weakness in the international response system. The urgency of the situation took too long to come to light and the response was delayed as a result. At the time, Ireland responded in a prompt and timely manner with support of €3 million to Niger and Burkina Faso as the most seriously affected countries. Thankfully, the situation was quickly alleviated and a good harvest eased immediate needs.

The situation in Niger helped make the case for an enhanced international capacity to respond to such crises. The creation of the United Nation's Central Emergency Response Fund, CERF, will now enable the UN and NGOs to access grant-based, stand-by funding and thereby speed their response to rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situations. Ireland has contributed €10 million to the operation of the CERF, which I believe represents a vital contribution to strengthening the international capacity to response to humanitarian crises.

Despite the 2005 harvest, many people across the Sahel region remain vulnerable in 2006. Accumulated debts, lack of social supports, persistent chronic malnutrition and high market prices for maize remain serious obstacles to recovery. Recognising this ongoing vulnerability, Ireland responded before this latest UN appeal was launched. In February, I allocated funding of €500,000 to the UN world food programme for its ongoing work in Niger to assist those most vulnerable to food shortages. In addition, Ireland's funding partnership with the International Federation of the Red Cross, IFRC, which I have recently approved, will provide €1.5 million in 2006 and 2007 to assist the national Red Cross societies in this region to build local capacity to respond to such emergencies as they may arise in the future.

I can assure the Deputy that this region remains a priority for Ireland and that our focus remains on ensuring that the vulnerable populations receive the humanitarian assistance they require in a timely and effective manner.

Question No. 88 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

Human Rights Issues.

John Deasy

Question:

89 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to developments with regard to the investigation into allegations of secret detention centres operating within the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13046/06]

There are three investigations currently under way into allegations regarding the existence of secret detention centres. The first is an investigation by Senator Dick Marty, a rapporteur appointed by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The Department of Foreign Affairs has not been contacted by Senator Marty. However, in his most recent information memorandum to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, the Senator accurately records the Government's "total condemnation" of the practice of extraordinary rendition.

The second investigation takes the form of a questionnaire sent to all member states of the Council of Europe by the Secretary General, Mr. Terry Davis, relating to allegations regarding secret prisons and so-called extraordinary rendition. As I informed the House on 21 February 2006, the Government has co-operated fully with the Secretary General's request and replied in advance of the deadline. The response confirms my previous statements to the House recording the Government's very deep concern over allegations of the possible existence of secret prisons, and its complete opposition to the practice of extraordinary rendition.

Our response was one of only nine out of 46 deemed by the Secretary General to be sufficiently comprehensive not to have required any further clarification.

The third investigation is being carried out by a temporary committee established by the European Parliament "to find out whether the CIA carried out torture or illegal detentions on EU territory, and whether citizens from Member States or candidate countries have been detained". Meetings with a wide range of relevant individuals and organisations are taking place with a view to producing an interim report by the beginning of June.

EU Enlargement.

Michael Noonan

Question:

90 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the level of enlargement allowed under the institutional arrangements under which the European Union operates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13015/06]

Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union provides that any European state that respects the principles on which the EU is founded may apply to become a member. The treaty sets no numerical limit to the membership of the Union. It is true, however, that the existing institutional arrangements were created for a considerably smaller Union than the one that exists today.

The Government's view is that the provisions of the EU constitution would serve to create a more efficient and effective Union. In particular, ratification and implementation of the EU constitution would help consolidate the success of the most recent enlargement and strengthen the institutional capacity of the Union. This will be a critical factor in determining the Union's ability to take in new members in the future. In its 2005 enlargement strategy paper, the Commission noted that a well-functioning Union is in the interests of both present and future members.

In December last, EU Foreign Ministers agreed that careful attention needs to be paid to the important issue of the Union's absorption capacity in the context of any further enlargement.

Question No. 91 answered with QuestionNo. 71.

EU Constitution.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

92 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his strategy for the ratification of the EU constitution; if this is likely to entail a revision of the existing proposal, the existing proposals or a new constitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13088/06]

John Gormley

Question:

99 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the declaration by the Dutch Government that it does not intend to have another referendum on the EU constitution, he accepts that a new constitution will have to be drawn up before the EU can have an EU constitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13090/06]

John Gormley

Question:

274 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the declaration by the Dutch Government that it does not intend to have another referendum on the EU constitution, he accepts that a new constitution will have to be drawn up before the EU can have an EU constitution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13172/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 92, 99 and 274 together.

The period of reflection on the European constitution, which was initiated following the "No" votes in France and the Netherlands, is due for review at the June European Council. Foreign Ministers will prepare this review over the coming months and Ireland will be contributing actively to this work.

Most member states remain firmly committed to the EU constitution, which a majority have already ratified. The Government wants to see the constitution brought into force as soon as circumstances permit. We do not favour either its selective implementation or a renegotiation of the text. Agreement on the European constitution was arrived at following a long and complex set of negotiations. It is highly unlikely that another negotiation would produce a meaningfully different result which would be acceptable to all member states.

There is no doubt that the referendum results in France and the Netherlands have greatly complicated the ratification process and more time is required to sort out the issues raised by these developments. This is the purpose behind the current period of reflection on the constitution and the future of Europe, but it is still too early to draw conclusions on these issues. This means that there is at present little or no scope for pressing ahead with the ratification of the constitution. It is to be hoped that 2007 will bring new opportunities for progress towards the constitution's entry into force.

Question No. 93 answered with QuestionNo. 44.
Question No. 94 answered with QuestionNo. 43.
Question No. 95 answered with QuestionNo. 46.

Humanitarian Aid.

Dan Neville

Question:

96 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the level of humanitarian aid that Ireland will provide to sub-Saharan Africa in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13037/06]

Emergency humanitarian aid of €60 million has been allocated within the overseas development assistance budget for 2006. This funding is allocated on the basis of humanitarian need to save lives wherever they are threatened. The funding is not therefore pre-allocated to any region of the world. Funding is released in line with the principles of best humanitarian practice which are neutrality, humanity, independence and impartiality.

In line with the good humanitarian donorship, GHD, initiative, in which Ireland plays an active role, humanitarian funding support should be released at an early point in the year to enable UN agencies, non-governmental organisations, NGOs, and the International Red Cross movement to respond in a prompt and timely manner to humanitarian needs in these countries.

To date in 2006, €38 million in humanitarian funding has been released to address human suffering and need in 15 countries. A total of €19 million of this was provided to the United Nations consolidated appeals process, CAP, which addresses humanitarian needs across some 20 ongoing situations, mainly in Africa. Most of the remainder was delivered through key NGO partners and humanitarian agencies such as the Red Cross family.

In addition, Ireland also provides assistance in response to sudden onset humanitarian emergencies such as earthquakes, flooding or other natural disasters. In 2005, humanitarian assistance was provided in response to emergency humanitarian situations in some 28 countries.

I can assure the Deputy that Ireland will continue to assist and address humanitarian situations across the world on the basis of assessed needs and through the provision of assistance to key NGOs, UN agencies and international humanitarian organisations on the basis of the principles set out above.

Question No. 97 answered with QuestionNo. 43.
Question No. 98 answered with QuestionNo. 69.
Question No. 99 answered with QuestionNo. 92.
Question No. 100 answered with QuestionNo. 47.

Human Rights Issues.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

101 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position of the Government with regard to the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay; if he has communicated with his US counterpart on this issue recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13014/06]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

106 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the Hamdan case currently before the US Supreme Court which challenges the US Administration’s practices in holding persons with recourse to the Geneva Conventions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13107/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 101 and 106 together.

Ireland has raised the issue of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay with the US authorities on numerous occasions. Most recently, the Taoiseach raised concerns regarding Guantanamo Bay at his meeting with President Bush in Washington on 17 March 2006, which I also attended. President Bush said that he fully understood the Taoiseach's concerns and that he would also like to close the detention facility when possible. President Bush also noted that the US Administration was awaiting a ruling by the US Supreme Court on the use of army tribunals to try detainees in Guantanamo. I understand that the case referred to was Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which came before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, 28 March 2006 and which challenges the legality of the 2001 military order establishing military commissions to try terrorist suspects. The Supreme Court’s decision is expected in July 2006.

Ireland holds the view that those detained in Guantanamo must be treated in accordance with the requirements of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. This position is shared by the EU. I have made it clear that I endorse the UN Secretary General's view that those held in Guantanamo Bay should either be charged or released, and that the US should close this facility.

While we continue to press for the closure of the Guantanamo facility and for respect for the principles of international law, the legality of the 2001 military order under US law is a matter for the US courts to determine.

EU Enlargement.

Liam Twomey

Question:

102 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the measures Turkey has taken towards membership into the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13042/06]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

124 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the measures Croatia has taken towards membership into the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13048/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 124 together.

Accession negotiations were opened with both Croatia and Turkey on 3 October 2005. According to the negotiating frameworks agreed with both countries, the shared objective of the negotiations — an open-ended process whose outcome cannot be guaranteed beforehand — is accession. Both countries will be expected to maintain their commitment to the full implementation of human rights and other reforms and the EU will remain firm in demanding that aspiring members fulfil all the requirements of membership. The Union's capacity to absorb new members will be an important consideration. A well-functioning Union is in the interests of both present and future members.

Both countries will be judged on their own merits and the pace of the negotiations will be determined by progress in fulfilling the requirements of membership. However, as Turkey's accession could have substantial financial consequences, its negotiations can only be concluded after the establishment of the Union's financial framework for the period from 2014.

An extensive screening process is currently under way in which experts from the Commission explain EU rules to the two countries and examine their strategies for adopting and implementing them. It is expected to take until autumn 2006 to complete the screening process for the required 33 chapters. After each chapter has been screened the EU can decide, on the basis of a proposal from the Commission, whether the negotiations in that sector can be opened.

In late November 2005 the Commission presented its first screening reports to the Enlargement Working Group on the science and research and education and culture chapters. Member states have agreed that both countries should be invited to present to the Presidency their negotiating positions for the science and research chapter. Discussions are continuing within the EU on the education and culture chapter.

On 12 December 2005, the General Affairs and External Relations Council, GAERC, welcomed agreement with Croatia and Turkey on the accession partnerships, which are designed to provide support in overcoming problems related to accession. Both Croatia and Turkey benefit from the Department of Foreign Affairs' bilateral assistance programme, which provides support for new member states, acceding and candidate countries in coping with the considerable challenges of EU membership.

Foreign Conflicts.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

103 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the decision to send Irish troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13101/06]

On 23 March 2006, the General Affairs and External Relations Council approved the crisis management concept for an EU military crisis management mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC. The Council's decision follows a request from the United Nations that an EU force be deployed to support MONUC, the UN mission in the DRC, during the period of elections in that country.

While detailed planning for the mission is ongoing, it is likely that the total number of personnel taking part will be in the region of 1,500. Germany will provide the operational headquarters for the mission, based in Potsdam, with France providing the force headquarters in Kinshasa. Together, Germany and France will provide approximately two thirds of the force.

Ireland has consistently supported a positive response from the EU to the UN as part of our overall commitment to closer EU-UN co-operation in the area of conflict resolution in Africa. As my colleague, the Minister for Defence, has already told the House, Ireland has already written to the chairman of the EU military staff confirming our willingness to offer up to ten headquarters personnel for the mission subject to our national decision making procedures. The United Nations Security Council is likely to adopt a resolution authorising the mission within the next few weeks, after which a final decision will be taken by the Government on the exact composition of Ireland's contribution. Our proposed contribution is in line with that of other contributing member states and should be looked at in the context of our existing major commitments to peacekeeping operations in Africa and in the Balkans.

Question No. 104 answered with QuestionNo. 71.
Question No. 105 answered with QuestionNo. 71.
Question No. 106 answered with QuestionNo. 101.

Human Rights Issues.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

107 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the actions his Department has taken following Trócaire’s call for increased efforts by the Government to bring about an end to child labour in developing countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13100/06]

Ireland is strongly supportive of international standards and norms to combat all forms of slavery, including child labour. During our Presidency of the European Union, Ireland made a statement on behalf of the EU at the Commission on Human Rights on contemporary forms of slavery, which strongly condemned child labour. Ireland and the EU have also raised this important issue at meetings of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

The Government supports the work of the International Labour Organisation, which is the main United Nations agency dealing with the issue of bonded labour. The ILO seeks to improve working and living conditions through the adoption of international labour conventions and recommendations setting minimum standards in such fields as wages, hours of work and conditions of employment. It is a unique agency in the UN system, given its tripartite structure comprising representatives of governments, employer groups and worker groups. The ILO's work on bonded labour and child-bonded labour takes place in its framework of international labour standards, which are international legal instruments. The ILO has played a critical role in highlighting the plight of more than 246 million children in child labour and has sought to tackle this issue through its international programme on the elimination of child labour. Ireland was elected as a deputy member of the ILO governing body for a three-year term in June 2005.

The Government, through Irish Aid, supports the ILO special action programme to combat forced labour. Government funding for this programme from 2003 to 2006 will amount to €1.6 million. The programme tackles issues of bonded labour in Asia, forced labour and human trafficking in Europe and forced labour among indigenous peoples in Latin America. The programme has had considerable impact worldwide in galvanising international action on forced labour. Ireland also supports civil society efforts to end child labour. Trócaire is a key partner in the Government's aid programme. In this regard, Irish Aid has given substantial support to Trócaire in 2003-2005 under the first phase of the multi-annual programme scheme, under which predictable Irish Aid financial support is provided to key non-governmental organisation partners for an agreed programme of development activity. This assistance amounted to more than €34 million, including support for efforts to combat child labour.

Question No. 108 answered with QuestionNo. 71.
Question No. 109 answered with QuestionNo. 43.

Infectious Diseases.

Damien English

Question:

110 Mr. English asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has had recent discussions with the European counterparts with regard to avian flu protection in the event of an outbreak; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13035/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply of 22 February 2006 on the matter of avian influenza.

Avian flu has not recently been on the agenda of the General Affairs and External Relations Council but will be addressed as the situation requires. It is discussed regularly at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council, which has primary responsibility in this regard and which met most recently on 20 March. The issue is receiving constant attention at official level at meetings of the chief veterinary officers and at the standing committee on the food chain and animal health. The chief veterinary officers are meeting in Brussels this week and the standing committee discussed the issue on 23 and 24 March. The H5N1 virus has been confirmed in 11 member states of the EU to date. In all but two of the member states concerned, it remains confined to the wild bird population. In France, however, an outbreak in poultry has been confirmed and in Sweden an outbreak has been confirmed on a game farm.

In view of the role played by wild birds in spreading the virus, the focus of the Department of Agriculture and Food is on early detection, minimising the risk of any subsequent transmission to the commercial poultry flock and, in the event of such a transmission, the rapid removal of the infected flock and the efficient management of any outbreak. The Commission has moved swiftly to apply safeguard measures to all affected countries. It has also adopted a number of decisions, three of which have been transposed into Irish law within the past month. These deal with precautionary measures and steps that will be put in place in response to an outbreak. The Minister for Agriculture and Food is continuing to review and refine our own contingency arrangements. In response to the increased risk, the Minister has established an avian flu expert advisory group to advise on various control measures that may be put in place. The Minister for Agriculture and Food has regularly briefed the Government on developments. The Government task force on emergency planning, chaired by the Minister for Defence and on which my Department is represented, has been briefed regularly on the situation.

Last month, the Minister met her French counterpart in Dublin and took the opportunity to review the current situation regarding avian influenza in Europe. This meeting was particularly opportune in light of the recent outbreak in France. The Tánaiste attended an informal ministerial meeting on the health aspects of avian influenza which took place in Vienna on 24 February 2006. Health Ministers agreed on the need for rapid co-ordinated action within the European Union to combat the avian influenza virus. They emphasised that while infection of humans by the H5N1 virus since its appearance in Asia has been minimal, this virus is a source of continuing concern which demands ongoing vigilance.

The Government is conscious of the cross-Border dimension of this issue, which I discussed with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. Hain, at our recent meeting. Officials from the relevant Departments, North and South, are in regular contact on a wide range of avian influenza related issues. These contacts are being maintained at both formal and informal levels. This is a good example of the type of practical North-South co-operation that makes sense for everyone on the island.

Overseas Development Aid.

Michael Ring

Question:

111 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the proportion of Irish aid to Ethiopia that is given on a Government basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13020/06]

Ireland's total bilateral aid to Ethiopia in 2005 amounted to €35 million. It is expected that the total funding to Ethiopia in 2006 will be at approximately the same level. Ireland's support to Ethiopia is focused on addressing the basic needs of the rural poor. Ireland does not provide general or direct budget support to the federal Government of Ethiopia. Of the total budget for 2005, €5.3 million was delivered to sectoral programmes in the areas of health, education and transport. Working with the relevant ministries, Ireland earmarked support for the training of health workers and teachers and the improvement of rural roads.

Ireland also assisted two regional authorities, namely, Tigray in northern Ethiopia and the SNNPR, or southern nations nationalities and people's region, in the south. In Tigray, Ireland expended €6 million to assist the authorities to provide a full range of services to the people of this very poor region. In the southern nations region, Ireland provided support of €4.3 million to the regional authorities' programmes in education, health and HIV/AIDS.

A key component of Ireland's programme in Ethiopia is our support to the UN monitored social safety nets fund, which provides seven million of the poorest Ethiopians with cash or food in exchange for labour. This innovative fund, which was established with assistance and expertise from Ireland, is perceived as an invaluable instrument in preventing up to seven million people from facing starvation each year. In 2005, Irish non-governmental organisations working in Ethiopia received financial support of €5 million. These included Concern, GOAL, Self Help Development International and Trócaire. An additional €2 million was shared with more than 30 Ethiopian based non-governmental organisations to mitigate the effects of the HIV-AIDS pandemic. Ireland spent €4.5 million on initiatives promoting better governance in Ethiopia. Activities supported included promoting the voice of poor communities and facilitating government institutions to be more responsive to people's needs, including assistance for the Human Rights Commission and civic education. In 2006, the aid programme in Ethiopia will continue to focus on the rural poor with the emphasis on the areas of health, education, good governance, HIV-AIDS and the safety nets programme.

Question No. 112 answered with QuestionNo. 43.

Human Rights Issues.

Dan Boyle

Question:

113 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has indicated to Ms Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State of the United States, that planes used for extraordinary renditions should not land at Shannon airport even if those planes do not contain prisoners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13092/06]

In the Government's contacts with the US authorities, on which I have reported to the House in considerable detail as recently as 22 February 2006, we have been concerned to ensure that no extraordinary rendition of prisoners has occurred or is occurring through Ireland. The Taoiseach raised the matter with President Bush in Washington DC on 17 March 2006. The assurances that we have received from the US authorities in this matter have been categorical and unambiguous. In this regard, prisoners have not been transferred through Irish territory, nor would they be, without our permission.

As regards the question of whether planes allegedly used for extraordinary rendition elsewhere might land at Shannon, our view on the matter is best expressed through our complete opposition to the practice of extraordinary rendition, irrespective of where it may occur, which has been made clear on numerous occasions.

State Visits.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

114 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on his official visit to the United States over the St. Patrick’s holiday; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13098/06]

Joe Sherlock

Question:

140 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will report on his meetings over the St. Patrick’s Day period with members of the US Administration; the topics of such discussions as he and his staff held; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13120/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 114 and 140 together.

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 issues including 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 on 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 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 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.

Question No. 115 answered with QuestionNo. 47.
Question No. 116 answered with QuestionNo. 66.

Military Neutrality.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

117 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether Ireland’s proposed participation in the EU battle groups will require Ireland’s triple lock requirement to be compromised; the way in which the requirement for rapid deployment of battle groups can be reconciled with Ireland’s need for a UN mandate before Irish troops are sent abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13095/06]

As the Taoiseach, the Minister for Defence and I have stated on many occasions, the Government remains committed to the triple lock requirements of UN authorisation, Government decision and Dáil approval before the deployment of Irish troops abroad. Any participation in peace support operations, whether carried out directly by the UN or, for example, as part of an EU-led mission with UN authorisation, is for sovereign national decision. This would apply to operations carried out as part of an EU battle group in the same way as it does to any other peace support operation.

The importance of battle groups as a valuable contribution to the efforts of the United Nations in crisis management has been emphasised by UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, and has been endorsed in the outcome document of the world summit last September. EU battle groups have a key role to play in support of UN peacekeeping, specifically by having the ability to deploy very rapidly to crisis situations. The fact that EU battle groups would be expected to be on the ground in a short period is in no way incompatible with authorisation from the UN Security Council. The Security Council, as part of its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, has often shown the ability to act very quickly when required.

Ireland is not alone in the European Union in looking for UN authorisation before deploying its defence forces on peace support operations overseas. Many member states acknowledge that they would normally have a de facto political requirement for the legitimacy which a resolution of the UN Security Council conveys on peace support operations, particularly robust Chapter VII-type missions for which battle groups are particularly relevant. All member states need to complete their respective national decision-making procedures before deploying troops overseas, most of which would include parliamentary approval processes. The decision by any member state to participate in an EU battle group, or indeed in the European security and defence policy as a whole, does not imply automatic participation by that member state in a specific peace support operation. This is a fundamental principle of the European security and defence policy.

It is possible that there may be cases in which the Government and this House might wish Ireland to participate in a peacekeeping mission, whether as part of an EU battle group or otherwise, but where no UN authorisation was forthcoming, including as a result of a permanent member of the UN Security Council exercising its veto. In such a scenario, Irish troops would be unable to participate in that mission. This is a fundamental element of the triple lock and one to which this Government remains committed. We have consistently made this clear to EU partners, including to Sweden, with whom we are discussing possible participation in the Nordic battle group. The potential for countries which are contributing to battle groups being unable to deploy for various reasons is well recognised within the EU and it is expected that battle groups will need a level of built in redundancy to cover such scenarios.

Question No. 118 answered with QuestionNo. 59.

Foreign Conflicts.

Jack Wall

Question:

119 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position between the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil Liberation Tigers who held discussions in February 2006 to bring about a more peaceful situation in the country, particularly in view of an apparent naval suicide attack by the Tamil Tigers group which was recently reported; and if he will make a statement on the matter focusing on such suggestions Ireland has to make at European level to try to help this position. [13118/06]

Ireland and our partners in the European Union take a close interest in the situation in Sri Lanka. The European Union, in a statement on 27 January, welcomed the agreement by the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to hold talks in Geneva on 22 and 23 February. It expressed its firm hope that the talks would help stabilise the situation in Sri Lanka and lead to a peaceful solution of the conflict. It also reiterated its full support for Norway's role as facilitator of the peace process.

Following the Geneva talks, which were held as planned, the co-chairs of the Tokyo donor conference, the European Union, Japan, Norway and the United States, welcomed the renewed commitment from the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to respect and uphold the ceasefire agreement. The co-chairs further welcomed the parties' commitment to ensure that there would be no violence, killings and operations by armed groups, in accordance with the ceasefire agreement. The co-chairs stressed the importance of the parties implementing these commitments on the ground so as to build confidence and an environment conducive to progressing towards lasting peace for all the peoples of Sri Lanka. The co-chairs said that they stood ready to assist Norway in its efforts to bring about a durable peace in Sri Lanka.

The European Union will continue to do its utmost to help the parties along the road of negotiation. I am pleased that the level of violence has reduced since the meeting in February and I hope that the next round of talks between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, in Geneva on 19 to 21 April, will lead to renewed efforts by all sides to work towards a lasting peace. Since the December 2004 tsunami disaster, Ireland has supported the activities of seven non-governmental organisations engaged in relief and recovery work in Sri Lanka as well as various UN agencies, the International Organisation for Migrants and the International Committee of the Red Cross. To date, in excess of €4.7 million has been allocated by Ireland to relief and recovery activities in Sri Lanka.

Nuclear Disarmament.

Michael Noonan

Question:

120 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has had recent discussions with India and Pakistan with regard to their status as non-signatories to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13036/06]

I have not had recent discussions with either India or Pakistan but both countries are well aware of Ireland's long-held position that both should join the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as non-nuclear weapon states. As I made clear in my replies to Questions Nos. 64 and 153 of 22 February 2006, Ireland has a long-standing policy of support for the NPT, going back to Frank Aiken's initiative almost 50 years ago, and attaches the utmost importance to its universalisation. India, Pakistan and Israel are the only three countries that have not acceded to the NPT. Ireland will continue to avail of every opportunity to call for their adherence to the treaty as non-nuclear weapon states at national level, within the EU, within the new agenda coalition and at the United Nations.

Ireland strongly supports United Nations Security Council Resolution 1172 adopted in June 1998 which, inter alia, calls on India and Pakistan to become parties to the NPT and to the comprehensive test ban treaty and to stop immediately their nuclear weapons development programmes, including the development of ballistic missiles capable of nuclear weapons delivery. At the NPT review conference in New York last May, I stated that it was a matter of serious concern that India, Israel and Pakistan continue to remain outside the NPT regime and I urged them to accede to the treaty unconditionally and at an early date. Such a call has also been made in recent statements by the European Union.

Ireland, with our partners in the new agenda coalition, introduced a resolution on the NPT to the first committee of the United Nations General Assembly last October. A paragraph in the resolution that urged India, Israel and Pakistan to accede to the treaty was supported by 148 countries. Last December, when the issue was taken up in the plenary of the General Assembly, 158 UN member states endorsed this call. Pakistan voted against that paragraph of the resolution at the first committee but abstained during the plenary while India and Israel voted against the resolution on both occasions. We will continue to press for the universalisation of the NPT and for India, Pakistan and Israel to accede unconditionally to the treaty.

Enda Kenny

Question:

121 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the latest discussions he has had with his EU counterparts with regard to the Iranian nuclear programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13041/06]

John Perry

Question:

127 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has had recent contact with the Iranian Government with regard to that state’s compliance with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13049/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

128 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government’s position concerning the Iran nuclear crisis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13099/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 121, 127 and 128 together.

I have not had any recent direct contact with representatives of the Iranian Government in respect of Iran's compliance with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The last occasion that I had an opportunity to discuss this matter with the Iranian Government was when I met the then Foreign Minister, Dr. Kamal Kharrazi, on 2 May 2005, during the NPT review conference in New York. During that meeting, I underlined my belief that difficulties should be resolved through dialogue and negotiation and that if a solution was found on the nuclear issue, this would open the way to making progress on other aspects of relations with Iran.

My most recent discussions with my EU counterparts on the Iranian nuclear programme was at the General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting on 20 March 2006. The Council emphasised that the EU continues to be committed to a diplomatic solution, deeply regretted that Iran has failed to implement in full the measures deemed necessary by the IAEA board, resulting in the involvement of the UN Security Council. The council also expressed its deep concern at Iran's continuing failure to co-operate fully with the IAEA and to take the steps necessary to re-establish international confidence in the peaceful purpose of its nuclear programme. It indicated that it believed that the Security Council should act to reinforce the authority of the IAEA and called upon Iran urgently to meet in full the requests set out in the IAEA board of governors' resolution of 4 February, including a full suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.

I welcome the UN Security Council presidential statement adopted on 29 March 2006 on the Iranian nuclear programme. The statement notes with serious concern Iran's decision to resume enrichment related activities and to suspend co-operation with the IAEA under the additional protocol. The statement calls on Iran to comply with the steps required in the IAEA board of governors' resolution of 4 February 2006 and underlined the particular importance of re-establishing full and sustained suspension of all enrichment related and reprocessing activities including research and development. The IAEA director general is requested to provide a report to the board of governors, and in parallel to the Security Council, within 30 days on Iranian compliance with the steps required by the IAEA board of governors.

We urge Iran to suspend immediately all enrichment related activities, to co-operate fully with the IAEA and to provide the necessary transparency and openness to resolve all outstanding issues in its nuclear programme. The resolution of those issues would help to restore the confidence of the international community in Iran's declared wish to have a nuclear programme for peaceful purposes.

Question No. 122 answered with QuestionNo. 80.

Diplomatic Representation.

Billy Timmins

Question:

123 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the diplomatic contacts he or his Department have had with Nepal; the situation in that country; his views on reported developments there; the assistance he will give; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13102/06]

My Department has been closely monitoring the situation in Nepal. Regrettably, the political crisis there seems to be intensifying. While we have not had any recent direct bilateral contacts with the Nepalese Government, we have been active within the EU framework and have contributed to discussions in relevant working groups.

On 27 January, the EU issued a declaration which called upon the King, the Government of Nepal and the security forces to restore immediately all civil and political liberties, immediately release all political prisoners and human rights defenders, and ensure that political and civil rights, including freedom of assembly and freedom of speech could be exercised peacefully. It strongly condemned the use of force to suppress the Nepalese people's exercise of fundamental rights, while also strongly condemning the resumption of Maoist violence. It also reiterated that what Nepal and its people urgently needed was a cessation of armed hostilities as a first step in an inclusive and comprehensive peace process.

We have been concerned by the large number of arrests in Nepal in recent months, including that in January of Krishna Pahadi who attended the Front Line Platform late last year which I had the pleasure of addressing. We ensured that our concern at this and other arrests was included in an EU démarche to the Nepalese authorities which took place on 1 February. In the course of the démarche, the EU side made special reference to detained political leaders and human rights defenders, calling for their immediate release. We have also proposed that the EU might look at providing further support for the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Kathmandu. In 2005, Ireland made a voluntary contribution of €200,000 to this office.

On 16 February, the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, met in Dublin with Dr. Arju n Karki, President of the NGO Federation of Nepal and co-ordinator of the South Asian Alliance for Poverty Eradication, who provided a first-hand account of the situation on the ground in Nepal. Dr. Karki was assured that Ireland was closely following developments in Nepal.

A further EU discussion on the situation in Nepal is due to take place tomorrow when the most recent political developments and their implications for EU policy will be examined. Together with our EU partners, we will continue to closely monitor the situation in Nepal and will urge all sides to pursue a peaceful, political solution and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 102.
Question No. 125 answered with QuestionNo. 62.

Consular Assistance.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

126 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of Irish people for whom the Department of Foreign Affairs has paid court-imposed bond since 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13031/06]

As I outlined in my reply of 21 February 2006 to a parliamentary question on this general issue, consular assistance is provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs in a wide variety of circumstances, with each situation being assessed case by case having regard to all the factors involved. The Department, for instance, is prepared to advance funds to assist Irish citizens where this is judged to be required to ensure their security and safety and where the individuals concerned cannot gain immediate access to the necessary funds.

Since 2002, an advancement of the funds by the Department in a court bond context occurred in the case of three Irish citizens in Colombia. In this particular consular case, the court judgment permitted the three citizens to be released from prison under conditional freedom on payment of a bond. My Department, at the request of the defence team and given the ongoing consular concerns about the safety of the persons concerned advanced the funds to facilitate the payment of this bond on the basis of a firm undertaking to repay the sum involved. The funds were repaid in full. The decision to advance funds was taken by the Department in pursuit of its consular responsibilities, and was neither discussed nor taken at political level.

Questions Nos. 127 and 128 answered with Question No. 121.
Question No. 129 answered with QuestionNo. 85.

Sudanese Famine.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

130 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation in Sudan; the progress which has been made on the implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13034/06]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

138 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts the Government, on its own behalf and with the European Union, is making to relieve the conflict in Darfur; the new initiatives as have originated over the past six months to deal with the ongoing tragedy in the region; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13111/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

286 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the assessment of the situation in Darfur; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13452/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 130, 138 and 286 together.

Since the comprehensive peace agreement was signed in Nairobi on 9 January 2005, there has been progress in stabilising the long-running conflict between the north and the south of Sudan. Following a delay due to the accidental death in July 2005 of southern leader and first Vice President, John Garang, a Government of national unity was formed in September 2005 in line with the new constitution. An autonomous regional Government of south Sudan was established on 22 October on the basis of the interim constitution for south Sudan.

Both President Bashir of the National Congress Party and first Vice President, Salva Kiir, on behalf of the south, have expressed their desire to implement the comprehensive peace agreement and, to date, there has been some progress on the implementation of technical and institutional aspects. Also, despite significant administrative and logistical obstacles the Government of south Sudan is gradually establishing itself. However, the Government of national unity needs to be strengthened by the two main coalition partners showing real leadership and working together to address major unresolved issues, including the effective and transparent sharing of oil revenues. On 20 March 2006, the General Affairs and External Relations Council urged the parties to sustain effective and timely implementation of the agreement and reiterated the EU's readiness to continue supporting this process.

The complexity and difficulty of the prevailing situation in south Sudan should not be underestimated. Millions living there continue to depend on humanitarian assistance. Unfortunately violence remains an obstacle to humanitarian work in the region. On 28 March 2006, a UNHCR logistician died as a result of serious wounds suffered in an attack on the agency's compound in Yei which also left one guard dead and another wounded.

Continuing tensions in the east of Sudan are a potentially destabilising factor. On 20 March 2006 the EU expressed concern about these tensions, underscored the need for a genuine, single, transparent, comprehensive and inclusive dialogue to address the situation and urged the Government of Sudan and the eastern front opposition parties rapidly to agree on the modalities for this dialogue.

Since the Darfur crisis began in 2003, Ireland has provided assistance of more than €12.5 million in response to humanitarian needs in the region. At the Oslo international donors' conference on Sudan in April 2005, Ireland pledged support of €15 million to Sudan over the 2005 to 2007 period. Some €9.8 million of this was provided in 2005, including almost €4 million to Darfur. To date in 2006, €1.5 million has been allocated for humanitarian relief in Darfur.

Some 200,000 Sudanese refugees remain in neighbouring Chad and more than 1.7 million persons are still internally displaced within Darfur itself, including 50,000 people who have been forced from their homes since the beginning of this year. Violent acts continue to be carried out by all sides. Security in many parts of Darfur has steadily deteriorated since September 2005, resulting in worsening violence, widespread destruction of crops and livelihoods and serious violations of human rights. This has seriously affected the ability of humanitarian workers to deliver crucial humanitarian relief to the population of Darfur.

In western Sudan, the spillover into Darfur of Chad's internal instability has added a dangerous regional dimension to the crisis. With our partners in the EU, Ireland welcomed the agreement reached on 8 February 2006 between Sudan and Chad which should contribute to a reduction of violence in the Darfur region. Improved border security should contribute to better relations between the two countries. It is clear that only a political solution to the problems of Darfur will lead to a lasting solution to the humanitarian crisis in the region.

Early and successful conclusion of the peace negotiations taking place in Abuja, Nigeria, under the auspices of the AU is absolutely essential. Progress has been slow overall but recently the pace has quickened. In tandem with the recent decision to extend the mandate of the African Union Mission in Sudan, AMIS, the AU has begun a real attempt to bring the parties in Abuja to agreement and set the end of April 2006 as its target date. A first step has been the tabling of an enhanced humanitarian ceasefire proposal by the AU mediator Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim. The EU fully supports the AU's efforts to speed up the Abuja process. With our partners in the EU, we have also underlined the need to establish a clear roadmap for implementation with agreed timetables for action.

All parties to the Abuja negotiations must show their commitment to peace in Darfur by immediately halting all violations of the current ceasefire agreement, especially attacks on AMIS and humanitarian convoys. They must also give their full commitment to the talks and negotiate positively and flexibly. Violations of the UN arms embargo must be stopped. Ireland and the EU support the imposition of sanctions against those blocking the peace process, committing human rights violations, or violating the ceasefire and the arms embargo. I urge the Government of Sudan to co-operate fully with the ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court of human rights violations in Darfur.

AMIS has been valuable in creating a favourable environment for the political process and in stabilising the security situation. Sudan has stated that it is prepared to accept the deployment of a UN operation in Darfur after and as part of the conclusion of a peace agreement at the Abuja talks. On 10 March 2006 the AU's peace and security commission, PSC, set a framework for transition from AMIS to a UN operation in Darfur. At the same meeting the AU PSC agreed to extend AMIS's mandate until September 2006. This will permit the UN to carry out thorough planning for the transition in co-operation with the AU. The UN Secretary General is to present to the Security Council by 24 April 2006 a range of operations for a UN operation in Darfur. The EU has offered further support to the AMIS mission in the interim, including an additional €50 million from the African Peace Facility, APF. To date the Government and our partners in the EU have fully supported the AU's role in Darfur, both politically and financially. In 2004-05, Ireland contributed €1.5 million to humanitarian, human rights and policing aspects of the AU's AMIS mission.

Question No. 131 answered with QuestionNo. 69.
Question No. 132 answered with QuestionNo. 51.

Human Rights Issues.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

133 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has had contact with his European counterparts to condemn the prosecution of an Afghan citizen relating to that person’s conversion to Christianity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13022/06]

I have followed with concern the case of Mr. Abdul Rahman who was charged in Afghanistan with apostasy for converting from Islam to Christianity, a charge punishable by death under Sharia law. I was pleased to hear that Mr.Rahman was released from custody on 27 March and I welcome the news that he has been granted asylum in Italy.

The EU had been monitoring the situation closely and EU heads of mission in Kabul had been in regular contact with the Afghan authorities. Article 2 of the Afghan constitution enshrines the right to religious freedom and the EU sought assurances from the Afghan Government that it would fully respect this right. The EU also conveyed to the Afghan Government its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

Ireland, along with its EU partners, is adamantly opposed to use of the death penalty under any circumstances. The EU has, on a number of occasions, raised this issue with the Afghan authorities and advocated the EU's strongly held position in favour of the abolition of capital punishment.

Question No. 134 answered with QuestionNo. 58.

Overseas Development Aid.

Denis Naughten

Question:

135 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress made on the establishment of a rapid response initiative; the level of involvement from the Department of Defence in this initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13018/06]

My Department is now engaged in planning a more operational and value added response to humanitarian crises, through the development of a distinctively Irish rapid response initiative, RRI. This initiative includes the pre-positioning and transportation of humanitarian supplies to disaster areas; the availability of a roster of highly skilled and experienced individuals, including from the Defences Forces, for deployment at short notice to situations of great need; and enhancing our support for international humanitarian response agencies and mechanisms.

In the context of the reform of the United Nations to make it a more efficient and effective global mechanism, a number of gaps have been identified in terms of its ability to respond to humanitarian crises. A number of these were specified in the UN Secretary General's report, In Larger Freedom. Moreover, the UN's emergency humanitarian co-ordinator, Jan Egeland, commissioned a review of UN's response mechanisms, the Humanitarian Response Review, which detailed where those gaps lie.

The RRI is very much a part of our strong support for the UN and its programme of reform and a response to the needs set out in both these important reports. It is also a full recognition of the importance which the public places in the need to respond rapidly and effectively to emergencies and disasters. The truly amazing generosity of the public to the tsunami at the end of 2004 is a clear indication of the desire to save and protect lives.

My Department is taking the lead on the RRI. My officials are working closely with counterparts in the Department of Defence, the Irish Defence Forces, and other relevant Departments to plan, co-ordinate and launch this initiative. We are also in close contact with non-governmental organisations, NGOs, working in emergencies. The effective mobilisation of the skills, knowledge and resources that exist across the public sector and in the public sphere is essential to the successful implementation of all of the elements of the RRI.

A logistics and humanitarian specialist has been engaged by my Department to assist with the pre-positioning of humanitarian supplies. The specialist, in close consultation with my officials, is preparing and costing a plan for the pre-positioning of supplies to include storage, handling and transport of the supplies. This includes detailed consideration of the quantity and nature of the items to be pre-positioned; the optimal locations; and the logistic and programmatic support required to transport and deliver the supplies. Possible partnerships with other countries and organisations are also being considered with a view to achieving maximum cost effectiveness and efficiency. We are drawing upon the experiences and lessons learned of relevant actors such as large non-governmental organisations, NGOs, donor agencies, and the United Nations.

My Department is also progressing work on the establishment of a humanitarian rapid response roster. Discussions in this regard have taken place, and are ongoing, with a number of United Nations agencies, including United Nations volunteers, UNV, which operates a personnel roster which deploys to the major UN agencies responding to humanitarian crises as they arise. It will be important to ensure that the roster is made up of highly skilled individuals with the ability to work in the complex and demanding environment of humanitarian crises with UN agencies and NGOs. The profile of such experts is developed on the basis of consultation with our key partner agencies and NGOs.

A number of discussions have also taken place on the enhancement of Ireland's support to key humanitarian response agencies through targeted support for standby arrangements and organisational capacity building for humanitarian response. In this context, Ireland has recently contributed €10 million to the UN's central emergency response fund to strengthen its ability to deal with humanitarian crises.

Question No. 136 answered with QuestionNo. 53.

EU Enlargement.

John Perry

Question:

137 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the measures Romania has taken towards membership into the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13044/06]

Paul McGrath

Question:

146 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the date for entry to the European Union of Bulgaria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13047/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 137 and 146 together.

The accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union will mark the completion of the fifth enlargement process, which will increase the Union's membership to 27. The Union's objective is to welcome both countries as members on 1 January 2007. The EU could, however, postpone the accession of either or both countries for up to one year if the Commission considers that either country would be unprepared to meet the requirements of membership in 2007.

The Commission's annual monitoring reports for Bulgaria and Romania, which were published on 25 October 2005, stated that preparations for membership were well advanced in both countries but highlighted a number of issues needing urgent attention before the date of accession. These include the fight against corruption, the reform of the judiciary, the need to increase capacity to manage EU Structural Funds and the importance of compliance with EU veterinary standards.

The progress being made by both countries in implementing the necessary reforms is being closely monitored by the Commission and the member states. Association Councils were recently held with both countries — with Bulgaria on 31 January and with Romania on 20 March. These provided a timely opportunity to review the progress of both countries' preparations for membership.

The Council will make a final decision on the date of accession for Bulgaria and Romania in June on the basis of a recommendation from the Commission, which will be presented in its monitoring reports due to be published in mid-May 2006. Ireland believes that it is important for both countries to make effective use of the coming months to address all outstanding issues so that they can accede to the EU on 1 January 2007. To this end, both countries benefit from the Department of Foreign Affairs' bilateral assistance programme, which provides support for new member states, acceding and candidate countries in coping with the considerable challenges of EU membership.

Question No. 138 answered with QuestionNo. 130.

Arms Trade.

Michael Ring

Question:

139 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his position with regard to the EU arms embargo against China; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13040/06]

The Government's position on the lifting of the embargo on arms sales to China is clear and has not changed. We support the lifting of the embargo but we do not wish to see an increase in the quantity or quality of arms exports to China. This position was set out by the Taoiseach during his visit to Beijing in January 2005 when he also explained the importance to Ireland and the EU of continued progress in the promotion and protection of human rights in China.

The European Council meeting on 16 and 17 June 2005 was the most recent occasion on which the arms embargo was discussed with EU counterparts. The European Council recalled the conclusions of its December 2004 meeting, welcomed the progress made to date on the revision of the EU code of conduct on arms exports and the so-called toolbox and invited the Council to continue its work on that basis. As the EU works towards lifting the arms embargo, it has also engaged in a dialogue on the issue at senior official level with key partners, including the US, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Australia. The EU approach was conveyed to Chinese Foreign Minister Li when he met with the Troika of EU Foreign Ministers at the EU-China ministerial meeting held in Vienna on 3 February. The lifting of the arms embargo was also among the issues discussed during the eighth EU-China summit that took place in Beijing on 5 September last.

The Government continues to examine this issue with its EU partners, in the context of its overall relationship with China, its ongoing commitment to human rights and the broader regional and international context. EU Ministers will resume consideration of a decision on lifting the embargo once work on revising the code of conduct has been completed. A decision to lift the embargo will require the unanimous approval of member states.

Question No. 140 answered with QuestionNo. 114.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Joe Costello

Question:

141 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position regarding the case of the murder of the late Pat Finucane; the most recent talks which he and his Department has held with representatives of the British Government; the position with regard to the need for a public inquiry with particular reference to the need for such to meet the most stringent requirements of international law. [13131/06]

I refer the Deputy to my recent statement to the Dáil on 8 March in support of the all-party motion on the Finucane case, which makes clear the Government's strong support for a full, independent public inquiry into the murder of Patrick Finucane. The situation with regard to an inquiry was considered in the course of meetings during the St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Washington. The matter was discussed during the meeting which the Taoiseach and I had with President Bush and in contacts with senior figures in the US Senate and House of Representatives. Both the Taoiseach and I met the Finucane family in Washington and my officials assisted the family with other aspects of their programme. I have also had further contact with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Peter Hain. Following the unanimous adoption by the Dáil of the all-party motion, he wrote to me indicating why he felt the UK Inquiries Act 2005 was appropriate in this case. In confirming that I could not share this assessment, my reply emphasised that the all-party motion was a concrete expression of deep and ongoing concern among all parties on this issue.

Throughout this process, the key question for the Government has been whether what has been proposed by the British Government will contribute to the enhancement of public confidence. It is clear from the reaction in many quarters, including the response of distinguished jurists, human rights groups and the Finucane family, that the answer is in the negative. I concluded my letter to the Secretary of State by making it clear that the Government continued to hope that a way will be found to address these issues in a manner which will meet the legitimate concerns of the Finucane family, and of all who wish to see justice done in this case. That remains our position.

Human Rights Abuses.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

142 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation in Ethiopia; if he has made his concern at reports of human rights abuses known to the Ethiopian authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13012/06]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

145 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views of the trial of over 120 opposition leaders, journalists and dissenters in Ethiopia which is ongoing; his views on whether the Government of that nation is effectively engaged in the violent suppression to any form of protest; the actions the EU has taken or plans to take in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13133/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 142 and 145 together.

The deterioration in the political and human rights situation in Ethiopia since the May 2005 general election is a matter of serious concern. Ireland, along with our EU partners, continues to emphasise to the Government of Ethiopia, most recently in a meeting with the Prime Minister, Mr. Meles Zenawi, on 17 January 2006, the need to respect human rights and the rule of law; to strengthen the democratisation process by opening a non-conditional dialogue with all opposition parties and allowing those parties and civil society organisations to operate freely; and to allow the private media operate without restrictions.

Recent positive developments should be noted. An independent investigation commission to examine the June and November 2005 violence was set up by the Ethiopian Parliament in late November and is expected to report back in the near future. An initiative to reform parliamentary rules of procedure and strengthen the role of the opposition is due to be completed within two months. Measures to improve the procedures and increase the capacity of the national election board are expected to be implemented by June 2006. The Prime Minister has indicated that a review of the draft press law should be finalised by June 2006. The European Development Commissioner, Mr. Louis Michel, visited Addis Ababa on 16 and 17 February 2006 and met the imprisoned leadership of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, CUD, opposition party, the first time such access was allowed to a representative of the international community. He also met the Prime Minister twice. It is understood that 141 out of 173 opposition MPs have entered parliament. Dialogue is under way between the Government and two opposition political parties and the majority of detainees arrested during the unrest last November have been released.

However, although the opposition won almost all the seats in the Addis Ababa City Council in June 2005, it remains reluctant to take over this institution as a protest against the detention and trial of the CUD leadership and continuing restrictions on the operations of opposition parties and the private media. On 28 March 2006, the Prime Minister announced that, if the opposition does not assume responsibility for the administration of Addis Ababa by 18 April 2006, a caretaker administration will be appointed and fresh elections held after 12 months. The trial of 129 individuals, some charged in absentia, including the elected leaders of the CUD, journalists, and civil society leaders, began on 23 February 2006. The Ethiopian authorities claim they were responsible for launching and organising the June and November 2005 riots as part of an agenda to overthrow the Government by force. They were charged as a group with treason, genocide and inciting violence.

Ireland, along with its EU partners, has underlined to the Ethiopian Prime Minister the need for the trial to be conducted in a transparent, fair and speedy manner in accordance with international standards. We also called for the release of the detainees on bail as a confidence building measure and for better access to detainees by families, lawyers and the international community. The Prime Minister agreed to an EU request for international observation of the trial and a distinguished international lawyer, Mr. Michael Ellmann, is observing the trial on behalf of the EU. EU embassies in Addis Ababa, including Ireland's, are also monitoring developments. While bail has not been approved, the Prime Minister has indicated that the Ethiopian authorities will do everything they can to ensure the expeditious completion of the trial and that he expects it to be completed within a year. On 22 March 2006, all charges were withdrawn against 18 of the detainees, including nine being tried in absentia, and the prosecutor was instructed by the court to amend the genocide charge. The next hearing is scheduled for 2 May 2006.

Question No. 143 answered with QuestionNo. 57.
Question No. 144 answered with QuestionNo. 46.
Question No. 145 answered with QuestionNo. 142.
Question No. 146 answered with QuestionNo. 137.

Departmental Staff.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

147 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Taoiseach the number of State employees on suspension with pay as on 31 December 2004 and 31 December 2005; and the details of same. [13221/06]

No member of staff from my Department was suspended on paid leave between 31 December 2004 and 31 December 2005.

John Dennehy

Question:

148 Mr. Dennehy asked the Taoiseach if his Department is meeting the agreed national target figures for employment of persons with a disability; his views on whether that figure is adequate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13269/06]

My Department exceeds the 3% target for the employment of people with disabilities. Seven persons have voluntarily, self disclosed that they have disabilities. This represents 3.72% of total staff. The principle of equality underpins my Department's human resource policy in accordance with equality legislation and the Government's policies on diversity, dignity at work and gender equality. In addition, my Department is fully committed to complying with the provisions of 2005 Disability Act and, at all times, acts as an equal opportunities employer.

Departmental Bodies.

Tony Gregory

Question:

149 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a working group was set up to explore and develop the linkage between the national drug and alcohol policy; the number of times the group has met; and when it is expected to make recommendations. [13052/06]

Tony Gregory

Question:

197 Mr. Gregory asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a working group was set up to explore and develop the linkage between the national drug and alcohol policy; the number of times the group has met; and when it is expected to make recommendations. [13055/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 149 and 197 together.

The mid-term review of the national drugs strategy recommended that a working group involving key stakeholders of both the alcohol and drugs areas should be established to explore the potential for better co-ordination between the two areas and how synergies could be improved. The working group, which is to be chaired by my Department, will also examine and make recommendations on whether a combined strategy is the appropriate way forward. The establishment of the working group is under consideration by my Department and it is intended that it should report by end 2006.

Health Services.

Joe Costello

Question:

150 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the services provided for the victims of domestic violence; the funding her Department provides; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13165/06]

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.

Joe Costello

Question:

151 Mr. Costello asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the services her Department provides for the victims of rape and sexual violence; the funding her Department provides; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13166/06]

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.

Youth Services.

David Stanton

Question:

152 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the functions, remit and responsibilities of the Minister for Health and Children and the Office of the Minister for Children; the Department the office receives funding from; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13438/06]

The Office of the Minister for Children was established in accordance with the Government decision of 7 December 2005 to place the interests of children at the heart of Government and to build on the successes achieved in the national children's strategy. The responsibilities of the new office within the Department of Health and Children will comprise the following: the equal opportunities child care programme, transferred from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; the new national child care investment programme, which was announced in the 2006 budget as part of the new national child care strategy for the next five years; the programmes and activities of the former National Children's Office; and policy and legislative work on child welfare and protection conducted by the Department of Health and Children. The new youth justice service of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the early years education policy unit of the Department of Education and Science will be co-located at the new office. The purpose in bringing these various responsibilities together is to maximise the co-ordination of policies for children and young persons and to provide a strong focus at the highest level. The Office of the Minister for Children will also maintain a general strategic oversight of bodies with responsibility for developing and delivering children's services.

The Minister for Children, who holds delegated responsibilities in the Departments of Health and Children, Education and Science, and Justice, Equality and Law Reform, will attend meetings of the Government on a regular basis. This will give a strong voice for the interests of children and young persons at Cabinet. The Office of the Minister for Children is funded through the Department of Health and Children and includes the following: administration, including salaries — Vote 39; the early child care supplement — Vote 41; the equal opportunities child care programme 2000-2006 — Vote 41; the national child care investment programme 2006-2010 — Vote 41; and the national children's strategy programmes — Vote 41. While the OMC is responsible for the early child care supplement, the Department of Social and Family Affairs will administer it on an agency basis. In addition, the youth justice service will be funded through the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform's Vote and the early years education policy unit will be funded through the Department of Education and Science's Vote. The establishment of the Office of the Minister for Children has not altered the duties and responsibilities of the Minister for Health and Children.

David Stanton

Question:

153 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department has responsibility for youth affairs; if so, the interaction between her Department and the Minster for youth affairs in the Department of Education and Science; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13439/06]

The functions of the new Office of the Minister for Children, within the Department of Health and Children, are as follows: the equal opportunities child care programme, transferred from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; the programmes and activities of the National Children's Office; and the policy and legislative work on child welfare and protection conducted by the Department of Health and Children. The new youth justice service of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the early years education functions of the Department of Education and Science will be co-located at the new office. However, these Departments will retain responsibility for these areas.

The Office of the Minister for Children has the lead role on children and young people's participation in local and national decision making under goal 1 of the national children's strategy 2000. It has responsibility for ensuring the development of structures for participation such as Dáil na nÓg and Comhairle na nÓg and for promoting children and young people's participation among Departments, State agencies and the non-government sector.

My colleague, Deputy de Valera, Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science, has overall responsibility for youth affairs. An official from the National Children's Office — now part of the Office of the Minister for Children — participated on an interdepartmental committee established in the youth affairs section of the Department of Education and Science from November 2004 to May 2005. My office is represented on the national youth work advisory committee established by the Department of Education and Science.

Medical Cards.

Pat Breen

Question:

154 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of the renewal of a medical card application for persons (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12795/06]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

155 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the cost which she estimated for increasing the threshold on house value to deem a person ineligible for nursing home subvention from €75,000 to €300,000 outside Dublin and €500,000 in Dublin; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this change has not altered in any way the means assessment being used in assessing eligibility for nursing homes owing to the fact that the €75,000 threshold which she revised had long since fallen into disuse; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12796/06]

The Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990 and the Nursing Homes Regulations 1993 provide for the payment of subvention for private nursing home care for applicants who qualify on both medical and means grounds. General rules for the assessment of means in respect of an application for nursing home subvention are set out in the Second Schedule of the Nursing Homes Regulations 1993, as amended by the 2005 regulations. Under the regulations the Health Service Executive, when considering an application for subvention, carries out a means test which takes into account the means of the applicant and his or her spouse or co-habiting partner, where appropriate, and the assets of the applicant. The HSE imputes an income of 5% of the estimated market value of the principal residence of an applicant for subvention, unless the residence is occupied by a spouse, or son or daughter aged less than 21 or in full-time education or in receipt of the disabled person's maintenance allowance, blind person's pension, disability benefit, invalidity pension or old age non-contributory pension, and generally does so unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Under the Nursing Homes (Subvention) (Amendment) Regulations 2005, SI 814 of 2005, the HSE may refuse to pay a subvention if the value of the applicant's principal residence is €500,000 or more, where the residence is located in the Dublin area, or €300,000 or more, where the residence is located outside the Dublin area, and the residence is not occupied by a spouse, a son or daughter aged less than 21 or in full-time education or a relative in receipt of a social welfare pension or allowance. It is difficult to estimate the financial impacts, as much depends on individual circumstances but an additional €20 million has been made available for the provision of the subvention scheme in 2006. The recently published Health (Nursing Homes)(Amendment) Bill 2006 is designed to ensure that the existing subvention scheme for private nursing home care is grounded in primary legislation and to help the HSE to implement the scheme on a standardised basis throughout the country. It includes a provision to vary the 5% income imputation. I will consider the issue of housing assets and long-term residential care following the enactment of this Bill and in the light of the report of the long-term care working group.

Richard Bruton

Question:

156 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the date on which proposals for reform of the nursing home subvention system were submitted to her Department; and the reason it has taken so long to reach decisions on a reform package for the nursing home subvention. [12797/06]

The expenditure review of the nursing home scheme which was carried out by Professor Eamon O'Shea was officially launched on 25 June 2003. This report was launched in tandem with the Mercer study on the future financing of long-term care which was carried out by the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

Following on the publication of the Mercer report, a working group chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach and comprising senior officials from the Departments of Finance, Health and Children and Social and Family Affairs was established. The objective of this group was to identify the policy options for a financially sustainable system of long-term care, including improvements in community care, taking account of the Mercer report, the views of the consultation that was undertaken on that report and the review of the nursing home subvention scheme by Professor Eamon O'Shea. This group presented its report to Government, where it is under consideration.

Medical Cards.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

157 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the criteria which must be satisfied to get a general practitioner visit card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12798/06]

The Health Service Executive, HSE, has a statutory obligation to make available without charge general practitioner services to persons for whom, in the opinion of the executive, it would be unduly burdensome to arrange such services for themselves and their dependants. People who are deemed eligible by the executive are provided with a GP visit card following an assessment of their income and their outgoings.

The income guidelines used by the executive for GP visit card applications are 25% higher than those for medical cards. The HSE has discretion to grant a GP visit card to persons whose income may be in excess of the guidelines but whose particular circumstances justify such a decision.

Over the course of 2005 significant improvements have been made to the way in which people's eligibility for medical cards and GP visit cards is assessed. In June 2005, the means test for both medical cards and GP visit cards was simplified. It is now based on an applicant's and spouse's income after tax and PRSI, and takes account of reasonable expenses incurred in respect of rent or mortgage payments, child care and travel to work. The guidelines also reflect the family size. In October 2005 the income guidelines for both medical cards and GP visit cards were increased by an additional 20%. The HSE has publicised these changes to encourage people to apply and has made the application process as simple as possible. The HSE has also provided a national information helpline.

The current GP visit card guidelines are set out below. To these amounts are added the reasonable expenses for rent or mortgage, child care and travel to work. The HSE will then compare the applicant or spouse income after income tax and PRSI against the total guideline in making its decision on an application as to whether a medical card or a GP visit card will be approved.

Category

Weekly amount

Single person living alone

Aged up to 65 years

230.50

Aged 66-69 years

252.00

Single person living with family

Aged up to 65 years

205.00

Aged 66-69 years

217.00

Married Couple

Aged up to 65 years

333.00

Aged 66-69 years

373.00

Aged 70-79 years

745.00

Aged 80 years and over

783.50

Allowances for dependent children

For each of the first two children

47.50

For third and each subsequent child

51.00

For each of the first two children aged over 16

49.00

For third and each subsequent child aged over 16

53.50

Dependant over 16 years in full-time education and not grant aided

Allowance for each child

98.00

Hospital Services.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

158 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the changes proposed in the operation of St. Joseph’s Hospital, Ardee; if future patients will be admitted for long-term care or respite care in the hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12799/06]

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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

John McGuinness

Question:

159 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to a previous parliamentary question, the reason for the delay in arranging an appointment for a person (details supplied) in County Carlow at Waterford Regional Hospital in view of the fact that they were referred to a pain specialist by their surgeon on 14 November 2005; if the new information and request for an early appointment submitted would be considered; if a response from the Health Service Executive will be expedited regarding this urgent matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12801/06]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

160 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of nursing home subventions and enhanced subventions per county in 2004 and 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12802/06]

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

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

161 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of community dieticians employed by the Health Service Executive in the Dublin area; the areas they are situated; and the criteria for an area to be granted access to the service. [12809/06]

The Deputy's question relates to human resource management issues and 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 Department's health service personnel census shows a total of 326.86 dieticians nationally at end December 2005 compared with a total of 174.48 at the end of December 2000. This represents an increase of 151.38 or nearly 87%. Figures include both hospital and community based dieticians.

Michael Ring

Question:

162 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason funding is not being provided to a hospital (details supplied) in County Mayo for the contracting of private beds in nursing homes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12810/06]

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.

Pat Breen

Question:

163 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the status of a medical card application for persons (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12819/06]

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

Health Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

164 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied); if a long-term care package will be put in place; and if the family will be given the maximum support and assistance. [12826/06]

Finian McGrath

Question:

173 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a long-term care plan will be put in place for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and if the family will be given the maximum support. [12865/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 164 and 173 together.

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

Legislative Programme.

John Deasy

Question:

165 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the Health (Repayment Scheme) Bill 2006 will be debated in Dáil Éireann; her plans to have the Bill passed by the Dáil and Seanad before the summer recess; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12837/06]

The Health (Repayment Scheme) Bill 2006 was published on 16 March 2006 and the Second Stage reading of the Bill commenced in the Dáil on 30 March 2006. The Second Stage of this Bill is due to resume in the Dáil on 27 April 2006. It is my wish that the important legislative proposals contained in the Bill have a speedy passage through the Oireachtas prior to the summer recess. This will enable the implementation of the scheme to ensure the repayments can be made swiftly to those eligible for repayment, following the completion of an uncomplicated application process.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

166 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Mayo will receive an appointment with a psychologist in view of the fact that they have been waiting at least six months; and when this person will be helped. [12838/06]

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.

Richard Bruton

Question:

167 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the services that would remain in the local children’s accident and emergency units in the event that all children’s inpatient services were consolidated in a single site; the access parents would have to short-term observation wards, outpatient consultant clinics, diagnostic and monitoring facilities, minor surgery and so on; and her plans to undertake consultation with the representatives of parents and patients before final decisions are made on such restructuring. [12843/06]

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

The report, which was prepared by McKinsey and Company, recommends that best outcomes for children should be provided by one national tertiary paediatric centre, which would also provide all secondary paediatric services for the greater Dublin area. The report recommended that these secondary services would be supported by strategically located accident and emergency facilities.

Arising from the report's recommendations, a joint HSE-Department of Health and Children task group was established to progress matters and to advise on the optimal location for the new facility. The group's report is expected shortly. When a decision has been taken in relation to the new facility, the HSE will examine the organisational arrangements necessary to progress the development, including the arrangements for the provision of paediatric accident and emergency services. My primary concern is to ensure that we arrive at a solution which is in the best interests of the children of this country.

Nursing Education.

Pat Breen

Question:

168 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the specialised training nurses receive for working in units specialising in Alzheimer’s disease care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12850/06]

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

Health Services.

John Deasy

Question:

169 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the Health Service Executive areas which provide a chiropody service; the Health Service Executive areas which do not provide such a service; if she will instruct the Health Service Executive to provide a standard chiropody service in all areas; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12854/06]

John Deasy

Question:

170 Mr. Deasy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if medical card holders are entitled to a free chiropody service in those Health Service Executive areas where such a service is provided by the Health Service Executive; if medical card holders can avail of privately owned chiropody services to provide their required treatment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12855/06]

Barry Andrews

Question:

191 Mr. Andrews asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to top-up fees being charged by chiropodists to medical card holders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12966/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 169, 170 and 191 together.

There is no statutory obligation on the HSE to provide chiropody services to GMS patients. However, in practice arrangements are made to provide these services. Before the establishment of the HSE the nature of the arrangements for chiropody and the level of service provided was a matter for individual health boards and so a degree of variation in practice developed over time. Priority is usually given to certain groups of people, including people who are medical card holders aged 65 years and over. In several regions the service is provided by private chiropodists by arrangement with the HSE.

It is inappropriate for private chiropodists who are providing services on behalf of the HSE to charge patients a top-up fee and I have conveyed this view formally to the HSE. My Department requested the HSE to initiate a review of the fee arrangements in place for the provision of chiropody services with a view to ensuring that such additional fees will no longer be levied on persons in receipt of this service. This review is under way.

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

Medical Cards.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

171 Ms Enright asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Offaly has had their medical card withdrawn; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12858/06]

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.

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

Seán Crowe

Question:

172 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to a case in which a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7 has been refused the Health Service Executive’s home improvement scheme for older persons. [12863/06]

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

Question No. 173 answered with QuestionNo. 164.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Pat Breen

Question:

174 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be called for further surgery at the University Hospital, Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12866/06]

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

Hospitals Building Programme.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

175 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position with regard to the extension to Schull Community Hospital in view of the fact that the draft design brief was sent by the health board to her Department almost four years ago; the action which has occurred in the meantime; and the prospective timetable for the completion of this work. [12875/06]

The Deputy's question refers 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 considering new capital proposals or progressing those in the health capital programme. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this case investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

176 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of home care nursing home packages allocated for 2006 in counties Galway, Mayo and Roscommon; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12880/06]

The Deputy's question refers 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.

Denis Naughten

Question:

177 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the eligibility criteria for home care nursing packages; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12881/06]

The Deputy's question refers 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.

Children in Care.

Richard Bruton

Question:

178 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when Coovagh House in Limerick will reopen; its running costs in 2005; the cost of recruiting staff in 2005; and its security costs in each year since its establishment. [12894/06]

Richard Bruton

Question:

179 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the report on Coovagh House (details supplied) will be published. [12895/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 178 and 179 together.

As the Deputy is aware, the management and operation of health and personal social services, including Coovagh House special care unit, is a matter for the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. I understand from inquiries made of the Deputy's office that the details supplied refer to a report in the Irish Examiner of 15 October 2004. I did not commission a report on Coovagh House in October 2004, which at the time was the responsibility of the Mid-Western Health Board. There were ongoing contacts at the time between my Department and the health board. However, I have asked the Health Service Executive to furnish me with a full report, as soon as possible, on the current position on Coovagh House to include the detailed information sought by the Deputy on the reopening and cost issues. I will be in further communication with the Deputy as soon as this is received.

Richard Bruton

Question:

180 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 228 of 28 November 2005 and 248 of 25 October 2005, when she expects a response to be compiled. [12896/06]

As the Deputy is aware, the questions concerned are a matter for the Health Service Executive and were accordingly referred to the executive for direct reply. My Department has made inquiries of the executive and has been informed that the compilation of the information involves extensive work. The executive has informed the Department that it will reply to the Deputy with the information concerned in the next week.

Grant Payments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

181 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the occupational therapist reports for the disabled person’s grant applications made to Kildare County Council can be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12898/06]

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

Health Services.

Marian Harkin

Question:

182 Ms Harkin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when zero hour contracts for home helps will come to an end; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12903/06]

Marian Harkin

Question:

183 Ms Harkin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when home helps will be issued with written contracts based on historic hours worked; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12904/06]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

185 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to make the pay and conditions for home helps more attractive to people in order that more home helps can be recruited in Waterford city and county to address the shortage in the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12907/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 182, 183 and 185 together.

The Deputies' questions on human resource management issues are a matter for the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Therefore, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have these matters investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputies.

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 appropriate. I am aware that a high level group has been established, with representatives from the Health Service Executive and staff representatives from SIPTU and IMPACT, to address issues pertaining to the standardisation of home help services. The group held its first meeting on 23 March and further meetings are scheduled.

An additional €33 million full year cost was allocated to the home help programme in budget 2006, €30 million of which will be for 2006 with the remaining €3 million in 2007, to enable the Health Service Executive to provide an additional 1.75 million hours nationally in 2006. The additional resource will further enhance the service and facilitate the wishes expressed by many older people to remain in their own homes for as long as possible.

Marian Harkin

Question:

184 Ms Harkin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when she hopes to have a comprehensive strategy in place for diabetes care. [12905/06]

The national diabetes working group chaired by the chief medical officer submitted its report to the Tánaiste last summer. The report addressed the epidemiology of diabetes, health promotion and prevention initiatives, including screening and models of care in terms of future service provision.

Specific recommendations included the development of population and high risk approaches to prevent diabetes; the development of podiatry services as a priority issue to prevent foot care complications; the introduction of a diabetic retinopathy screening programme to prevent eye disease; the development of a diabetes register; the setting out of a model of high quality care which describes what children and adults with diabetes shall expect to receive throughout their lifetime; the prioritisation and reflection of diabetes services in the national service plan of the Health Service Executive; the development of shared care or a model of care developed jointly between primary care and specialist services, which has been shown to be effective in diabetes prevention and in the management of complications; and the support of a planning and service delivery framework based on diabetes service development groups with management responsibilities for planning and delivering services and clinical activities such as the support of clinical networks and the application of protocols for better quality care.

The report, which was recently published on the Department of Health and Children website, was forwarded to the chief executive of the Health Service Executive in October 2005. The HSE is treating the matter as a priority and is putting in place a structure to implement the report's recommendations.

Question No. 185 answered with QuestionNo. 182.

Hospital Services.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

186 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the extent of the chiropody provision for diabetic patients in Waterford Regional Hospital, Cork University Hospital, Limerick Regional Hospital and Galway University Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12908/06]

The Deputy's question refers 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.

EU Directives.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

187 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has had discussions with the Dutch authorities arising from the operation of the Dutch health insurance Act which came into operation on 1 January 2006 and which has implications for the many Dutch citizens residing here and, in particular, for those in receipt of pension payments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12912/06]

Regulation (EC) 1408/71 provides for the co-ordination of social security systems, including health care, among EU member states. Under the regulation, those who are insured with or covered by the health care system of one member state but who are residing or staying in another member state receive health care in the state of residence or stay on behalf of the member state with which they are insured or covered. Thus, persons who are insured with or covered by the Dutch health insurance system and who reside in Ireland receive health care in Ireland on behalf of the Netherlands. Such persons automatically receive a medical card, regardless of age or means.

A new health insurance system has now come into force in the Netherlands and the Dutch authorities have advised through the EU forum dealing with administrative matters arising from the operation of Regulation (EC) 1408/71 that the changes introduced may affect Dutch persons resident in member states other than the Netherlands, including Ireland. The changes are entirely a matter for the Netherlands. There has been no change to the EU legislation governing the co-ordination of social security systems, including health care, among member states.

Health Service Staff.

Dan Neville

Question:

188 Mr. Neville asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of occupational therapists employed by the Health Service Executive in the Limerick area; the number employed in 2001; and the average waiting time for a child with special needs to gain access to this service in Limerick. [12919/06]

The Deputy's question refers 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.

EU Directives.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

189 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will confirm that EU Directive 2004/23/EC will be implemented before 7 April 2006; if the directive will not be implemented by 7 April 2006 the reason Ireland will not meet its obligations to implement this directive before the deadline; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12944/06]

My Department is finalising a statutory instrument which will transpose into Irish law the provision of EU Directive 2004/23/EC. This sets standards of quality and safety for the donation, procurement, testing, processing, preservation, storage and distribution of human tissues and cells. It is intended that this will be brought into force on 7 April.

Hospital Services.

Michael Lowry

Question:

190 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has received a proposal for the future of Nenagh General Hospital; her views on the Small Hospital, Big Service report; if she intends to implement the Hanly report in view of this report; if she will act positively towards the report and implement its recommendations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12964/06]

I have recently received the report, Small Hospital, Big Service, referred to by the Deputy, which was published by the Nenagh Hospital Action Group. The report will be examined by my Department and by the Health Service Executive in the context of its role in the management and delivery of health and social services.

The Report of the National Task Force on Medical Staffing, the Hanly report, made a series of important recommendations about the development of hospital services. These covered issues such as the changes needed in NCHD work patterns; the need for a significantly revised contract for medical consultants and an increase in the number of consultants; reform of medical education and training; and the reorganisation of acute hospital services. My Department is working closely with the HSE to build on, and progress, these recommendations. Negotiations in relation to NCHD work patterns and on a new contract for consultants have begun.

On 1 February 2006, together with the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, I announced details of a €200 million Government initiative for major reform of medical education and training from undergraduate level through to postgraduate specialist training. The reforms are based on the recommendations in the report of the postgraduate medical education and training group, chaired by Dr. Jane Buttimer, and the report of the working group on undergraduate medical education and training, chaired by Professor Pat Fottrell. These two reports make a series of comprehensive recommendations for the development and reform of medical education and is the most significant review of the medical education and training field ever undertaken in Ireland.

These measures, combined with ongoing investment in acute hospital facilities, extra consultant posts and the organisation of services around hospital networks, are designed to provide patients with faster access to high-quality consultant provided services. A new independent external review of all acute hospital services in the mid-west and how they can be developed in accordance with best practice has been approved by the Health Service Executive. The report undertaken by the Nenagh Hospital Action Group will be taken into account as a key component of the review process. The review is to be completed by the end of the year following which the findings will be published.

Question No. 191 answered with QuestionNo. 169.

Health Services.

Liz McManus

Question:

192 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the fact that public health nurses here unlike the UK are unable, for insurance reasons, to visit schools to give advice and raise awareness regarding anaphylaxis and the way in which to manage same in a school environment; her plans to facilitate public health nurses to carry out this work; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12977/06]

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

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

193 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will make representations on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow regarding admission to Waterford Regional Hospital for surgery. [12982/06]

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

Parking Regulations.

James Breen

Question:

194 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason there are no disabled car parking spaces in the public car park at the Regional Hospital Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12983/06]

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.

Accident and Emergency Services.

Sean Fleming

Question:

195 Mr. Fleming asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there is information available in her Department regarding the number of people on hospital trolleys in accident and emergency units in hospitals here on the first Monday of each month since October 2004; if she will make this information available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12987/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is not available within my Department. The Health Act 2004 provided for the Health Service Executive, which was established on 1 January 2005. Under the Act, the executive has the responsibility to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. This includes responsibility for collecting data on activity in accident and emergency departments. Information on daily activity levels in accident and emergency departments since April 2005 is available on the HSE website at www.hse.ie. My Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have the information requested furnished directly to the Deputy.

Alcohol Policy.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

196 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Question No. 159 of 28 March 2006, if there is a national adviser on alcohol policy; if so, if she will identify this person; if not, the steps she is taking to ensure such a person is identified and appointed; and when she expects this appointment to take place. [13051/06]

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. There are no plans to appoint a national adviser on alcohol policy in this Department.

Question No. 197 answered with QuestionNo. 149.

Medical Aids and Appliances.

Richard Bruton

Question:

198 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department accepts liability for the costs of persons who hold or have held medical cards while in private nursing homes, for example in respect of incontinence wear and of medical elements of care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13075/06]

Article 16.1 of the Nursing Homes (Subvention) Regulations 1993 provides that individuals resident in private nursing homes who are in receipt of a subvention from the health board may not be charged extra for any service which is considered to be essential to their maintenance in the home and common practice in most nursing homes. Such services include bed and board, nursing care appropriate to the level of dependency of the person and incontinence wear.

In February 2001, a letter was issued by the Department of Health and Children to the former health boards and Eastern Regional Health Authority requesting that the necessary arrangements be put in place so that all medical card holders in receipt of subvention be supplied with incontinence wear under a similar arrangement as is in place for those living in the community. Arrangements are currently in place in the majority of areas for the supply of incontinence wear to medical card holders in private nursing homes.

From 2003 additional funding was allocated towards the nursing home subvention scheme to assist with the costs of supplying incontinence wear to patients in private nursing homes who are in receipt of a subvention under the nursing home subvention scheme. This funding also assists with costs associated in managing the scheme and providing training and education in relation to incontinence issues.

Medical Education.

Liam Twomey

Question:

199 Dr. Twomey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the Medical Council gave her Department a discussion document or submission paper on the future of medical training, competence assurance and continuous medical education in 1999; if so, if she will forward this Deputy a copy of the report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13086/06]

I am advised that the Medical Council submitted a discussion paper on competence assurance to my Department in mid-December 1998. My Department has requested the Medical Council to communicate with the Deputy directly on the matter.

Hospital Staff.

James Breen

Question:

200 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the measures she will put in place to address the serious and acute shortage of rheumatologists; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13161/06]

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

Medical Cards.

John McGuinness

Question:

201 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be issued to a person (details supplied) in County Carlow; and if a positive response will be expedited. [13190/06]

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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

202 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason an outpatients appointment in Wexford hospital cannot be given before 6 December 2006 to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13195/06]

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

Accident and Emergency Services.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

203 Mr. Morgan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the percentage of people treated in hospital accident and emergency units in 2005 who suffered their accidents at work. [13196/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available. The Health and Safety Authority, HSA, which reports to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, is the statutory body with responsibility for monitoring the incidence of work-related accidents. Data are reported to the HSA on those accidents at work, excluding self-employed and certain other categories, which result in at least three days absence from work. The information recorded does not indicate whether those who have suffered an injury attended a hospital accident and emergency department for treatment. Statistics collected by my Department for 2005 show there were a total of 1.25 million accident and emergency unit attendances nationally. It is not, however, possible with present information systems to ascertain what proportion of these visits were due to work-related accidents.

A pilot project is under way to widen the range of information collected on accident and emergency attendances. The project is part of a harmonised EU initiative under the auspices of the public health programme of the EU Commission and is being led by the National Suicide Research Foundation in Ireland. The objective will be to replace the previous system which was restricted to home and leisure accidents to cover all injuries attending accident and emergency units. The new system is being tested throughout the EU and, in Ireland, is being piloted at present in the six hospitals of the Health Service Executive southern region.

Equality Strategy.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

204 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has read the recent Amnesty International report, Breaking Down Barriers: Tackling Racism in Ireland at the level of the State and its institutions; and the steps she intends to take in order to address the shortcomings the report identified within her Department and within the State’s health service generally. [13207/06]

The increasing numbers of people from different ethnic minority groups living and working in Ireland has contributed to a rich mix of diversity in the country. At the same time, the need to address the health and support needs of this diverse group in a way appropriate to their culture, has posed challenges for the health services. A number of initiatives have been undertaken aimed at ensuring equal access to health care including the launch of the booklet, Equal Status Acts 2000-2004 and provision of health services. This booklet has been developed as a collaborative initiative by my Department, the HSE and the Equality Authority. It aims to support health service organisations in becoming fully equality competent bodies, committed to ensuring an equality focus on all aspects of service provision and employment. Another initiative is the development of a national equality strategy by the HSE, the initial steps of which have already commenced. The national intercultural strategy, addressing the health and support needs of persons from ethnic minorities, has been developed. This strategy, consistent with the requirements contained in the national action plan against racism, will build on the good practice already reflected throughout the country in ensuring a responsive, culturally sensitive approach to service provision to the unique health care and support needs of asylum seekers, refugees, migrant workers, Travellers and other members of minority ethnic communities.

Much work has been done in parts of the country to reduce barriers experienced by ethnic minorities. Specific measures include the completion of an equal status review in the north west of Ireland, the provision of a range of services targeted at specific health needs of people from ethnic minorities and the provision of interpretation services in different administrative areas. Experience from these and other related initiatives will inform expansion or enhancement of relevant services across the country. Significant efforts have also been made in relation to staff training and support needs in working with people from minority ethnic communities. Plans concerning the roll-out of a national programme are at an advanced stage.

The development of an ethnic identifier, successfully piloted in the area of Traveller health, is a priority for the HSE in 2006. Information gained from use of the ethnic identifier will be applied towards identification of needs, measurement of uptake of services and evaluation of outcomes. Service users from ethnic minorities will be actively involved in planning, implementation and evaluation of this and all other relevant initiatives.

Hospital Services.

Phil Hogan

Question:

205 Mr. Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when an operation will be carried out on a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13229/06]

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

Health Services.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

206 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of people here who are suffering from multiple sclerosis; the type of treatments and assistance available to such patients. [13250/06]

The most recent figures from the national physical and sensory disability database, NPSDD, annual report 2004, which is managed by the Health Research Board, show 1,791 people as having being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In interpreting this data, it is important to note that as not everyone in this country with a physical or sensory disability is availing of a specialised health and personal social service, the NPSDD will not provide any definite epidemiological statement on the number of people with a particular type of disability.

Part of the Deputy's question relates to treatment and assistance available to such patients. The management and delivery of health and personal social services, 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.

Drugs Payment Scheme.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

207 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on including smoking patches in the drugs covered under the drugs payment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13266/06]

A common list of reimbursable medicines is in place for the general medical services and drug payment schemes to ensure equity in respect of the range of medicines paid for by the State under both schemes. For a product to be reimbursable under the two schemes, it must satisfy a number of criteria, including that it is ordinarily supplied to the public only by medical prescription and that it should not be advertised or promoted to the public. Nicotine replacement therapies belong to a category of products that would not normally satisfy these criteria in that they are generally available over-the-counter, and may be advertised directly to the public.

Nicotine replacement therapies are available to medical card holders on foot of recommendations made by the cardiovascular health strategy group and the advisory forum established to support the task force in the implementation of strategy. Evidence shows that lower socioeconomic groups have a higher incidence of smoking and spend a higher proportion of disposable income on tobacco and that, in general, their health is worse. Therefore, it was considered that members of this group are in greatest need of assistance in helping them to quit the habit. Accordingly, and in light of the recommendations that were made, it was decided, as an exceptional measure to make the full range of nicotine replacement therapies available on prescription to medical card holders. There are no plans to extend this to the drug payment scheme.

Equal Opportunities Employment.

John Dennehy

Question:

208 Mr. Dennehy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department is meeting the agreed national target figures for employment of persons with a disability; her views on whether that figure is adequate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13270/06]

Some 2.3% of the total staff numbers serving in my Department are recorded as having a disability. The figure is lower than the target of 3% due to a combination of circumstances. The Public Appointments Service, PAS, undertakes the recruitment of staff to posts in my Department following approval from the Department of Finance. As the Deputy is aware, my Department is currently undergoing major restructuring and has no posts to be filled at this time.

I understand that the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform is currently in discussions with the PAS concerning future competitions for persons with disabilities and that there are a number of issues to be taken into consideration. Irrespective of any quotas, my Department is, and always has been, willing to provide placements for persons with disabilities.

My Department is participating in the willing able mentoring, WAM, project this summer. The WAM project, which is administered by the Association of Higher Education Access and Disability, aims to provide graduates with disabilities with temporary placements with public and private sector employers.

Health Services.

Michael Ring

Question:

209 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a person, details supplied, in County Mayo will be reassessed for orthodontic treatment. [13284/06]

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.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Marian Harkin

Question:

210 Ms Harkin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person, details supplied, in County Galway will be allocated a place in a hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13288/06]

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

Nursing Home Subventions.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

211 Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if there has been a policy change in the Health Service Executive western region concerning the payment of the enhanced nursing home subvention; if there has been a cutback in the payment of the enhanced subvention; if so, the reason therefore; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13292/06]

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.

Compensation Payments.

Liz McManus

Question:

212 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of times the group considering the no fault compensation scheme has met; when the group will be presenting its findings; and when those findings will be published. [13369/06]

The advisory group on no fault compensation for brain damaged infants was established in 2001. It met on 19 occasions between 2001 and 2004. It ceased to meet in early 2004 as a result of hospital consultants' withdrawal from ministerial committees and working groups in protest at the inclusion of claims against them in the clinical indemnity scheme. In the interim, advice received from the Attorney General raised some questions about the constitutional implications of no fault schemes in general. I am considering the implications of re-establishing the group. In the event that it is re-established, I am certain that the excellent work already undertaken by the group can be built upon.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Liz McManus

Question:

213 Ms McManus asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person, details supplied, in County Cork will get an appointment to see a doctor; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13370/06]

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

Hospital Charges.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

214 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if arrangements have been made to pay, through public funds, the cost of treating public patients at the new radiotherapy unit at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13378/06]

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. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to respond directly to the Deputy in respect of the matter raised.

Health Services.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

215 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the need for adult ADD/ADHD services here; her plans to set up such a service on a nationwide basis; the extent of services already available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13397/06]

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

Health Service Staff.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

216 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress which has been made recruiting speech and language therapists; the number of unfilled posts in each of the Health Service Executive regions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13398/06]

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.

The Deputy may wish to note, however, that additional investment in speech and language therapy services in recent years, coupled with enhancements in the professional training, career development and remuneration of these therapists, have led to significant improvements in staffing levels. These developments are in line with the recommendations contained in the 2000 report of the expert group on various health professions, which included new pay scales and enhanced career structures.

In general, developments such as pay increases, improvements in career structure and enhanced opportunities for professional and career development have all supported increased staffing levels for key health and social care professions, including speech and language therapists. The implementation of the pay recommendations of the public service benchmarking body made a further important contribution to recruitment and improved retention. The continued implementation of the action plan for people management, a key action under the health strategy, has a crucial role in improving retention and reducing turnover of skilled staff.

The success of all these measures have contributed to an increase of 162 speech and language therapists, or 42% over the number employed by the end of December 2000, and reflects significant increases in the numbers employed in promotional grades. There were 548 whole-time equivalent speech and language therapists employed in the public health service by the end of September 2005.

In addition, three new speech and language therapy courses commenced in the 2003-04 academic year in UCC, NUIG and UL. In total, these courses provide an additional 75 training places in speech and language therapy. This expansion in training numbers was identified in the Bacon report of 2001, current and future supply and demand conditions in the labour market for certain professional therapists, as sufficient to meet the long-term demand-supply balance for speech and language therapists in Ireland. The first graduates from the two year masters course in UL completed their studies in June 2005. The first graduates from the BSc courses in UCC and NUIG will graduate in 2007.

Essential to the successful roll out of these additional training places is the provision of sufficient quality clinical placements in speech and language therapy. The revenue funding I have provided this year, along with that allocated in the past two years for the three therapy professions, totals €4.6 million. It is expected that approximately 30% of this amount will go towards the speech and language therapy profession and will enable the Health Service Executive, working with my Department, to put in place the enhanced structures necessary to ensure that students will have access to a sustainable, high-quality clinical training model.

Hospital Staff.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

217 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to increase the number of neurosurgeons here; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a long waiting list for neurosurgery and that there are only nine such public posts here based in Dublin and Cork while the recommended number is 14 or 15; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13399/06]

At the request of the Department of Health and Children, a committee was established by Comhairle na nOspidéal, to review the existing arrangements for the provision of neurosurgical services and consultant staffing nationally, and following consultation with the interests concerned, to make recommendations on the future organisation and development of neurosurgical services. My Department has been informed that the report will be published by the Health Service Executive in the coming weeks.

Hospital Waiting Lists.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

218 Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the cancellation of a hip operation for a person, details supplied, in County Kildare; and when the operation will be scheduled. [13400/06]

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.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Seán Haughey

Question:

219 Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will support the campaign of the Irish Deaf Society for recognition of sign language; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13412/06]

My Department has responsibility for the provision of health and personal social services for people with disabilities, including deaf people. My Department has no responsibility for the recognition of sign language.

Health Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

220 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an appeal for enhanced subvention payment in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be expedited; and if a response will be given. [13413/06]

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

Housing Aid for the Elderly.

John McGuinness

Question:

221 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a response will be expedited to an application under the housing aid for the elderly scheme in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; the reason the assessment is being delayed in view of the urgent need involved; if funding is an issue; if there is a backlog of applications; if so, the action that is being taken to assist those on the front line of the service to clear the backlog; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13414/06]

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 the 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.

Child Care Services.

David Stanton

Question:

222 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the additional direction she has given and the contact she has had with the city and county child care committees in respect of the voluntary notification system for childminders who wish to avail of the new childminding relief scheme since its introduction in budget 2006; the additional staff that have been employed by the child care committees to deal with notifications; the functions of these staff; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13432/06]

David Stanton

Question:

223 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of inquiries her office has received regarding the voluntary notification system for childminders wishing to avail of the new tax exemption since its introduction; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13433/06]

David Stanton

Question:

224 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of inquiries the city and county child care committees have received with regard to voluntary notification for childminders since the introduction of the new tax exemption; the breakdown of same per child care committee; the number of notifications the child care committees have received since the introduction of the tax exemption; the breakdown of same per child care committee; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13434/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 222 to 224, inclusive, together.

While the tax exemption which is being introduced for income from childminding is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners in the first instance, to avail of it a childminder must elect to make a voluntary notification of his or her childminding service to the person recognised by the HSE for this purpose, effectively the local city or county child care committee, CCC. This will further strengthen the voluntary notification system already operated by the CCCs and supported by the childminder advisory officers.

To answer the Deputy's questions, it is necessary to outline the position in regard to notification, both voluntary and as required under the Child Care Act 1991. Part VII of the Child Care Act 1991 provides for the supervision of pre-school services, including the imposition of a requirement on persons operating pre-school services to notify their service to the Health Service Executive, HSE. A number of categories of persons providing pre-school services are excluded from this requirement, including a person taking care of not more than three pre-school children of different families, other than that person's own such children, in that person's home. A pre-school child is defined as a child who has not attained the age of six years and who is not attending a national school or a school providing an educational programme similar to a national school.

Many childminders are covered by this exemption, however, to facilitate childminders who wish to participate in and avail of the range of quality initiatives introduced under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme 2000-06, EOCP, a voluntary notification system was introduced and is operated at local level through the CCCs established under the EOCP. Some 1,000 childminders have notified their local CCC under this system. As the Minister of State with special responsibility for children, I will be responsible for the administration of both the EOCP and the new National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010.

It will be clear from the above that the necessary arrangements and staffing to operate the voluntary notification system were already in place prior to the introduction of the tax exemption announced in budget 2006. The additional numbers of notifications by childminders arising from the introduction of the tax exemption will be accommodated within these existing arrangements and will not give rise to a need for additional staffing or other resources. As the Deputy will appreciate, a wide range of new measures in respect of child care were announced in budget 2006, including the new National Childcare Investment Programme 2006-2010 under which the CCCs will have an enhanced role in identifying and supporting local child care needs. As a result, steps are being taken to further develop and resource the CCCs. In addition, the OMC held a major conference in January 2006 to outline the new programme and budget changes to the CCCs. This has been followed by a series of seminars and information sessions to assist the CCCs in carrying out their role.

With regard to the number of inquiries received and voluntary notifications made to the CCCs since the budget announcement, I understand from inquiries and the information available that the position is as indicated in the following table. Where it has not been possible to obtain details in the time available, I will arrange for this information to be forwarded to you in the coming days. I understand that the OMC has not recorded any significant number of enquiries regarding the exemption. It is not possible to say at this stage whether any significant increase in enquiries or notifications will arise in the period between now and October 2007 when the first tax returns in relation to the exemption will be due for return.

City / County Childcare Committee

Inquiries on Childminding Exemption

Voluntary Notifications

Carlow

1

1

Cavan

25

3

Clare

2

5

Cork City

Details awaited

Cork County

8

0

Dún Laoghaire / Rathdown

3

0

Donegal

21

0

Dublin City

30

0

Fingal

15

30

Galway

280

0

Kerry

4

70

Kildare

Details awaited

Kilkenny

4

0

Laois

0

1

Leitrim

Details awaited

Limerick City

Details awaited

Limerick County

6

4

Longford

5

0

Louth

1

0

Mayo

Details awaited

Meath

25

17

Monaghan

2

1

North Tipperary

0

1

Offaly

0

1

Roscommon

8

0

Sligo

10

0

South Dublin

50

5

South Tipperary

6

0

Waterford City

20

5

Waterford County

8

7

Westmeath

91

5

Wexford

8

0

Wicklow

57

21

Total

553

160

David Stanton

Question:

225 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of childminders who are currently notified and registered with the Health Service Executive and for each year since 2004; the breakdown of same for each Health Service Executive area; the number of children these childminders are looking after; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13435/06]

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.

David Stanton

Question:

226 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the procedure in place with regard to notification to the Health Service Executive by childminders; the steps that are taken by the Health Service Executive following notification; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13436/06]

Childminders who care for more than three pre-school children of different families, other than their own pre-school children, in the childminders' own homes are required to notify the Health Service Executive in accordance with section 51(2) of the Child Care Act 1991 and article 11(1) of the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 1996 and Child Care (Pre-School Services) (Amendment) Regulations 1997. Notification must be given in writing at least 28 days in advance of the commencement of the service on a form as set out in the schedule to regulations or on a similar form.

The steps taken by the Health Service Executive following notification relate to the management and delivery of health and personal social services, which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy concerning this matter.

David Stanton

Question:

227 Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the functions of the pre-school services inspectorate; if its remit extends to the inspection of the homes of childminders who have notified the Health Service Executive and CCCs; the guidelines or legislation in place governing the inspection of childminders homes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13437/06]

The Health Service Executive has statutory responsibility for the implementation of the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations 1996 and (Amendment) Regulations 1997, which give effect to the provisions of Part VII of the Child Care Act 1991 and provide for notification to and inspection by the Health Service Executive of pre-school services. The regulations apply to pre-schools, play groups, day nurseries, crèches, childminders looking after more than three pre-school children other than their own such children in the childminders' own homes and other similar services which cater for children under six years of age.

The notification and inspection service is managed by the pre-school inspection teams of the Health Service Executive, which are appointed by the executive as authorised persons for this purpose. These teams also provide an advisory service to the services that are statutorily required to notify in order to assist them in achieving and maintaining the appropriate standard. They also provide information to interested persons, including parents, on pre-school services in the area.

Following inspection of a service, the inspector provides the service provider with a report on the outcome of the inspection. The teams then work closely with service providers in addressing the recommendations of the inspection reports. Where persistent breaches of legislation occur, the Health Service Executive can initiate prosecutions. In addition, the inspection teams, on receipt of a warrant from the District Court, can inspect a premises where it is believed that a pre-school service is being carried on without notification having been given to the Health Service Executive.

In 2001, a childminder advisory service was put in place to support and advise childminders of pre-school children who are exempt from notification under the legislation, that is, those caring for three or fewer pre-school children, a sibling group of pre-school children or pre-school children of relatives. Such childminders are encouraged to voluntarily notify this service. The childminder advisory service is operated at local level through the CCCs-HSE. The childminder advisory officers provide networking opportunities, advice, advisory visits, support and training for childminders who voluntarily notify.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

228 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason the State has no hearing screening programme for newborn children; and her plans to introduce such a programme. [13474/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

232 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her attention has been drawn to the standards of practice regarding universal newborn hearing screening in other EU countries and North America; and if not, if research has been undertaken to obtain that information. [13565/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

233 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a cost analysis has been done for the introduction and implementation of universal newborn hearing screening here; if she has any plans to introduce universal newborn hearing screening; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13566/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

234 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason universal newborn hearing screening has not been introduced since it was first recommended by the National Association for Deaf People in 1988 and in view of wide acceptance of universal newborn hearing screening in most, if not all, developed countries. [13567/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 228 and 232 to 234, inclusive, together.

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.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

229 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when home help will be provided in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13477/06]

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.

Food Safety.

Dan Boyle

Question:

230 Mr. Boyle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 132 of 21 March 2006, when the Minister replied that only one employment contract dispute has been made in respect of the Safefood Agency, if she will confirm that two other complaints have also been made. [13528/06]

By way of clarification, in the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 132 of 21 March 2006, the Deputy was informed of a complaint relating to a tendered software contract. In replies to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 73 of 23 February 2006 and 216 of 28 February 2006, the Deputy was informed of two complaints made in respect of the appointment of a co-ordinator for a research network on cryptosporidium. None of the three complaints relates to a contract of employment. Officials of my Department have been advised by Safefood that no additional complaints are being dealt with by this body.

Health Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

231 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has had contact or discussion with the National Association for Deaf People on the subject of universal newborn hearing screening since May 2005; when the National Association for Deaf People submitted their business case proposal; if she was present in July 2005 when the National Association for Deaf People briefed her Department. [13564/06]

Since May 2005, my Department has received a number of representations from the National Association for Deaf People, NAD, on the subject of universal neonatal hearing screening. This correspondence relates to the management and delivery of health and personal services which are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to have the matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the National Association for Deaf People.

On 6 July 2005, one of my advisory staff met with a project officer of the National Association for Deaf People on my behalf and discussed a submission prepared by the NAD. This submission was forwarded to the HSE on 18 July and I understand the HSE has had follow up discussions with the NAD since that date.

On 13 July 2005, a meeting took place between the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Brian Lenihan, and the Irish Society of Hearing Aid Audiology. A representative from the National Association for Deaf People was also present at this meeting. The subject for discussion at this meeting was the inclusion of audiology professions in the system of statutory registration proposed in the Health and Social Care Professionals Bill 2004. To the best of my knowledge, the question of universal neonatal hearing screening was not discussed on this occasion.

Questions Nos. 232 to 234, inclusive, answered with Question No. 228.

Enda Kenny

Question:

235 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of funding which has been provided to family projects (details supplied) in the past five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13568/06]

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 asked the executive to provide me with the detailed information sought by the Deputy. I will be in further contact with the Deputy as soon as this information is received.

Tax Code.

Michael Ring

Question:

236 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Finance if he will double the VAT refund to dairy farmers to 10%, which farmers in most EU countries are in a position to reclaim (details supplied). [13139/06]

The position is that the calculation of the farmers' flat rate is governed by EU VAT law and is based on the relevant macroeconomic data for the farming sector for the preceding three years. The purpose of the flat rate addition is to compensate unregistered farmers for VAT which they incur on their business inputs. The flat rate addition is not a mechanism for providing income support to farmers or to compensate for increases in wages or costs generally.

Site Acquisitions.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

237 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the action which remains to be taken to conclude outstanding issues in respect of the proposed new site for Kill national school; if he expects the project to proceed in the current year in view of the unsatisfactory location of the present school from a health and safety point of view; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13550/06]

Agreement on price, subject to contract has been reached by the Commissioners of Public Works on behalf of the Minister for Education and Science for a site for a new school in Kill, County Kildare, and they currently await contracts for sale from the vendor. Subject to receipt of the contracts for sale, it is not possible to say how long the conveyancing process will take.

Tax Code.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

238 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance his views on making schools exempt from VAT; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13570/06]

In accordance with the EU sixth VAT directive and Irish VAT law, most education and training establishments, including primary and secondary level schools, are exempt from VAT. This means that they do not charge VAT on the services they supply but cannot recover VAT on the goods and services that they purchase. Essentially, only VAT registered businesses which charge VAT are able to recover VAT.

It is normal for state funded services to bear VAT on their purchases. However, Exchequer funding for such services, including primary and secondary schools, takes account of VAT when allocations are being made by the Government.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

239 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Finance if it is a legal requirement that VAT be charged on road tolls in circumstances where the toll is paid directly to the Government. [12816/06]

The legal position in respect of VAT on tolls was clarified by the European Court of Justice in September 2000 in a series of rulings concerning the VAT treatment of tolls in Ireland, France, the United Kingdom and Greece.

The position is that, in principle, the activity of providing access to roads on payment of a toll is a supply of services subject to VAT under the conditions of the sixth directive. Under Article 4(5) of the directive, if the State, regional or local government authorities or other bodies governed by public law carry out this activity acting as public authorities, the services do not fall within the scope of VAT, unless their non-taxation would lead to a significant distortion of competition. The European Court of Justice examined the conditions under which toll roads are operated in Ireland and ruled that because the tolls are operated by a private concern, the tolls are subject to VAT.

National Monuments.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

240 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Finance if he will request the Office of Public Works to consider the provision of screening along the northern boundary of the lands at Maynooth Castle, Maynooth, County Kildare, through the provision of mature trees to reduce the visual impact of the Manor Mills development as the castle is viewed from Parsons Street, College Green area of Maynooth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12861/06]

The northern boundary of the Maynooth Castle site already has a significant number of mature trees and there are no plans to add further trees at this time.

Tax Code.

Finian McGrath

Question:

241 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance his views on the injustice to single income families and the entry point to the 42% tax rate as adjusted in budget 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12941/06]

Seán Haughey

Question:

255 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Finance his views on the widening gap between a married couple with one income and a married couple with two incomes due to tax individualisation; if this gap is set to widen further; the reason for this taxation policy; if same will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13420/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 241 and 255 together.

The standard rate band for a married single earner couple was substantially increased in value in budget 2006 by €2,600 per annum from €38,400 to €41,000. The standard band for a single person was also increased by €2,600 per annum from €29,400 to €32,000. As a result of the changes, a single earner may earn up to €32,000 in 2006 before paying the higher rate of tax. A married single earner couple may earn up to €41,000 before facing tax at the higher rate and a married dual earner couple may earn up to €64,000 before facing the higher rate of tax.

All categories of taxpayer benefited from the income tax changes in budget 2006. No taxpayer has been disadvantaged relative to their former position. The changes reflect a consistent approach by the Government to ease the tax burden on income earners, which has seen the average tax rate fall for all taxpayers, married or single, since 1997. We are well to the fore in this regard compared to other tax regimes.

In fact, the most recent data available from the OECD show that, in 2005, a married single income couple with two children on average earnings in Ireland has the lowest tax wedge in the entire OECD. In addition, when cash transfers from the State are taken into account, such couples face a negative burden in Ireland because they receive more in the cash transfers than they pay out in social security contributions. Ireland is unique in the OECD in this respect. These data do not even take into account the further changes in budget 2006 including, for example, the introduction of the early child care supplement and increases in child benefit payments.

This bears out the fact that this Government has radically improved the position of all taxpayers and single income taxpayers as well since 1997.

EU Directives.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

242 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that EU Directive 2004/39/EC will be implemented before 30 April 2006; if the directive will not be implemented by 30 April 2006 the reason Ireland will not meet its obligations to implement this directive before the deadline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12943/06]

The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) 2004/39/EC was adopted on 21 April 2004 and published in the EC's Official Journal on 20 April 2004. The original deadline set for its transposition was two years after its publication, ie 30 April 2006. However, this was subsequently revised, owing to the very technical nature of the directive and the resources which would be required to comply with it. The new deadline is 31 January 2007 for transposition and a deadline for industry of 1 November 2007. Arrangements for transposition in Ireland are well advanced.

Decentralisation Programme.

Joan Burton

Question:

243 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding proposals to decentralise FÁS to Birr, County Offaly; if his attention has been drawn to the Labour Court recommendation (details supplied) which states that FÁS is in breach of the consultation procedures agreement; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that due to the failure of Government to recognise this recommendation, employees of FÁS have commenced industrial action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12956/06]

Joan Burton

Question:

244 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he will uphold the Labour Court ruling (details supplied) in implementing decentralisation for State agencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12957/06]

Joan Burton

Question:

246 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance further to newspaper comments attributed to the Minister of State for the Office of Public Works regarding the dispute between FÁS and SIPTU over decentralisation that one idea is the possibility of guaranteeing staff that a certain number of promotions will be held over for those who do not wish to decentralise; if this means that Government will ensure that some promotions are reserved for employees of FÁS that remain in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12979/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 243, 244 and 246 together.

Both the Government and I have made it clear that participation in the decentralisation programme is voluntary. From the outset, guarantees have been provided at Government level that all those employees not wishing to transfer out of Dublin will be facilitated with an alternative public service post in Dublin. This position has not changed.

In the Civil Service, progress has been made in discussions with the general service unions on issues relating to transfer protocols, promotions and arrangements for staff remaining in Dublin. Discussions are ongoing on these issues with the unions representing the professional and technical grades in the Civil Service. I hope these and other decentralisation issues arising in the State agency sector can be discussed with the relevant unions with a view to arriving at arrangements which support the decentralisation process while also meeting the concerns of staff.

In regard to FÁS, it would be helpful to refer specifically to the Labour Court ruling. In its recent recommendation in a dispute between SIPTU and FÁS concerning decentralisation and FÁS contracts of employment, the Labour Court considered the written and oral submissions of the parties. The court also noted the terms of the company-union industrial relations procedures agreement and said that it was of the opinion that FÁS was in breach of the consultation procedures provided for in that agreement. It made no ruling on the substantive issue of the relocation clause. The court recommended that the matter be referred back to the appropriate central body, at which level the issues should be teased out with a view to arriving at agreed long-term solutions, in consultation with all the parties involved.

I strongly support the full use of existing industrial relations structures by all the parties involved and believe that this represents the best way forward. It is only through dialogue that all the issues raised can be addressed. On this issue, discussions are scheduled under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission on Tuesday, 4 April.

Tax Code.

Michael Lowry

Question:

245 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance the terms and conditions when a person may qualify for tax relief for further education; if a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary will be considered eligible for such relief; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12971/06]

The position is that tax relief is available in respect of qualifying fees paid by an individual to an approved college in respect of certain full-time or part-time undergraduate courses and postgraduate courses. The current maximum amount of relief per course per academic year in respect of third level fees is €5,000 at the standard rate of tax.

Tax relief is also available in respect of fees paid for training courses in the area of information technology and foreign languages. Tax relief is available at the standard rate of income tax where the tuition fees for an approved course are more than €315. Relief is not available where the tuition fees are less than €315. The current maximum amount of relief is €1,270 per course at the standard rate of tax. Tuition fees paid by an individual on his or her own behalf or on behalf of a spouse, child or person for whom the individual is the legal guardian qualify for tax relief. Relief may be claimed at the end of the tax year or, for PAYE taxpayers, the relief may be claimed by way of amending the tax credit certificate during the tax year when the fees have been paid. Tax relief is available for tuition fees only. It is not available in respect of administration or examination fees or in respect of any part of tuition fees that are met directly or indirectly by grants, scholarships, by an employer or otherwise.

The information leaflet, IT31, in respect of tax relief on tuition fees is available on the Revenue website at www.revenue.ie. Annual lists of approved third level colleges in the State, approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the State, and approved course providers and courses for information technology and foreign languages are also available on the Revenue website. The application form for claiming the relief is contained in the information leaflet.

In regard to the specific case raised by the Deputy, I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they have not received any claim for relief for tuition fees from the taxpayer to date. They have, however, sent the person a copy of the information leaflet.

Question No. 246 answered with QuestionNo. 243.

Motor Vehicle Registration.

Richard Bruton

Question:

247 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance the precise tax computation of Irish vehicle registration tax and VAT on a new motorcycle imported from Northern Ireland on which the UK 17.5% VAT was paid. [13072/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that where a new motorcycle is deemed to be a new means of transport for VAT purposes in accordance with EU law, that is, the motorcycle was supplied six months or less after the date of first entry into service and has travelled less than 6,000 km, VAT is chargeable at the rate of 21% of the invoice price and is normally payable at the time of registration in the State. With regard to VAT charged in Northern Ireland and in line with double taxation provisions within EU member states, a refund of such VAT paid may be sought by the purchaser of the vehicle from the appropriate VAT office in that jurisdiction.

With regard to vehicle registration tax, a motorcycle is deemed to be a new means of transport where it was supplied three months or less after the date of first entry into service. VRT is charged on the registration of a motorcycle as follows: €2 per cubic centimetre in respect of the first 350 cc of engine capacity, and €1 per cubic centimetre in respect of each additional cc of engine capacity.

Pension Entitlements.

Richard Bruton

Question:

248 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that retired prison officers who re-entered the public service to continue to work face a deduction on their pension once their earnings exceed a certain low threshold; and his views on lifting or abolishing this threshold in order to encourage the continuing working contribution after the quite low retirement age which applies in the prison service. [13074/06]

By virtue of the Pensions (Abatement) Act 1965, any civil servant or prison officer who is re-employed in the Civil Service is liable to pension abatement in situations where his or her post retirement income from the Civil Service exceeds the current income for their job prior to retirement.

The statutory abatement provisions are not a discouraging factor to post retirement re-employment. In the case of a prison officer, abatement only applies if during the period of post retirement employment, the person's total income exceeds the current equivalent of the salary and reckonable allowances they had been in receipt of while serving as a prison officer. That is their combined income from pension and their new employment can be the same, but no more, than the current value of the income of their previous job.

The Deputy may also wish to note that, in general, abatement for retired civil servants and prison officers only applies if they are subsequently re-employed in the Civil Service. Abatement would not apply if a retired civil servant or prison officer works elsewhere in the public service or in the private sector.

Tax Code.

John Perry

Question:

249 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Finance when back payment of income tax will be issued to a person (details supplied) as the queries that arose on the years in concern has been resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13156/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that they have no record of correspondence relating to refunds of income tax from the individual whose name and PPS number was supplied by the Deputy and are, therefore, unaware of the issue raised by the Deputy. For this reason, the Revenue Commissioners are unable to give any information concerning the back payment of income tax. If the Deputy would like to supply further information to my office, or if the taxpayer would like to provide further details to her local tax office, the matter will be investigated further.

Environmental Policy.

Phil Hogan

Question:

250 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Finance the initiatives he is undertaking to promote the use of biofuels and other renewable energy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13228/06]

While the promotion of biofuels and other renewable energy is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that in the Finance Act 2006, which has recently completed its passage through the Dáil and Seanad, I provided for significant tax measures to promote biofuels in Ireland. The new large-scale scheme of excise relief for biofuels to be established — building on the current pilot scheme — will provide for excise relief on up to 163 million litres of biofuels per annum; cost over €200 million over five years, starting this year; when fully operational, result in CO2 savings of over 250,000 tonnes per annum; meet a target of 2% transport fuel market penetration by biofuels by 2008; help reduce our dependency on conventional fossil fuels; and stimulate activity in the agricultural sector. As a complementary measure, I have provided for a new 50% VRT relief to promote new flexible fuel vehicles — cars designed to operate on biofuels — for an initial period of two years, and also extended the existing VRT relief for hybrid cars by a further year to end 2007. These are major initiatives aimed at promoting biofuels in Ireland.

With respect to the excise relief scheme, as any such scheme is deemed a State aid by the European Commission, the necessary approval from the Commission is required. Preliminary discussions have already taken place between the Department of Finance, the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and the European Commission in this regard. Once approval has been granted, the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources will advertise the scheme to potential beneficiaries and set out the procedures for applying for the excise relief. There are also available two tax incentives that relate to renewable energy generally as follows. Investments in companies engaged in renewable energy generation may qualify for the business expansion scheme tax relief. Individual investors holding a BES equity investment in such companies for a minimum period of five years can benefit from tax relief, at their marginal rate, in respect of investments of up to €31,750 per year. A qualifying company may raise equity capital up to a general maximum of €1 million in the lifetime of the company. Section 486B corporate tax relief applies to corporate equity investments in certain renewable energy generation projects which are eligible for tax relief in the form of a deduction from a company's profits for its investment in new ordinary shares in a qualifying company. To qualify for this relief, the energy project must be in the solar, wind, hydro or biomass technology categories, and must be approved by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. The relief is capped at the lesser of 50% of the relevant cost of the project or €9.525 million for a single project. Investment by a company or companies is capped at €12.7 million per annum. The shares must be retained for at least five years by the company, otherwise the relief may be withdrawn.

Equal Opportunities Employment.

John Dennehy

Question:

251 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for Finance if his Department is meeting the agreed national target figures for employment of persons with a disability; his views on whether that figure is adequate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13271/06]

The Department of Finance, in common with all other Civil Service Departments and offices, fully implements the Government's policy on the employment of people with a disability.

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

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

The possible use of a survey based on voluntary self-disclosure both for new staff on appointment and for existing staff will be considered in discussion with the staff unions as part of the development of the code of practice. As this gives rise to complex issues about confidentiality and the use of information, specific guidelines on these matters are being examined as part of the new code of practice for the Civil Service. It is estimated that the percentage of staff in the Department of Finance with a disability currently stands at 2.85% based on reporting arrangements which as outlined above are under review.

Motor Vehicle Imports.

Enda Kenny

Question:

252 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Finance the range of duties and conditions that apply for the importation of new and second hand cars into the Republic from Great Britain and Northern Ireland; the number of motor vehicles imported in each of the past three years; the duties paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13289/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that vehicle registration tax, VRT, may be payable on the importation of a vehicle from Great Britain and Northern Ireland into the State.

As a general rule, all vehicles imported permanently into the State from Great Britain and Northern Ireland or elsewhere must register for VRT purposes within one working day of their arrival in the State. However, in practice, Revenue allows latitude of a maximum of seven days for registration. VRT is payable on the open market selling price, OMSP, of the vehicle which is the expected retail price of the vehicle in the State, inclusive of all taxes. Cars such as saloons, estates, hatchbacks, convertibles, coupes etc., and minibuses with less than 12 permanently fitted passenger seats are classified as category A vehicles for VRT and as such are charged VRT based on the engine size of the car using the following calculation: less than 1400 cc at 22.5% of OMSP; from 1401 to 1900 cc at 25% of OMSP; and 1901 cc and over at 30% of OMSP, subject to a minimum payment of €315.00. Car derived vans and crew cabs of less than 3,500 kg gross vehicle weight are charged at 13.3% of OMSP, while commercial and agricultural vehicles pay a flat rate of €50.00 regardless of OMSP.

These calculations are used for both new and second-hand cars, so that the VRT payable is based on the OMSP of the car on importation into the State. The OMSP for new cars is determined by the main motor distributors while the OMSP of second-hand cars is determined by the Revenue Commissioners, based on market surveys, study of trade magazines, personal contact with the trade and other relevant material. While the statistics sought with respect to used cars are available, as those registering must declare previous country of registration, such a declaration is not included as part of the process with respect to registration of new cars and consequently the same data for new cars are not available. Revenue confirmed that 6,220 second-hand cars were imported from the UK in 2003, 10,641 in 2004 and 24,994 in 2005. Separately, Revenue confirms that 798 second-hand cars were imported from Northern Ireland in 2003, 1,513 in 2004 and 8,883 in 2005. Appendix 1 provides details of all new and second-hand vehicles imported into Ireland for the years 2003, 2004 and 2005. The Deputy may wish to note that VAT is chargeable at the rate of 21% of the invoice price, and is payable at the time of registration for VRT purposes, on all "new means of transport". A "new means of transport" for VAT is a vehicle that is supplied six months or less after the first date of entry into service and has travelled less than 6,000 km. VAT is not chargeable where a vehicle is not a new means of transport and is imported from within the EU.

We are aware that there has been a growth in the number of used cars purchased in the UK and Northern Ireland and imported into the State in recent years. However, from our perspective, the monetary benefits, if any, of pursuing this option may be negligible as the requirement to pay VRT on importation is aimed at reflecting the price of a similar car in Ireland, the purchaser is exposed to currency risks and long-term issues may emerge for the purchaser with respect to after-sales service.

Appendix 1: Motor Vehicle Registration Tax — Gross Registrations and Net Receipts

2003

New

Used

Total

Reg.

Reg.

Reg.

Category A1

Cars up to 1400 cc

72,217

234,971,315

3,877

2,389,244

76,094

237,360,559

Category A2

Cars 1401-1900 cc

50,678

288,889,026

4,978

7,519,007

55,656

296,408,033

Category A3

Cars over 1900 cc

22,511

254,668,283

5,773

18,275,929

28,284

272,944,212

Total A1, A2 and A3

145,406

778,528,624

14,628

28,184,180

160,034

806,712,804

Category B

Car Derived Vans

2,318

5,781,125

1,065

1,100,750

3,383

6,881,875

Category C

Commercial Vehicles

37,432

1,870,154

13,044

640,880

50,476

2,511,034

Category D

Other Vehicles

216

95

311

Category M

Motor Cycles

5,020

2,259,892

3,933

1,084,140

8,953

3,344,032

Total Net Receipts

788,439,795

31,009,950

819,449,745

2004

New

Used

Total

Reg.

Reg.

Reg.

Category A1

Cars up to 1400 cc

70,707

238,128,163

6,046

4,511,483

76,753

242,639,646

Category A2

Cars 1401-1900 cc

58,828

343,062,874

8,715

18,130,459

67,543

361,193,332

Category A3

Cars over 1900 cc

24,962

295,466,377

8,812

30,725,134

33,774

326,191,511

Total A1, A2 and A3

154,497

876,657,414

23,573

53,367,076

178,070

930,024,490

Category B

Car Derived Vans

3,100

8,549,311

1,428

1,616,041

4,528

10,165,352

Category C

Commercial Vehicles

37,315

1,868,471

15,469

764,350

52,784

2,632,821

Category D

Other Vehicles

323

76

399

Category M

Motor Cycles

3,851

2,176,629

3,606

974,109

7,457

3,150,738

Total Net Receipts

889,251,825

56,721,576

945,973,401

2005 (Provisional)

New

Used

Total

Reg.

Reg.

Reg.

Category A1

Cars up to 1400 cc

74,625

263,550,370

11,306

10,592,975

85,931

274,143,345

Category A2

Cars 1401-1900 cc

66,878

394,600,668

17,173

39,185,690

84,051

433,786,358

Category A3

Cars over 1900 cc

30,378

369,427,620

13,322

50,812,760

43,700

420,240,380

Total A1, A2 and A3

171,881

1,027,578,658

41,801

100,591,425

213,682

1,128,170,083

Category B

Car Derived Vans

3,845

11,133,564

2,030

2,419,788

5,875

13,553,352

Category C

Commercial Vehicles

45,166

2,256,850

20,892

1,034,900

66,058

3,291,750

Category D

Other Vehicles

248

131

379

Category M

Motor Cycles

3,142

2,200,984

3,806

1,131,463

6,948

3,332,447

Total Net Receipts

1,043,170,056

105,177,576

1,148,347,632

Note: The registrations shown are gross i.e. they include those vehicle registrations which are exempt from VRT.

Defence Forces Property.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

253 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Finance if he will confirm that when the Army barracks in Ballincollig, County Cork, was sold off, a plot of ground of approximately one acre was retained as a site for a proposed new Garda station; if he has received an offer for this site from a developer in exchange for an alternative site in Ballincollig for the Garda station; if it is intended to accept this offer; if an independent valuation has been done of the two separate sites and if so, the respective values; if his attention has been drawn to the widespread local view that the original site is far preferable for a Garda station; if it is intended to proceed with the Garda station on the original site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13367/06]

Following the sale of the Army barracks in Ballincollig, County Cork, by the Department of Defence, a plot of land measuring approximately 0.5 acres was retained for the possible extension and refurbishment of Ballincollig Garda station. A local developer has also offered an alternative development proposal for a new Garda station in Ballincollig. It is hoped that a final decision will be made shortly, regarding the preferred option for the development of the new Garda station, in consultation with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda authorities.

Environmental Policy.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

254 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Finance the timescale for a decision on carbon taxation and emissions trading; his proposals for a re-distribution of receipts from such taxation to reduce the taxation levels on other eco-friendly practices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13377/06]

The climate change strategy says that, from 2002 onwards, taxes will begin to take into account the amounts of greenhouse gases produced in any activity. It is Government policy to take greenhouse gas emission into account when formulating or developing tax policy in any particular area.

In September 2004, the Government decided not to introduce a specific carbon tax, following a thorough examination of the issues involved, including how a carbon tax would be implemented and the associated environmental, economic and social impacts. In addition, my Department carried out an extensive consultation process in which 117 written submissions were received. Following this examination, the Government decided that a carbon tax was not an appropriate policy option and that, instead, it would intensify action on the other measures under the national climate change strategy. The Government concluded that the environmental benefits of a carbon tax would not justify the difficulties that would arise, particularly for households, from the introduction of such a tax. In this respect, the carbon energy tax would have imposed price increases on many products already suffering sharp increases, particularly as a result of increases in international oil prices. While a carbon tax would have involved a range of compensatory measures, these would not fully address the adverse economic and social effects arising. Moreover, a carbon tax would apply to products which are in the main already subject to excise duties and where a new tax is not necessary to increase tax rates.

The carbon energy tax was just one possible element of the Government's approach to meeting Ireland's commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to which the Government remains fully committed. Taxation can play a part in attaining environmental objectives. However, as Minister for Finance, I am concerned to ensure that, in developing policy on tax measures, we take into account any effects on Ireland's international competitiveness, particularly in regard to non-EU countries which compete with us and which may have low taxes on energy. I am also concerned in framing policy about the effect that the imposition of such taxes may have on the consumer price index and how they could impact on the less well off members of our community.

Apart from the carbon tax, the national climate change strategy envisages other initiatives in the tax area with one such example being tax reliefs for "green initiatives". This approach uses the tax system to provide incentives for certain behaviour. In this regard, I would refer the Deputy to the significant biofuels excise relief scheme which I announced in the budget and for which provision has been made in Finance Act 2006, which has recently completed its passage through the Dáil and Seanad. The Act also provides a new 50% VRT relief to promote new flexible fuel vehicles — cars designed to operate on biofuels — for an initial period of two years. Emissions trading is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Question No. 255 answered with QuestionNo. 241.

Tax Code.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

256 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Finance his views on allowing tax refunds on all donations to schools rather than confining such refunds to donations above €250; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13561/06]

The Finance Act 2001 introduced a new scheme of tax relief on donations made by either individuals or corporate bodies to eligible charities and other approved bodies, including first and second level schools and third level institutions, including universities. The minimum qualifying donation for relief purposes to an eligible charity or approved body is €250 per annum. Amending the scheme to allow tax relief on all donations rather than on donations of €250 and over, as the Deputy has proposed, would significantly increase the current cost of the scheme to the Exchequer. The relief is already very generous. There is no upper limit on the amount which can be donated generally and relief is granted at the donor's marginal rate of income tax. Donations can be cumulative, so that a donation of just €5 per week over the course of a year would qualify, for example.

As the Deputy will be aware, the donations scheme was one of the tax reliefs examined as part of last year's overall review of tax reliefs and exemptions. The review concluded that the €250 minimum threshold is serving its purpose and should be retained at its current level, subject to ongoing review. I agree with this conclusion. The Deputy may wish to note that the full textof the review can be found on the Departmentof Finance's website at www.finance.gov.ie/ documents/publications/other/revtaxreliefsvol3.pdf.

Foreshore Licences.

Michael Ring

Question:

257 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the local authority requires a foreshore licence for its proposal to locate a new slipway at a location (details supplied) in County Mayo. [13252/06]

Michael Ring

Question:

264 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if the local authority sought permission for its proposal to locate a new slipway in County Mayo; if there was an existing slipway at that location; if the local authority requires a foreshore licence for this work; if the proposed development is in keeping with the area; and if public consultation is necessary for the proposal. [13251/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 257 and 264 together.

The Department has not received an application from Mayo County Council for authorisation under the foreshore Acts for the development of a new slipway at the location in question, and understands from inquiries it has made of the county council that it has no proposals for such a development. I understand the county council is undertaking certain works of maintenance and repair to an existing slipway at the location concerned.

Regional Fisheries Boards.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

258 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the amount of fishery rates demanded of salmon fishery owners; the amount of fishery rates awarded; and the unpaid arrears of fishery rates in respect of each of the years 2003, 2004 and 2005 and in respect of each of the seven regional fisheries boards. [12859/06]

Fishery rates are imposed and collected by the regional fisheries boards on the occupier of the fishery, thus forming part of the boards' resources. The rates struck by the boards are subject to confirmation by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, with or without modification as he thinks proper, section 55(1), Fisheries (Consolidation) Act 1959 as amended by paragraph 1(d) of the Fourth Schedule to the Fisheries Act 1980 and further modified by the Fisheries (Alteration of Fishery Year) Order 1982, SI No. 328 of 1982.

The rates of increase are based on the recommendation of each regional fisheries board and are generally in line with or greater than the annual rate of inflation as set out in the consumer price index for the previous year. The rate of inflation for the year 2005 according to the Central Statistics Office was 2.5%. In November 2005 each of the regional fisheries boards was asked to propose a rate for 2006. Rates proposed by each board are set out below:

Board

Existing Rates

Proposed 2006 Rate

% Increase

%

ERFB

13.80

14.20

2.8

SRFB

18.80

18.30

-2.7

SWRFB

17.50

17.70

1.1

WRFB

14.70

15.29

4

SHRFB

24.30

25.03

3

NWRFB

31.00

32.00

3

NRFB

21.30

22.05

3.5

The rates 2006 were adopted in line with the boards' proposals with the exception of the SRFB and SWRFB. The rate for SRFB was set at €19.27 and for the SWRFB at €17.94, which is a 2.5% increase. I have no function in relation to the rateable valuations on which the rates are levied and once the fishery rates are set for a particular year, I have no further function in their collection. The collection of fishery rates and the pursuit of arrears is a day-to-day operational matter for the boards.

Grant Payments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

259 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the grants available to persons wishing to install environmentally friendly wood burners or wood pellet burners when improving their home; his plans to offer more incentives to people willing to invest in these systems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12862/06]

On 26 March the Department launched the greener homes grant aid package for the domestic sector which includes funding for wood chip and wood pellet boilers and stoves, solar and heat pump technologies. The following grants are available for wood chip and wood pellet boilers and stoves.

Technology

Grant Amount

Wood Chip or Wood Pellet Boilers

4,200

Wood Chip or Wood Pellet Stoves

1,100

Wood Chip or Wood Pellet Stoves with Back Boiler

1,800

The level of grant aid reflects the Government's commitment to actively encourage people to install renewable heat technology in their homes and the programme will be monitored closely to ensure that this objective is achieved.

Postal Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

260 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the discussions he has had with An Post management in the past six months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12931/06]

In the last six months I have met An Post management twice to discuss various issues that relate to the safeguarding of shareholder interests. Additionally, officials in my Department continue to meet An Post management on a regular basis to discuss ongoing issues in the company.

Seán Crowe

Question:

261 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his responsibilities regarding An Post. [13160/06]

My responsibilities regarding An Post are as set out in the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act 1983 and in the memorandum and articles of the company. My responsibilities are also to ensure that the corporate governance guidelines for semi-State bodies are adhered to and that the shareholder interests in the company are protected. In accordance with the 1983 Act, I have appointed a board and management team at An Post to deal directly with the day-to-day operational matters of the company.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Phil Hogan

Question:

262 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the initiatives he is undertaking to promote the use of biofuels and other renewable energy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13226/06]

The Government introduced a scheme for mineral oil tax relief for biofuels under the Finance Act 2004, which was launched in April 2005. Eight projects have been awarded excise relief for a two year period under the scheme including four pure plant oil, three biodiesel or other biofuel and one bioethanol proposal. It is estimated that the pilot scheme will result in 16 million litres of biofuels being placed on the Irish transport market by next year.

Building on the success of the pilot biofuels scheme, the Department has agreed with the Minister for Finance a further targeted package of excise relief valued at €205 million, which was announced in the budget. The new excise relief programme, which is subject to State-aid approval, will be rolled out from this year to 2010 and will enable us to reach the initial target of 2% market penetration of biofuels by 2008. When fully operational, the relief is expected to support the use and production of some 163 million litres of biofuels each year. The Department is also providing funding towards the capital cost of developing biofuels processing facilities, which will critically underpin the excise relief package.

The multi-annual financial package for renewables announced in the 2006 budget included a grant aid package for the domestic sector, which the Department launched on 25 March. This package will provide for individual grants to install renewable energy heat technologies including wood pellet boilers, solar panels and geothermal heat pumps. A financial package for wood chip and wood pellet boilers, aimed at the business, commercial and service sectors, along with a grant aid package to incentivise the installation of combined heat and power in the industrial, commercial and public services sector was also included in the budget package. The Department, in conjunction with Sustainable Energy Ireland, is developing the necessary detailed measures to roll out these other programmes.

The Department also proposes to change the support mechanism for renewable energy projects from competitive tendering to a new fixed price tariff system. The draft terms and conditions of the proposed renewable energy feed in tariff or REFIT programme have been the subject of public consultation and the views received have usefully informed the shape of the programme. The Department is currently in consultations with the Office of the Attorney General regarding drafting of the new arrangements and I expect to be in a position to launch the REFIT programme in the near future.

Postal Services.

Finian McGrath

Question:

263 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the position regarding the financial situation at An Post; the reason for the details of the forensic auditors’ report being withheld; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11719/06]

With respect to the financial situation at the company, I expect that following the company's AGM on 27 April I will be in a position to present its audited accounts before the Oireachtas. The developments earlier this year at the company where the parties have accepted the Labour Court recommendations of 22 November last, leading to a resolution to the industrial relations difficulties at An Post, are most welcome. I understand that as both parties have signed off on the implementation plan, implementation of the recovery strategy in line with the Labour Court's recommendation has commenced.

Question No. 264 answered with QuestionNo. 257.

Equal Opportunities Employment.

John Dennehy

Question:

265 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his Department is meeting the agreed national target figures for employment of persons with a disability; his views on whether that figure is adequate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13272/06]

The policy in relation to the employment of people with disabilities in the Civil Service is the responsibility of the Minister for Finance and a target of 3% has been set for such recruitment. Current data show that 5.4% of staff in my Department has a disability. As part of my Department's achieving potential through equality and diversity action plan 2004-2006 our goal is to maintain and enhance existing compliance with the Government's employment target of 3% for staff with disability, including temporary recruitment.

My Department is supporting the willing able mentoring or WAM project — placements for graduates with disabilities — this summer. The project aims to give between three and six months' quality work experience to graduates with disabilities. My Department has previously employed a person with disabilities under a scheme to cover term time.

Fisheries Statistics.

John Perry

Question:

266 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason figures for lobster fishermen are taken from where they are sold rather than where they are caught; if this situation will be changed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13303/06]

While the landing figures for lobster catches are taken from the buyers at the time of sale, this information includes the port of landing for the vessel that landed the catch. The reason is that the majority of boats that fish for lobster are under ten metres in length, and consequently are not required to submit logsheets to the Department. The catch figure is subsequently allocated to the relevant port so that the statistics accurately reflect the ports where the catch is landed. For example, the Department's records show that there were 15 tonnes of lobster landed into Achill in 2003 and 12 tonnes in 2004. There are no plans at present to change this procedure.

Enda Kenny

Question:

267 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when the compilation of statistics on the landings of Irish vessels of quota species in ports here and abroad in each of the past five years as well as the quotas that applied in each year for these species will be available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13366/06]

The following is the information sought by the Deputy. It is regretted that it was not possible to provide the information earlier but additional time was required to ensure that a comprehensive and detailed statistical response could be collated for all elements of the Deputy's previous questions on this matter.

My Department has compiled the requested fisheries statistics on the landings, both volume and value, of Irish fishing vessels of quota species into Irish ports and into non-national ports for each of the past five years as well as the quotas that applied for these fish species. These fishery statistics are presented in the following appendices.

Appendix one consists of five separate tables with the quotas for each fish species that applied for that year and the quantity of each species of fish caught and landed by Irish fishing vessels into Irish ports and into non-national ports; this is broken down into other member states and non-EU countries.

Appendix two consists of five separate tables that present data on the total volume and value for each species landed for each year.

The following advisory notes will assist the Deputy's understanding of the fisheries statistics. The stock area defined in each of the tables is by definition a geographical area within which a catch allocation is made for an individual fish species. The geographical scope of a stock area is usually composed of one or more ICES sub-areas. The defined stock areas are subject to change from year to year and as a result direct correlation of the data from one year to the next is not possible in all cases.

The data contained in these tables of fisheries statistics are the officially recorded statistics as reported to the European Commission. The data presented are accurate at the time of my reply but it should be noted that some of these officially reported statistics may be subject to change depending on the outcome of a number of investigations currently being carried out. With regard to the value of fish landed into non-national ports this has had to be estimated as there is no reporting requirement within the European framework for the reporting of fishery statistics to include the value of landed catches The value applied to fish landed into Ireland by Irish fishing vessels is based on an estimated average price at the time of landing.

In appendix one the data are displayed in the following format: column one identifies the fish species. Column two identifies the stock area within which the quota allocation has been made. Column three contains the quota, adjusted following swop arrangements with fellow member states, allocated to Ireland for that species in that year. Column four contains details of the volume of fish landed by Irish fishing vessels into Irish ports. Column five contains details of the volume of fish landed by Irish fishing vessels into non-national ports. Column six contains details of the volume of fish landed by Irish fishing vessels into ports outside the EU.

In appendix two the data are displayed in the following format. Column one contains details of the fish species for which there has been a quota allocation. Column two contains details of the volume, expressed in live weight, of the fish landed. Column three contains details of value of the landings using the national average price per tonne in euro for that species. Column four contains the total estimated value at first sale for each species.

At the bottom of each table in appendix two the total estimated value for all quota species caught and landed by Irish fishing vessels during the year is recorded.

Appendix One

Table one: Irish quotas and landings into Ireland and other countries during 2001

Species

Stock area

Quota

Ireland

Non-national

3rd Country

ALBACORE TUNA

ANO5N

2,247

1,977

27

0

ANGLERFISHES

07.

2,469

2,221

152

0

ANGLERFISHES

561214

640

497

46

0

ATLANTIC COD

2AC4.

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC COD

07A.

845

713

37

0

ATLANTIC COD

561214

733

285

0

0

ATLANTIC COD

5BC6A

555

81

0

0

ATLANTIC COD

7X7A34

1,279

1,270

13

0

ATLANTIC COD

1/2B

0

0

0

57

ATLANTIC COD

1N2AB

203

0

0

197

ATLANTIC HERRING

07A/MM

1,800

862

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

4AB

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

4CXB7D

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

5B6ANB

5,390

4,995

27

42

ATLANTIC HERRING

6AS7BC

12,640

12,403

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

7GK.

17,290

13,897

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

2A5B-F

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2.

6,100

0

3,382

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2INT

6,670

0

3,382

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2 FRO

0

0

3,382

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2NJM

0

0

3,382

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2NEZ

0

0

3,382

0

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

04A-C.

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

2A34-

0

4,568

608

5,062

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

2CX14-

71,057

28,458

18,185

13,858

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

3A/4BC

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

8ABD.

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

06AN56.

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC REDFISHES

51,214

3

0

0

4

BLACK SCABBARDFISH

56712-

0

0

0

0

BLUE LING

245-

0

0

0

0

BLUE LING

67-

0

0

0

0

BLUE WHITING

2AC4-C

0

0

0

0

BLUE WHITING

1CX14-

31,110

26,372

274

3,116

BLUE WHITING

571,214

31,110

26,372

274

3,116

BLUE WHITING

5BCX14

0

0

0

0

BLUE WHITING

05B-F

0

0

0

0

COMMON SOLE

07A.

140

64

55

0

COMMON SOLE

07D.

0

0

0

0

COMMON SOLE

07E.

0

0

0

0

COMMON SOLE

561,214

95

24

0

0

COMMON SOLE

7BC.

67

53

0

0

COMMON SOLE

7FG.

30

30

0

0

COMMON SOLE

7HJK.

290

115

11

0

EUROPEAN HAKE

571214

1,144

1,002

92

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

07A.

797

366

48

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

561214

650

173

0

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

7BC.

170

67

2

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

7DE.

0

0

0

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

7FG.

46

44

0

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

7HJK.

530

156

3

0

GREATER ARGENTINE

3/4-

0

0

0

0

GREATER ARGENTINE

567-

0

0

0

0

HADDOCK

2AC4.

0

0

0

0

HADDOCK

07A.

1,149

531

16

0

HADDOCK

561214

1,640

997

1

0

HADDOCK

5BC6A.

1,220

660

0

0

HADDOCK

6B1214

451

340

0

0

HADDOCK

7/3411

3,660

3,545

40

0

HADDOCK

7X7A34

0

0

0

0

HADDOCK

1N2AB-

41

0

0

43

HORSE MACKEREL

2AC4-C

1,950

430

60

50

HORSE MACKEREL

578/14

55,010

38,446

13,729

2,436

LING

6X14

0

0

0

0

MEGRIMS

07.

777

2,540

215

0

MEGRIMS

561,214

555

558

3

0

BLUEFIN TUNA

AE045W

0

6

0

0

NEPHROPS

07.

6,965

6,783

176

0

NEPHROPS

5BC6.

155

97

0

0

ORANGE ROUGHY

06-

0

0

0

0

ORANGE ROUGHY

07-

0

0

0

0

POLLOCK

07.

1,300

1,102

27

0

POLLOCK

561214

150

108

0

0

ROUNDNOSE GRENADIER

5B67-

0

0

0

0

SAITHE

2A34-

0

0

0

0

SAITHE

561214

318

397

10

0

SAITHE

7X1034

0

0

0

0

SAITHE

1N2AB-

0

0

0

0

SAITHE

7/3411

1,685

1,539

33

0

SWORDFISH

AN05N

0

7

0

0

TUSK

1/214-

0

0

0

0

TUSK

567-

0

0

0

0

WHITING

07A.

620

467

0

0

WHITING

561214

1,160

663

0

0

WHITING

7X7A.

5,414

5187

18

0

Table two: Irish quotas and landings into Ireland and other countries during 2002

Species

Stock area

Quota

Ireland

Non-national

3rd Country

ALBACORE TUNA

ANO5N

3,158

1,016

40.2

0

ANGLERFISHES

07.

2,316

2,085

230.6

0

ANGLERFISHES

561214

508

380

27.7

0

ATLANTIC COD

2AC4.

0

0

0.2

0

ATLANTIC COD

07A.

1,296

0

0

0

ATLANTIC COD

561214

1,025

225

2.2

0

ATLANTIC COD

5BC6A

600

207

0

0

ATLANTIC COD

7X7A34

900

0

0

0

ATLANTIC COD

1/2B

0

0

0

91

ATLANTIC COD

1N2AB

203

0

0

187

ATLANTIC HERRING

07A/MM

1,250

486

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

4AB

0

0

773

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

4CXB7D

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

5B6ANB

4,873

3,229

161

306

ATLANTIC HERRING

6AS7BC

13,617

12,143

1,100

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

7GK.

11,235

10,505

200

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

2A5B-F

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2.

6,370

0

0

1,699

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2INT

0

0

0

1,699

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2 FRO

650

0

0

1,699

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2NJM

1,700

0

0

1,699

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2NEZ

1,160

0

0

1,699

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

04A-C.

22,400

2,973

512

11,177

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

2A34-

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

2CX14-

73,047

32,936

19,592

5,112

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

3A/4BC

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

8ABD.

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

06AN56.

0

31,193

0

3,297

ATLANTIC REDFISHES

51,214

2

0

0

0

BLACK SCABBARDFISH

56712-

0

0

0

0

BLUE LING

245-

0

0

0

0

BLUE LING

67-

0

0

0

0

BLUE WHITING

2AC4-C

0

0

0

0

BLUE WHITING

1CX14-

17,165

9,966

0

7,784

BLUE WHITING

571214

0

9,966

0

7,784

BLUE WHITING

5BCX14

0

0

0

0

BLUE WHITING

05B-F

0

0

0

0

COMMON SOLE

07A.

99

53

51

0

COMMON SOLE

07D.

0

0

0

0

COMMON SOLE

07E.

0

0

0

0

COMMON SOLE

561214

100

25

0

0

COMMON SOLE

7BC.

65

50

1

0

COMMON SOLE

7FG.

35

33

0

0

COMMON SOLE

7HJK.

205

129

13

0

EUROPEAN HAKE

571214

899

668

130

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

07A.

487

323

76

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

561214

630

144

2

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

7BC.

144

51

2

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

7DE.

0

0

0

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

7FG.

89

79

0

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

7HJK.

299

155

2

0

GREATER ARGENTINE

3/4-

0

0

0

0

GREATER ARGENTINE

567-

0

0

0

0

HADDOCK

2AC4.

0

0

1

0

HADDOCK

07A.

528

396

8

0

HADDOCK

561214

1,535

876

0

0

HADDOCK

5BC6A.

1,393

670

0

0

HADDOCK

6B1214

0

0

0

0

HADDOCK

7/3411

0

0

0

0

HADDOCK

7X7A34

2,209

2,167

29

0

HADDOCK

1N2AB-

52

0

0

38

HORSE MACKEREL

2AC4-C

1,950

0

0

51

HORSE MACKEREL

578/14

36,596

26,254

6,644

528

LING

6X14

0

0

0

0

MEGRIMS

07.

2,550

365

1

0

MEGRIMS

561214

565

2,277

237

0

BLUEFIN TUNA

AE045W

0

15

35

0

NEPHROPS

07.

6,944

6,681

237

0

NEPHROPS

5BC6.

123

110

0

0

ORANGE ROUGHY

06-

0

0

0

0

ORANGE ROUGHY

07-

0

0

0

0

POLLOCK

07.

1,318

1,307

7

0

POLLOCK

561214

155

26

0

0

ROUNDNOSE GRENADIER

5B67-

0

0

0

0

SAITHE

2A34-

0

0

2

0

SAITHE

561214

417

88

2

0

SAITHE

7X1034

0

0

0

0

SAITHE

1N2AB-

0

0

0

0

SAITHE

7/3411

2,450

1,258

8

0

SWORDFISH

AN05N

0

5

0

0

TUSK

1/214-

0

0

0

0

TUSK

567-

0

0

0

0

WHITING

07A.

4,990

374

1

0

WHITING

561214

1,029

577

0

0

WHITING

7X7A.

8,714

5,691

19

0

Table three: Irish quotas and landings into Ireland and other countries during 2003

Species

Stock area

Quota

Ireland

Non-national

3rd Country

ALBACORE TUNA

ANO5N

3,320

470

0

0

ANGLERFISHES

07.

1,770

1,619

149.8

0

ANGLERFISHES

561214

346

330

24.2

0

ATLANTIC COD

2AC4.

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC COD

07A.

954

635

24.7

0

ATLANTIC COD

561214

357

104

3.1

0

ATLANTIC COD

5BC6A

0

95

0

0

ATLANTIC COD

7X7A34

680

652

6.3

0

ATLANTIC COD

1/2B

0

0

11.4

70

ATLANTIC COD

1N2AB

227

0

0

218

ATLANTIC HERRING

07A/MM

1,250

0

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

4AB

0

0

0

77

ATLANTIC HERRING

4CXB7D

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

5B6ANB

4,382

3,131

608

65

ATLANTIC HERRING

6AS7BC

13,157

12,265

857

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

7GK.

11,235

11,115

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

2A5B-F

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2.

1,405

0

0

1,401

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2INT

0

0

0

1,401

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2 FRO

544

0

0

1,401

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2NJM

0

0

0

1,401

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2NEZ

0

0

0

1,401

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

04A-C.

0

2,174

0

7,882

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

2A34-

0

0

7,049

0

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

2CX14-

67,307

38,639

8,452.5

544

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

3A/4BC

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

8ABD.

0

0

12

0

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

06AN56.

0

0

12

0

ATLANTIC REDFISHES

51,214

4

0

0

0

BLACK SCABBARDFISH

56712-

160

160

0

0

BLUE LING

245-

0

0

0

0

BLUE LING

67-

51

30

0

0

BLUE WHITING

2AC4-C

0

0

0

0

BLUE WHITING

1CX14-

0

3,253

3,616

0

BLUE WHITING

571214

17,165

3,253

3,616

0

BLUE WHITING

5BCX14

0

0

5

0

BLUE WHITING

05B-F

0

0

0

0

COMMON SOLE

07A.

108

75

29.3

0

COMMON SOLE

07D.

0

0

0.5

0

COMMON SOLE

07E.

0

0

0.1

0

COMMON SOLE

561214

85

26

0

0

COMMON SOLE

7BC.

60

49

0.9

0

COMMON SOLE

7FG.

39

31

0

0

COMMON SOLE

7HJK.

109

86

20.4

0

EUROPEAN HAKE

571214

1,114

895

144.4

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

07A.

543

459

77.1

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

561214

559

149

0

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

7BC.

126

56

0.7

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

7DE.

1

0

0.2

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

7FG.

55

50

0

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

7HJK.

215

124

2.4

0

GREATER ARGENTINE

3/4-

10

0

0

0

GREATER ARGENTINE

567-

441

1

0

0

HADDOCK

2AC4.

0

220

3.1

0

HADDOCK

07A.

0

220

3.1

0

HADDOCK

561214

1,321

665

2.3

0

HADDOCK

5BC6A.

0

496

0

0

HADDOCK

6B1214

0

0

0

0

HADDOCK

7/3411

2,125

1,868

24.5

0

HADDOCK

7X7A34

0

60

0

0

HADDOCK

1N2AB-

18

0

0

17

HORSE MACKEREL

2AC4-C

891

0

0

94

HORSE MACKEREL

578/14

35,596

24,361

11,034.1

0

LING

6X14

1,164

1,104

57.6

0

MEGRIMS

07.

2,452

2,056

145.9

0

MEGRIMS

561214

565

410

20.1

0

BLUEFIN TUNA

AE045W

0

0

2

0

NEPHROPS

07.

6,695

6,519

161

0

NEPHROPS

5BC6.

153

145

0

0

ORANGE ROUGHY

06-

1

1

0

0

ORANGE ROUGHY

07-

300

172

0

0

POLLOCK

07.

1,298

1,154

8.9

0

POLLOCK

561214

124

87

0

0

ROUNDNOSE GRENADIER

5B67-

346

59

0

0

SAITHE

2A34-

0

166

0.5

0

SAITHE

561214

415

166

0.5

0

SAITHE

7X1034

2,450

766

0.2

0

SAITHE

1N2AB-

0

0

1

0

SAITHE

7/3411

0

20

0

0

SWORDFISH

AN05N

0

5

0

0

TUSK

1/214-

1

0

0.1

0

TUSK

567-

49

43

0

0

WHITING

07A.

268

265

0.4

0

WHITING

561214

582

570

0

0

WHITING

7X7A.

8,714

4,541

22.2

0

Table four: Irish quotas and landings into Ireland and other countries during 2004

Species

Stock area

Quota

Ireland

Non-national

3rd Country

ALBACORE TUNA

ANO5N

5,216

96

0.6

0

ANGLERFISHES

07.

2,032

1,915

131

0

ANGLERFISHES

561214

251

204

19.5

0

ATLANTIC COD

2AC4.

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC COD

07A.

940

372

9.2

0

ATLANTIC COD

561214

166

40

0.5

0

ATLANTIC COD

5BC6A

0

33

0

0

ATLANTIC COD

7X7A34

799

599

2.6

0

ATLANTIC COD

1/2B

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC COD

1N2AB

256

0

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

07A/MM

1,250

779

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

4AB

23

0

22.1

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

4CXB7D

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

5B6ANB

3,104

1,864

1,001.9

13

ATLANTIC HERRING

6AS7BC

14,000

13,538

163

68

ATLANTIC HERRING

7GK.

11,235

11,100

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

2A5B-F

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2.

833

0

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2INT

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2 FRO

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2NJM

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC HERRING

1/2NEZ

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

04A-C.

0

871

5,949.3

11,058

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

2A34-

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

2CX14-

63,593

25,018

13,665.6

6,360

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

3A/4BC

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

8ABD.

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC MACKEREL

06AN56.

0

0

0

0

ATLANTIC REDFISHES

51,214

4

0

0

0

BLACK SCABBARDFISH

56712-

130

150

0.3

0

BLUE LING

245-

2

0

0

0

BLUE LING

67-

22

19

2

0

BLUE WHITING

2AC4-C

30

0

30

0

BLUE WHITING

1CX14-

0

21,224

18,016.2

8,056

BLUE WHITING

571214

71,874

21,224

18,016.2

8,056

BLUE WHITING

5BCX14

0

0

0

0

BLUE WHITING

05B-F

0

811

0

843.5

COMMON SOLE

07A.

98

41

45.8

0

COMMON SOLE

07D.

1

0

0.3

0

COMMON SOLE

07E.

1

0

0.1

0

COMMON SOLE

561214

68

22

0

0

COMMON SOLE

7BC.

52

48

0.3

0

COMMON SOLE

7FG.

33

32

0.4

0

COMMON SOLE

7HJK.

118

96

21.2

0

EUROPEAN HAKE

571214

1,109

951

118.6

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

07A.

366

255

107.1

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

561214

447

62

0

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

7BC.

137

39

0.2

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

7DE.

1

0

0.3

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

7FG.

44

44

0.2

0

EUROPEAN PLAICE

7HJK.

163

88

2.1

0

GREATER ARGENTINE

3/4-

46

0

35.5

0

GREATER ARGENTINE

567-

441

0

46

0