Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1a to 7, inclusive, answered orally.
Questions Nos. 8 to 59, inclusive, resubmitted.
Questions Nos. 60 to 68, inclusive, answered orally.

National Emergency Plan.

Shane McEntee

Question:

69 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Defence the amount of funding allocated to the Office of Emergency Planning by his Department on a yearly basis since 2002 and 2005 inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17112/06]

The Office of Emergency Planning was established, following a Government decision in October 2001, as a joint civil and military Office within my Department. The Office supports the work of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning, which I chair, and continues to work with Government Departments and other public authorities in order to ensure the best possible use of resources and compatibility between different planning requirements. There is no specific budgetary allocation for the Office of Emergency Planning as the funding for the Office is included in the Defence Vote.

The lead responsibility for specific emergency planning functions remains with the relevant Government Departments, as do budgetary, exercise programmes and resource management requirements. Emergency plans are co-ordinated by the various lead Government Departments at a national level and through the Local Authorities, including the Fire Service, the Health Service Executive and the Garda Divisions at local and regional levels.

A key area of activity for the Office of Emergency Planning is oversight of emergency planning; to refine and develop the arrangements that exist, to continuously improve them through review and revision, and to generally provide the basis for an increased confidence in the emergency planning process.

An Inter-Departmental Working Group (IDWG) on Emergency Planning supports the work of the Task Force and carries out studies and oversight of emergency planning structures and processes. The IDWG encompasses all Departments with lead roles in the various Government emergency plans and those key Public Authorities, which plan to support such activities. This Working Group, under the guidance of the Government Task Force, continues to meet and is chaired by the Office of Emergency Planning. It is a forum for developing strategic guidance to all those involved in emergency planning and for sharing information on emergency planning.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Simon Coveney

Question:

70 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Defence the number and location of ambulances on permanent standby in the Defence Forces; if same are available as back-up for the Health Service Executive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17118/06]

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

464 Mr. Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which the military ambulance service on the Curragh Camp acts in support of the Health Service Executive ambulance service; the extent of investment by his Department in the provision of ambulances at the Curragh or elsewhere; if speed restrictors have been fitted to new ambulances acquired by his Department; the reason such restrictors might be fitted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17265/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 70 and 464 together.

Responsibility for the provision of a public Ambulance service in this country is a matter for the Health Services Executive (HSE). The Defence Forces maintain a small ambulance fleet to meet their own needs. These ambulances are primarily used to transfer Defence Forces patients to and between hospitals and to attend Risk Training Exercises. Risk Training exercises would include operational exercises, Artillery shoots, Infantry Support Weapons shoots and Live Battle practices. In late 2005/early 2006 there was an investment of €850,000 on 6 road ambulances by the Defence Forces to replace an aging fleet.

There are a total of 17 Defence Forces ambulances in service at present 15 of which are deployed across the country in the various brigades and 2 of which are overseas, one in Kosovo and one in Liberia. One of these vehicles is located at the Defence Forces Training Centre at the Curragh Camp.

The maximum speed permitted in the 6 new Army Ambulances is 90 KPH. The vehicle is governed by the manufacturers (Ford Motor Company) to prevent exceeding this limit. In order to implement this restriction a speed limiter, also known as a governor, may be fitted to the vehicle. There is a legal requirement that such governors are fitted, on import, as the vehicles exceed 3,500 kg. The Defence Forces decided when these ambulances were delivered in late 2005 not to interfere with the governor. The vehicle is designed for a gross vehicle weight of 4200 kg and taking into consideration the routine use of such vehicles for military purposes it was felt that 90 KPH was adequate. Such governors are not on the older ambulances since they are lighter in weight and only require a Class A driving licence. The new ambulances are much heavier in weight and require a Truck Drivers Licence.

While these ambulances are for Defence Forces needs and are configured accordingly, arrangements exist between the HSE and the military authorities in three locations nationwide whereby the HSE receives very occasional support from the Defence Forces ambulance units. These areas are Finner Camp, Co. Donegal, the Defence Forces Training Centre, the Curragh, Co. Kildare and Custume Military Barracks, Athlone, Co. Westmeath. Ambulances from these locations are used on a very occasional basis to meet additional demands on HSE services. The Defence Forces ambulance crews are under the direct control of the HSE ambulance service during their deployment in support of the HSE ambulance service.

The National Ambulance Office of the HSE has advised my Department that the fitting of the governor on Defence Forces ambulances is not a major issue for them. Their priority is the standard of the equipment on the ambulances and the qualifications of the Defence Forces ambulance personnel. In this regard ambulances which the Defence Forces offer for assistance to the HSE are equipped to the standard set by the HSE and have Defence Forces ambulance personnel on board who are qualified to Emergency Medical Technician standard.

Question No. 71 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

Court Cases.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

72 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence if he will comment on the recent High Court case of a person (details supplied); if relevant procedures have been reviewed as a result of this case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17212/06]

The position is that the judgement referred to in the Deputy's Question, delivered in the High Court in this case on 7th April, 2006, is to be the subject of appeal to the Supreme Court. In the circumstances, I cannot comment further as regards the particulars of this case.

Defence Forces Funding.

John Deasy

Question:

73 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Defence the percentage of GNP which has been allocated to the Department of Defence for the years 1997 to 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17119/06]

Expenditure under the Defence and Army Pensions Votes has increased from €646 million in 1997 to an estimated outturn of €958 million in 2006. This represents an increase in defence spending of some 48% over that period.

Details of the allocations to Defence for each year from 1997 to 2006, together with the GNP figures and the percentage of GNP represented by defence spending, are set out in the following tabular statement.

The level of expenditure on defence in any particular country is influenced by a variety of factors, including that country's political and security environment, its history, demography and economy. While defence spending in this country has fallen as a percentage of GNP in recent years, this is not due to any reduction in the level of defence expenditure, but rather because of the massive increase in GNP.

There has been an unprecedented level of expenditure on infrastructure and equipment for the Defence Forces in recent years. This was made possible by the Government's decision that pay savings arising from the reorganization of the Defence Forces, set out in the White Paper 2000, along with proceeds from the sale of surplus properties, would be fully reallocated for investment in modern facilities and equipment.

Defence Expenditure as a % of GNP 1997 to 2006.

Year

GNP

Defence Expenditure

Defence Expenditure as a % of GNP

€m

€m

%

1997

59,577

646

1.08

1998

68,733

662

0.96

1999

77,062

702

0.91

2000

88,891

759

0.85

2001

97,939

858

0.88

2002

106,316

861

0.81

2003

116,374

855

0.73

2004

124,250

887

0.71

2005

135,623

920

0.68

2006

144,650

*958

*0.66

*Estimated.

Overseas Missions.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

74 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Defence if members of the Defence Forces operating in Afghanistan have had involvement with the operators of a detention site at Bagram holding some 500 so-called terror suspects in primitive conditions, indefinitely and without charges. [17161/06]

Arthur Morgan

Question:

85 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Defence if the Defence Forces personnel holding appointments at the International Security Assistance Force Headquarters in Kabul have had dealings with the operators of a detention site at Bagram holding some 500 so-called terror suspects in primitive conditions, indefinitely and without charges. [17163/06]

Martin Ferris

Question:

92 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Defence if the International Security Assistance Force operating in Afghanistan has dealings with the operators of a detention site at Bagram holding some 500 so-called terror suspects in primitive conditions, indefinitely and without charges. [17162/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

130 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence if the Defence Forces personnel based at the Multinational Brigade Headquarters in Kabul and serving as members of a liaison team with the Afghan National Directorate of Security have had dealings with the operators of a detention site at Bagram holding some 500 so-called terror suspects in primitive conditions, indefinitely and without charges. [17164/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74, 85, 92 and 130 together.

Ireland has participated in the UN authorised International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan since 5 July, 2002, following Government approval on 2 July, 2002, authorising the provision of seven members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with this force.

ISAF was established under the authority of UN Security Council Resolution 1386 of 20 December, 2001 to assist the Interim Afghanistan Authority in the maintenance of security in Kabul and the surrounding areas. The UN authorisation of ISAF has been extended, by the UN Security Council since then. NATO assumed the lead in ISAF on 11 August, 2003.

The detention centre at Bagram is not part of the ISAF operation. The detention centre, which is situated at the Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, is part of the Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Operation Enduring Freedom is the US-led anti-terrorist operation whose role includes, the destruction of terrorist training camps and infrastructure within Afghanistan, the capture of al Qaeda leaders, and the elimination of terrorist activities in Afghanistan. ISAF has no role in this regard. Defence Forces personnel serving with ISAF have not had any dealings with the detention centre in Bagram, or its staff.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

75 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Defence if leases on property used by the Reserve Defence Forces have not been renewed since 1 January 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17151/06]

Tom Hayes

Question:

119 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Defence if the Reserve Defence Forces had to vacate the premises at the Coast Guard Station, Dún Laoghaire, which housed C company of the 62 Reserve Infantry Battalion; the impact same had on the unit; if the lease will be renewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17158/06]

Joe Costello

Question:

133 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Defence the reason the coastguard station leased by his Department has been sold to the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Commission thus depriving the local Battalion of the Reserve Defence Forces of their training centre; if this development is contrary to the criteria under which the reserve was established in 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17188/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 75, 119 and 133 together.

A letting of the Coastguard Station at Dún Laoghaire had been held by my Department from Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company for a period of 4 years 9 months ending on the 31st March, 2006 for use by the Reserve Defence Force. The company informed the Department that it was not in a position to renew the existing letting agreement and a notice to quit was issued on 31st March 2006. The property was vacated on the 28th April, 2006. The local unit will be served from its Company headquarters at Rockbrae House, Bray. Arrangements have been made to reactivate training at the Oatlands College in Stillorgan and other training needs will continue to be reviewed by the Department in consultation with the military authorities.

Prudent management dictates that the requirement to lease properties to provide for the training and administration requirements of the Reserve Defence Force is kept under continual review. Among the factors attendant on the acquisition of properties for the Reserve Defence Force are the availability of suitable properties in the individual localities, conditions governing their letting, including the matter of cost effectiveness, and the changing requirements of both the lessors and the Reserve Defence Force Units from time to time. A total of 8 properties have been vacated this year. My Department will continue to source suitable properties for the Reserve Defence Force as the need arises.

Commemorative Events.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

76 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Defence if there have been further meetings of the all-party group to plan commemorations of the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising; if the group has reviewed the outcome of the recent 90th anniversary commemorations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17220/06]

Joe Costello

Question:

458 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Defence if the Government has proposals for the GPO, O’Connell Street, and No. 16 Moore Street, Dublin 1, in the context of the commemoration of the events of 1916; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16839/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 76 and 458 together.

The all-party group held their first meeting on Wednesday 1 March, 2006. Arrangements for the 90th Anniversary Commemoration were outlined and preliminary discussions were also held in relation to the framework for the centenary programme. I envisage that the next meeting of this group will be held shortly and the group will continue to meet as necessary to plan commemorations of the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising. Contributions of members will doubtless be informed by the coverage and commentary of this year's events.

I believe that there was general public approval and support for the commemorations of the Easter Rising. This was very evident at the military parade and at the other events organised by the National Museum of Ireland and the National Library (and not overlooking other initiatives by colleges, community groups and within political parties which were not part of the official programme). The keen interest in the period and the readiness to explore this important heritage reflects a willingness to address anew the events of those turbulent years with a view to an enhanced appreciation of the different traditions in Ireland. I look forward to engaging again soon with the group members on how that process might best be advanced.

I do not think it would be appropriate to put forward any particular plans with regard to the commemorations in advance of the all party group's final consideration of a balanced programme. However, without prejudice to the deliberations of the all-party group, the government would be favourably disposed towards an initiative in relation to the GPO and its environs.

Ministerial Transport.

Michael Ring

Question:

77 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Defence the tasks carried out by the Bombardier Aerospace 45 since 1 January 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17148/06]

The Learjet 45, which entered operational service as part of the Ministerial Air Transport Service (MATS) in January 2004, operates in tandem with the Gulfstream IV in providing a Ministerial Air Transport Service for members of the Government. The Learjet is occasionally tasked with other missions when not in use by the Ministerial Air Transport Service. These include supporting the civil community by flying air ambulance missions, and supporting the Air Corps in its wider operational role. There are also occasional requirements for pilot training and post-maintenance test flights from time to time. Since 1 January 2006, the Learjet has carried out 31 MATS missions, 4 Air Ambulance missions, 1 Air Corps support mission and 9 test flight missions.

Question No. 78 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

Defence Forces Property.

Bernard Allen

Question:

79 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Defence if lands at St. Bricin’s Hospital, Parkgate Street, Dublin 7 have been conveyed to the local authority or any other body or person; if so, the amount of land which was involved; the remuneration which was received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17122/06]

The Government agreed on 16 December 2003 to the release of circa 2.5 acres at St. Bricin's Military Hospital, Dublin for inclusion in the Sustaining Progress Affordable Housing Initiative. The primary purpose of the Initiative is to maximize the early delivery of affordable housing units. The site is being transferred to Dublin City Council as specified by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for a nominal consideration. It is the responsibility of Dublin City Council, as advised by the National Development Finance Agency, to ensure that value for money is achieved in respect of the use of the site for the initiative. The legal formalities in relation to the transfer of the site to Dublin City Council are nearing completion.

Naval Service.

Dan Neville

Question:

80 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the journey of the LE Eithne to Argentina; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17129/06]

The Naval Service flagship LE EITHNE sailed from the Naval Base in Haulbowline, Co. Cork, on 8th of February this year to visit Argentina, on foot of an invitation from the Argentine Government, where it participated in celebrations to commemorate the memory of Foxford-born Admiral William Brown, the founder of the Argentine Navy. LE EITHNE also visited Montevideo in Uruguay and Rio De Janeiro and Fortaleza in Brazil. Over 6,000 people visited the ship. In all, the ship hosted or participated in over 150 separate events of both a cultural and trade-related nature.

Much of LE EITHNE's time was dedicated to a humanitarian programme. Having received donations of toys from a broad cross-section of Irish institutions, organisations and citizens such as the Archdiocese of Dublin, Higher Education Authority, Royal St George Yacht Club and Cork University Hospital, as well as a generous cash donation from the Naval Association, the ship's company hosted hundreds of sick, deprived and abused children.

While in Argentina and building on its links with Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, the ship's company visited seriously ill children in a number of paediatric hospitals and hosted many children on board. A delegation from Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin travelled to Buenos Aires in conjunction with the visit. A large diesel generator carried from Ireland by the ship was installed by the crew in a remote school (named for Admiral Brown) accessible only by boat several hundred kilometres up the Parana river.

While in Brazil and working with the Non Governmental Organisation ‘Task Brazil' LE EITHNE hosted the street children of Rio De Janeiro on board ship while the ship's crew, including electricians, carpenters and engineers, carried out essential repairs to their shelter and prepared a vegetable garden at the NGO's farm. Working through the Irish Catholic Missionary network the crew of LE EITHNE linked up with the Redemptorist missionaries in Fortaleza and helped in the restoration of housing for the poor. The visit underlined the very strong potential role of the Naval Service in trade promotion and in generating a positive image of Ireland.

The men and women of LE EITHNE impressed all as professional sailors and excellent representatives of Ireland. A very positive dimension of the visit to Argentina was the focus it provided for the Argentine-Irish community who enthusiastically participated in the social events organised by LE EITHNE, the Embassy and the community itself. The visit and associated events served to boost the sense of Irish identity among the community. The ship returned to Ireland on 7th of April.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

81 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Defence the criteria for recruitment to the Defence Forces; when the next recruitment drive is planned; if a criminal offence committed by a minor is an impediment to recruitment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17194/06]

Recruitment into the Permanent Defence Force is ongoing and will continue in order to maintain the strength at the level set out in the White Paper as required to meet military needs. It is expected that in excess of 500 will be enlisted in 2006.

The White Paper on Defence of February 2000 sets out a figure of 10,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force, comprising 930 for the Air Corps, 1,144 for the Naval Service and 8,426 for the Army. It is my intention to maintain the established Government policy of ongoing recruitment to the Defence Forces. All applicants for enlistment in the Permanent Defence Force must satisfy certain eligibility criteria which include age limits, minimum height, education, medical and physical standards. The policy regarding the enlistment in the Permanent Defence Force, of persons who have committed a criminal offence, is governed by Defence Force Regulations.

In this regard, Defence Force Regulations stipulate that the following persons will not be enlisted in the Permanent Defence Force—

1. a person who has been convicted of a serious offence by a civil court,

2. a person who has been convicted by a Special Criminal Court of a scheduled offence under the Offences Against the State Act, 1939, unless—

(i) a period of seven years has elapsed since the date of the conviction, or

(ii) a free pardon has been granted in respect of such conviction, or

(iii) the disqualification incurred as a result of such conviction, from holding office or employment remunerated out of public funds has been remitted by the Government under subsection (5) of section 34 of the said Act.

Defence Force Regulations also stipulate that a person who has been convicted of a serious offence by the Special Criminal Court or by a Civil Court shall be ineligible for enlistment in the Reserve Defence Force. Regarding a minor who has committed an offence, it is not possible to give a general answer. Each case is considered on its merits having regard to the principles set out above.

Air Traffic Control.

Paul Connaughton

Question:

82 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Defence if the Air Corps air traffic control was aware of the details of the two recent Ryan Air flights that had to be diverted due to bomb hoaxes; if so, the person who informed them; the role they had in the operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17140/06]

Air Corps Air Traffic Control were not made aware of the details of the recent Ryan Air and Aer Arann flights that had to be diverted due to bomb hoaxes. Both aircraft involved were at the time under the control of British Air Traffic services. Air Corps Air Traffic Control provides services in areas of Irish airspace designated for use by the Defence Forces and do not handle commercial airline traffic.

Defence Forces Property.

Paul McGrath

Question:

83 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Defence the revenue obtained from property sales from 1997 to date in 2006; the position regarding this funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17113/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

473 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the receipts to date from the sale of military installations, decommissioned in 1998 and since either disposed of, rented, leased or otherwise; the amount accruing to the State on an annual basis from such rents or leases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17420/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 and 473 together.

The Government, on 15 July 1998, approved a programme of evacuation and sale of six barracks considered surplus to military requirements. The barracks in question were located at Ballincollig, Fermoy, Castleblayney, Naas, Kildare and Islandbridge, Dublin. The value of sales/disposals completed to date in respect of the six barracks the subject of the July 1998 Government decision, together with additional military property which was surplus to military requirements, is in the region of €90 million. Where properties are identified as surplus to military requirements, they are disposed of by way of sale rather than lease or rental.

In accordance with the Government's commitment under the White Paper on Defence the funding realised from the sale of properties has been used for an ongoing equipment and infrastructure modernisation programme. This programme has ensured that the Defence Forces are fully equipped with the most modern of equipment for their day-to-day roles, both at home and on overseas missions.

National Emergency Plan.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

84 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Defence the number and type of exercises carried out by the office of emergency planning, since its inception; if a report on same has been published; if it is available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17116/06]

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

131 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Defence if he will expand on his recent comment that he has increased the number and frequency of simulated emergency response exercises since he was appointed Minister; the number of such exercises that have taken place in that time; the reason for the increase in the number of simulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17214/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 84 and 131 together.

The Office of Emergency Planning was established, following a Government decision in October 2001, as a joint civil and military Office within my Department. The Office supports the work of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning and continues to work with Government Departments and other public authorities in order to ensure the best possible use of resources and compatibility between different planning requirements.

The lead responsibility for specific emergency planning functions remains with the relevant lead Government Departments and those bodies under their aegis. Emergency plans are co-ordinated and exercised by the various lead Government Departments at a national level and through the Local Authorities, including the Fire Services, the Health Service Executive and the Garda Divisions at local and regional level.

As chairman of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning, I have requested Departments and key public authorities to ensure that there are structured exercise programmes in place and to report to the Task Force on the status and progress of these programmes.

I believe that the development of structured exercise programmes is essential in order to refine and develop the arrangements that exist, to continuously improve them through review and revision, and to generally provide the basis for an increased confidence in the emergency planning process. A comprehensive programme of exercises for 2006 is in train.

Question No. 85 answered with QuestionNo. 74.
Question No. 86 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

Commemorative Events.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

87 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Defence if, in view of the success of the Easter commemoration, he intends to make this an annual event; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17186/06]

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

128 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Defence if he intends to hold a military parade at Easter 2007, similar to the 2006 parade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17132/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 87 and 128 together.

I would like to take this opportunity, to congratulate the Defence Forces on their magnificent display at the Easter Parade. I believe that there was great public approval and support for the commemorations of the Easter Rising. I have received a lot of positive feedback from members of the public, both written and oral, who were delighted to see the modern Defence Forces given an opportunity to parade through our capital city.

This widespread public approval was also evident at the other events organized by the National Museum of Ireland, the National Library and at other initiatives by colleges, community groups and within political parties which were not part of the official programme. It was also visible at the annual 1916 Defence Forces commemorative event at Arbour Hill last Wednesday.

In relation to Easter 2007 and future years, no fundamental decision has yet been reached regarding the format of the commemoration. Obviously, there was a huge significance to this year's event being the 90th Anniversary and also marking the reinstatement of an annual commemoration. From this year on, there will be a significant annual commemoration of the Rising of 1916 on Easter Sunday with a military component. However, the exact nature of this event has not yet been formulated. Indeed, given that we have some time to plan for Easter 2007 and subsequent years, I would welcome suggestions from all sides of the House in relation to the format that should be taken for these events.

I would propose that such suggestions should be channelled through the various opposition representatives who have been nominated to the All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Centenary celebrations. I would hope that the next meeting of this group will be held shortly and that time would be spent at that meeting considering any suggestions regarding the format of ceremonies for 2007 and subsequent years. I await your suggestions with interest.

Question No. 88 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

89 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Defence the cost arising from the Defence Forces’ participation in the military parade to mark the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17215/06]

The total costs to the Defence Forces in respect of the 90th Anniversary of the Easter Rising was €214,663.69. This figure is broken down as follows:

Subsistence Allowance

7,637.78

Rations

41,072.47

Aviation Gas

13,879.00

Fuel

30,741.46

Sundries

4,235.98

Preparation of Vehicles

26,640.00

Transport costs

90,457.00

Total

214,663.69

Overseas Missions.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

90 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Defence the legislative changes which are necessary in order to remove the voluntary nature of Defence Force personnel being deployed abroad in humanitarian operations in response to natural and man-made disasters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17181/06]

It is necessary to update the Defence (Amendment) (No. 2) Act, of 1960 to clarify and modernise the legislation in relation to our participation in humanitarian operations. The issue here is that the Government, under the existing legislation, cannot dispatch troops for service on emergency or disaster relief operations. As a matter of course, there is normally no UN Security Council resolution for such situations, since they do not generally represent a threat to international peace and security.

Under current regulations, Defence Forces personnel must volunteer to serve outside the Defence Forces on secondment to a civil undertaking, similar to any other citizen, so as they can deploy to a disaster zone. They cannot be otherwise deployed under the current legislation. The intention of the particular amendment to the Defence Acts is to enable them to be deployed as Defence Forces personnel on such operations whereby they will operate under normal Defence Forces command and control arrangements and where their seniority and other rights are fully protected as a norm. The proposed amendment will enable the Government to dispatch a contingent of the Defence Forces and Defence Forces capabilities to assist in humanitarian situations.

Defence Forces Investigations.

Liz McManus

Question:

91 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Defence if he will institute an investigation into the loss of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17193/06]

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

Given the remove of forty-five years since the incident, it is difficult to anticipate whether a re-opening of the case would yield any information not already known. However, as I previously advised the House, I requested the military authorities to inquire into this matter and provide me with a report. The military authorities have conducted a detailed review of all material available to them. All relevant files in Administration section have been examined as well as those held by military archives, including the unit history of the 35th infantry battalion with whom Trooper Mullins served. The information elicited in this process has been quite limited and would indicate that while ongoing enquiries were made through the normal sources including through the Red Cross etc in an effort to locate and recover the bodies, Trooper Mullins body was never located. The military authorities have been unable to locate any UN or contingent Board of Inquiry reports on the incident at this time and it is not clear as to whether any such enquiry was ever established. Inquiries at the UN are continuing in this regard.

As the Deputy will appreciate, the standards and requirements in relation to Courts of Inquiry and investigations, which were in place in 1961, may not have been up to the type of standards we would expect today. A preliminary report has been provided to me on the enquiries made by the military authorities to date. I am awaiting additional information and I will consider the matter further when this is to hand.

Question No. 92 answered with QuestionNo. 74.

Defence Forces Property.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

93 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence if a review of the property portfolio of his Department has been carried out; if so, the details of same; if a copy of the report is available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17127/06]

The Department of Defence reviews its existing property portfolio on an ongoing basis, taking account of current and possible future military requirements. Such a review is presently in progress. It is the Department's policy to dispose of properties which are surplus to military requirements.

Question No. 94 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

95 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding the height entry requirement for females into the Permanent Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17125/06]

The minimum height requirement for entry to both the Permanent Defence Force and the Reserve Defence Force is 162.5 cm (5 ft. 4 ins) for both men and women. This limit was set in April 2002 based on the professional advice of the Medical Corps and the actual experience of training units. The advice at that time was that, having regard to the nature of the job and of the duties of military service and the training exercises undertaken by members of the Defence Forces, persons of shorter stature are more likely to incur back and lower limb injuries. A key element in military life is the need for personnel to maintain a level of fitness for combat readiness. Inherent in this physical requirement is the ability to carry heavy loads and execute physically demanding tasks in training and on operations. The Personal Load Carrying Equipment and personal weapon place considerable weight on the musculosketal system. The advice in 2002 was that the recommended height requirement of 162.5 cm (5 ft. 4 ins) for entry is the minimum necessary to meet the demands of military life.

As I indicated to the House on 29 September, 2005 I have asked the military authorities to report to me on the height requirement and I will review the height requirement in the light of that report. I expect to have the military authorities' report on or before 1 June, 2006. I would point out to the House however that the height requirement is only one element of the overall matter of how more women might be encouraged to enlist in the Defence Forces. In this context I believe it is important that we look at the whole range of possibly contributing factors. To that end I intend shortly to award a contract for research into women's attitudes to military life and a career in the Defence Forces. I would envisage such research to include interviews with currently serving female members of both the Permanent Defence Force and the Reserve Defence Force.

Defence Forces Strength.

Damien English

Question:

96 Mr. English asked the Minister for Defence the strength of the Permanent Defence Force as of 1 May 2006, including recruits in training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17108/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

474 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence his views on increasing the strength of the Defence Forces in accordance with requirements arising from future overseas assignments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17421/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 96 and 474 together.

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

The White Paper on Defence provides for an allocation of up to 850 Permanent Defence Force personnel to be deployed overseas at any one time through the United Nations Standby Arrangements System (UNSAS). While this may be exceeded for short periods, deployments above this level are not sustainable on an ongoing basis within existing resources. Any commitments to EU or UN missions will be met within this context. There are no plans to increase the numbers serving in the Defence Forces above the levels provided for in the White Paper.

The strength of the Permanent Defence Force including recruits, as on 31 March 2006, the latest date for which figures are available, as advised by the military authorities, is as follows:

Strength of the Permanent Defence Force as on 31 March, 2006

Officers

NCOs

Privates

Recruits

Total

Army

1,042

3,036

4,384

3

8,465

Air Corps

135

404

308

0

847

Naval Service

163

490

381

32

1,066

Defence Forces Property.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

97 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Defence the number of barracks and other living quarters used by the Defence Forces for accommodation in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17202/06]

There are a total of 33 locations across the 6 Military Formations which are used by the Defence Forces for accommodation purposes. The accommodation provided caters for the operational, living, recreational and training needs of the Defence Forces. The locations are as follows:

Accommodation for the Defence Forces 2006

Formation Location

Eastern Brigade

McKee Barracks, Dublin

Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin

Gormanston Camp

Aiken Barracks Dundalk

Monaghan Military Post

St. Bricin’s Hospital Dublin

Kilbride Camp

Southern Brigade

Collins Barracks Cork

Sarsfield Barracks Limerick

Kickham Barracks Clonmel

Stephens Barracks Kilkenny

Kilworth Camp

Bere Island Co Cork

Lahinch Camp Co Clare

Fitzgerald Camp Tralee

Western Brigade

Custume Barracks Athlone

Columb Barracks Mullingar

Renmore Barracks Galway

Connolly Barracks Longford

Finner Camp, Donegal

Lifford Military Post

Rockhill Military Post Letterkenny

Cavan Military Post

Defence Forces Training Centre

Pearse Barracks

McDonagh Barracks

Clarke Barracks

Plunkett Barracks

Mc Dermott Barracks

Connolly Barracks

Ceannt Barracks

Glen of Imaal

Air Corps

Baldonnel Co Dublin

Naval Service

Haulbowline Co Cork

Defence Forces Investigations.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

98 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Defence the situation in relation to the investigation into the death of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17105/06]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

118 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence if he has held further meetings with the family of a person (details supplied); if the Gardaí have concluded their examination of his Department’s and the Defence Force’s files on the matter to determine whether or not they can provide assistance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17218/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 98 and 118 together.

On 2 February, 2006, I received a report from Mr. Sean Hurley, who I had appointed to carry out an independent review of the interaction between the Department of Defence/Defence Forces and parents and family of Private Kevin Barrett in the aftermath of his tragic death, on 18 February, 1999, while serving with the 84th Infantry Battalion in Lebanon.

Immediately on receipt of Mr. Hurley's report, I contacted the Garda Commissioner and asked him to provide me with his early views in relation to any possible assistance that the Garda Síochána might be in a position to provide. A Garda officer has since been assigned to the case and is currently examining my Department's and the Defence Forces files in the case with a view to determining whether the Gardaí can provide any assistance in the matter. Liaison arrangements have been set up between the Gardaí and the Defence Forces, who continue to provide the fullest co-operation to An Garda Síochána. To date the Defence Forces have assisted in providing access to the considerable number of witnesses associated with the case and have also facilitated the visit by the investigation team to Lebanon and Israel. The Garda inquiries are ongoing and when completed, the Commissioner will provide a report, which I will then consider.

On 8 March, 2006, my colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach and Defence, Mr. Tom Kitt, T.D., at my request, met with the parents of the late Private Barrett. This meeting had been arranged with the family after they had sufficient time to consider Mr Hurley's report and to outline to them the actions I had taken to date. Minister Kitt updated the parents on the status of my request to the Garda Commissioner. It was agreed that a further meeting would be held with the family when I have further information. In the meantime, the family will be kept informed of any developments.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

99 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding the investigation into allegations of the theft of diesel by a Defence Forces’ member in Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17221/06]

The military authorities advise that the Military Police investigation into the alleged larceny of diesel oil from military vehicles in Donegal has been completed. I am advised that disciplinary proceedings are imminent.

Overseas Missions.

Willie Penrose

Question:

100 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Defence the number of Irish soldiers travelling to Liberia on the 16 May 2006 on peace keeping duties; the nature of their duties; the other countries in which Irish soldiers are engaged in peace keeping duties under the UN mandate; the number of soldiers involved in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17200/06]

Denis Naughten

Question:

122 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Defence the situation with respect to Irish troops serving in Liberia and Sierra Leone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17157/06]

John Gormley

Question:

123 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding Irish troops serving with UNMIL in Liberia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17177/06]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

129 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide an assessment of the security situation in Liberia; his views on whether the situation necessitates the extension of involvement of Irish troops in the UNMIL mission beyond the November 2006 withdrawal date; if further consultations have been held with the UN Secretary General on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17217/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 100, 122, 123 and 129 together.

Ireland is currently contributing approximately 765 Defence Forces personnel to 19 different missions throughout the world. Full details of all personnel currently serving overseas are listed in the following tabular statement.

The main commitments are to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), with 422 personnel, to the NATO-led International Security presence (KFOR) in Kosovo, with 213 personnel and to EUFOR, the EU-led operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with 60 personnel.

Ireland has participated in UNMIL since December 2003 following a decision of the Government on 24 June, 2003, and the subsequent approval by Dáil Éireann of the necessary enabling motion. Since then, the UN Security Council has authorised the continuation of UNMIL for successive periods and the Government have approved continued Irish participation.

Ireland, together with an Infantry Company Group from Sweden, provides the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) to the UNMIL Force Commander. The Irish contingent currently comprises 422 personnel. The role of the QRF is to respond rapidly to any crises that arise within the area of operations and support other UNMIL deployed contingents, including through long-range patrols into the countryside. While it has been a difficult mission, particularly in terms of the operating environment, it is working very well for the Defence Forces.

In December 2005, Ireland agreed to a request from the UN for support in expanding the area of operations of UNMIL to include Sierra Leone, as authorised under UN Security Resolution 1626 of 19 September, 2005, and in particular to allow Irish troops to be made available for extraction operations should there be a requirement to evacuate the staff and detainees of the Special Court of Sierra Leone in Freetown. The Irish contingent assumed its additional responsibilities in late December 2005 following Dáil approval on 15 December, 2005. UNMIL is currently providing a permanent guard of 250 personnel of the Mongolian contingent at the Special Court.

In addition to conducting normal patrolling and security operations in Liberia, the Irish contingent currently conducts limited operations in Freetown, Sierra Leone in support of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Since 30 March, 2006, a small detachment of the QRF, including both Irish and Swedish troops, have been deployed to Freetown, prepared to support the security of the Special Court, if necessary.

The current Irish commitment to UNMIL is until November 2006, when we are due to withdraw from the mission together with our Swedish partners. In a letter to An Taoiseach on 3 March, 2006, the UN Secretary-General requested Ireland to consider postponing the withdrawal of its troops from UNMIL for a period of at least six months, in order to give the UN time to find a suitable replacement for the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) capability. This request is currently under consideration.

Our current assessment is that the security situation in Liberia, while continuing to be fragile, is stable and progressing positively. We are also of the view that the remaining forces should be well capable of handling the ongoing security situation generally.

That said, I can assure the House that Ireland remains committed to Peace Support Operations in Africa under a UN flag. Detailed consultations have taken place with the UN including at a high level meeting at UN Headquarters in New York on 24 April involving representatives of my Department, the Defence Forces and our Ambassador to the UN. We are now in the process of finalising our consideration in the matter in light of these discussions. I am confident that we will be able to respond positively to the Secretary General's request for one further 6 month extension to May, 2007, whereupon we will then withdraw the contingent. I am advised that the UN is actively engaged in efforts to find a suitable replacement for the capability provided by the Irish/Swedish contingent and that the period to May 2007 will enable them to complete this process.

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

1. UN Missions

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

5

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

13

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

4

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

4

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

3

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

2

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

6

UNMIL 94th Inf Bn

416

TOTAL

453

UN Mandated Missions

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

60

(ix)KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo)

213

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

7

Total number of personnel serving with UN missions

733

2. EU Missions

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

5

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

3

(iii)ACEH Monitoring Mission (AMM)

1

TOTAL NUMBER OF PERSONNEL SERVING WITH EU MISSIONS

9

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

(i)OSCE Mission to Bosnia & Herzegovina

1

(ii)OSCE Mission in Montenegro

1

(iii)OSCE Presence in Albania

2

(iv)OSCE Mission in FRY

2

(v)OSCE Mission in Georgia

1

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

1

Total number of personnel serving OSCE

8

4. Head of Military Staff (Brussels)

1

5. EU Military Staff (Brussels)

4

6. EU Military Staff (New York)

1

7. Liaison Office of Ireland, PfP (Brussels)

2

8. Permanent Representative to EU (Brussels)

3

9. Military Representatives/ Advisers

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

1

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

1

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

1

10. Appointments — UN HQ (New York)

(iii) Officer seconded to DPKO (Department of Peace Keeping Operations)

1

TOTAL NUMBER DEFENCE FORCES PERSONNEL SERVING OVERSEAS

765

National Emergency Plan.

Dan Boyle

Question:

101 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Defence if the Civil Defence services have participated in exercises under the national emergency plan for nuclear accidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17178/06]

The Civil Defence is a declared resource of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII). They have a specific role in the National Emergency Plan for Nuclear Accidents. Civil Defence volunteers are exercised regularly in their role in relation to the National Emergency Plan.

In May 2005 they exercised their assigned role in the national emergency plan for nuclear accidents with regard to the monitoring of radiation and collection of samples for analysis. The exercise was undertaken in conjunction with the RPII who provided positive feedback to Civil Defence with regard to the conduct of the Exercise. The RPII is represented on the Civil Defence Board and the organization will be continuing with ongoing training with regard to exercising its role in the plan.

Emergency Services.

Michael Noonan

Question:

102 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Defence if the Naval Service made a report to the Irish Marine Emergency Service with respect to pollution since 1 January 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17133/06]

The Irish Coast Guard, formerly the Irish Marine Emergency Service, under the aegis of the Department of Transport, is the State Agency with responsibility for marine emergency management within the Irish Pollution Response Zone (IPRZ). The role of the Naval Service in pollution control involves the provision of aid to the civil authority, i.e. the Irish Coastguard, as and when required, through the monitoring and reporting of pollution, the clearing up of pollution and the enforcement of regulations pertaining to Dumping at Sea. The Naval Service has not made any report to the Irish Coast Guard in respect of pollution since 1 January 2006.

Question No. 103 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

Defence Forces Investigations.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

104 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding his request to military authorities to examine all aspects of the Niemba Ambush in the Congo in November 1960; when he expects this investigation to conclude; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17222/06]

I undertook during Priority Questions on Thursday 23 February, 2006 to ask the military authorities to revisit this matter in light of the questions raised on that date. The Chief of Staff has appointed a Senior officer to examine all aspects of the Niemba ambush in the Congo in November 1960. So far contact has been made with both survivors. One has been interviewed already and the other is unavailable for interview until later this month. The examining officer has also contacted other interested parties both at home and abroad. Due to the diversity of this investigation it is unlikely that it will be completed for some time. I will contact the Deputy when this process has been completed.

Defence Forces Reserve.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

105 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Defence if adequate clothing and equipment is available to members of the Reserve Defence Force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17152/06]

Adequate clothing and equipment is available to Reserve Defence Force personnel, and the scale of issue reflects the recommendations of the Reserve Defence Force Review Implementation Plan. The military authorities have advised me that with regard to clothing an enhanced scale of personal issue has been approved and will be published in the near future. In addition to personal issues there is provision for the issue of specialised and protective equipment i.e. sleeping systems, protective boots and rain gear as requested. The military authorities have advised that earlier in the year there have been delays with the issue of clothing and equipment. These problems have now been sorted and personnel will be issued with the necessary clothing.

Investment in new equipment, clothing and infrastructure for the Defence Forces is provided for under various Subheads of the Defence Vote. All elements of the Defence Forces, the Army, Air Corps, Naval Service and the Reserve have benefited from this investment in new equipment.

Overseas Missions.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

106 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Defence the way in which the Defence Act 1960 needs to be amended in order that its wording more closely reflects current practice in the formulation of UN Security Council resolution endorsing peace support operations; the implications for Irish defence policy of such a change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17180/06]

Ireland's participation in Peace Support Operations is subject to what has come to be known as the Triple Lock — i.e. Government decision, Dáil Éireann approval and UN authorisation. This will also be the case for any operations which may be undertaken on EU Battlegroups. This is entirely consistent with our foreign policy commitment to collective security which recognizes the primary role of the UN Security Council in the maintenance of international peace and security and our tradition of support for the United Nations.

I intend to introduce amending legislation, which will, amongst other things, update and amend the definition of "International United Nations Force", as provided for in current legislation. The amendment will reflect the changes in the organisation and structure of forces deployed on peace support operations by the UN, in particular, the use of regional organisations to organise forces to undertake peace support operations under a UN Security Council Resolution.

Over the years, UN authorisation of peace support operations has come in different forms in terms of the specific formulation of the mandate. The terms "establish", "authorise", "authorise/ support the establishment of", "calls on member States", have all been used at various junctures in UN Security Council Resolutions. It is important to ensure that future participation in peace support operations is not precluded due to the specific form of language in a UN Security Council Resolution. As such, the amendment to the definition of "International United Nations Force" will also encompass and reflect the wording of previous Security Council Resolutions and the variations in the language used in such Resolutions.

Question No. 107 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

National Emergency Plan.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

108 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Defence if there have been further meetings of the inter-Departmental Working Group on Emergency Planning to prepare for the anticipated arrival of avian flu here; the outcome of such meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17219/06]

The most recent meetings of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning and the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Emergency Planning were specifically convened to provide the various Government Department representatives with updated briefings from the Department of Agriculture and Food with regard to avian flu and from the Department of Health and Children with regard to a possible human influenza pandemic. The Inter-Departmental Working Group on Emergency Planning is due to meet again on the 18th May.

The Department of Agriculture and Food is represented on both the Task Force on Emergency Planning and the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Emergency Planning and has been providing regular briefings on avian flu developments at these meetings over the past number of months and will provide a further briefing at the meeting on the 18th May. The situation with regard to avian flu will continue to be monitored and reviewed by that Department in close co-operation with the Department of Health and Children.

My colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children who has lead responsibility in this area, is addressing the various issues that may arise in relation to a flu pandemic. Avian flu or H5N1 is primarily a disease of birds. To date, there have been a very small number of human cases of H5N1 infection documented, in situations where there has been very close contact with infected birds. There is no evidence of human-to-human transmission. The representative from her Department will also provide an up to date briefing at the meeting of the Inter-departmental Working Group on Emergency Planning on the 18th May.

A detailed plan for a response to an influenza pandemic was prepared in 2004. This plan is currently being refined to reflect the most up-to-date advice of the Influenza Pandemic Expert Group and the World Health Organisation.

An Inter-Departmental Standing Committee chaired by the Department of Health and Children has also been meeting, most recently on 24th April. This Committee will support the Department of Health and Children in planning for and responding to any possible flu pandemic. Both the Task Force and the Inter-Departmental Working Group will continue to be briefed and updated on these matters and related emergency planning issues on a regular and ongoing basis.

Questions Nos. 109 and 110 answered with Question No. 68.

Overseas Missions.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

111 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding the proposed participation of Irish troops in the EU support operation for the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo; when a Government decision will be made; when troops will be committed to the mission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17216/06]

Elections are due to take place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) under UN supervision in July 2006. In December 2005, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) invited the EU to consider the possibility of providing "a suitably earmarked force reserve that could enhance MONUC's quick reaction capabilities during and immediately after the electoral process."

MONUC is the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and was established in February 2000 by the United Nations Security Council. It is headquartered in Kinshasa and consists of about 16,000 troops. Ireland contributes three military observers to the mission.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1671 of 25 April, 2006 authorised the EU to deploy a European Union Force, codenamed "EUFOR RD Congo", in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in support of MONUC, during the electoral period in the DRC, for a period ending four months after the date of the first round of the presidential and parliamentary elections there. The DRC authorities have welcomed possible EU military support to MONUC during the electoral process. On 25 April, 2006, the Council of the EU adopted a "Joint Action" to launch the mission.

Ireland from the outset has been positively disposed towards the proposed mission and has supported a positive response from the EU to the UN request. In this regard, Ireland advised the Chairman of the EU Military Staff that, subject to national decision-making procedures, Ireland was prepared to offer up to ten Headquarters personnel for the mission. Today, the Government approved the despatch of up to ten (10) members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with the new mission. Ireland's proposed contribution is well in line with that of other contributing member States and has to be looked at in the context of our existing major commitments to peacekeeping operations.

Two Defence Forces officers have been assigned to the Operational Headquarters for the mission in Potsdam (Germany) for pre-deployment training and familiarisation. Ireland is currently awaiting details from the EU Military Staff regarding the deployment of the remaining personnel.

Defence Forces Deployment.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

112 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Defence the incidents which have occurred between members of the Defence Forces providing security at Shannon Airport and protestors since 1 January 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17101/06]

An Garda Síochána have the primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State. Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces is the provision of aid to the civil power (meaning in practice to assist, when requested, an Garda Síochána), which duties include the protection and guarding of vital installations. I have been advised by the Military Authorities that there are no reported incidents between the members of the Defence Forces providing security at Shannon Airport and protesters since 1st January 2006.

Defence Forces Ombudsman.

Bernard Allen

Question:

113 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Defence if the Office of the Ombudsman has been established; the number of cases which have been submitted to that office to date; the number of these which have been dealt with; the outcome of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17124/06]

The Office of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces was established under the Ombudsman (Defence Forces) Act 2004. In accordance with the terms of Section 2 of the Act, the President, acting upon the recommendation of the Government, appointed Ms Paulyn Marrinan Quinn SC as Ombudsman for the Defence Forces with effect from the 19th September 2005.

The Ombudsman (Defence Forces) Act 2004 (Commencement Order) 2005 brought the relevant parts of the Act into operation in two steps. Those parts of the Act relevant to the actual setting up of the Office of Ombudsman for the Defence Forces came into effect from the 31st August 2005. All other parts of the Act came into effect from 1st December 2005. Specifically, an action or decision that is the subject of a complaint to the Ombudsman must have occurred no earlier than the 1st December 2005.

Complaints in relation to any actions or decisions which occurred before 1st December 2005 will be dealt with under the present administrative arrangements, operating under Section 114 of the Defence Act 1954, and agreed with the representative associations in 1996, providing for the examination of complaints by the civilian Complaints Inquiry Officer (CIO). This separate 'CIO' stream will continue in parallel on a transitional basis until all remaining complaints about pre 1st December 2005 matters are cleared through that system.

In accordance with the terms of the Act, the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces is independent in the performance of her functions. Therefore, I do not consider it appropriate for me to seek details as to the number of cases already submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman, the status of those complaints, or the current treatment of those cases by the Ombudsman. To date, I have received no reports or recommendations from the Ombudsman on the outcome of the investigation of any individual cases. The Ombudsman for the Defence Forces will produce an annual report for the Houses of the Oireachtas, in accordance with the requirements of the legislation.

I can inform the Deputy that since 1st December, 28 complaints have been made within the military system under Section 114 of the Defence Act 1954, as now amended by the Ombudsman (Defence Forces) Act 2004, seeking redress of wrongs. Those redress complainants, whose complaints relate to matters occurring on or after 1st December 2005, are eligible to refer their complaint to the Ombudsman if a complainant so desires.

Decentralisation Programme.

Shane McEntee

Question:

114 Mr. McEntee asked the Minister for Defence the number of Civil Defence personnel who have relocated to Roscrea, County Tipperary; the number of these who were in the Civil Defence headquarters in Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17110/06]

The Civil Defence Board has completed its relocation from Dublin to its new premises in Roscrea, County Tipperary. The number of Civil Defence personnel who have relocated to Roscrea is 17; the number of those who were in the Civil Defence headquarters in Dublin is 11. This does not include 2 personnel who had re-located from Civil Defence headquarters in Dublin to Roscrea but have since left on decentralisation.

Air Corps Support.

Michael Ring

Question:

115 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Defence the number of aid to the civil power operations the Air Corps have been involved in since 1 January 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17146/06]

To aid the civil power (meaning in practice to assist, when requested, An Garda Síochána who have the primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State) is among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces. In this regard, the Defence Forces assist the Gardaí as required in duties, which include cash escorts, prison escorts and explosives escorts.

The Air Corps have completed three (3) Aid to Civil Power Missions since 1 January 2006. It is not the practice, for security reasons, to give details relating to these operations. In addition the Garda Air Support Unit provides a 24 hour, all year immediate response capability for air support within the State.

Question No. 116 answered with QuestionNo. 68.

Defence Forces Property.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

117 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Defence the approaches which have been made to him or his Department to purchase or co-develop Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17103/06]

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

Periodic interest by the private sector has been expressed during the past decade or so in relation to the use of Casement Aerodrome for Civil Aviation purposes. No recent approaches, however, have been made to my Department with regard to the purchase or co-development of the Aerodrome.

The establishment of facilities for civil aviation purposes is primarily a matter for the Minister for Transport. Under the Irish Aviation Authority Act 1993, however, aerodromes under my authority are precluded from regulation by the Irish Aviation Authority. Only the regulation of military aviation activities at military aerodromes comes within my remit.

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

Question No. 118 answered with QuestionNo. 98.
Question No. 119 answered with QuestionNo. 75.

Overseas Missions.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

120 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Defence if EU battlegroup exercises involving foreign armies will be allowed to take place here as part of our EU battlegroups commitments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17184/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

124 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which members of the Irish Defence Forces have participated in EU or NATO lead or inspired, military training exercises in anticipation of EU battlegroup or PFP engagements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17015/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 120 and 124 together.

I am advised by the Attorney General that there is a constitutional impediment to the training and exercising of foreign troops in Ireland and, as such, there are no plans for the training of foreign troops in this country. It is expected that training for EU Battlegroups will normally take place in the country of the lead or framework nation. As Ireland is not a framework nation, the situation of foreign troops exercising in Ireland will not, therefore, arise.

As part of its study into possible participation in Battlegroups, the Interdepartmental Group recommended some changes to current legislation in light of the need for increased interoperability and training so that Irish troops can be more effective and more efficient once deployed. Overseas training, where our Defence Forces can learn from best practice in other countries, is essential to the development and maintenance of high standards in the military, and our existing peace support operations, where we work alongside many other armies. In this regard, in the proposed amendments to the Defence Acts, I plan to provide for participation by the Defence Forces in training and exercises abroad.

Question No. 121 answered with QuestionNo. 67.
Questions Nos. 122 and 123 answered with Question No. 100.
Question No. 124 answered with QuestionNo. 120.

National Emergency Plan.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

125 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Defence if there is an emergency plan for Dublin Harbour; if so, the role the Naval Service has in such a plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17137/06]

The emergency plan for Dublin Harbour is a matter for the Dublin Port Harbourmaster. The Naval Service has no role in this emergency plan.

Question No. 126 answered with QuestionNo. 67.

Defence Forces Deployment.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

127 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Defence the deployment of the Defence Forces throughout the country; the criteria for such deployment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17203/06]

The current deployment of the Permanent Defence Force, which comprises the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service, is based on and derives from the Defence Forces Review Implementation Plan 1996-1998 and the subsequent White Paper on Defence of February 2000. The main focus during this period was on the restructuring of the Defence Forces into a more rationally structured and streamlined organization.

The deployment of Formations is broadly as follows:

ARMY

The Army is structured into 3 all-arms Brigades, consisting of Combat, Combat Support and Combat Service Support elements. Each Brigade is designated a territorial area of responsibility, specific Garrison locations and a recruitment area as follows:

•2 Eastern Brigade

Covers Counties Wicklow, Kildare, Dublin, Meath, Louth and Monaghan.

•1 Southern Brigade

Covers Counties Cork, Kerry, Clare, Limerick, Tipperary, Waterford, Laois, Kilkenny, Carlow and Wexford.

• 4 Western Brigade

Covers Counties Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal, Cavan, Roscommon, Longford, Westmeath, Offaly.

• Defence Forces Training Centre

The DFTC and the Defence Forces Logistics Base at the Curragh support the training and logistics functions for the Permanent Defence Force and the Reserve Defence Force.

AIR CORPS

The Air Corps, based at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel consists of an Operational Headquarters, 2 Operational Wings (consisting of a Training/Light Strike Squadron, Helicopter Squadrons, a Maritime Squadron, a Transport Squadron and a Fixed Wing Reconnaissance Squadron 2 Support Wings (tasked with specialist maintenance of the aircraft fleet), an Air Corps Training College and a Communication and Information Services Squadron.

NAVAL SERVICE

The Naval Service is based at Haulbowline in Co. Cork. It consists of an Operational Headquarters, an Operations Command, a Support Command and a Naval Service College. It has a flotilla of 8 Ships consisting of a Helicopter Patrol Vessel (HPV) Squadron, a Large Patrol Vessel (LPV) Squadron, an Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) Squadron and a Coastal Patrol Vessel (CPV) Squadron. The Support Command is responsible for personnel and all logistical, engineering and maintenance functions.

The following table shows the strength of the Permanent Defence Force on 31 March, 2006 as per the above deployment:

Officers

NCO’s

Privates

Total

Army

2 Eastern Brigade (including DFHQ)

419

994

1,313

2,726

1 Southern Brigade

188

657

1,152

1,997

4 Western Brigade

207

711

1,206

2,124

Defence Forces Training Centre

228

674

716

1,618

Total Army

1,042

3,036

4,387

8,465

Air Corps

135

404

308

847

Naval Service

163

490

413

1,066

Defence Forces

1,340

3,930

5,108

10,378

Question No. 128 answered with QuestionNo. 87.
Question No. 129 answered with QuestionNo. 100.
Question No. 130 answered with QuestionNo. 74.
Question No. 131 answered with QuestionNo. 84.

Defence Forces Strength.

Willie Penrose

Question:

132 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Defence the number of personnel in the Army, Marine and Air Force for each of the past 10 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17201/06]

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

The strength of the Permanent Defence Force for each of the years 1997 to 2006, as advised by the military authorities, is provided in the following tabular statement.

Strength of the Army

Date

Officers

NCOs

Privates

Total

31 Dec. 1997

1,111

3,479

4,905

9,495

30 Sept. 1998*

1,096

3,471

5,065

9,632

31 Dec. 1999

1,030

3,359

4,754

9,143

31 Dec. 2000

1,016

3,249

4,645

8,910

31 Dec. 2001

1,019

3,159

4,638

8,816

31 Dec. 2002

997

3,130

4,493

8,620

31 Dec. 2003

1,027

3,086

4,404

8,517

31 Dec. 2004

1,039

3,072

4,481

8,592

31 Dec. 2005

1,051

3,060

4,427

8,538

31 Mar. 2006#

1,042

3,036

4,387

8,465

Strength of the Air Corps

Date

Officers

NCOs

Privates

Total

31 Dec. 1997

132

419

495

1,046

30 Sept. 1998*

129

400

482

1,011

31 Dec. 1999

121

346

426

893

31 Dec. 2000

130

335

375

840

31 Dec. 2001

126

379

407

912

31 Dec. 2002

137

395

373

905

31 Dec. 2003

137

414

351

902

31 Dec. 2004

140

398

333

871

31 Dec. 2005

134

403

315

852

31 Mar. 2006#

135

404

308

847

Strength of the Naval Service

Date

Officers

NCOs

Privates

Total

31 Dec. 1997

126

434

455

1,015

30 Sept. 1998*

123

434

455

1,012

31 Dec. 1999

111

434

463

1,008

31 Dec. 2000

116

435

425

976

31 Dec. 2001

116

426

405

947

31 Dec. 2002

136

437

461

1,034

31 Dec. 2003

139

467

473

1,079

31 Dec. 2004

156

490

442

1,088

31 Dec. 2005

163

471

421

1,055

31 Mar. 2006#

163

490

413

1,066

*Due to the re-organisation of the Permanent Defence Force during the last Quarter of 1998 the military authorities did not compile the usual end of year strengths for that year. The latest available statistics for 1998 are the September 1998 Quarterly returns.

#Most recent available figures for 2006.

Question No. 133 answered with QuestionNo. 75.

National Emergency Plan.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

134 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has satisfied himself regarding the degree to which the Defence Forces are prepared and equipped in the event of a terrorist attack; if an adequate and reliable early warning system is in place; the extent to which it is possible to contain or isolate such an incident; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17016/06]

The most important defence against any terrorist attack is detection and prevention by the security forces. While An Garda Síochána have the primary responsibility for law and order, one of the roles assigned to the Defence Forces is the provision of aid to the civil power, meaning in practice to assist, when requested, an Garda Síochána. The various components of the Defence Forces are active in this regard, providing such assistance as is appropriate in specific circumstances. The level of any terrorist threat to Ireland is continually assessed. The advice available to me would suggest that while the terrorist threat to parts of Europe is currently high, in relation to Ireland, it is low. However it is prudent that we take precautions and keep matters under continuous review.

The Defence Forces make contingency plans for a range of scenarios where the State may be at risk. An urgent and detailed review to deal with a range of emergency situations was undertaken by the military authorities following the events of September 11. It included, inter alia, an up-date of the threat assessment: intensive contacts with other State Agencies, a reassessment of Operations Orders relating to vital installations, alert systems, the Army Ranger Wing, Ordnance and Engineer aspects in terms of Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Specialist Search and a review of equipment including the need for air defence. All matters arising were addressed and all procedures updated as required. However as the Deputy will appreciate it is not possible to expand on the operational details of such plans.

The capacity of the Defence Forces to deal with major emergencies is kept under constant review. Plans and procedures are updated as necessary and such additional equipment as is required to address any perceived deficiencies is acquired on the basis of identified priorities. Training and preparation for such events is also provided for in the Defence Forces Annual Training Plan.

The most important defence against any attack is of course external vigilance, detection and prevention by the security forces. All the necessary resources of the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces are deployed to this end.

Census of Population.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

135 Ms C. Murphy asked the Taoiseach his views on introducing a population registration system as a replacement of the Census of population system in view of the fact that such a system would have the benefit of real time information rather than historic information gathered at one point in time and in further view of the potential for such a system to be used for planning services together with providing an accurate electoral register; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17346/06]

The introduction of a population registration system is not fundamentally a statistical issue — it would have major implications for the organisation and regulation of civil society. Countries which maintain population registers make registration a mandatory requirement before transactions such as change of residence, eligibility for school attendance and entitlement to a driver's licence, can be undertaken. Registration might also involve members of the public carrying national identity cards.

The introduction and maintenance of a fully functioning population registration system could only take place if the necessary legal underpinning in relation to data protection and data privacy is in place. In particular the use of population register details for electoral register purposes would require the relevant legal backing bearing in mind the mandatory nature of population registration compared with the present voluntary nature of registration on the Register of Electors.

In devising a population register all relevant stakeholders would have to be consulted in an open and transparent way and the necessary agreement reached before committing to a project of this magnitude.

Clear statistical benefits would flow from a fully functioning and comprehensive population register. The administrative data derived from this source could form part of the corpus of official statistics. Some countries use information from administrative databases such as population and housing registers as a replacement for traditional population censuses. The costs of establishing and maintaining a register would be significant and it should be emphasised that realising the statistical benefits would require ongoing quality assessments of the up-to-dateness of the register details.

Among the benefits, which might accrue, are major cost savings and a reduction of respondent burden. However, the topics covered in any analysis of administrative sources would of necessity be confined to those on the relevant register. This might be a serious shortcoming as it is unlikely that the richness and variety of the topics covered in a census could be replicated in a population register.

Many of the countries with population registers adhere to the same frequency of publishing census type information as those which undertake traditional censuses only while the use of scanning and recognition technologies and automatic coding techniques have meant that the results of traditional censuses are now made available within a reasonable time-frame.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

136 Mr. Quinn asked the Taoiseach if he has received from the Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments notification of a decision of the Tribunal under paragraph J (2) of its terms of reference, being a decision to proceed with a public hearing on a matter additional to the matters listed in paragraph J (1) (a) to (g) of those terms of reference; if so, the number of such notifications and the nature of the additional matter or matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16848/06]

It is assumed that the Deputy's question relates to my official position as Taoiseach. My Department has not received any notification of a decision by the Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters pursuant to paragraph J [2] of its amended terms of reference. I have no official role in relation to any such notifications that may have been issued to individuals on a personal basis. Such individuals are requested by the Tribunal not to disclose that fact or the names of other persons written to.

Programme for Government.

Michael Lowry

Question:

137 Mr. Lowry asked the Taoiseach the progress to date on the implementation of the Programme for Government; the measures he intends to take to ensure that the many outstanding items are addressed in the lifetime of this Dáil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16989/06]

Progress on the implementation of the Government Programme is kept constantly under review. For every full year that Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats have been in Government, we have published an Annual Progress Report. The Third Annual Progress Report of this current administration was published on 25 July, 2005. Work has commenced on the Fourth Annual Progress Report and it is intended to publish this later this summer.

The Progress Reports set out the progress to date in implementing every single commitment contained within the Programme for Government. It is the responsibility of each individual Minister to ensure that the commitments in the Programme that fall within their particular portfolio are fully implemented. The Department of the Taoiseach derives its mandate from my role as Head of Government. As such, it is involved to some degree in virtually all aspects of the work of Government. It provides support to me as Taoiseach and to the Government through the Government Secretariat, the Cabinet Committee system and through its involvement in key policy areas and initiatives.

The current key strategic priorities of the Department are set out in its Strategy Statement. They include:

—Northern Ireland;

—EU and International Affairs;

—Economic and Social Policy;

—Social Partnership;

—Public Service Modernisation; and

—the Information Society and e-Government.

Both I and the Ministers of State in my Department answer Questions in the House on these issues. In all of its work, my Department works closely with other Departments and Offices. Individual Ministers are of course answerable to the House in respect of their own specific areas of responsibility.

The key areas for which my Department is responsible in terms of the Agreed Programme for Government can be broadly summarised as follows:

—Supporting the development and implementation of social partnership;

—Working with the British Government and the parties in Northern Ireland to achieve the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in all its aspects;

—Co-ordinating the eGovernment initiative to bring about an expansion in the range and quality of online Government services; and

—Ensuring that Ireland's key objectives in the European Union are carried forward in the context of my role as a member of the European Council.

Audit Committees.

Enda Kenny

Question:

138 Mr. Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will provide a list of the membership of his Department’s audit committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17030/06]

My Department's Internal Audit Committee comprises four members, of whom two are external members. The members are appointed by the Secretary General of my Department in his capacity as Accounting Officer. The Committee is as follows: Mr John Malone, former Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture and Food (Chairman / external member); Ms Sylda Langford, Director General of the Office of the Minister for Children (external member); Mr Peter Ryan, Assistant Secretary to the Government, Department of the Taoiseach; and Mr Martin Fraser, Director, Northern Ireland Division, Department of the Taoiseach.

Census of Population.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

139 Mr. Cuffe asked the Taoiseach the population of each of the four Dublin counties at the year end for each of the past ten years for which figures are available. [17357/06]

The most up-to-date information for the population of each of the four Dublin counties is available from Censuses of Population. The following table gives the population of each of the four Dublin counties based on Censuses held in 1996 and 2002.

Population of Dublin in 1996 and 2002.

County

Total Persons

1996

2002

Dublin City

481,854

495,781

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

189,999

191,792

Fingal

167,683

196,413

South Dublin

218,728

238,835

Total

1,058,264

1,122,82

Health Services.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

140 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when standards will be set for the administration of assessments of personal needs arising out of disabilities and the drawing up of service statements specifying the services to be provided; and when a mechanism will be put in place to capture the data from the service statements. [16927/06]

Significant preparatory work related to the implementation of Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 has been undertaken to date by my Department with the Health Service Executive. This includes a programme of consultation which is specifically designed to involve key stakeholders in the formulation of the structure which will support the delivery of the assessment of need process. The programme includes a conference which took place in February and a series of three consultation workshops which are being held in May in Dublin, Carrick on Shannon and Cork.

The ongoing preparatory work in relation to Part 2 of the Disability Act 2005 also has to take account of the related provisions in the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004. These relate to the assessment of children with special educational needs and the delivery of appropriate health related support services by the HSE. These two legislative measures are complementary, with the same standards applying to the assessment of need processes provided for in both Acts. The Department of Health and Children and the HSE are working with the Department of Education and Science and the National Council for Special Education to progress these matters. The outcome of the consultation process, together with the other preparatory work will provide the basis for drafting the necessary regulations provided for in Part 2. This process will inform my Department in relation to the timescale for commencement of the provisions of Part 2, which includes, inter alia, provision for service statements and data collection mechanisms.

Under Sections 31 and 32 of the Disability Act my Department is required to prepare a Sectoral Plan for the implementation of the Act. Work on this plan is currently underway.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

141 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has studied the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report on disability services which indicates that over 60 per cent of persons with intellectual disabilities are awaiting new or enhanced services or will require such services before 2010 and around half of all physical and sensory disability cases are either not getting the desired level of service or are awaiting assessment; and the steps he is taking to address this situation by meeting these new and existing needs. [16928/06]

The data referred to by the Deputy and used by the Comptroller & Auditor General in his Report on Value for Money Examination entitled "Provision of Disability Services by Non-profit Organisations" published in March, 2006 was taken from the 2005 Annual Report of the National Intellectual Disability Database ‘Assessment of Need 2006-2010' and the First Annual Report of the National Physical and Sensory Disability Database 2004 ‘Service Requirements' 2005-2009.

It should be noted that the majority of individuals described as having service needs are already in receipt of a major element of service. For example, of the overall total of 2,270 people with an intellectual disability who require a major element of service in the period 2006 to 2010, 86.9% are already in receipt of at least one major element of service such as a day service.

An integral part of the National Disability Strategy is the Multi-Annual Investment Programme, published in December 2004 by the Government, which contains details of specific commitments in relation to the provision of specific high priority disability services over the period 2006 to 2009. These commitments include the development of new residential, respite and day places for persons with intellectual disability and autism in each of the years covered by the programme.

Additional funding amounting to €59 million is being provided in 2006 to meets costs associated with the various elements of this programme. This funding will be used to put in place 255 new residential places, 85 new respite places and 535 new day places for persons with intellectual disability and those with autism, and also to progress the programme to transfer persons with intellectual disability/autism from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

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

Proposed Legislation.

Mary Upton

Question:

142 Dr. Upton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her plans to introduce legislation to regulate the use of sunbeds in commercial premises; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17405/06]

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

The National Cancer Forum has considered measures to reduce exposure to ultraviolet radiation in the context of the development of the new National Cancer Control Strategy. The Forum submitted the Strategy to me in January and my Department is currently considering the document prior to submission to Government.

Hospital Services.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

143 Mr. Deenihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the closure of the sexual assault treatment unit in Kerry General Hospital; if funding will be made available for the development of a sexual assault treatment unit in Kerry General Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17430/06]

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:

144 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if urgent assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in County Dublin by putting in a proper support service for them and by working with their family by providing a proper, safe place; and if this will be made a priority case. [16841/06]

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.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

145 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in assessing adoptive parents with respect to their suitability to adopt children in County Louth; the average waiting time for such assessments on a county basis; if social workers can be contracted privately to carry out such assessments in cases in which the waiting lists are very lengthy; the moneys allocated to each county for this service in the past three years; if social workers can be allocated cases from other areas in which assessment waiting lists are small; if the assessments can be carried out as a matter of urgency in cases in which other States have already granted custody of a child to adoptive parents; and if such parents can be assessed while a child is in their care; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16846/06]

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 (HSE) 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 Government did allocate €1 million to the HSE in additional ongoing funding commencing in 2005 to assist in tackling intercountry adoption waiting times. I understand that this additional funding is being used to pilot measures which will, for example, allow for more flexible working arrangements within the HSE with a view to addressing waiting times. The registered Adoption Society, PACT, has also received significant additional funding to allow them to expand their intercountry adoption services.

Community Welfare Service.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

146 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the proposed amalgamation of the community welfare section of her Department to the Department of Social and Family Affairs; the reason for same; and the further reason the community welfare section retain its autonomy and ability to use its discretion on certain cases if the proposed amalgamation takes place. [16871/06]

I should explain at the outset that the Community Welfare Service of the Health Service Executive (HSE) administers the supplementary welfare scheme on behalf of the Department of Social and Family Affairs. It has now been decided to transfer the scheme, together with associated resources, to the Department of Social and Family Affairs. My colleague, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs and I believe that this presents an opportunity to bring about positive change for social welfare customers while advancing the Health Reform Programme.

The background to this decision is that the Commission on Financial Management and Control Systems in the Health Service (the Brennan Report) noted that, over the years, the health system had been assigned responsibility for a number of what might be regarded as non-core health activities. It recommended that the Government consider assigning non-core activities currently undertaken by agencies within the health service to other bodies.

An interdepartmental group was subsequently established to examine this issue. The Group's report (Core Functions of the Health Service Report) was submitted to, and accepted by, the Government recently. Among other recommendations, the Group considered that income support and maintenance schemes administered by the Health Service Executive, together with associated resources, should be transferred to the Department of Social and Family Affairs. I should also mention that this approach had been advocated previously in the Report of the Commission on Social Welfare in 1986 and in the Review of Supplementary Welfare Allowances by the Combat Poverty Agency in 1991.

An interdepartmental group has now commenced work to progress the implementation of the transfer. As indicated by the Deputy, community welfare officers have an important role in addressing cases of immediate and urgent need. I am confident, along with my colleague the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, that this transfer process can be carried out without any negative effect on the standard of service currently provided by community welfare officers, or on the important role that they play in addressing issues of disadvantage in the community.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

147 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the costs of introducing a bowel cancer screening programme nationwide; her plans to introduce same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16894/06]

National population based screening programmes for cancer are considered where clear evidence exists of benefit to the health of the whole population to be screened. There is evidence in relation to some specific cancers which show that population based screening can improve population health in terms of survival, morbidity and quality of life. Population based screening programmes for two specific cancers, breast and cervical, have demonstrated their efficacy and planning is underway for the national roll out of these two programmes to all regions in the country.

I have received a Strategy for Cancer Control in Ireland 2006 from the Chairman of the National Cancer Forum. As part of this work, the Forum developed a framework for evidence based decision making in relation to the introduction of population based screening programmes and applied the agreed criteria to colorectal cancer screening. My Department is currently examining the Strategy with a view to bringing proposals to Government shortly. I will publish the Strategy shortly thereafter.

Health Services.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

148 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the recent home helps protest; the cost of meeting the demands of home helps for a guaranteed income and proper contract of work; her plans to do same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16896/06]

I fully appreciate the valuable role played by the home help service in enabling people who might otherwise need institutional care to remain in their own homes. However the rate of pay and the conditions of employment for home helps have been very significantly improved since 2000.

I am advised that the appropriate hours of care for clients requiring home help services are determined following a clinical assessment. I have ensured that significant additional funding has been provided to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for home help services this year. 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), which will enable the HSE to provide an additional 1.75 million hours nationally in 2006. The additional resource will further enhance the service and facilitate the expressed wish of many more older people to continue to live in their own homes for as long as possible.

A comprehensive collective Agreement between health employers and SIPTU (on behalf of home helps) was finalised in 2000 regarding the terms and conditions for employment of home helps. This Agreement provided for a very significant improvement in the pay and conditions for employment for home helps. Home helps are paid in accordance with the agreed pay scale i.e. €25,590 — €28,451 per annum, or pro rata thereof for part-time staff. Home helps receive the benefits of all social partnership pay increases together with special increases under benchmarking. In addition, home helps receive the same benefits as all other staff in the health services which include premia pay, paid annual leave and paid sick leave.

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 last and further meetings are scheduled. I understand that the group will be carrying out a detailed evaluation of outstanding issues including, for example, average hours worked since January 2001 and the aim is to have this work completed within a three month timeframe.

Hospitals Inspectorate.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

149 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the costs of introducing a hospitals inspectorate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16897/06]

A public consultation exercise is underway on the legislative proposals to provide for the establishment of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).

It is envisaged that HIQA will set standards on safety and quality of services, including hospital services, provided by or on behalf of the Health Service Executive (HSE). It will monitor and advise the Minister and the HSE on the level of compliance with those standards. It will also have the power to investigate, at the request of the Minister or the HSE, the safety, quality and standards of any service and make whatever recommendations it deems necessary.

As the Deputy will appreciate it is too early at this stage to attribute costs to aspects of HIQA's role in relation to hospitals until the coverage, range and operation of any standards have been determined.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

150 Mr. O’Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the cost of introducing a cervical cancer screening programme nationwide; her plans to introduce same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16898/06]

I am fully committed to the national roll out of a cervical screening programme in line with international best practice. My Department has requested the Health Service Executive to prepare a detailed implementation plan for a national programme. The plan is to have cervical screening managed as a national call/recall programme via effective governance structures that provide overall leadership and direction, in terms of quality assurance, accountability and value for money. All elements of the programme, call/recall, smear taking, laboratories and treatment services must be quality assured, organised and managed to deliver a single integrated service.

Significant preparatory work is well underway involving the introduction of new and improved cervical tests, improved quality assurance training and the preparation of a national population register. The Vote for the Health Service Executive includes an additional €9m for cancer services development in 2006, including the continuation of preparations for the roll out.

I consider that the programme should be best rolled out in the primary care setting, subject to affordable and acceptable arrangements being agreed. A review of the contractual arrangements for the provision by general practitioners of publicly-funded primary care services is being conducted at present, under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. I have requested that the general practitioner elements of a national cervical screening programme be tabled at these discussions. Any remuneration arrangements agreed must be capable of delivering a high uptake among women. Payments must be primarily based on reaching acceptable targets.

I am convinced that we must also have in place tailored initiatives to encourage take up among disadvantaged and difficult to reach groups. I wish to see the programme rolled out as quickly as possible but only when the essential infrastructure, organisation and services are in place that are quality assured and meet international standards.

The Deputy will appreciate that, having regard to the foregoing, it is not possible at this stage to provide an accurate estimate of the cost of a nation-wide roll-out of the scheme.

Care of the Elderly.

John McGuinness

Question:

151 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an improved grant will be offered to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny for the provision of a stair lift; if she will expedite the approval of an increased grant in view of the financial and medical circumstances of the case; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16903/06]

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.

Medical Certificates.

John McGuinness

Question:

152 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a primary medical certificate will be issued in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if a response will be expedited. [16904/06]

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.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

153 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will publish or make available to Deputies a Health Service Executive report completed in 2005 which, according to media reports, found that health authorities are failing to protect hundreds of separated children seeking asylum from the risk of abuse due to a lack of follow-up checks on young people reunited with adults claiming to be their relatives; and to make a statement outlining the progress of the Government in addressing the report’s findings. [16925/06]

This report is under examination in the Office of the Minister for Children and I have asked that a Working Group be established to consider the issues involved. Nominations have been made by the relevant public bodies including the Health Service Executive and the first meeting of the group is to be held in the coming weeks.

This report was commissioned by the Health Service Executive and therefore the publication of the report is a matter for the Health Service Executive. 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 Charges.

Finian McGrath

Question:

154 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to a case (details supplied); and if the family will be given the maximum support on this matter. [16947/06]

As the Health Service Executive has responsibility for administering the National Repayment Scheme, enquiries relating to the scheme are referred to the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive. My Department has asked the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Michael Lowry

Question:

155 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will instruct the Health Service Executive to purchase a device for a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; the reason for not doing so in view of the fact that purchasing the device makes a saving over equipment rental; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16991/06]

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

Environmental Health.

Michael Lowry

Question:

156 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on the procedures adopted and enforced by environmental health officers regarding the policing of environmental health at farmer and country markets; her further views on the widely acknowledged view that the enforcement of EU regulations regarding same here is vastly different and more restrictive by comparison with other European countries; if she will work with the Department of Agriculture and Food to streamline, clarify and establish a clear, simple, concise and sensible set of nationwide environmental health policies and procedures for the establishment and operation of farmer and country markets; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16992/06]

Food safety legislation in Ireland derives in the main from our membership of the European Union and in this regard on 1 January 2006, new European food and feed hygiene legislation came into effect. The new regime, known as the Hygiene Package, is a legislative package which merges, harmonises and simplifies detailed and complex hygiene requirements previously contained in a number of Council Directives and creates a single transparent hygiene policy which is applicable to all food operators. The principal objective of the new general and specific hygiene rules is to ensure a high level of consumer protection with regard to food safety. To this end, an integrated approach is necessary to ensure food safety from the place of primary production up to and including placing on the market or exporting.

The Hygiene Package is applicable to, and binding in its entirety on, all Members States and thus, food business operators in all Member States, must comply with its requirements. While the same rules must be complied with across the EU, it is a matter for each Member State to determine the particular enforcement provisions and penalties within its jurisdiction. My Department is currently finalising a Statutory Instrument which will include the necessary enforcement provisions to enable authorised officers to react to and deal with situations posing a food safety risk. The Minister for Agriculture and Food and I are satisfied that these legislative requirements are sufficient to ensure that food safety is not compromised and that public health is protected.

The Hygiene Package sets out specific requirements for food stalls, mobile food vans and other temporary and mobile food businesses such as those operating at markets. Requirements relate to the site, construction and condition of the premises, along with the need to make provision for facilities for hand-washing, cleaning, appropriate food contact surfaces, hygienic storage of food, temperature control and waste disposal. While the primary responsibility for food safety rests with food business operators, it is a matter for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) as competent authority for the enforcement of food safety legislation, to ensure compliance with the relevant legislation. The Authority carries out its enforcement functions through service contracts with official agencies and farmer and country markets are inspected accordingly. In order to ensure that the stalls operating at such markets meet the highest food safety and hygiene standards, the FSAI has prepared a Guidance Note on Food Stalls in association with Environmental Health Officers and Irish food market traders. I am satisfied that these arrangements are appropriate.

Health Services.

Michael Lowry

Question:

157 Mr. Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of temporary and full-time speech therapists currently employed in North Tipperary; the section where these posts are based; the number of therapists required to eliminate the waiting lists for assessments and therapy; when it is anticipated that extra permanent therapists will be appointed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16993/06]

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 Executive.

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

158 Mr. McCormack asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the salaries of the Chief Executive of the Health Service Executive and his advisors and back-up staff; the salaries of the National Health Executive office; and the expenses which have been awarded to them since they were appointed. [16994/06]

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

Health Services.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

159 Mr. Durkan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason home help hours were reduced in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16995/06]

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.

Richard Bruton

Question:

160 Mr. Bruton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has sought a report from the Health Service Executive on the decision to put a stay on central heating installation under the eastern community works programme; and if the Health Service Executive are confident that people who have been approved will get sanction to go ahead with the work in good time to have heating systems installed before the onset of winter. [17037/06]

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

John McGuinness

Question:

161 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an occupational therapist’s report is available regarding the urgent need to replace a bed in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if their assessment for a new wheelchair will be completed; if a timeframe will be expedited for the early delivery of a new bed and wheelchair; if the matter will be investigated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17051/06]

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

Michael Ring

Question:

162 Mr. Ring asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the person who nominated the people to go on a review board (details supplied); the person who selected the chairman of this board; the criteria which was used in the selection process of both the committee and the chairman of the board; the number of meetings which have taken place; when they took place; and the outcome of these meetings. [17052/06]

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. The Orthodontic Review Group referred to by the Deputy was established by the HSE. Accordingly, my Department has requested the parliamentary affairs division of the executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Allowances.

John McGuinness

Question:

163 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, further to previous parliamentary questions, the extenuating circumstances relative to the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny, have been examined with a view to granting them a motorised transport grant and mobility allowance; if she will expedite a response in view of the health circumstances of the person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17053/06]

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 regarding the mobility allowance. I can confirm that the person concerned has received the motorised transport grant.

Ambulance Service.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

164 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason on 1 May 2006 that it took three and a half to four hours for an ambulance to arrive to a seriously ill person (details supplied) in County Wexford who was then put on a trolley for seven hours in Waterford Regional Hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17057/06]

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.

Care of the Elderly.

Pat Breen

Question:

165 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with a transfer from a nursing home; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17060/06]

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.

Michael Noonan

Question:

166 Mr. Noonan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the facilities which are available for diabetic patients, particularly children, in the mid-west region; her plans to improve these services; if, insulin pumps will be provided as the norm to appropriate patients; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17067/06]

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

196 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the service for children with diabetes will be improved in the mid-west region including support for the use of insulin pumps, instead of injection, an additional diabetes nurse specialist and a community support team; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17481/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 166 and 196 together.

The Deputies' 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 replies issued directly to the Deputies.

Garda Investigations.

John McGuinness

Question:

167 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if the full Garda investigation into the alleged misappropriation or otherwise of funds in the control of the South Eastern Health Board has been completed or if there is a timeframe for the conclusion of the investigation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17069/06]

My Department has been informed that the investigation is ongoing and in the circumstances no further comment can be made until this process has been completed.

National Rehabilitation Board.

Paul McGrath

Question:

168 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to her responses to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 187, 189 and 190 of 5 April 2006, if her Department is responsible for residual matters that arise from the dissolution of the National Rehabilitation Board. [17074/06]

In line with government mainstreaming policy the National Rehabilitation Board was dissolved and responsibility for its functions was transferred to a number of successor organisations/statutory bodies including, the National Disability Authority, Foras Áiseanna Saothair, the former Eastern Regional Health Authority and Comhairle by Statutory Instrument Number 170, National Rehabilitation Board (Transfer of Property, Rights and Liabilities) Order, 2000 and Statutory Instrument Number 171, National Rehabilitation Board (Dissolution and Revocation) Order, 2000.

Paul McGrath

Question:

169 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if, noting the decision of the Employment Appeals Tribunal of 10 April 2002 concerning the treatment of the 184 staff of the National Rehabilitation Board at the time of dissolution on 12 June 2000 by her Department, the confirmation of this decision by the High Court on 1 July 2003, she will review implications of these decisions and make the necessary proposals to all of the staff so affected. [17075/06]

The matter referred to by the Deputy is a technical legal matter concerning a case taken by an individual to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) and appealed to the High Court. I am advised as follows: the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) decision of 19 April 2002 referred to did not address the treatment of the 184 staff of the National Rehabilitation Board at the time of dissolution on 12 June 2000. The EAT decided to the effect that one named employee of the National Rehabilitation Board (NRB) had been dismissed (within the special meaning of the section 21 of the Redundancy Payments Act, 1967) by reason of redundancy, being therefore entitled to a redundancy payment. The EAT decided that the Minister for Health and Children was the appropriate respondent. The individual concerned had not accepted employment with any of the designated public bodies under the relevant Statutory Instruments on the dissolution of the NRB and filed a claim for redundancy with the EAT.

On appeal to The High Court against the decision that the Minister was the appropriate respondent, the Court in July 2003 found that the EAT had erred in law in determining that the Minister for Health and Children was the representative of the National Rehabilitation Board. It was not for the Court to legislate for someone in the defendant's position i.e. being a person who had been found to have been made redundant in certain circumstances and liability for such circumstances had not been transferred under the SI.

On foot of the decision of the High Court, the EAT on the 13th February, 2004 made a finding of redundancy in the case of the individual concerned against the NRB (Dissolved), stating that the amount due was payable from the Social Insurance Fund. It is important for the Deputy to understand that the EAT did not address the position of the 184 staff of the NRB; it dealt solely with a claim by one individual who did not accept employment with one of the bodies under the SI.

Mental Health Services.

John Gormley

Question:

170 Mr. Gormley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the plans which are in place for persons currently in full-time care in St. Brigid’s Hospital in Ardee and not fit to live in the community after the hospital’s closure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17076/06]

The Report of the Expert Group on Mental Health Policy, "A Vision for Change", which was published on 24 January 2006, recommends that plans be drawn up for the closure of all mental hospitals. The closure of large mental hospitals and the move to modern units attached to general hospitals, together with the expansion of community services, has been Government policy since the publication of Planning for the Future in 1984.

In "A Vision for Change", a four-stage process is recommended for the closure of the hospitals, as follows: Stage 1 — identify measures required to enable admission to cease and put these measures in place; Stage 2 — cease admission to the hospital and draw up plans for relocations of existing patients; Stage 3 — implement plans for the relocation of existing patients; and Stage 4 — the final closure of the hospital. The recommendations in the Report have been accepted by Government as the basis for the future development of our mental health services.

The Health Service Executive has stated that it anticipates the closure of mental hospitals and the reinvestment of the proceeds to take place on a phased basis. It has also emphasised that hospitals can only close when the clinical needs of the remaining patients have been addressed in more appropriate settings such as additional community residences, day hospitals and day centres together with a substantial increase in the number of well trained, fully staffed, community-based multidisciplinary Community Mental Health Teams as is recommended in a "A Vision for Change".

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.

John McGuinness

Question:

171 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a medical card will be issued to a person (details supplied); and if she will expedite the application. [17167/06]

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 Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

172 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the level of rheumatology service available at Mayo General Hospital; if she will confirm the appointment of a rheumatologist to the hospital; when this position will be filled; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17168/06]

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 Staff.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

173 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of urologists in hospitals here; the number there are to cater for each region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17234/06]

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 Services.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

174 Mr. Crawford asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of patients who are presently waiting on treatment or procedures to be carried out on prostate and urinary conditions in each of the regions; if in view of the massive publicity campaigns targeted at men regarding prostate cancer her view on whether it is reasonable the length of time some of these patients have to wait on receiving treatment which is vital for them; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17235/06]

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.

Departmental Properties.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

175 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when the lands at St Brendan’s Hospital, Grangegorman were sold; the amount which was paid; when this money was handed over; and the proportion of this money which has been re-invested in the mental health services. [17250/06]

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 considering new capital proposals or progressing those in the health capital programme.

Accordingly, my Department is requesting 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 Charges.

Seán Ardagh

Question:

176 Mr. Ardagh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will provide a report on the long-term stay charges repayment scheme; and when she expects that payments will be made to those presently awaiting payment (details supplied). [17274/06]

The Health (Repayment Scheme) Bill 2006 provides a clear legal framework for a scheme to repay recoverable health charges for publicly funded long-term residential care. The Bill was published on 16 March 2006 and the second stage reading of the Bill commenced in the Dáil on 30 March 2006, continued on 27 April and will resume on 16 May 2006. Committee stage will begin shortly thereafter.

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.

It is currently envisaged that repayments will commence shortly after the Bill is approved and signed into law and an outside company has been appointed to make the repayments. The time scale determined by the Health Service Executive for the selection process including the appointment of the successful company is the mid-May 2006, with repayments to claimants likely to commence in June 2006.

Specific enquiries relating to the scheme are referred to the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive. My Department has asked the HSE to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Services.

Paul McGrath

Question:

177 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when it is expected that a clinic (details supplied) in County Kilkenny is to open in view of the fact that it was originally intended to open on 27 March 2006 and did not; the reason this long-awaited and urgently needed facility was delayed in delivering service to the people of Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17275/06]

The Clinic mentioned by the Deputy is a private health care facility. Therefore, the Deputy may wish to contact the Clinic directly in relation to the queries raised.

Medical Cards.

Seán Haughey

Question:

178 Mr. Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if a medical card-holder who has been prescribed oxygen can obtain this medical equipment for free while on holiday in another EU State under EU rules; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17276/06]

Irish residents are entitled to necessary health care in the public system of any EU/EEA member state during a temporary stay in that country on the same basis as if they were an insured resident of that member state. In this context it should be noted that charges or co-payments may apply for services in the accordance with each country's rules and regulations. Temporary stays are periods where the person cannot be considered resident in a member state under that country's legislation. In Ireland, the European Health Insurance Card may be issued to all those ordinarily resident in this country, and is not based on citizenship.

This entitlement to health care serves to enhance freedom of movement within the EU for all those covered by Regulation 1408/71, which governs the coordination of social security, including health care, within the Union.

It is recognised that people requiring certain specialised treatments, in particular oxygen therapy or dialysis, are entitled to such care under these arrangements while on a temporary stay abroad, on the basis that prior agreements are entered into in regard to the availability of appropriate services. This arrangement is accepted by all member states, given that such specialised treatments may not be available in all locations. The aim is to ensure that freedom of movement is not adversely affected for a person requiring such treatments.

Health Service Staff.

James Breen

Question:

179 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will provide funding for the employment of two full-time drug counsellors in the mid-west region in view of the abuse of hard drugs in this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17277/06]

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.

James Breen

Question:

180 Mr. J. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of drug counsellors employed on a permanent basis by the Health Services Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17278/06]

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 Accommodation.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

181 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will ensure that detoxification-designated beds be allocated for County Mayo, which will take the pressure off general beds; if she will evaluate the situation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17289/06]

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.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

182 Dr. Cowley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her Department will evaluate the need for a wet hostel in County Mayo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17290/06]

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.

Pre-school Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

183 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 228 of 4 April 2006, if her attention has been drawn to the Health Service Executive reply, which states that a report into hearing screening has been completed and is under consideration but no funding has been allocated to advance the project; if she will introduce the funding to advance this project in view of the fact that children here are being screened at 30 months, well in excess of the internationally recognised targets of four to six months. [17396/06]

Brian O'Shea

Question:

195 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to provide funding to the Health Service Executive to introduce hearing screening for all newborn babies (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17480/06]

I propose to deal with Questions Nos. 183 and 195 together.

I have received a number of submissions and representations on this issue. My Department has recently received a copy of the report in question and is in discussion with the Health Service Executive in relation to its implementation.

Health Service Staff.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

184 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if he will confirm that there are 15 alcohol counsellors working in treatment centres run by the health authorities in comparison to a figure of 17 alcohol counsellors that were in place in 1989; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17397/06]

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

Medical Cards.

Pat Carey

Question:

185 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason medical card-holders have to return to their general practitioners to get hospital prescriptions transferred to medical card prescriptions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17400/06]

As hospital doctors do not have GMS contracts, prescriptions written by them for medical cardholders are not reimbursable under the General Medical Services scheme. Where a medical cardholder is prescribed a drug or medicine by a hospital doctor, the prescription must be transcribed by his or her GMS-contracted general practitioner. The prescription can then be dispensed by a pharmacy that holds a community pharmacy contractor agreement. However, there is a facility for emergency dispensing of hospital prescriptions by community pharmacies, whereby GMS patients can obtain a short term supply of the prescribed medicine if it would not be possible or practical to contact their GP within a reasonable period.

This administrative arrangement provides not only for a measure of auditability and security within the GMS scheme, but also proves worthwhile because GMS patients have to contact their general practitioner after leaving hospital, thereby establishing a valuable link between primary and secondary care services that would otherwise be far less frequent.

Health Services.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

186 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a reply will issue from the Health Service Executive to Parliamentary Question No. 161 of 4 April 2006. [17412/06]

My Department has been in contact with the Health Service Executive in relation to the response due to the Deputy. My officials are now advised that the compilation of the information requested by the Deputy is now complete and a reply on the matter will issue shortly.

John McGuinness

Question:

187 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, further to Parliamentary Question No. 416 of 7 February 2006, the reason the person has not been called to be re-assessed as promised; if the assessment will be arranged and thereafter if full orthodontic treatment will be provided; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17413/06]

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

Finian McGrath

Question:

188 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 in receiving a physiotherapy service. [17433/06]

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.

Infectious Diseases.

Ivor Callely

Question:

189 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the procedures which have been adopted by her Department when a person is diagnosed with an infectious disease. [17474/06]

Ivor Callely

Question:

191 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the policy of her Department in relation to the measures service-providers are expected to put in place when a patient is discovered to have contracted an infectious disease. [17476/06]

I propose to deal with Questions Nos. 198 and 191 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.

Ivor Callely

Question:

190 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the list of infectious diseases identified by her Department as affecting patients in hospitals here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17475/06]

The Infectious Diseases Regulations, 1981 (as amended) include a schedule of diseases declaring certain diseases to be infectious diseases and requiring notification of these diseases. The current schedule of infectious diseases is contained in the Infectious Diseases (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations, 2003 (Statutory Instrument No. 707 of 2003) which came into force on 1 January 2004. This Department or the Health Service Executive have not produced a formal list of infectious diseases or Health Care Associated Infections (HCAIs) that particularly effect patients in hospitals. However, among the more serious infections associated with hospital treatment are surgical site infections and bloodstream infections and particularly those resistant to antibiotics such as MRSA, Vancomycin Resistant Enterococcus (VRE) and Clostridium Difficile.

Question No. 191 answered with QuestionNo. 189.

Ivor Callely

Question:

192 Mr. Callely asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she has received representations from medical professionals to include new types of or strains of infectious diseases on the infectious disease register; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17477/06]

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.

Pat Breen

Question:

193 Mr. P. Breen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Clare will be facilitated with an appointment for knee surgery; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17478/06]

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

Services for People with Disabilities.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

194 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the help which is available for young people who suffer from Asperger’s syndrome; the services which are available for them from age 18; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17479/06]

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. 195 answered with QuestionNo. 183.
Question No. 196 answered with QuestionNo. 166.

Health Services.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

197 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason for the delay in the introduction of a national immunisation database to replace the existing 50 separate databases; if she has taken cognisance of the difficulties created for agencies such as the national Disease Surveillance Centre in endeavouring to estimate uptake rates accurately; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17482/06]

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 Services.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

198 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the interim plans for the accommodation of patients in accident and emergency at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda prior to admission; her long-term plans for accident and emergency at the hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17483/06]

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.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

199 Mr. Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the timescale for the relocation of the cardiac unit at Cavan General Hospital; the refurbishment of this area for use as an admission lounge; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17484/06]

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.

Tax Code.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

200 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Finance if, as recently stated at the Irish Hotels Federation annual conference, he will address the issue of VAT refunds for visitors attending business conferences here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16840/06]

I want to make sure any such relief can work, has a positive cost-benefit ratio, and does not open up the VAT system to other very costly demands. The examination of the matter is ongoing.

Price Inflation.

Michael Lowry

Question:

201 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance his views on the Economic and Social Research Institute’s Quarterly Economic Commentary, Spring 2006; if he will commit to honouring the advice given by the ESRI regarding the additional inflationary pressure that a large pre-election increase in public spending would have on economic competitiveness; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16990/06]

I welcome the latest ESRI Quarterly Economic Commentary, which was published in April 2006. The ESRI is forecasting economic growth this year of 4.8 per cent in GDP terms, and 5.1 per cent in GNP terms. Employment is forecast to increase by 3.4 per cent and unemployment is expected to average 4.4 per cent. These forecasts are broadly in line with my own Department's forecasts for 2006, which were published at Budget time. On Budget Day my Department forecast CPI inflation of 2.7 per cent in 2006, while the ESRI are currently forecasting a rate of 2.8 per cent. I share the ESRI's assessment on the need to contain inflationary pressures in the economy in order to improve competitiveness. In this regard, the planned budgetary policy stance is to continue with our prudent management of the public finances. We will keep the public finances in a sustainable position to ensure that room for manoeuvre exists to provide and enhance public services now and in the future.

Tax Code.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

202 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance his proposals to reduce the rate of VAT on repair and maintenance work on private dwellings which are protected structures in view of the EU Council of Minister’s decision to ratify the extension of the sixth VAT Directive, which allows Member States to apply reduced VAT rates to labour-intensive services such as works to existing buildings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17390/06]

The position is that under Irish law the services in question already qualify for the reduced rate of VAT of 13.5 per cent. Paragraph (xxix) of the Sixth Schedule to the Valued-Added Tax Act 1972, as amended, accords the reduced rate of 13.5 per cent to "services consisting of the development of immovable goods and work on immovable goods including the installation of fixtures, where the value of the moveable goods (if any) provided in pursuance of an agreement in relation to such services does not exceed two-thirds of the total amount on which tax is chargeable in respect of the agreement". This two-thirds rule does not usually affect building services in which the labour element is substantial. In effect, therefore, VAT on repair and maintenance work on private dwellings, whether protected or not, is chargeable at the reduced rate of 13.5 per cent.

Public Transport.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

203 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance his views on directing the commissioners of the Office of Public Works to allow Dublin commuter buses through the Phoenix Park; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17391/06]

The position remains unchanged from that outlined in my reply on 14 February 2006 to Parliamentary Question No. 339. The Office of Public Works has no plans at present to allow bus traffic through the Phoenix Park to facilitate commuters. This issue is being studied in the context of a comprehensive traffic management study of the Phoenix Park currently taking place.

Tax Code.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

204 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if he will apply the Business Expansion Scheme to wind farms; to increase the BES limit from €1 million to €5 million; to increase personal BES contributions to €100,000; to ensure the extension of the BES to 2010; and to ensure tax free rental income for the landowners in relation to wind farms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17489/06]

The Business Expansion Scheme is currently being reviewed. Any decisions on the scheme's remit will be taken in the light of the objectives of assisting risk investments, the cost of the scheme, the benefits gained and the equity of the reliefs involved. Any proposals in this regard are a matter for the next Budget.

Disabled Drivers.

Olwyn Enright

Question:

205 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Finance if he will review the medical criteria for the disabled drivers and disabled passengers tax concession scheme 1994; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that persons who do not have the full use of either one or both legs or a limb are ineligible under the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16842/06]

The Deputy is referring to the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme that provides relief from VAT and VRT on the purchase of a car adapted for the transport of a person with certain physical disabilities, as well as relief from excise on the fuel used in the car up to a certain limit.

The disability criteria for eligibility for the tax concessions under this scheme are set out in the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Regulations 1994. A person must be severely and permanently disabled and satisfy one of the following conditions: (a) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both legs; (b) be wholly without the use of one leg and almost wholly without the use of the other leg such that the applicant is severely restricted as to movement of the lower limbs; (c) be without both hands or without both arms; (d) be without one or both legs; (e) be wholly or almost wholly without the use of both hands or arms and wholly or almost wholly without the use of one leg; (f) have the medical condition of dwarfism and have serious difficulties of movement of the lower limbs.

A special Interdepartmental Review Group reviewed the operation of the Disabled Drivers Scheme. The terms of reference of the Group were to examine the operation of the existing scheme, including the difficulties experienced by the various groups and individuals involved with it, and to consider the feasibility of alternative schemes, with a view to assisting the Minister for Finance in determining the future direction of the scheme.

The Group's Report, published on my Department's website in July 2004, sets out in detail the genesis and development of the scheme. It examines the current benefits, the qualifying medical criteria, the Exchequer costs, relationship with other schemes and similar schemes in other countries. The Report also makes a number of recommendations, both immediate and long-term, referring respectively to the operation of the appeals process and options for the future development of the scheme.

In respect of the long-term recommendations, which included the qualifying disability criteria, I should say that given the scale and scope of the scheme, further changes can only be made after careful consideration. For this reason, the Government decided in June 2004 that the Minister for Finance would consider the recommendations contained in the Report of the Interdepartmental Review Group in the context of the annual budgetary process having regard to the existing and prospective cost of the scheme.

The best way of addressing the transport needs of people with disabilities including the effectiveness, suitability or otherwise of the Disabled Drivers Scheme in that regard will be progressed in consultation with the other Departments who have responsibility in this area. In any event, a car tax concession scheme can obviously play only a partial role in dealing with this serious issue.

Tax Code.

Finian McGrath

Question:

206 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the reason the tax system favours caring for the elderly in nursing homes and penalises home care of the elderly due to the fact that there is tax relief on carers’ fees, agency fees, day-care fees, transport costs and no exception on VAT service charges on agency fees; and if he will investigate these matters. [16864/06]

The assertion made by the Deputy is wrong. As indicated in my reply to previous questions from the Deputy on 25 April 2006, tax relief is available in respect of home care of the elderly in the form of the employment of a carer tax allowance as well as under health expenses relief in the circumstances previously outlined.

The Deputy will, of course, be aware that there is also significant direct expenditure, primarily channelled through the health and social welfare systems, to support care of the elderly both in residential and community settings. Most recently, Budget 2006 provided funding for an additional package of measures at the level of €150 million in a full year. This additional funding includes provision for new home care packages, increased home help provision, more day care support and additional palliative care.

There is also substantial tax relief for all aged 65 and over via exemptions from income tax on income up to €17,000 per year single and €34,000 per year married and via the age tax credit which I have increased substantially since I became Minister.

Communications Masts.

Joan Burton

Question:

207 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if the Office of Public Works has negotiated or given permission for a phone mast or masts at Farmleigh on its grounds or in adjacent grounds in the Phoenix Park; when such proposals arose; if there were consultations with local residents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16901/06]

There are no mobile phone masts situated in the grounds of Farmleigh. In order to provide mobile coverage for State events at Farmleigh, the Commissioners of Public Works granted permission for the installation of telecommunications equipment in the Clock Tower at Farmleigh.

The Commissioners have granted licences to four mobile phone companies to co-locate on the Garda mast in the Phoenix Park. In addition, the Commissioners from time to time grant licences for the installation of temporary masts in the Phoenix Park to provide coverage for specific events, such as concerts. These temporary structures are typically in place for approximately a week.

Disabled Drivers.

John McGuinness

Question:

208 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Finance if a primary medical certificate will be issued in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; if a response will be expedited. [16905/06]

The Deputy refers to the preliminary application process for a Primary Medical Certificate under the Disabled Drivers and Disabled Passengers (Tax Concessions) Scheme. This certificate is issued by the Senior Medical Officer of the appropriate area of the Health Service Executive on the basis of a clinical assessment in respect of the disability criteria set down in the scheme's regulations. The Medical Officer is independent in this function and I do not have any role in that application process.

If an applicant is refused a Primary Medical Certificate, he or she may appeal the decision to the Disabled Drivers Medical Board of Appeal, c/o National Rehabilitation Hospital, Rochestown Avenue, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin.

Tax Yield.

Joan Burton

Question:

209 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the estimated additional revenue likely to accrue to the Exchequer in terms of excise duties and VAT over and above the estimates at Budget 2006, arising from the increase in the price of petrol and other oil products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16922/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the additional revenue likely to accrue to the Exchequer arising from the increase in the price of petrol and other oil products relates to the VAT portion of the increased price since the start of the year. The revenue collected from mineral oil excises does not fluctuate with price changes. The estimated yield of additional VAT over and above the Budget estimate, assuming that the current prices are maintained for the remainder of the year, and assuming there is no reduction in consumption, is as set out below:

Additional VAT 2006

€m

Petrol

24.3

Auto Diesel

1.6

Kerosene

4.3

Marked Gas Oil

3.2

LPG

0.7

Total

34.1

It should, however, be borne in mind that to the extent that spending in the economy is re-allocated to petrol and other oil products and away from other VAT liable spending and to the extent that the overall level of economic activity is reduced by higher oil prices, there may be little or no net gain to the Exchequer.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

210 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the excise duty and approximate VAT charge on a litre of home heating oil in the domestic market in May 2006; the amount of excise duty and VAT included in the cost of a typical delivery of 1000 litres of home heating oil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16923/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested as at May 2006 is set out in the following table. The information is based on a price of €651.90 for 1,000 litres of Kerosene and €650.60 for 1,000 litres of home heating Diesel (Marked Gas Oil).

Product

Per litre

Per 1,000 litres

Price

Excise

VAT

Total Tax

Excise

VAT

Total Tax

cents

cents

cents

cents

Kerosene

65.19

1.6

7.75

9.35

16.00

77.54

93.57

Marked Gas Oil

65.06

4.7

7.74

12.47

47.36

77.39

124.75

The reduced VAT rate of 13.5 per cent is applied to home heating oil. In Budget 2006, I halved the excise rate for Kerosene, the primary home heating fuel, and also announced in advance that the excise on Kerosene used for home heating will be reduced to zero in next year's Budget.

Disabled Drivers.

Michael Lowry

Question:

211 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance the measures he is taking to secure a continuation of the EU Derogation under EU Directive (2003/96/EC); if he has assessed the impact of the removal on this derogation on the affected industries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16996/06]

Under the EU Energy Tax Directive — 2003/96/EC — Ireland, together with virtually all other Member States, has a number of derogations, which are set to expire at the end of this year. These derogations, effectively exemptions from the requirement to apply EU minimum and maximum excise tax rates, are varied in nature. For example, they include the tax reliefs which apply under the Disabled Drivers Scheme, reduced excise applying to fuel used in public transport, and reduced rates applying to private boating.

The European Commission has commenced communications with Member States, including Ireland, in connection with the post-2006 position with respect to these derogations. In this regard, we have stated our desire to retain these derogations for public policy reasons and stressed the importance of these derogations to specific sectors. Consequently the Deputy should note that the Government will seek to ensure that the users/sectors involved should not be adversely affected.

Public Works.

Michael Lowry

Question:

212 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance when the assessment will be complete on the proposed refurbishment and modernisation of Thurles Courthouse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16997/06]

Plans for the refurbishment and extension of Thurles Courthouse have been finalised. A notice in accordance with the provisions of Part 9 of the Planning and Development Regulations, 2001 will be published this week.

Tax Code.

Michael Lowry

Question:

213 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Finance if he will increase the stamp-duty exemption thresholds for first time buyers as a matter of priority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16998/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, the 2005 Budget introduced a stamp duty relieving measure for first-time house purchasers who are owner-occupiers of second-hand houses by increasing the stamp duty exemption threshold for such purchasers from €190,500 to €317,500 and by having reduced rates for house values up to €635,000.

This relieving measure assisted affordability for first time buyers and helped some first time buyers to afford a starter home who might not otherwise be able to do so. It also helped to open the second hand market more to first time buyers who had been increasingly deterred by the impact of stamp duty. The reductions in stamp duty for second hand houses removed distortion between the new and second-hand markets for first-time buyers by reducing the degree of concentration of first time buyer demand on the new house market.

I have no plans at present to introduce increased stamp duty exemptions for first-time or other purchasers. I would also point out that changes to the current stamp duty regime must be approached with caution as even minor amendments may significantly alter the dynamics of the housing market.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

214 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the tax free allowance for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16999/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a Certificate of Tax Credits and Standard Rate Cut-Off Point showing a breakdown of the tax credits due will issue to the taxpayer in the coming days.

Richard Bruton

Question:

215 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the European Court Ruling seeking to apply VAT to the provision of back office services for the financial service sector; if he has assessed the impact of same on Irish operations providing this outsourced business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17059/06]

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision in the case of Arthur Andersen & Co Accountants (C-472/03), which had been referred to the ECJ by the Dutch Supreme Court, was released on 3 March 2005. The case related to the VAT exemption for insurance-related services.

The question put to the ECJ was whether certain "back office" services provided by Andersen Consulting Management Consultants (ACMC) to a life assurance company were exempt from VAT under Article 13B(a) of the EU Council Sixth VAT Directive as "related services performed by insurance brokers and insurance agents". The ECJ found that ACMC were neither insurance brokers nor insurance agents for the purposes of the VAT exemption and their services were therefore liable to VAT at the standard rate.

Although the case concerned services provided in the Netherlands, the ECJ ruling has an impact across all EU Member States. The implication of the judgment for Ireland is that the Irish VAT exemption for insurance-related services in the First Schedule to the Value-Added Tax Act 1972, as amended, is currently too broad. Implementation of the ECJ ruling would lead to VAT becoming chargeable on certain outsourced insurance-related services currently provided to insurers. Where insurers use these outsourced services to provide exempt insurance services within the EU, VAT chargeable on such services would be irrecoverable.

In the light of the ECJ ruling, the EU Commission has commenced a review of the provisions in the EU Council Sixth VAT Directive relating to financial and insurance services.

Pending the outcome of EU Commission review, the Revenue Commissioners have advised the industry that, as regards insurance related services provided in Ireland, the provisions of the exemption in the current Irish legislation will continue to apply.

Richard Bruton

Question:

216 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that unmarried partners with children, where only one person works are treated for income tax purposes as if they were a single person; and if he has identified changes that could be made to improve their position while respecting the constitutional requirement not to place married couples in a worse position. [17080/06]

Generally speaking, the tax system treats members of cohabiting couples as separate and unconnected individuals. Each partner is a separate entity for tax purposes and credits and bands and reliefs cannot be transferred from one partner to the other. There are no special favourable tax arrangements for cohabiting couples with dependent children.

The Working Group Examining the Treatment of Married, Cohabiting and One-Parent Families under the Tax and Social Welfare Codes, which reported in August 1999, was sympathetic, in principle, to changes in the tax legislation to address the issues raised relating to cohabiting couples and reported that the options that it set out should be considered further. However, it acknowledged in relation to the tax treatment of cohabiting couples that a key issue is whether tax law should proceed ahead of changes in the general law.

I am aware of various developments in this general area including: the consultation paper on the rights and duties of cohabitees which was published by the Law Reform Commission in April 2004; the Tenth Progress Report of the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution entitled ‘The Family' which was recently published earlier this year; the recent establishment by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform of a working group to examine the area of civil partnerships and to prepare options on the various legislative choices available to the Government for action in this area.

I previously put on the record of the House that I would view as problematic and unwise a situation where changes in the tax code relating to the treatment of couples would set a headline in advance of developments in other relevant areas of public policy, for example, in the area of legal recognition of relationships other than married relationships. I am still of that view.

Agenda 2000.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

217 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Finance if, having regard to the fact that the National Development Plan is part of the Agenda 2000 Agreement, which in turn enabled the designation of two separate regions here to facilitate the access to EU structural funding necessary for balanced regional development, subsequent underspending or reallocation of funding committed to either region is in breach of the aforementioned binding agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17166/06]

Ireland's allocation of Structural Funds for the current programming period 2000-2006 is governed by the Structural Funds regulations and an agreement between the Government and the European Commission known as the Community Support Framework for Ireland 2000-2006.

The regulations do not permit the transfer of the overall allocation of Structural Funds between the Border, Midland and Western and the Southern and Eastern Regions. No transfer of the resources has been sought by the Government and there are no proposals being considered for such action.

Expenditure on co-funded measures must be incurred before the end of December 2008 to be eligible for the draw down of Structural Funds. Reports to the Monitoring Committees for each of the Operational Programmes for the period January 2000 to December 2005 indicated that the Structural Funds allocated to each Region under the Community Support Framework are on target and based on these reports I expect that Ireland's entitlement to Structural Funds will be fully drawn down in line with the timetable set out under the regulations.

Tax Code.

Finian McGrath

Question:

218 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 regarding a rebate; and if he will make this a priority issue. [17229/06]

I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that a PAYE balancing statement for the year 2005 issued to the taxpayer on 3 May 2006. A total refund of €692.48 has arisen. A cheque for €312.62 issued to the taxpayer on 5 May 2006 and a cheque for €379.86 issued to the person's spouse on the same day.

Special Savings Incentive Scheme.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

219 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Finance if over 65s will have their SSIA tax waived, in line with the situation that pertains with the DIRT waiver; if this issue was advertised sufficiently in advance of the SSIA scheme; if a non-waiver means that the advantages enjoyed by the over 65s in saving compared with younger people are effectively negated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17240/06]

The SSIAs were introduced in the 2001 Finance Act and give a tax credit to all SSIA investors of 25%. The aim of the SSIA scheme was to encourage savings. This aim has been successfully achieved with 1.1 million persons availing of the special scheme.

It is widely acknowledged that one of the reasons for the success of the SSIA scheme was its simplicity. It was clearly stated from the very outset that the SSIA investment returns would be subject to a 23% exit tax at maturity with no exemptions for anyone. Although all SSIA accounts are subject to an exit tax, it should be noted that the SSIA scheme represented a very good deal for all of those taking it up, whether over 65 years of age or not. A person who will have saved €254 per month over 5 years, into their SSIA account, will receive a credit of €3,800 even before any interest is taken into account.

It should be noted that DIRT on deposit interest was introduced in 1986 and only two reliefs apply, i.e. for the over 65s and for the physically or mentally incapacitated, where the DIRT is deducted by the financial institution on the deposit interest and is refunded if the person claiming the refund is not otherwise liable to income tax on their total income. It is not a total tax exemption for all those aged over 65 or incapacitated.

Tax Yield.

Finian McGrath

Question:

220 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance if following the tax write-off afforded to Shamrock Rovers Football Club in 2005, he will supply a list of the total PAYE tax paid by each of the twenty two Eircom League clubs over the period of the past ten years. [17241/06]

The matter of tax payments made by specific taxpayers is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners. I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested by the Deputy is confidential to the taxpayers concerned and accordingly they are not in a position to disclose it.

Tax Code.

Joan Burton

Question:

221 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance if he has initiated or intends to initiate negotiations with the European institutions for the retention of the derogation from directives (details supplied) which allow private pleasure craft here to use diesel fuel which has been charged at the reduced rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17327/06]

Under the EU Energy Tax Directive — 2003/96/EC — Ireland, together with virtually all other Member States, has a number of derogations, which are set to expire at the end of this year. These derogations, effectively exemptions from the requirement to apply EU minimum and maximum excise tax rates, are varied in nature and include a derogation in respect of private pleasure craft.

The European Commission has commenced communications with Member States, including Ireland, in connection with the post-2006 position with respect to these derogations. In this regard, we have stated our desire to retain these derogations for public policy reasons and consequently the Deputy should note that the Government will seek to ensure that the users/sectors involved should not be adversely affected.

Flood Relief.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

222 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance if his Department carried out work on a river (details supplied) in County Wexford in the past; if not, if there are plans to carry out flooding work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17331/06]

The river in question does not form part of any arterial drainage scheme for which the Commissioners of Public Works have a maintenance responsibility under the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945. The Commissioners have no plans at present to carry out a flood relief scheme in the area.

Tax Yield.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

223 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Finance the percentage which goes towards Government levies and taxes when a person pays their car insurance; when this levy and tax was introduced; what it goes toward; the amount of revenue which was raised each year in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17332/06]

There is a 2% stamp duty that is charged on most non-life insurance premiums and is part of the normal stamp duty system. The exceptions are re-insurance, voluntary health insurance, marine, aviation and transit insurance and export credit insurance. It was introduced in 1982. The yield over recent years has been—

Year

Yield

€m

2000

57.0

2001

69.1

2002

87.2

2003

99.7

2004

97.7

2005

90.8

It is not possible to distinguish between the different types of insurance business within the yield from the non-life levy. The purpose of the non-life levy is to broaden the stamp duty base while maintaining low direct tax rates.

Communications Masts.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

224 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Finance if works ceased on the erection of a mobile phone mast at Shankill Garda Station will not resume until the regulations governing the siting of mobile phone masts has been reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17356/06]

The review of the regulations governing the siting of mobile phone masts is a matter for the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Pension Provisions.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

225 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Finance when he expects to receive the report of the Working Group on Possible Changes to the Public Service Spouse’s and Children’s Schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17473/06]

In 2001, the Commission on Public Service Pensions, which had been set up by the Government to examine all aspects of public service pensions, presented a comprehensive reform package in its final Report. In September 2001, the Government accepted the thrust of the Commission's Report, and the period since then has been marked by the progressive implementation, in consultation with the public service unions, of individual Commission recommendations.

In September 2004, following discussions with ICTU, the Government ratified an agreed approach to the remaining recommendations of the Commission. These were aimed at reforming public service pensions in terms of provision for low-income groups, flexibility and modernisation. As part of this approach the Government mandated further study of a number of the Commission's recommendations, including the feasibility of implementing four specific recommendations in relation to Public Service Spouses' and Children's Schemes. These, in summary, are:

Recommendation No. 29. Public service spouses' and children's schemes should be modified to allow payment of a survivor's pension to a financially dependent partner in certain circumstances and a system for the nomination of partners put in place.

Recommendation No. 30. The provision which requires a spouse's pension to cease on grounds of remarriage or cohabitation should be removed.

Recommendation No. 32. Where a dependent child is orphaned and both parents are members of the same spouses' and children's scheme, two children's pensions should be payable.

Recommendation No. 33. An appropriate system for nomination of death gratuity should be introduced into public service pension schemes.

A joint Union/Management Working Group was established in January 2005 to examine each of the above recommendations and report to the Minister for Finance on the implementation of same. The Working Group comprises representatives from various Government Departments, ICTU Public Services Committee and Garda and Permanent Defence Forces representative associations.

The Group has met on a number of occasions to date and there have also been a number of bi-lateral meetings with various Government Departments and private sector pension scheme experts. An Interim Report was completed in July 2005. A draft Final Report is currently being considered by the Group. I understand that discussions on the draft Report are at an advanced stage. The next meeting of the Group is being scheduled for early June.

Electricity Generation.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

226 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if grant aid is available to install turbines to create energy (details supplied) in County Cork. [16902/06]

The construction of new renewable energy powered electricity generating plants is supported by the Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff (REFIT) programme, administered by my Department. The terms and conditions of REFIT were published on the Department's website (www.dcmnr.ie) on the 1st May last. The programme does not allocate grant aid. The reference price values and improved indexation permitted in the terms and conditions are capable of delivering projects without recourse to grant aid.

Natural Gas Grid.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

227 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when the developer submitted an application to start stage two of the installation of the Corrib gas pipeline, and if he will provide a copy of this application. [17011/06]

I understand that the Deputy is seeking information relating to elements of the Consents to Install and Commission the pipeline which is a condition of the Consent to Construct a pipeline given under Section 40 of the Gas Act 1976 as amended.

In view of ongoing Court proceedings in relation to the Consent to Construct a pipeline, in which I have been joined as a party, there are certain aspects of this that are sub judice. Furthermore, it is also possible following the publication of the Advantica and TAG reports and my decisions in relation to the recommendations of these reports, there could be further changes that may be required to be made by the developers in relation to certain aspects of the pipeline proposal. Accordingly, I am not in a position to provide the information requested by the Deputy at this stage.

Foreshore Licences.

Martin Ferris

Question:

228 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the portfolio of foreshore licences and leases, in whole or as part of a consortia or partnership held by a company (details supplied). [17171/06]

Martin Ferris

Question:

229 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the portfolio of foreshore licences and leases, in whole or as a part of a consortia or partnership held by a company (details supplied). [17172/06]

Martin Ferris

Question:

230 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if his Department had discussions with companies other than those who were the eventual licence awardees of the Codling and Arklow bank foreshore licences. [17173/06]

Martin Ferris

Question:

231 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason both foreshore leases were given for generating electricity by wind in the Codling and Arklow banks for 99 years, in view of the fact that the Department’s guidelines of May 2001 for intending developers state the maximum period of a lease will ordinarily be 60 years. [17174/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 228 to 231, inclusive, together.

The company referred to by the Deputy in Question No. 228 does not hold any licences to investigate the suitability of sites for the construction and operation of offshore wind farms, or leases to allow their construction and operation. Its parent company is, however, a partner in the company holding a lease over part of the Codling Bank and a licence over the remainder of the Bank and the outer Codling Bank.

The company referred to in Question No. 229 holds a lease, though a wholly owned subsidiary, over the Arklow Bank to allow for the construction and operation of an offshore wind farm. Phase one of this development has been constructed and is operational.

The particular leases permitting construction of wind farms on the Arklow and Codling Banks were granted on foot of applications made to the Department by the companies concerned. No applications for such leases were made by other parties in respect of the areas concerned.

The Departmental Guidelines "Offshore Electricity Generating Stations — Note for Intending Developers" issued by the Department state that the maximum term of a foreshore lease granted for the purpose of constructing and operating an offshore generating station will ordinarily be 60 years. It was decided, however, in the case of the two foreshore The Departmental Guidelines "Offshore Electricity Generating Stations — Note for Intending Developers" issued by the Department state that the maximum term of a foreshore lease granted for the purpose of constructing and operating an offshore generating station will ordinarily be 60 years. It was decided, however, in the case of the two foreshore leases referred to by the Deputy in Question No. 231, in response to requests made by both applicants on commercial grounds, that the leases in question would be granted for a term of 99 years. This is the maximum term permitted for leases under the Foreshore Acts.

Alternative Energy Projects.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

232 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his plans to assist applicants for wind farms in the improvement in REFIT price; to grant aid 20 per cent of the capital cost; his plans in these areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17489/06]

The terms and conditions of REFIT were published on the Department's website (www.dcmnr.ie) on the 1st May last. The reference price values and improved indexation permitted in the Renewable Energy Feed In Tariff (REFIT) programme are capable of delivering projects without recourse to grant aid. There are no proposals to amend the published terms and conditions of REFIT.

Citizenship Applications.

John McGuinness

Question:

233 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if an application for Irish citizenship in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be approved in the near future; if the application will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17050/06]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the application for Irish citizenship, through entry in the Foreign Births Register, by the person to whom he has referred has been approved. The certificate confirming the applicant's Irish citizenship will be issued by our Consulate-General in Chicago very shortly.

US Foreign Policy.

Finian McGrath

Question:

234 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the USA give out 59 million dollars each year to journalists and media people that will spread misinformation about Cuba; and if his attention has further been drawn to that practice here. [17242/06]

I have no information with regard to this allegation.

Northern Ireland Issues.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

235 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the constitutional implications for the Republic of Ireland of a type of joint administration of Northern Ireland with the British Government as the alternative to a fully-functioning Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly after 24 November 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17485/06]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

236 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the nature of the proposed joint responsibility of the Irish and British Governments for the administration of Northern Ireland after 24 November 2006 in the event of failure to elect a Northern Ireland Executive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17486/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 235 and 236 together.

On 6 April in Armagh, the Taoiseach and Prime Minister Blair set out the Government's joint strategy for achieving a fully functioning Assembly and Executive in 2006. The strategy is founded on a shared conviction that devolved partnership government, as enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement, provides the best opportunity to create a peaceful and prosperous Northern Ireland.

On 15 May, the Assembly will meet for the first time since suspension in October 2002. It will be asked to elect a First and Deputy First Minister and form an executive within six weeks. Should that not prove possible, the parties will be allowed some additional but limited time — until 24 November — for the express purpose of implementing the Agreement and establishing the Executive.

Our clear and primary focus is on making the Assembly and Executive work. Our plan is designed for success and we are urging all parties to grasp this opportunity to restore positive politics to Northern Ireland.

I want to stress that the Good Friday Agreement, endorsed by the people of Ireland, North and South, remains the template for cooperation between the two Governments in relation to Northern Ireland. Our aim is the formation of an Executive, within the period indicated, but in all circumstances the Governments are agreed that we will exercise our responsibilities to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement is implemented to the maximum possible extent for the benefit of all communities.

Arts Funding.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

237 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he has had discussions with the Arts Council in regard to the provision of facilities to encourage the arts in respect of both urban and rural communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16872/06]

My Department currently supports capital arts projects through the Arts & Culture Capital Enhancement Support or ACCESS scheme. A total of €45.71m was granted to 44 projects across the country under the scheme. ACCESS primarily assists the development of infrastructure for visual and performing arts, in particular integrated arts centres, theatres, museums and galleries as well as art studios and other arts production, creative and performance spaces.

All of the available funds under the current ACCESS scheme have been fully allocated. My Department is currently examining the option of a successor to the ACCESS scheme, and I hope to make an announcement in this context shortly.

Applications for any new scheme will be invited by public advertisement. Applications will be assessed on the basis of clear and transparent evidence and advice and will, of course, take account of the views and expertise of the Arts Council.

Sports Capital Programme.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

238 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if a grant under the sports capital programme will be allocated to a project (details supplied) in County Galway in order to allow the project to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16900/06]

The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, allocates funding to sporting and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

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

Casual Trading.

Michael Lowry

Question:

239 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in conjunction with other Departments, he will review the red tape and bureaucracy involved in the establishment and operation of farmers markets and country markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17001/06]

Michael Lowry

Question:

240 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will review the red tape and bureaucracy involved in the establishment and operation of farmers markets and country markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17006/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 239 and 240 together.

Issues regarding trading in public places are governed by the Casual Trading Act 1995. Under that Act, responsibility for operational matters lies with local authorities which control such trading by way of bye laws made pursuant to Section 6 of the Act. Concerns about how markets and fairs are regulated, therefore, should be directed to the appropriate local authority in the first instance.

Industrial Development.

Martin Ferris

Question:

241 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the plans to develop the Tarbert-Ballylongford landbank, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16852/06]

Martin Ferris

Question:

242 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to plans by a company (details supplied) to develop a deepwater container transhipment terminal at Ballylongford, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16853/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 241 and 242 together.

The site in question is part of Shannon Development's property portfolio, the management of which is an operational matter for the Company and not one in which I have a direct involvement.

I understand from Shannon Development that given its strategic location, adjacent to the deep waters of the Shannon Estuary, the agency recognises the unique significance of the 600-acre Tarbert/Ballylongford land bank as a desirable location in Western Europe for significant maritime-related businesses. In the past decade, the land bank has been actively promoted to relevant industry sectors, with appropriate supporting marketing material prepared and distributed. During 2004 and 2005, Shannon Development initiated a ‘Call for expressions of interest' for projects for which the available deep water access is an attractive magnet for development at the site. In this respect, Shannon Development is actively working to convert inquiries into realistic project opportunities for the Tarbert/ Ballylongford land bank.

Shannon Foynes Port Company comes under the aegis of my colleague the Minister for the Communications, Marine and Natural resources, who, no doubt, will respond to any questions about the Company's activities. I understand from Shannon Development that among the activities suited to the Shannon Estuary is container transhipment. Shannon Development is aware of and supports the strategic plan of the Shannon-Foynes Port Company which includes a desire to develop a transhipment hub on the Shannon Estuary.

Job Creation.

Michael Lowry

Question:

243 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, further to an adjournment debate of 25 April 2006 regarding a company (details supplied), the measures he will put in place to ensure that replacement industries are secured for the Thurles area and the wider North Tipperary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17013/06]

The Industrial Development agencies operating in the areas in question are making every effort to secure alternative employment for Thurles and North Tipperary. Job creation is a day-to-day administration matter for the agencies concerned and, in addition, a central goal for the agencies is the achievement of balanced regional development. Notwithstanding this, I should point out that the location of a particular project ultimately rests with the promoter of that project.

The present position is that IDA Ireland has responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to North Tipperary, including the town of Thurles, and Shannon Development has responsibility for the provision of industrial property solutions in the area. Shannon Development's role in supporting indigenous enterprise will transfer to Enterprise Ireland under the new mandate granted by me to Shannon Development last year. In addition, the Tipperary North County Enterprise Board provides support for the micro-business sector.

Initiatives undertaken by Shannon Development in the provision of property solutions include the development of the Tipperary Technology Park in Thurles and the acquisition of a 29-acre site in Roscrea with a view to developing a Business Park. These facilities are being actively marketed by IDA Ireland to potential clients through its network of overseas offices. Shannon Development, in association with Local Authorities, is also spearheading the drive to bring high-speed Internet access to the region. The Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources has recently approved funding for Metropolitan Area Networks to be installed, which should assist in attracting both indigenous and overseas industry. I am confident that these activities will bring sustainable investment and jobs for the people of Thurles and the wider North Tipperary area.

Work Permits.

Phil Hogan

Question:

244 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when a decision regarding an application for a work permit for a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny will be decided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17082/06]

The Work Permit Section of my Department has informed me that an application for a work permit in respect of the above individual was refused on 9th March 2006. The employer was notified of this decision in writing and of the right of appeal.

The employer submitted an appeal on 24 March 2006. The Work Permit Section has contacted the employer and is awaiting further documentation before the appeal can be considered further.

Construction Sector.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

245 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the practice by some companies, particularly in the construction field, of listing job vacancies only in eastern European languages; if such advertisements are investigated to ensure the company is not deliberately recruiting migrant workers with the intent of paying substandard wages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17230/06]

Employers in the Construction Sector, who wish to recruit workers from outside the European Economic Area are required to seek work permits for each employee recruited. Among the conditions for the granting of work permits is a requirement that such vacancies must be advertised through FÁS. An employer registering a vacancy with FÁS must specify that the vacancy is a potential work permit application. If the employer fails to do this it will not be possible at a later stage to acquire a work permit to fill the vacancy.

Work permits are not granted in circumstances where the proposed rate of pay is less than the statutory minimum rates provided for in Employment Rights legislation.

The wages and employment conditions of workers employed in the Construction Industry are governed and safeguarded by the Registered Employment Agreement (Construction Industry Wages and Conditions of Employment) Variation Order, which is enforced by the Labour Inspectorate of my Department. Labour Inspectors are empowered to seek compliance with payment of the statutory minimum rates of pay specified in the Agreement. The Labour Inspectorate has no role in the investigation of the advertising of job vacancies including vacancies in the construction sector.

If it is the case that certain workers are paid less than other workers for comparable work and there are no other relevant differentiating features it may be appropriate to refer the matter to the Equality Authority for consideration under Equality Legislation.

The enforcement of the provisions of a Registered Employment Agreement may also be effected under the Industrial Relations Acts. A trade union, an association of employers or an individual employer may complain to the Labour Court that a particular employer is not complying with a Registered Employment Agreement. If, after investigating a complaint, the Court is satisfied that the employer is in breach of a Registered Employment Agreement it may by order direct compliance with the agreement. Failure to comply with such an order is an offence punishable by a fine.

If the Deputy is aware of any breaches of the Registered Employment Agreement, please contact the Labour Inspectorate of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment who will investigate any allegations in this regard.

Employment Rights.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

246 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to concerns that migrant agricultural workers in the Border regions are being shunted by their employers from one side of the Border to the other in order to evade each jurisdiction’s employment laws; if labour inspectors working in Border regions are specifically trained to look out for this type of violation; the communications he has had with his northern counterpart on the issue and the steps they are jointly taking to address the problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17231/06]

The Labour Inspectorate of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is responsible for monitoring certain employment conditions for all categories of workers in Ireland, including migrant agricultural workers. The Inspectorate operates without any differentiation with regard to worker nationality as statutory employment rights and protections apply to migrant workers in exactly the same manner as they do to other Irish workers.

For the avoidance of doubt Section 20 of the Protection of Employee's (Part-Time) Work Act, 2001 provides that all employee protection legislation on the Statute Book in Ireland applies to workers posted to work in Ireland in line with Directive 96/71/EC of the European Parliament and Council of 16 December 1996.

Section 20 of the 2001 Act also provides that all employee protection legislation applies to a person, irrespective of his or her nationality or place of residence, who has entered into a contract of employment that provides for his or her being employed in the State or who works in the State under a contract of employment. Thus all Employment Rights Legislation applies to migrant workers engaged to work in the State under a contract of employment.

As part of their training all Inspectors are made aware of the employment rights provisions in relation to all workers, including those who may reside outside the State.

Labour Inspectors pursue allegations of worker mistreatment and when evidence of non-compliance with the relevant employment rights legislation is found, the Inspectorate seeks redress for the individual/s concerned and, if appropriate, a prosecution is initiated.

The Minister has had no communications with the Northern Ireland authorities on the specific issue raised by the Deputy. If the Deputy is aware of any breaches of Employment Rights Legislation, please contact the Labour Inspectorate of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment who will investigate any allegations in this regard.

Work Permits.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

247 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the impact the introduction of the new green card scheme which forms part of the Employment Permits Bill, 2005, will have on the situation of overseas nurses currently resident here under the existing working visa and work authorisation scheme; the way in which their rights under the new administrative procedures will differ from their rights under the current scheme; and the scheme under which future overseas nurses will be able to apply for permission to come and work here as the current working visa and authorisation scheme is being abolished. [17243/06]

In my opening address on the Second Stage of the Employment Permits Bill 2005 on 12th October 2005 I announced that the current procedures for granting working visas / work authorisations will be phased out and replaced by a new Green Card system. As I indicated on that occasion, Green Cards will be awarded for occupations where there are skills shortages, which will be for a restricted list of occupations in the annual salary range from €30,000 to €60,000 and for a more extensive list of occupations in the annual salary range above €60,000.

As part of the transitional arrangements to the new system, the position of those on existing schemes will be continued. Therefore, as at present, existing participants in the Working Visa/Work Authorisation scheme will be permitted to renew their permission to remain beyond the initial two year period subject to their satisfying certain criteria, the most important being that they continue to come within the terms of the scheme and that there are no public policy objections to their remaining in the state.

Community Employment Schemes.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

248 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his intentions in relation to commencing the process of providing core funding for community employment positions currently supporting personal social services for people with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17350/06]

The main purpose of the community employment programme operated by FÁS is to provide work experience and training for the long-term unemployed and disadvantaged groups and thereby enable participants to advance successfully to employment in the open labour market.

On 10 November 2004, following a review of FÁS employment schemes (community employment, job initiative and social economy programmes), I announced that community employment places supporting the delivery of health services will continue to be ring-fenced and this has been the practice since then.

Decisions regarding the provision of core funding for the health services generally is a matter for the Minister for Health and Children.

Industrial Relations.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

249 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of pieces of legislation governing industrial relations. [17408/06]

The following are the pieces of legislation governing industrial relations:

Industrial Relations Act 1946

Industrial Relations Act 1969

Industrial Relations Act 1976

Industrial Relations Act 1990

Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2001

Industrial Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004

Transnational Information and Consultation of Employees Act 1996

Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Acts 1977 and 1988

Employees (Provision of Information and Consultation) Act 2006.

Employment Rights.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

250 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of pieces of legislation governing employment rights. [17409/06]

There are currently 16 pieces of employment rights legislation in existence which are administered by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. They are:

1. Redundancy Payments Acts 1967 to 2003

2. Employment Agency Act 1971

3. Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts 1973 to 2001

4. Protection of Employment Act 1977

5. Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2001

6. Protection of Employees (Employers' Insolvency) Acts 1984 to 2004

7. Payment of Wages Act 1991

8. Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994 and 2001

9. Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996

10. Organisation of Working Time Act 1997

11. National Minimum Wage Act 2000

12. European Communities (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2000

13. Carer's Leave Acts 2001 and 2006

14. Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001

15. Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003

16. European Communities (Protection of Employees on Transfer of Undertakings) Regulations 2003

The Deputy will be aware that there are also a number of pieces of employment rights legislation relating, inter alia, to Maternity Protection, Adoptive Leave, Parental Leave and Employment Equality which are administered by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Finian McGrath

Question:

251 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if assistance will be given to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 9; and if the maximum support and advice will be given. [16986/06]

The supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which includes rent supplement, is administered on my behalf by the Community Welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Neither I nor my Department has any function in relation to decisions on individual claims. Rent supplements are subject to a limit on the amount of rent that an applicant for rent supplement may incur. I understand that the person concerned wishes to rent accommodation at a cost in excess of the relevant rent limit. Notwithstanding these limits, under existing arrangements the Health Service Executive may, in certain circumstances, breach the rent levels as an exceptional measure. The Health Service Executive has been contacted concerning this case and has advised that according to the information available, the circumstances surrounding the case would not, in its opinion, justify awarding a rent supplement in respect of accommodation where the weekly rent is in excess of the prescribed limits. The Executive has further advised that in its view the current rent limits are not a barrier to securing accommodation in this case.

Michael Ring

Question:

252 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if disability allowance will be awarded retrospectively to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo in view of the fact that they did not receive a payment from his Department for a number of years even though they were entitled to it; and if this award will be offset against the amount that his Department are seeking from the estate of their late mother. [17238/06]

There is a requirement under the legislation for a claimant to make a social welfare claim within a specified period from the date their entitlement arises. In the case of Disability Allowance this is within 7 days of the date on which the claimant becomes entitled to Disability Allowance. However, provision is made in the legislation to make payments within certain limits where there is "good cause" for the submission of a late claim. In the case of Disability Allowance, payment may be made for a maximum of 6 months. If a claimant wishes to make a claim for backdating their claim beyond six months they can only do so under one of the following specific grounds:

—Where incorrect information was given by departmental error which resulted in the delay in making the claim;

—Where the person became incapacitated to such an extent that he/she was unable to make a claim;

—Where the person suffers a "force majeure";

—Where the person has a current level of financial indebtedness which cannot reasonably be financed from current income or assets.

The Deciding Officer must satisfy himself/ herself that the claimant satisfied the conditions for award of Disability Allowance during the period for which backdating is being sought. The claimant was for five years in insurable employment commencing in 1998. He claimed and received Unemployment Benefit from September 2003 to September 2004. He subsequently claimed Disability Allowance from December 2005. The claimant in this case has not made an application for backdating of his Disability Allowance. If he wishes to have his claim considered for backdating he should make application to my Department clearly setting out the grounds for such an application. Under Social Welfare legislation decisions in relation to claims must be made by Deciding Officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions. With regard to the Estate case in respect of the applicant's late mother, my Department's inspector is in touch with the family's solicitor regarding a settlement.

Michael Ring

Question:

253 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the outcome of the review by the appeals officer in relation to the carer’s benefit appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [17239/06]

The person's application for carer's benefit was disallowed by a Deciding Officer on the grounds that the person was not engaged in remunerative employment prior to her claim as she was on a career break. The person appealed this decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office and an oral hearing was held on 28 February 2006. Having considered all of the available evidence, including that adduced at the oral hearing, the Appeals Officer determined that the person cannot be considered to be in remunerative full time employment as an employed contributor and accordingly does not satisfy the relevant legislative criteria for qualification for carer's benefit. The person was notified of the decision of the Appeals Officer on 8 March 2006. The case was reviewed by the Appeals Officer following representations on behalf of the appellant. He concluded that there were no new facts or evidence which would warrant a revision of the original decision. The appellant has been advised of this conclusion. She has also been informed that it is open to her to apply for carer's allowance. Under Social Welfare Legislation decisions in relation to claims must be made by Deciding Officers and Appeals Officers. These officers are statutorily appointed and I have no role in regard to making such decisions.

Pension Provisions.

Ivor Callely

Question:

254 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of workers here who are estimated to be without a pension. [17255/06]

Ivor Callely

Question:

255 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if pension action week is to be an annual event. [17256/06]

Ivor Callely

Question:

256 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the number of additional workers he expects to sign up or his Department has targeted to sign up for pensions following pension action week. [17257/06]

Ivor Callely

Question:

258 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the work which is being done to reform the pensions system to ensure more workers sign up for pensions. [17259/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 254, 255, 256 and 258 together.

The National Pensions Policy Initiative, published in 1998, suggested that 70% of those at work who are 30 years of age and over require a supplementary pension to ensure that they can maintain their standard of living in retirement. The most recent figures from the Quarterly National Household Survey (CSO) show that in the first quarter of 2005 58.6% of this key target group had a supplementary pension. The coverage figure for all those at work was 51.5%. Because of slow progress being made towards our overall targets in the pensions area, in early 2005 I asked the Pensions Board to undertake the National Pensions Review and this was published on 17th January 2006. In its report on the review the Board reaffirmed the various targets recommended in the original National Pensions Policy Initiative including a supplementary pensions coverage rate of 70% for those aged 30 years and over.

The Pensions Board is working towards achieving this 70% target in all of its promotional activity, including National Pensions Action Week, which took place last week. A pensions awareness, or action week, has been a regular event since 2003 when it was first launched as part of the National Pensions Awareness Campaign to support the introduction of Personal Retirement Savings Accounts. The campaign in general has been successful in raising awareness in relation to pensions issues and in generating debate in this very important area.

The need for an awareness campaign and action week will be kept under review having regard to the progress made in meeting overall coverage targets and the direction of future Government policy in this area. There is no doubt that the pensions system will require reform if we are to reach our targets. The Pensions Board in its report has recommended enhancements to the current voluntary system as it considers that it has the potential to deliver significant improvements in coverage. Essentially these suggestions involve using the successful elements of the SSIA system in a pensions context by converting the tax relief provided for personal pensions to a matching contribution.

With the right incentives, the voluntary system can deliver improved pensions coverage. In this regard, I welcome the measures brought forward by the Minister for Finance to provide incentives for those on lower incomes to invest their SSIA savings in pensions. The extent to which these initiatives are successful in encouraging pensions savings may give some indication of the likely attitude of the public to the more general suggestions made by the Pensions Board in this area. However, no truly voluntary pensions system has delivered the sort of coverage rates for which we are aiming and if we are to achieve our overall targets we may have to consider a more radical approach. In this regard, I have asked the Pensions Board to explore in more detail the ideas for a mandatory or quasi-mandatory system it put forward in its report on the National Pensions Review. I have asked the Pensions Board to suggest and cost a system it considers suitable for Irish conditions and to submit a report to me which I expect to have by the end of next month.

The Pensions Board report on the National Pensions Review requires serious debate and analysis before we decide finally on the type of retirement we want for our older people and the contribution we will make during our working lives to that future. To further that debate I convened the National Pensions Forum on the 5th May to provide an opportunity for stakeholders to debate the issues raised in the Review and to air their views on the best approach to take. The Government will make decisions in relation to the way forward as soon as possible. The inputs to the Pensions Forum and the further work I have asked the Pensions Board to undertake in the area of mandatory pensions will inform these decisions.

Ivor Callely

Question:

257 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the membership of the Pensions Board. [17258/06]

The new Pensions Board took up office from 21st December 2005 for a five year period. The full membership of the board is:

Tiarnan O’Mahony (Chairperson)

Appointed by the Minister for Social & Family Affairs

Kevin Brabazon

Nominated by Irish Business & Employers Confederation

Marie Daly

Rosheen Callendar

Nominated by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Fergus Whelan

William Beausang

Representative of the Minister for Finance

Julian Caplin

Appointed by the Minister for Social & Family Affairs

John Dillane

Mary O’Donnell

Emer O’Flanagan

Michael O’Halloran

Gerry Ryan

Nominated by the Irish Association of Pension Funds

Dervla Tomlin

Nominated by the Irish Insurance Federation.

Anne Vaughan

Representative of the Minister for Social & Family Affairs

Mary Wade

Nominated by the Association of Pension Lawyers in Ireland

Tom Wright

Nominated by the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies — Ireland

Rosalind Briggs

Nominated by the Society of Actuaries in Ireland

Question No. 258 answered with QuestionNo. 254.

Family Support Services.

Ivor Callely

Question:

259 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the progress which has been made at the National Consultative Forum he convened to discuss proposals for supporting lone parents; and when the forum is likely to report. [17260/06]

Ivor Callely

Question:

260 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the groups and or persons which have made presentations or submissions to the National Consultative Forum convened to discuss proposals for supporting lone parents. [17261/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 259 and 260 together.

The Government acknowledges that the risk of poverty, especially child poverty, tends to be higher among one parent families, larger families and those faced by long-term unemployment, due mainly to the direct costs of rearing children, including child care costs, and the opportunity costs related to the reduced earning capacity of parents, arising from their care responsibilities. This applies particularly to one parent families as the lone parent has to be the main breadwinner and carer at the same time. One of the key tasks in the ‘Ending Child Poverty' initiative under Sustaining Progress is to address obstacles to employment for lone parents.

The Senior Officials Group on Social Inclusion was mandated late in 2004 to examine this issue and report back to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion with specific proposals. A sub-group of the Senior Officials Group examined obstacles to employment for lone parent families, with particular emphasis on income supports, employment, education, childcare and support programmes and information.

A working group established in my Department reviewed the income support arrangements for lone parents, looking at issues including the contingency basis of the one parent family payment, cohabitation and the fact that the payment can act as a disincentive to the formation of partnerships and discourage joint parenting. As a result of this process, which included consultation with the social partners, I recently launched a major Government discussion paper, ‘Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents' which addresses the social exclusion and risk of poverty faced by many such families and their children.

The report puts forward radical proposals for reform of the income support system for all parents on a low income. The report proposes the expanded availability and range of education and training opportunities for lone parents, the extension of the National Employment Action Plan to focus on lone parents, focused provision of childcare, improved information services for lone parents and the introduction of a new Parental Allowance for low income families with young children.

The Government has asked the Senior Officials Group on Social Inclusion to draw up an implementation plan to progress the non-income recommendations of the discussion paper, including those related to childcare, education, training and activation measures and work on this has already commenced in consultation with the Departments and agencies concerned.

As a follow-up to the publication of the discussion paper, I hosted a National Consultative Forum on 27th April 2006. The Forum was attended by social partners, representatives of organisations dealing with lone parents and the unemployed, representatives of Government departments and State agencies who will be responsible for the implementation of the proposals in the discussion paper and members of the Oireachtas. At the Forum, I heard the views of each organisation on the proposals including their comments on the proposed parental allowance and invited them to make formal written submissions setting out those views. The organisations represented at the forum were IBEC, ICTU, CORI, St. Vincent De Paul, One Family, OPEN, Doras Buí, National Women's Council, Treoir, Teen Parent Support Programme, Parental Equality and AMEN. The Observers were the Senior Officials Group on Social Inclusion, FÁS, Combat Poverty, Crisis Pregnancy Agency, Family Support Agency, NESF and NESC.

Higher Education Grants.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

261 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if a mature student who qualifies for a third level grant and who lives away from their parents has that grant included in the calculation of means for rent allowance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17443/06]

Rent supplements are available to eligible people through the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered on my behalf by the Community Welfare division of the Health Service Executive. Neither I nor my Department has any function in determining entitlement in individual cases. Under Section 190(1) of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005, people in full-time education are not normally eligible to receive assistance, including rent supplements, under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. Therefore, the question of including or excluding the value of a third level grant does not arise. However, there is provision for retention of rent supplement by qualifying social welfare scheme recipients, in the specific situation where they resume full-time education after a defined period with the assistance of the back to education allowance scheme. People participating in approved courses under this facility receive a standard weekly rate of payment equivalent to the maximum rate of their relevant social welfare payment and may retain any secondary benefits, such as rent supplements, which may have been in payment prior to participating in the scheme. Any third level grant that is payable to the person is disregarded in the means assessment for rent supplement in these particular circumstances.

Services for People with Disabilities.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

262 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to whether all Bus Éireann bus stations are fully accessible to people with disabilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16881/06]

Significant investment has been made to date by Bus Éireann in upgrading bus stations to make them fully accessible for people with mobility and sensory impairments. I understand that, with the exception of Limerick and Galway, all of Bus Éireann's bus stations will have been brought up to accessibility standards by the end of 2006. Preparatory work on a major joint bus/rail station development in Limerick is well advanced and completion is expected by 2008. Galway will also entail a bus/rail station development. However, as this project will form part of a wider redevelopment project in Galway, a date for completion is not currently available.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

263 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if all inter-city and DART trains are wheelchair accessible; if not, when same will happen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16882/06]

Significant investment has been made to date under the National Development Plan (2000-2006) in acquiring new rolling stock for Iarnród Éireann. All of the public transport vehicles purchased under the NDP for the services by the company have been specified to full accessible standards. I understand that allowing for the completion of refurbishment work to some older DART (electric) carriages, all DART carriages on the Dublin suburban rail network will be accessible by mid 2007. The diesel railcars on suburban rail serving Dublin and Cork are already accessible. Additionally, Iarnród Éireann is in the process of replacing the vast bulk of its Inter-City passenger rolling stock. All of this rolling stock is being specified to UK Rail Vehicle Accessibility Standards. I am informed that practically all inter-urban passenger rail services will have accessible rolling stock by 2009.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

264 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if all Bus Éireann buses are wheelchair accessible; if not, the percentage which are; when the full fleet will be accessible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16883/06]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

282 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Transport if the additional buses on order for Bus Éireann will be wheelchair accessible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17440/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 264 and 282 together.

Significant progress has been made in recent years in the introduction of wheelchair accessible buses to the Bus Éireann fleet. Since the year 2000, all buses purchased by the company for urban services are low floor, wheelchair accessible. That purchasing policy will continue as the bus fleet is replaced and expanded. Bus Éireann has already achieved almost 100% fleet conversion to low floor, wheelchair accessible buses on its urban services in the cities of Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. The company also has a number of low floor, wheelchair accessible buses operating on a number of rural routes and on some commuter routes that were previously served by coaches.

In other urban areas currently served with smaller buses, some are wheelchair accessible, and it is Bus Éireann's policy to replace those vehicles with wheelchair accessible buses. Bus Éireann advise that almost all existing designs of coaches for scheduled inter-urban services make them inaccessible for people in wheelchairs and others with severe disabilities because they incorporate steps to allow for under floor luggage space. I am told by the Company that this problem is not unique to Ireland and European-wide efforts are underway to address the difficulty. Bus Éireann also advises that field trials by large UK bus operators of the limited types of coaches with accessibility features that are currently available on the bus market have highlighted significant shortcomings for passengers with and without disabilities and for the bus operators.

An EU-sponsored report (COST 349), issued in late-2005, provides guidance on solutions for accessible coach and long distance bus travel. In addition, more developed wheelchair accessible coaches, that may be suitable for scheduled services, are expected to begin in-service trials with a limited number of operators in the UK this Summer. We now need to explore further options. I have asked Bus Éireann to explore the scope for acquiring wheelchair accessible coaches of the type planned for trials in the UK, for in-service trials in Ireland and to give me a report in the matter before any orders are placed. In that respect, the company is consulting with the National Disability Authority. I await a response from the company.

Road Safety.

Michael Lowry

Question:

265 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Transport if, while recognising the crucial importance of safe driving, he will confirm the legal status of the Road Safety Authority; if, in view of this status and the fact that the Road Safety Authority Bill has to be enacted, the Authority has the legal authority and mandate to proceed with advertising campaigns at this time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17003/06]

The current advertising campaign is being run by the National Safety Council in conjunction with the Irish Insurance Federation and is using the logo of the Road Safety Authority in order to raise the public profile of the brand of the Road Safety Authority in advance of its formal establishment following enactment of the Road Safety Authority Bill.

Michael Lowry

Question:

266 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Transport if it is his long-term intention to incorporate the road safety role of the National Safety Council into the proposed Road Safety Authority; his plans for the National Safety Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17004/06]

It is my intention that the current functions carried out by the National Safety Council in relation to road safety matters will be taken over by the new Road Safety Authority when the Bill, that is currently going through the Dail, is enacted.

The Bill was passed by Dáil Éireann on 5 March and is due to commence its Second Stage in the Seanad on 10 May.

John Cregan

Question:

267 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Transport if it is his Department’s intention to recruit inspectors to work with both the Road Safety Authority and the Taxi Regulator; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17031/06]

The necessary staff to carry out the functions to be assigned to the Road Safety Authority will be recruited either by the Department or by the RSA itself post vesting.

The Commission for Taxi Regulation is an independent body established in September 2004 under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003. Under section 18 of the 2003 Act, the Commission is responsible for the recruitment and appointment of the staff of the Commission with the consent of both the Ministers for Transport and Finance to the numbers, grades and terms and conditions of employment.

Pension Provisions.

Richard Bruton

Question:

268 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Transport if persons who have retired from Aer Lingus will benefit from a top-up in the Aer Lingus pensions fund in the context of a part sale of shares. [17084/06]

I understand that many of the former staff of Aer Lingus may have concerns about their pensions in the context of the planned investment transaction. I have recently mandated management in Aer Lingus to engage intensively with the trade unions with a view to addressing the key concerns of staff, in relation to a third-party investment, including pensions, to the maximum extent possible. The position of pensioners will also be addressed in any solution that is agreed. The investment transaction actually provides a unique opportunity to address issues in relation to pensions that have existed for some time.

Disabled Drivers.

John Perry

Question:

269 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Transport if he will address the concerns raised in correspondence (details supplied) on the matter of disabled parking spaces in Sligo; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17225/06]

Road Traffic and Parking Regulations made in 1997 under section 35 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 provide that only vehicles in which a disabled person's parking permit is displayed may stop or park in a disabled person's parking bay provided the vehicle is being used for the convenience of the person to whom the permit was issued. From 3 April 2006 a new fixed charge offence of €80 applies to illegal parking in these designated spaces.

The level of this fixed charge increases by 50% to €120 if it not paid within 28 days. A further period of 28 days is allowed for payment of €120 fixed charge. If no payment is received within that 56 day period, a court prosecution is initiated.

Prior to 3 April the fine on the spot for illegal parking was only €19. This significant increase in the financial penalty should act as a deterrent measure against illegal parking in disabled persons parking bays.

I currently have no proposals underway to make parking illegally in a disabled persons parking bay a penalty point offence. Allocation of spaces, monitoring of disabled parking spaces and the provision of electronic warning equipment is a matter for each Local Authority.

Heavy Goods Vehicles.

Finian McGrath

Question:

270 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport if he will work closely with Dublin City Council on the major concerns regarding the heavy goods vehicle cordon (details supplied). [17245/06]

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the Dublin Port Tunnel and the concerns raised by the Deputy in that regard, are matters for the National Roads Authority (NRA) and the local authorities concerned, in this case, Dublin City Council.

That being said, I am very conscious of the concerns associated with the introduction of the HGV Management Strategy, and my officials and I are working closely with all key stakeholders, including Dublin City Council, to ensure that these are addressed.

My Department's formal role will be to put in place the necessary regulations regarding road signage and related matters to support the strategy. This work is underway.

Driving Tests.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

271 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if he will arrange an early driving test for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick in view of the particular circumstances of this case. [17282/06]

A driving test has been arranged for the person concerned.

Road Safety.

Seán Haughey

Question:

272 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Transport if the UK MOT in relation to the road worthiness of a vehicle is recognised here; if the Irish VTR is recognised throughout the EU; if EU laws is harmonised in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17283/06]

The framework at European level in relation to compulsory periodic roadworthiness testing of motor vehicles is set down in EU Directive 96/96/EC. The Directive specifies the categories of vehicles liable to testing, the minimum frequency of testing of vehicles, the items that have to be tested and the arrangements for testing. The Directive requires that a vehicle liable to roadworthiness testing must be tested in the Member State in which it is registered and that the proof of passing a roadworthiness test issued by that Member State must be recognised in all other Member States. The mutual recognition of roadworthiness certificates ensures the free circulation of vehicles within the EU. The Directive is currently transposed into Irish law by means of the Road Traffic (National Car Test) Regulations 2003 for passenger cars and by the European Communities (Vehicle testing) Regulations 2004 for commercial vehicles.

Public Transport.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

273 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the number of licences currently in the State for private coach operators with a breakdown by vehicle age; the number that have been tested and the results; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17291/06]

The number of current Road Passenger Transport Operator Licences issued by my Department is 1,811, as at mid-April 2006, the latest date for which I have figures.

The total number of vehicles on those licences, excluding the Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann fleets, is 5,266. The breakdown by registration years and vehicle age is as follows:

01-06 (0-5 years) :

1,565

00-86 (5-10 years):

3,367

85-80 (10-15 years):

279

80+ (15+ years):

55

In order to renew motor tax on a commercial vehicle, including a bus, a valid certificate of roadworthiness for that vehicle must be produced. Some 9,673 roadworthiness tests were carried out on buses in 2004, the latest year for which data is available in my Department. The test results for these vehicles show that there were 7,857 passes and 1,816 fails.

Enforcement of the licensing requirements is a matter for the Transport Officers of the Department and the Garda. The functions of the Transport Officers will transfer to the Road Safety Authority on its establishment.

Vehicle Registration Tax is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners.

Road Network.

Seán Crowe

Question:

274 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport his position regarding the way in which barrier-free tolling might be achieved on the M50 motorway; and if he has examined the system in Melbourne, Australia, which has been suggested as being one of the most efficient users of this technology. [17292/06]

The statutory power to levy tolls on national roads, to make toll by-laws and to enter into toll agreements with private investors in respect of national roads is vested in the NRA under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended by the Planning and Development Act 2000). In that context, the NRA will bring forward specific proposals for single-point barrier-free tolling on the M50 for consideration later this year. I understand that the system at Melbourne has been carefully examined by the NRA and its advisers as have other successful free-flow systems throughout the world including the Toronto 407 highway, and the Austrian and German lorry charging systems.

Road Traffic Offences.

Seán Crowe

Question:

275 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether narrow, often pot-holed roads without footpaths should carry the same speed limit of 80 kph as that of dual carriageway arterial roads; and his plans to establish a lesser national default speed which would apply to all roads except where higher limits are permitted. [17293/06]

The Road Traffic Act 2004 Act provides that a default speed limit of 80 kph applies to rural regional and local roads. The general speed limit of 60 miles per hour had previously applied to such roads since 1961 so the present default limit is almost 10 miles per hour lower than that. The 2004 Act permits the Local Authorities to make special speed limit bye-laws to apply a lower or higher speed limit in lieu of a default speed limit at any location on a regional road or local road where such is deemed warranted.

The decision to apply a special speed limit, including the application of a periodic speed limit at any location, is a matter for determination by each City Council or County Council. I have no function in relation to the timing of the imposition of special speed limits at any location.

I have no plans to amend primary legislation to revise the current speed limit structures to provide a default speed limit of less than 80 kph on rural regional and local roads.

Rail Network.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

276 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport his estimate of the cost of the full electrification of the rail network. [17296/06]

Transport 21 includes a financial provision to cover the anticipated cost of the electrification of the Northern, Kildare and Maynooth lines. However, I do not propose to release this commercially sensitive information until the public procurement process for this project is completed.

Parking Regulations.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

277 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the number of parking spaces for heavy goods vehicle in Dublin Port in each of the years this century; and his plans to expand this number in the short term. [17297/06]

This is an operational matter for Dublin Port Company. I have no function in this regard.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

278 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport the way in which Section 11 of the Road Transport Act, 1999 is being enforced. [17298/06]

Section 11, Road Transport Act, 1999 makes a provision that licensed operators must have adequate parking space and operating premises in the State for the vehicles operated under an operator's licence. It does not apply in respect of a person who held a licence on the day immediately preceding the date on which Section 11 came into operation until the expiration of three years after that date i.e. until 29th September, 2008.

In practice, and following discussion with the Local Authorities, the Local Authorities will inform my Department of any operator deemed not to have adequate parking for his vehicles or whose operational base is unsuitable.

The licensee is required to continue to comply throughout the currency of the licence with the requirements for obtaining the licence. My Department reserves the right to check at any stage during the validity of the licence that the holder continues to satisfy the requirements on the basis of which the licence was officially granted. Failure to comply may lead to the suspension or revocation of the licence.

Road Traffic Offences.

Jack Wall

Question:

279 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Transport the different means of communication used by his Department to notify the general public, especially those in ownership of vehicles, of the new points offences under the Road Traffic Act 2004; if he has satisfied himself in view of the high number of new offences, that the general public are fully aware and informed of the changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17395/06]

I am satisfied that an intensive public awareness campaign has been undertaken in relation to the penalty point system. A multimedia public awareness campaign, including TV advertisements, radio advertisements and full page notices in national newspapers was carried out with the extension of the penalty points system to an additional 31 offences from 3 April.

The National Safety Council (NSC), as the agency mandated with responsibility for road safety education and information, operates a dedicated penalty point website www.penaltypoints.ie. This website has recently been redesigned/updated in the context of the extension of the penalty point system.

In addition, the National Safety Council ran a special public education/awareness campaign about the extension of the penalty points system, which took place from the end of March in the lead up to the 3 April 2006. The campaign included newspaper advertisements outlining the details of the penalty point offences.

No new offences, as such, were created. From 3 April, the penalty point system was extended to apply to a number of offences that were already in force but where motorists were previously subject to a fine-on-the spot or a direct summons to Court for breaching these offences.

Airport Development Projects.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

280 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport his views on transferring the responsibility for the public consultation process on Weston Aerodrome from the Irish Aviation Authority to another independent body in order to ensure public confidence in the integrity of the final adjudication. [17431/06]

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

281 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Transport if a precedent exists whereby a State agency, not being a local authority with decision making powers on planning, will seek submissions as part of a public consultation process into the development of an airport and adjudicate on same, while at the same time being a member of the group which formulated the original proposal; his views on the fact that the Irish Aviation Authority website makes it clear that the Irish Aviation Authority acted in concert with Weston Aerodrome to formulate the proposal which they are seeking submissions from the public on and which they purport to adjudicate upon; if this scenario would be open to legal challenge; if he has sought legal advice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17432/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 280 and 281 together.

The Irish Aviation Authority is the statutory body responsible for Irish airspace and for issuing aerodrome licences within the State. In many cases other legislation, including legislation which is not specifically directed at aviation, also applies to aerodromes and aviation activity, and other Government departments, local authorities or other statutory bodies may have regulatory roles that affect aviation activities.

A licence or approval issued by the Authority does not in any way entitle the regulated party to operate in accordance with that licence or approval if doing so would contravene other regulatory requirements including, especially, the requirements of the planning system. It is the duty of the regulated party to ensure that it acquaints itself with all requirements affecting its activities and to ensure that it complies with those requirements.

Weston Aerodrome submitted an Airspace Change Proposal to the IAA requesting a change in the airspace from Class G to Class C. The application was made on the basis that the proposed arrangements would substantially enhance aviation safety in a complex block of airspace. The classification of airspace as Class C requires permission for entry from Air Traffic Control and when operating within such airspace all flights are subject to air traffic control.

The Airspace Change Proposal was developed by Weston Aerodrome. The Authority did not act in concert with Weston to formulate the original proposal. The Authority in its role as safety regulator facilitated discussion between the various air traffic services in the Dublin area and dealt with queries and other matters in connection with the application. This is a normal feature of the Authority's role to ensure that the highest standards of aviation safety are achieved.

While background material may be contained in an Airspace Change Proposal document the Authority will only consider those elements within its statutory remit. Although the Authority is not legally obliged to consult in relation to airspace changes, it nevertheless considered it appropriate to do so on this occasion in the interests of transparency. Aviation safety is the responsibility of the IAA and I have no plans to make any changes to the consultation process in regard to it.

Question No. 282 answered with QuestionNo. 264.

Road Traffic Offences.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

283 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Transport if negotiations with the authorities in Northern Ireland in relation to the harmonisation of penalty points have taken place; the progress made in such negotiations; if a timescale is envisaged for penalty points harmonisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17441/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 127 on Wednesday 3 May 2006.

The North/South Work Programme which was agreed by the North South Ministerial Council, included a commitment to examine the mutual recognition of penalty points on the island of Ireland. However, in addition to the fact that separate penalty point systems operate in the two jurisdictions on this island, the system that operates in Northern Ireland differs from that applying in Great Britain. For that reason, it was agreed that it would be more appropriate to pursue the question of mutual recognition of penalty points on the basis of the operation of the three systems and that it would also be more appropriate that it would be dealt with under the auspices of the British-Irish Council.

It was agreed at the British-Irish Council meeting on the 9 February last that officials should examine the prospects for greater co-operation in the treatment of road traffic infringements where the penalty falls short of disqualification. At that meeting I also formally agreed with the UK Minister of State for Transport to enter into bilateral arrangements on the mutual recognition of driving disqualifications as envisaged in the EU Convention on Driving Disqualifications.

The development of a system of mutual recognition of lesser offences presents complex legal questions and will require the negotiation of a bilateral agreement between the two Governments and probably the passage of primary legislation to support such an agreement.

However, it is recognised that as there are three separate systems for penalty points in operation, straightforward mutual recognition of points is not practical. Nevertheless, an agreement to recognise lesser offences not covered in the Convention might be feasible whereby the offences could be notified and the penalties appropriate to such offences in each jurisdiction applied.

As Northern Ireland has the lead role for transport matters in the BIC, the authorities in that jurisdiction are taking the lead in considering this issue. It was agreed that officials examine the issues further and report back by the end of May. However, given the complexities I expect further work will be necessary at that stage.

Non-governmental Organisations.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

284 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if an assurance will be given that her Department will not take the Tree Council of Ireland as representing the non-Governmental organisations of Ireland. [16844/06]

The Tree Council is a voluntary NGO acting as an umbrella body linking together some 50 organisations with a common interest in trees. It is a forum for organisations concerned with trees and represents a valuable sounding board for opinion in that sector. However, it does not represent all Irish NGOs, and my Department has never regarded it as doing so.

Grant Payments.

Dan Neville

Question:

285 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if there is a decision concerning an appeal by a person (details supplied) in County Limerick in respect of their 2004 special beef premium. [16850/06]

The person named submitted an application, in respect of four animals, under the 2004 Special Beef Premium Scheme, on 4 November 2004. Following the initial processing of the application, it was found that the four animals in question were not recorded as being in the herd of the person named on the date the application was received by the Department. This is a basic requirement of the Scheme and, if not complied with, can result in regulatorypenalties.

The four animals were rejected for payment and a penalty was applied. The penalty amounted to €840, which is the equivalent of premium amount that would have been due to person named if all requirements of the scheme had been complied with. This amount was recouped from the Single Farm payment, which issued on 16 December 2005. However, following a review of the case, a letter issued to the person named on 25 April 2006 informing him that the penalty amount recouped will be refunded and that payment for the four animals in question (€840), will issue shortly.

EU Directives.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

286 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if, under the provisions of the Nitrates Directive, farmers will be allowed reduce their storage requirement in cases in which they maximise grass utilisation with extended grazing management systems which consequently reduce the housing period they require for stock; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16861/06]

The implementation of the Nitrates Directive is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, who has made Regulations last December giving legal effect to the provisions of Ireland's Action Programme.

The Regulations, which came into effect on 1 February 2006, specify the minimum storage capacities for livestock manure required on farm holdings and provides for reduced storage capacities in certain, clearly defined circumstances for livestock other than dairy cows. Aspects of the Regulations are currently being reviewed following a short de facto deferral of Part 3 of the Regulations which covers nutrient management and the submission of new scientific advice from Teagasc. Any changes to the Regulations will, however, have to be agreed with the European Commission.

I have announced a number of measures, including a revised and significantly improved Farm Waste Management Scheme, to assist farmers in meeting their obligations under the Regulations. It remains the responsibility of the occupier of any holding to ensure that he or she has adequate storage.

Sugar Beet Industry.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

287 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding the beet compensation package; the date by which the compensation must be awarded to the farmers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16865/06]

Tom Hayes

Question:

299 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the compensation which will be awarded to beet growers who had to cease production in 2006; when payment will issue to growers; and the relevant details in relation to payments. [17068/06]

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

302 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when she intends to pay the lump sum compensation payment to sugar beet growers as agreed by the EU; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that many sugar beet growers are very much in need of this payment urgently to meet financial debts which they have incurred; the amount per hectare or tonne which will be awarded under the compensation agreement; the amount per hectare or tonne which will be awarded under the EU single farm payment scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17223/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 287, 299 and 302 together.

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

Where restructuring takes place in the first year of the new regime, following consultations between the processor and the beet growers an application for restructuring aid, including a detailed restructuring plan for the industry, must be made by 31 July 2006 and a decision on the granting of the aid must be made by the Member State by 30 September 2006. Where aid is awarded in respect of restructuring in the first year, payment will be made in two instalments, the first instalment of 40% in June 2007 and the second instalment of 60% in February 2008. Depending on the financial resources available the EU Commission may decide to split the second instalment into two payments. Payments to growers will be based on beet deliveries in the relevant period but pending a decision on the percentage to be reserved for growers it is not possible to calculate payments per tonne of beet delivered. The EU Commission is working on detailed rules for the implementation of the restructuring scheme and it is anticipated that the relevant Commission Regulation will be adopted later this month. A decision on the percentage will be made in due course following the adoption of this Regulation and after consultation of the relevant interest parties. This Regulation will also cover the diversification funds to be drawn down in the framework of a national restructuring programme.

The compensation payable to farmers in respect of the reduction in the minimum price of beet will be incorporated in the Single Payment Scheme and will be payable with effect from 2006. The additional amounts made available in the Single Payment Scheme's National Ceiling for Ireland are as follows:

Additional Amount

Compensation

Total

€ (million)

€ (million)

€ (million)

2006

1.747

11.259

13.006

2007

1.747

14.092

15.839

2008

1.747

16.925

18.672

2009

1.747

18.441

20.188

2010

Nil

18.441

18.441

The decisions made by me in relation to the establishment of each individual farmer's compensation to be incorporated in the Single Payment are as follows: the reference period for calculation of the Single Payment (sugar compensation) should consist of the 2001, 2002 and 2004 marketing years; the amount of the Single Payment should be calculated on the basis of the average of the farmers' contracted quantities with Irish Sugar Limited during these three years' reference period.

The amount of the three-year contracted quantity for each farmer will be totalled and the additional funds made available to Ireland, as already outlined, will be divided by this total to establish the rate of compensation per contracted tonne. However, it is possible for farmers to have their average based on one or two years if they submit a successful applications to have the average contracted quantity established on the grounds of force majeure/exceptional circumstances. It is also possible for farmers who commenced farming during the reference period to have their average based on one or two years. It will, therefore, not be possible to establish the rate of payment per tonne until my Department has processed all applications under these measures.

Grant Payments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

288 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Wexford will be in receipt of the dairy premium; the reason for the delay; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16866/06]

The person named submitted a Private Contract Clause application to have entitlements transferred to him by way of a lease agreement under the 2005 Single Payment Scheme. The original Private Contract Clause application requested the transfer of 22.1 entitlements by way of lease, and this was subsequently amended to 12.54 entitlements with the 22.1 hectares leased. This resulted in an overpayment of €3,240.74 to the person named in the Single Farm payment issued to him in December 2005.

Arrangements are in place to transfer the Dairy Premium to the person named. The resulting outstanding payment of €1,740.16, account having been taken of the over-payment to the person named, will issue to him shortly.

Milk Quota.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

289 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will report on the conditions attached to milk quota received under the development farmer agenda 2000; if, in the case of farmers who received such quota and who decide to withdraw from dairy farming, this quota will have to revert to the national reserve; if so, if there is a plan to change this ruling; if this is a European Directive or a Directive of her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16867/06]

The quota allocated from the National Reserve under the Agenda 2000 quota scheme known as the 32 Million Litre Scheme, is available to the recipients for their own use while they remain in milk production. When a recipient ceases milk production, the quota reverts to the national reserve other than where the recipient's quota is transferred to a family member by way of inheritance or similar transfer.

I have no plans at present to change this policy. Under EU regulations the allocation of milk quota from the national reserve must be carried out on the basis of objective criteria determined by the Member State and notified to the European Commission.

Grant Payments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

290 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a person (details supplied) in County Wexford will receive the farm waste management grant; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16879/06]

The person named is an applicant under the Farm Waste Management Scheme. The applicant's claim for payment is currently being examined within my Department and payment will issue if it is found that all the terms and conditions of the Scheme have been complied with.

Phil Hogan

Question:

291 Mr. Hogan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a single farm payment will be awarded to a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16884/06]

The person named had established 11.36 Standard Entitlements with a total net value of €4,221.72 under the Single Payment Scheme. One of the conditions of this Scheme required each applicant to submit a 2005 Single Payment application. The person named did not submit an application under the 2005 Scheme. My Department notified the person named by registered post in February 2006 that as he had not submitted an application in 2005, the entitlements allocated to him were reverting to the National Reserve. The person named then applied, with accompanying medical evidence, for acceptance of a late application on the grounds of force majeure/exceptional circumstances.

My Department is currently examining this application and the person named will be informed of the decision in his case as soon as possible.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

292 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding the single farm payment in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Cork following the submission of documentation in support of their request to have a 100 per cent penalty removed. [16886/06]

An application under the Single Payment Scheme was received from the person named on 5 May 2005. During processing of the application a query was raised in relation to the area of one of the parcels declared by the applicant on his application form. My Department entered into correspondence with the applicant and this matter has now been resolved. Payment will issue shortly.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

293 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the position regarding the single farm payment application for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; the reason for the delay on the application; the outstanding issues on the application; when payment will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16887/06]

The person named applied for the transfer of entitlements by way of inheritance under the Single Payment Scheme. Following processing of his application it was established that his mother was the beneficiary of his late father's estate, and she had subsequently passed the holding to the person named by way of lease. An official from my Department has contacted the beneficiary and outlined the position to her.

Arrangements are being made to process the inheritance application to the beneficiary, and transfer the entitlements to the person named by way of Private Contract Clause for the duration of the lease agreement. Once these transactions are successfully processed, any payment due will be made as soon as possible.

Organic Farming.

Michael Lowry

Question:

294 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the efforts currently being taken in her Department to promote organic production amongst farmers; if additional financial supports and incentives will be made available to farmers transitioning to organic production; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17005/06]

I am strongly committed to the development of the organic sector in Ireland. My Department already provides a number of significant incentives to encourage organic farming, which are substantial in proportion to the size of the sector. Through the Rural Environment Protection Scheme, almost €5.9 million was paid directly to organic farmers in 2005. Since REPS began in 1994, it has delivered almost €39 million to the sector. Under the current Scheme, an organic farmer with 55 hectares is eligible for an annual payment of €18,505 a year for the first two years while the farm is in conversion and €13,555 each year for the rest of his or her time in the Scheme. Proposals to further enhance the organic supplementary measure in REPS are being considered in the context of the development of REPS 4, which will be introduced in 2007 as a measure under the Rural Development Plan for the period up to 2013. My officials met representatives of the organic farming organisations to discuss how support for the sector might be enhanced under the new Rural Development Plan.

As well as REPS, my Department also offers substantial financial support through the Scheme of Grant Aid for the Development of the Organic Sector which supports investment both on-farm and off-farm. I have provided €1.2 million this year for the Scheme and I intend to ensure that grant aid will continue to be available to support modernisation and innovation in this important sector. For on-farm investments, grant aid can be given for 40% of the cost up to a maximum grant of over €50,000. For off-farm investments, the maximum grant is over €500,000.

In addition, my Department has implemented all the main recommendations of the Organic Development Committee's report published in April 2002. The demonstration farm project, for example, has been a considerable success to date and this year has 14 farms participating in the project. These farms provide a very useful means of disseminating information and data to existing and potential organic operators. Valuable financial and practical production data can also be collected, as the farms participate in the Teagasc National Farm Survey and the Teagasc Monitor Farm Network.

My Department has also arranged for specialist agronomists from the UK to visit some of these demonstration farms in conjunction with Teagasc personnel. I expect that the expertise provided by these specialists will provide the necessary technical advice to help existing organic farmers enhance their operations, while also encouraging those in the conventional sector to opt for the organic option.

Grant Payments.

Michael Lowry

Question:

295 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if additional single farm payment entitlements will be given to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; the options available to the person to increase their entitlements at this time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17008/06]

The person named submitted an application under the Single Payment Scheme on 12 May, 2005. The person named established 29.69 entitlements with a total value of €910 and declared 29.61 eligible hectares on his Single Payment application. Payment of 29.61 entitlements to the value of €880.32 was issued on 1 December 2005. The Department has not received any request from the person named for a review of the entitlements allocated to him under the Single Payment Scheme. An official of my Department will contact the person named to establish the grounds on which he requires a review of his entitlements.

Afforestation Programme.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

296 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will provide a copy of the programme for the sale and acquisition of land within the Connacht area, as required under section 14 of the 1988 Forestry Act for the years 1999 to 2006. [17009/06]

Eamon Ryan

Question:

297 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will provide a copy of the programme for the sale and acquisition of land used for the Bellanaboy gas terminal site in County Mayo, as required under section 14 of the 1988 Forestry Act; and the consultation process that was undertaken with the local community in this regard. [17010/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 296 and 297 together.

Section 14 (1) of the Forestry Act 1988 provides that Coillte Teoranta shall submit and agree with the Minister for Agriculture and Food a programme for the sale and acquisition of land and the sale of timber, whether standing or felled. The annual programme submitted by Coillte, under Section 14 of the Forestry Act 1988, does not provide a breakdown by province nor does it make reference to specific sites. The following are the details of the projected sales and acquisitions, in hectares, provided for the requested years:

1999

Region

1 East

3 South West

4 Mid-West

5 West

6 North West

7 Midlands

Total

Sale of forested land

100

160

180

190

110

180

920

Sale of unplanted land

20

50

50

50

30

45

245

Land Acquisition

75

370

200

600

400

300

1,945

2000

Region

1 East

3 South West

4 Mid-West

5 West

6 North West

7 Midlands

Total

Sale of forested land

100

160

180

190

110

180

920

Sale of unplanted land

20

50

50

50

30

45

245

Land Acquisition

0

330

105

300

300

0

1,035

2001

Region

1 East

3 South West

4 Mid-West

5 West

6 North West

7 Midlands

Total

Sale of forested land

70

115

110

100

70

115

580

Sale of unplanted land

0

10

15

10

15

10

60

Land Acquisition

0

0

0

50

0

0

50

2002

Region

1 East

3 South West

4 Mid-West

5 West

6 North West

7 Midlands

Total

Sale of forested land

60

59

69

53

32

31

304

Sale of unplanted land

0

13

14

10

12

11

60

Land Acquisition

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2003

Region

East

South

West

Midlands (North)

Midlands (South)

Total

Sale of forested land

70

60

65

55

65

315

Sale of unplanted land

5

5

5

15

Land acquisition — 50 hectares

2004

Sale of Land

Area

East

South

West

Midlands (North)

Midlands (South)

Total

Sale of forested land

65

55

60

50

60

290

Sale of unplanted land

5

5

5

15

Land acquisition — 0 hectares

2005

Category of sale of land

Amount (hectares (ha)

Sales of non-strategic properties

270

Windfarm lands

500

Landfill lands

60

Total

830

Land Acquisition

50

In relation to 2006, the position is that no programme has yet been agreed as a review of the format and level of detail to be submitted by Coillte is currently under way within my Department. On the question of the consultation process for the Bellanaboy gas terminal, I understand that there was no consultation with the local community by Coillte prior to the sale of this land. Such consultation is now part of Coillte procedures but was not in place at the time this particular sale was negotiated.

Grant Payments.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

298 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when a decision will be made on the transfer of entitlements and arrears of payment in respect of the EU single farm payment for a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [17043/06]

The first person named submitted two applications for the transfer of entitlements by way of inheritance under the Single Payment Scheme. Both applications have been processed and the remaining outstanding payment, following the processing of the second application, will issue to the applicant shortly.

Question No. 299 answered with QuestionNo. 287.

Tom Hayes

Question:

300 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when full payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary under the single payment scheme. [17206/06]

The person named submitted an application for the transfer of entitlements by way of the inheritance measure under the Single Payment Scheme. Her application was successful, and payment issued to her on 1 December 2005. The person named also submitted an application for the transfer out of entitlements by way of Private Contract Clause (Lease). This application has been successful and the entitlements were transferred to the lessee. The person named also submitted an application under the Mergers/ Partnership measure of the 2005 Scheme. A transfer of entitlements has now taken place in respect of this application. A supplementary payment to reflect the amended position, should issue shortly.

Tom Hayes

Question:

301 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary under the installation aid scheme. [17207/06]

The person concerned submitted an application for payment (IAS2) under the Installation Aid Scheme to my Department on 6 April 2006. Additional information in relation to that application has been requested from the person concerned. The application cannot be further progressed until the requested information is received.

Question No. 302 answered with QuestionNo. 287.

Michael Ring

Question:

303 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food when entitlements will be transferred to a person (details supplied) in County Mayo. [17253/06]

The first person named has not to date lodged an application for consideration in respect of the inheritance measure of the Single Payment Scheme. My Department issued an Inheritance application form to him on 5 May 2006. When the completed application form is received, it will be processed by my Department and the applicant will be informed of the outcome. If the application is successful, payment will be made as soon as is possible after completion of the processing.

Farm Retirement Scheme.

Marian Harkin

Question:

304 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if, in view of the report of the Joint Committee on Agriculture and Food on early retirement and the subsequent correspondence from the European Commission or the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament, she will confirm the recommendation in this report which she intends to act upon; and the timeframe for this action. [17254/06]

The issues covered in the Report of the Joint Committee on Agriculture and Food are generally the same as those raised with the Committee of Petitions of the European Parliament. I have provided a detailed response to the Joint Committee's Report. Regrettably, there are a number of recommendations that I have not been able to accept. They are precluded by elements of the EU Regulations under which the current Scheme and its predecessor are operated. As I pointed out in my detailed response to the Joint Committee, the European Commission had already concluded that my Department was operating the Scheme correctly under the relevant Regulations. However I am still considering certain aspects of the Joint Committee's report and I expect to be in a position to make announcements in due course.

Milk Quota.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

305 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will fight the case against the proposed milk quota restructuring scheme for 2007 to guarantee retention of the current 220 million litres in the western region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17335/06]

In March I announced my intention to move to a more open market system for transferring milk quotas, which will come into effect on 1st April 2007. I made this decision because the current restructuring model will not meet the future needs of the industry and a more effective response is required in order to meet future competitive pressures. In making my announcement I made it clear that the new system would continue to operate at Co-op level.

Michael Ring

Question:

306 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if a person (details supplied) in County Mayo who purchased quota in the reference years of 2001 and 2002 is entitled to get the full amount back from the national reserve by way of additional entitlements. [17336/06]

The person named submitted an application for an allocation of entitlements from the Single Payment Scheme National Reserve under Category B. Category B caters for farmers who, between 1 January 2000 and 19 October 2003, made an investment in production capacity in a farming sector for which a direct payment under Livestock Premia and/or Arable Aid schemes would have been payable during the reference period 2000-2002. Investments can include purchase or long-term lease of land, purchase of suckler and/or ewe quota or other investments. The person named has been deemed successful under Category B of the reserve based on 40 ewe premium quota rights purchased in 2002. My Department has issued a formal letter setting out the details of the allocation. Ewe Premium quota rights could be purchased for a little as €1.50 per unit in 2002 or, indeed, they could have been obtained free of charge from the National Reserve. For this reason an allocation from the National Reserve in respect of an investment in ewe premium quota rights is limited to 50% of the appropriate Ewe Premium rate. Since the person named purchased the ewe quota in 2002, one-third of the benefit, in terms of extra ewe premium for 2002, is already reflected in the single payment established for him. The allocation from the National Reserve therefore equates to two-thirds of the extra ewe premium at 50% of the rate. If the person named is dissatisfied with my Department's decision he now has the opportunity to appeal the decision to the Independent Appeals Committee. An appeals application is available from any of my Department's offices or on the Department website at www.agriculture.gov.ie.

EU Directives.

Willie Penrose

Question:

307 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will furnish the comprehensive report on the discussions which took place recently between officials of Teagasc and her Department, concerning the proposals to deal with the nitrates directive; if agreement has been reached which will facilitate the reasonable concerns of a large number of farmers, which has been expressed to her and her officials; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17487/06]

The implementation of the Nitrates Directive is a matter in the first instance for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The Minister made Regulations in December 2005 giving legal effect to Ireland's National Action Programme under the Nitrates Directive. The Regulations came into effect on 1 February, but the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government announced a brief de facto deferral of the implementation of Part 3 of the Regulations dealing with nutrient management. This was to allow time for Teagasc to submit revised scientific advice. This advice was received early in March, and shortly afterwards Teagasc representatives presented it to officials of the European Commission, whose approval would be required for any changes to the Regulation. The Commission made it clear that it would take no formal view on the Teagasc advice and that it was up to the Irish authorities to make proposals for changes to the Regulations. It also looked for some supporting documentation, which Teagasc subsequently provided. Officials of the two Departments have since met senior Teagasc personnel twice to explore both the main advice and the supplementary documentation in detail, with a view to drawing up a set of proposals that can be put to the Commission in the near future.

Citizenship Applications.

Jack Wall

Question:

308 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for a visa by a person (details supplied) in County Kildare. [16845/06]

Jack Wall

Question:

309 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding an application for naturalisation for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16858/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 308 and 309 together.

There is no record of an application for a visa in respect of the person in question. However, I have been informed by my officials that an application for a certificate of naturalisation from the person concerned was received in the Citizenship section of my Department on 1 November 2005.The average processing time for such applications is 24 months at the present time. It is likely, therefore, that the application of the person concerned will be finalised in or around November 2007. I will advise both the Deputy and the person concerned as soon as I have made a decision in the matter.

Visa Applications.

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

310 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons from abroad who are in receipt of a visa allowing them to undertake voluntary work for charities or other organisations here; the number of these who have been here for between one and five years or longer; his views on granting residency to persons who have been working in the voluntary sector here for a period of three years or more; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16862/06]

An Garda Síochána maintains a register of non-nationals who have been granted permission to be in the State, in accordance with the provisions of section 9 of the Immigration Act, 2004. The information which is recorded in respect of non-nationals is set out in the Second Schedule of the Act. Permission to remain is granted to non EEA nationals who are undertaking voluntary work on the basis that they or the organisation concerned have sufficient funds to maintain them in the State without recourse to State funds, services or benefits. As these conditions of permission to remain also apply to visitors it is not possible to extract the requested statistical information.

Garda Strength.

Finian McGrath

Question:

311 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if support will be given to the AGSI in its efforts in having more civilian staff for An Garda Síochána; and if he will further support this proposal as it will release up to 400 full-time, fully trained professional Gardaí. [16863/06]

Paudge Connolly

Question:

347 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on increasing Garda civilian support staff from its current level of 10 percent of Garda strength to upwards of 35 percent thereby releasing up to 400 full-time fully trained professional Gardaí for duty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17437/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 311 and 347 together.

The current agreement with the Garda Associations provides that posts can only be civilianised through natural wastage, as a result of which, the Civilianisation Report completed in 2001, has a 20 year implementation timetable, with a significant proportion of the posts identified to be civilianised in 2021. I am therefore pleased to note that in recent weeks the Garda Associations have changed their stance and are calling for an accelerated programme of civilianisation, and I look forward to discussing the matter with the Associations shortly. I would also refer the Deputies to my reply to Priority Question No. 4 on 27 April 2006, where I provided a comprehensive update on the significant progress being made in relation to civilianisation.

Criminal Prosecutions.

Joe Costello

Question:

312 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on a recent European Court of Justice ruling (details supplied) and the stance of the EU Commission on EU competence to introduce measures requiring the creation of criminal offences and the imposition of criminal penalties in the domestic laws of Member States; if the issue has been considered by the Government and a formal Government position adopted; if the issue will fall to be considered in the context of future EU treaty changes; if he will report on domestic implications for the State; if an informed public debate is proposed on the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16868/06]

The judgment of the European Court of Justice to which the Deputy refers annulled Framework Decision 2003/80/JHA on the Protection of the Environment. In that case, the Court said that the Community legislature can provide for the imposition of criminal sanctions where it is necessary to do so to protect against serious environmental offences. The European Commission is advocating an interpretation of the judgment to suggest broad Community competence in criminal matters. I do not share the Commission's view. I consider that the judgement is of limited application. The indications are that many other Member States also believe the judgement is of limited application.

Ultimately, however, it is only the Court itself which can give further guidance on this matter. It is expected that the Court will do so in the context of another case before it at present (C-440/05 — Commission's Application to annul the Framework Decision on Ship Source Pollution). In this respect, the Government has recently approved Ireland's intervention on behalf of the Council on the basis that Ireland should argue for a limited interpretation of the judgment provided by the Court in relation to environmental offences.

Residency Permits.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

313 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the residential status in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16876/06]

The person concerned made an application for permission to remain in Ireland on the basis of being the parent of an Irish born child, born before 1 January 2005, under the revised arrangements announced by me on 15 January 2005. This application was submitted in March 2005 and is currently being processed. The applicant will be notified of the outcome in due course.

Garda Strength.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

314 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the strength of An Garda Síochána on 31 March 2002 and 30 June 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16877/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána as at 31 March 2006 was 12,439. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June 1997 and represents an increase of 1,737 (or 16.2%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána as at 31 March, 2002 and 30 June, 2002 was as set out in the table hereunder:

Date

Strength

31 March, 2002

11,708

30 June, 2002

11,851

I should also say that the current recruitment drive to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the first group of newly attested Gardaí under the accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March and a further 275 newly attested Gardaí will come on stream every 90 days from here on in. The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources.

Sexual Offences.

Dan Neville

Question:

315 Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons on the sex offenders register. [16878/06]

The Sex Offenders Act, 2001 sets out notification requirements under Part 2 of the Act. An Garda Síochána has responsibility for enforcement of the Act. I am informed by the Garda authorities that as of 5 May, 2006 there are 907 persons subject to the requirements of Part 2 of the Sex Offenders Act, 2001.

Citizenship Applications.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

316 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a residency application made for a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will be assessed with regard to the criteria applied for persons under or over the age of 18 in view of the fact that the original application lodged on their behalf was prior to their turning 18 years old; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16880/06]

Applications for certificates of naturalisation on behalf of the person referred to and her two siblings, who were all minor children at the time, were received in the Citizenship Section of my Department on 11 June 2004. The applications were lodged by their father, a naturalised citizen. Section 16 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended provides that I can exercise my absolute discretion to waive some or all of the statutory requirements for naturalisation in certain circumstances. One of these circumstances is where the application is made by a naturalised Irish citizen acting on behalf of their minor child or minor children. I have adopted a general policy that I will normally waive 2 years of the statutory residency requirement in cases where it is appropriate to consider applications under the provisions of Section 16.

The three minor children arrived into the State on 15 August 2003 and were only in the State for 11 months at the time of the applications. I decided to refuse the applications since they had not been resident in the State for 3 years at the time their father lodged the applications. Two of the three children are now over 18 years of age and will have to apply of naturalisation in their own right. Any such applications will be assessed against the statutory conditions in place at the time they apply. It is open to the children's father to apply on behalf of the third child before the child's eighteenth birthday on 15 February 2007.

Garda Operations.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

317 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made in tackling gangland crime with operation Anvil; the funding allocated in 2006 for the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16895/06]

Operation Anvil commenced in the Dublin Metropolitan Region on 17 May, 2005. It is an intelligence-led policing initiative, the focus of which is the targeting of active criminals and their associates involved in serious crime by preventing and disrupting this criminal activity through extensive additional overt patrolling and static check points by uniform, mobile and foot patrols supported by armed plain clothes patrols. The operation remains in place and ongoing in the Dublin Metropolitan Region and has been extended nationwide in 2006.

Outside the Dublin Metropolitan Region a series of special operations, prepared by senior Garda managers and designed to focus on areas and incidents of high crime, have been authorised and have commenced in recent weeks. Operation Anvil has been proved to be very successful in disrupting the criminal activities of a number of key criminal gangs and families and has resulted in a number of high-profile arrests and the collating of intelligence on the movements of criminals being targeted under these short-term initiatives under Operation Anvil. In addition, the Commissioner in November 2005 augmented the Organised Crime Unit at the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation with an additional 55 Garda members to address the problem of criminal gang activity. Enforcement by the Unit has resulted in further firearms being seized and a number of persons arrested, thereby disrupting their criminal activities.

A budget of approximately €11 million has been allocated for Operation Anvil during 2006 and the Garda Commissioner has recently been advised that an additional €10 million has been made available for further operations to tackle gang related crime.

The table below which shows the statistics for Operation Anvil up to 23 April, 2006 indicate that the Operation has contributed to encouraging successes across a number of headings.

Operation Anvil. Week ending 23 April, 2006

Arrests

Murder

38

Serious Assaults

486

Robbery Offences

486

Burglary

1,018

Total Number of Arrests

2,028

Searches

Drugs

9,175

Thefts

1,005

Firearms Searches

837

Total Searches

11,017

Seizures

Firearms

505

Vehicle Seizures

4,410

Total Seizures

4,915

Number of Checkpoints Established

28,105

Value of Property Recovered

€7,380,821

In addition to the above the total number of arrests for the first two weeks of Operational Anvil is 286 and the total number of searches is 775. These figures cannot be broken down into the aforementioned categories.

Human Rights Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

318 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the EU proposal to establish a European Fundamental Rights Agency. [16926/06]

The idea of a Human Rights Agency is included in the Hague Programme; Strengthening Freedom, Security and Justice in the European Union which was adopted on 4-5 November, 2004. In December, 2004 the European Council called for further implementation of the agreement to establish an EU Human Rights Agency. On 30 June, 2005 the European Commission published its proposal for the establishment of a European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. Negotiations on the Commission's proposals commenced in July 2005 at Working Party level under the Chairmanship of the UK Presidency. These negotiations are ongoing under the Chairmanship of the Austrian Presidency.

Data Protection.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

319 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the public have protection against misuse or abuse of retained video records of persons who visit or work in public service buildings. [16942/06]

The general position is that images of individuals recorded on videotape fall within the definition of personal data for the purposes of the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003. These Acts set out the conditions under which such data may be processed, including requirements that personal data must be obtained and processed fairly and be kept only for one or more specified, explicit and lawful purposes. Moreover, such data may not be used in a manner which is incompatible with, or retained for longer than is necessary for, those purposes. Section 10 of the 1988 Act, as amended by the 2003 Act, provides that the Data Protection Commissioner may investigate, or cause to be investigated, whether any of the provisions of these Acts have been, are being or are likely to be contravened.

Deportation Orders.

Michael Lowry

Question:

320 Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of aged-out minors who are pending or likely to be deported within the next three months; if they will be treated as a special case within the asylum system in view of their vulnerable and unsure position; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17012/06]

All categories of persons in the asylum system, including so-called ‘aged-out minors', have their asylum applications or applications for permission to remain temporarily in the State dealt with in a fair, comprehensive and humane manner. All persons,who, having failed the asylum process and subsequently apply to remain temporarily in the State, are dealt with having regard to all of the factors contained in Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the prohibition of refoulement.

A total of 573 unaccompanied minors who have now reached the age of 18 years have been formally refused a declaration as a refugee. These persons received individual notifications under Section 3 (3) (a) of the Immigration Act 1999 (as amended) informing them of the decision to refuse them such a declaration and setting out the options available to them i.e. to return voluntarily to their country of origin, to consent to deportation or to submit, within 15 working days, written representations setting out the reasons why they should not be deported. Of the 573 cases in question, 124 have been issued with deportation orders, 100 of whom are currently classified as ‘evaders', 13 have been deported and the remaining 11 deportation orders have yet to be enforced. The enforcement of such orders is an operational matter for the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB).

All asylum claims and applications for temporary leave to remain in the State are considered on their individual merits and there is no ‘catch all' policy for dealing with such applications.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

321 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of crimes reported in County Kildare in each of the past two years; the number of prosecutions and convictions arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17033/06]

Details of the number of crimes recorded and detected in the Carlow/ Kildare Garda Division are available in the 2004 Garda Annual Report which is available in the Oireachtas Library. Figures for the number of crimes recorded and detected in the Division for 2005 will be available in the Garda Annual Report for 2005 which will be published shortly.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

322 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of offences committed by persons while on bail in each of the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17034/06]

Details for the number of offences committed by persons while on bail are available in the 2004 Garda Annual Report which is available in the Oireachtas Library. Figures for offences committed by persons while on bail for 2005 will be available in the Garda Annual Report for 2005 which will be published shortly.

Citizenship Applications.

John Cregan

Question:

323 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for naturalisation will be processed for a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; the number of applicants who might travel to Britain and Europe with their spouses on holiday or to visit relatives, while this application is being processed by his Department, in view of the timeframe involved. [17035/06]

Michael Noonan

Question:

327 Mr. Noonan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when an application for Irish citizenship by a person (details supplied) will be granted; the reason such long delays are now the norm in applications such as this; if, pending the grant of citizenship a document may be provided to the person in question to enable them to travel with their spouse to EU countries for holiday purposes and to visit relatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17064/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 323 and 327 together.

An application for a certificate of naturalisation was received in the Citizenship section of my Department from the person referred to by the Deputies on 21 February 2006. The average processing time for such applications is 24 months at the present time. It is likely, therefore, that the application of the person referred to will be finalised in or around February 2008. I will advise the Deputies and the applicant when I have made a decision in the matter.

If the person concerned wishes to travel outside of the State prior to her application for naturalisation being finalised, she can travel on her current passport and apply, in advance of her departure from the State, for a re-entry visa to the Visa Office at 13/14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2. With regard to the processing time for applications for naturalisation, I set out the current position in my response to Parliamentary Question No. 17 on 27 April 2006.

Residency Permits.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

324 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when a decision will be made regarding persons (details supplied) in County Kilkenny who have applied to remain here. [17044/06]

Renewal of temporary leave to remain in the State for this family is currently receiving consideration and I expect a decision to issue to the persons concerned shortly.

Asylum Applications.

Finian McGrath

Question:

325 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the maximum support and assistance will be given to persons (details supplied) to live here and if they will be deported at the end of June 2006. [17045/06]

On 28 February, 2006, the person in question consented in writing to the making of a deportation order in respect of her and her children. I expect the file to be passed to me in due course.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

326 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the assistance which will be given to persons (details supplied) in County Waterford in relation to applying for asylum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17058/06]

The persons concerned arrived in the State on 3 September, 2004 and applied for asylum. Their application was refused following consideration of their case by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner.

Subsequently, in accordance with Section 3 of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, they were informed by letter dated 6 December, 2005, that the Minister proposed to make deportation orders in respect of them. They were given the options, to be exercised within 15 working days, of making representations to the Minister setting out the reasons why they should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State; leaving the State before orders are made or consenting to the making of deportation orders. Representations have been received on behalf of the persons concerned.

The persons' case file, including all representations submitted, will be considered under Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999, as amended, and Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (Prohibition of Refoulement). I expect the file to be passed to me for decision in due course.

Question No. 327 answered with QuestionNo. 323.

Garda Deployment.

Richard Bruton

Question:

328 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason his Department has blocked the appointment of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3 to the historical inquiries unit being established by the PSNI which was advertised in the professional journals of the Garda Force. [17073/06]

The Deputy is incorrect in stating that my Department "blocked" the appointment to which he refers. I am informed that the individual referred to, who is a Detective Garda, sought a secondment to the PSNI's Historical Inquiries Unit. However, current arrangements for the appointment by the PSNI of members of the Garda Síochána on secondment do not provide for the secondment of members at Garda rank.

Asylum Applications.

John Gormley

Question:

329 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of asylum seekers and refugees who have been here for a number of years without having their status clarified; the steps he intends to take to remedy this situation, such as the granting of an amnesty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17077/06]

A distinction firstly needs to drawn between a ‘refugee' and an ‘asylum seeker'. A refugee in this State is a person whose asylum claim has been investigated and is found to meet the definition of ‘refugee' as set out in Section 2 of the Refugee Act, 1996, as amended. By contrast, an ‘asylum-seeker' is a person who has lodged an asylum claim but whose claim for refugee status has not been finally determined.

Over recent years because of a significant level of investment in the area of asylum determination by the Government, very considerable work has been undertaken by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT) as well as within the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) generally to deal with applications for asylum on hands and speed up processing times. The work involved has resulted in a situation where processing has continued to move strongly in both ORAC and RAT. At the end of March 2006 there were 2,609 cases on hands in both agencies compared to some 7,000 cases on hands at the end of January 2004. With specific reference to the Deputy's question, it should be noted that the number of applications over six months in the ORAC and the RAT at the end of March 2006 stood at 484 as compared to some 6,500 at the end of September 2001. The backlog of applications has been eliminated in ORAC with only 63 cases on hands over six months at the end of March 2006 and some 421 in RAT a significant number of which are at an advanced stage of processing. There is continued momentum in processing timescales for asylum applications with new arrangements for speedier processing of prioritised asylum applications (from nationals of Nigeria, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and South Africa) introduced from January 2005 with a 17 working day processing time at first instance in ORAC and 15 working days at appeals stage in RAT. Currently, almost 40% of total applications fall into the prioritised category. With effect from 1 November 2005, all applicants for asylum are notified of their interview date by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner at the time they make their applications. The interview appointment is normally within 20 working days of application. However, for those applicants within the prioritised category, interviews in ORAC are held, more speedily, within 9 to 12 days. The typical processing time in the ORAC for non-prioritised cases is in the region of 8-9 weeks. The average length of time taken to process and complete substantive appeals in the RAT is approximately 14 weeks.

This significant investment of resources by the Government into the asylum determination process in recent years to meet our obligations under the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees, has had a very significant impact in terms of processing times and the elimination of backlogs of claims outstanding.

I have no intention to grant any amnesty to asylum seekers currently in the asylum determination process. Such a move would impact negatively on the very considerable progress made in terms of the reduction in asylum applications on hands and in processing timescales as well as on the State's ability to accommodate the individuals concerned. Moreover, it would also act as a ‘pull factor' by increasing applications being made in the State. The Deputy will be aware that the present trend in applications for asylum is substantially downwards from a high of nearly 12,000 in 2002 to some 4,300 in 2005, a fall of almost 64%.

By way of illustration in relation to pull factors, I would refer the Deputy to the fact that a considerable increase in asylum numbers was experienced in the aftermath of the July 1999 decision to allow asylum seekers access to the labour market. This led to a three-fold increase in the average number of applications per month, rising to 1,217 applications in December 1999 as compared to an average of 364 per month for the period January to July 1999.

In relation to what follows the asylum determination process, the Deputy will be aware that following the making of a negative recommendation to the Minister by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (or by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal if an appeal was unsuccessfully made), the person concerned is informed in writing that it is proposed to make a deportation order in respect of him/her. The person concerned is then afforded three options vis a vis their position in the State, in accordance with Section 3(3)(b)(ii) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), namely to leave the State voluntarily, to consent to the making of a deportation order or to submit, within 15 working days, written representations setting out the reasons why he/she should not be deported i.e. why he/she should be allowed to remain temporarily in the State.

Furthermore, in determining whether to make a deportation order or to grant temporary leave to remain in the State to a failed asylum applicant, I must have regard for the eleven factors set out in Section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended), including consideration of any representations submitted by or on behalf of the person concerned in support of their application to be granted temporary leave to remain in the State. I must also have regard for the provisions of Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the Prohibition of Refoulement before signing a deportation order. This means in essence that the safety of returning a person to their country of origin, or refoulement as it is commonly referred to, is fully considered in every case when deciding whether or not to make a deportation order. Refoulement means that a person shall not be expelled from the State or returned in any manner whatsoever to a State where, in my opinion, the life or freedom of that person would be threatened on account of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. My Department uses extensive country of origin information drawn from different independent sources, including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, in evaluating, in each individual case, the safety of making returns to third countries.

It does not follow that a failed asylum seeker is automatically either issued with a deportation order or is granted leave to remain and the terms of the Deputy's question need to examined in that context. Temporary leave is considered regardless of whether representations have been made by, or on behalf of, the person concerned. Consequently, records are not maintained which would distinguish the number of cases where representations have been received from those where no representations have been made. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that many of those who failed the asylum process, and who did not opt to return voluntarily on notification to the Department or consent to deportation, nonetheless left the State of their own volition before a decision to deport or grant leave to remain was made.

Further, many persons who applied for asylum in the period concerned have since received alternate forms of leave to remain outside the process in the Immigration Act, 1999 described above. For example, some may have married Irish or EU nationals and many would have been granted leave to remain based on their parentage of an Irish Born Child. In this latter respect, 10,584 persons were granted leave to remain based on their parentage of an Irish Born Child under the procedure which operated prior to the Supreme Court Judgment in the L&O case in January, 2003 and a further 16,693 were granted under the subsequent IBC(2005) Scheme.

Following the conclusion of the IBC/05 Scheme, it is my intention to undertake an analysis so as to determine the number and nature of the remaining cases on hands of persons who have not yet had a final decision on their applications to remain temporarily in the State, particularly where such cases have been on hands for some time. Indeed it is likely that many such persons are no longer in the State. The Deputy will appreciate that such reviews are part and parcel of any processing area which are resource intensive and, as such, priority attention has to be given to particular caseloads, as evolving circumstances dictate.

Overall, I am satisfied that the means by which asylum applications and applications made by rejected asylum applicants for temporary leave to remain in the State are processed are case specific and comprehensive and I see no justification for the granting of any amnesty in this area.

Garda Investigations.

Olivia Mitchell

Question:

330 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the details of the death of a person (details supplied); if his attention has further been drawn to the serious concerns of the person's family have regarding the Garda investigation and the Director of Public Prosecution’s consideration of the case; if, in view of the fact that a conviction of second degree assault resulting in a €250 fine was the only conviction arising from the incident he has satisfied himself that the incident was properly investigated and prosecuted. [17086/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the death of the person referred to was fully investigated. The investigation file was submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions who directed that a person be charged with an offence contrary to section 3 of the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act, 1997.

In December, 2003 the person charged pleaded guilty to an offence contrary to section 2 of the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act, 1997 and was fined €250.

In March, 2004, as a result of the evidence of the State Pathologist, the Dublin City Coroner re-submitted the investigation file to the Law Officers and the Director of Public Prosecutions stood by the original decision in the case.

I am informed that local Garda management and the investigating officers have met the family of the deceased person and discussed these matters with them.

Garda Recruitment.

James Breen

Question:

331 Mr. J. Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the criteria which will be used to measure the physical, mental and psychological suitability of candidates who apply to join the proposed Garda Reserve Force; if they will be required to undergo medical examinations and an aptitude test similar to full members of An Garda Síochána; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17165/06]

Jack Wall

Question:

368 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on correspondence (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17468/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 331 and 368 together.

I wish to refer the Deputies to my replies to the recent Parliamentary Questions No. 3 and No. 5 of 27 April, 2006 and also to my Press Release of 20 February, 2006 which comprehensively addresses the issues referred to by the Deputies concerning the Garda Commissioner's proposals for the Garda Reserve. The Deputies will recall that I included this Press Release with a letter that I issued to all Deputies in February, 2006.

In relation to the claims regarding the Special Constabulary in the UK which are made in the correspondence referred to in Deputy Wall's question, the Deputy will be aware that I attended the National Conference of the Special Constabulary of England and Wales which was held on the weekend 31 March to 2 April. I was invited to attend the Conference by Mr. Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of the Cheshire Constabulary, who also holds national responsibility for the promotion and development of the Special Constabulary in England and Wales.

I was very glad to have the opportunity to hear at first hand the many ongoing successes and positive experiences of special constabularies in England and Wales and to learn of their excellent relationships with the regular police forces and communities there, and I have been very open in explaining what I observed.

Prior to my visit to Chester, officials of my Department and senior members of Garda management had visited the Home Office, the London Metropolitan Police and the Greater Manchester Police to research how the special constabulary operates in England and Wales, as part of the preparatory work for the formulation of proposals for the establishment of a Garda Reserve.

These visits greatly illustrated the importance and value placed in the Special Constabulary by the British Government, police forces and the general public alike.

Registration of Title.

Michael Ring

Question:

332 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will instruct the Land Registry Office to expedite a schedule on a folio (details supplied) in County Mayo as this matter is causing undue hardship. [17247/06]

I wish to inform the Deputy that I have requested the Land Registry to contact him directly concerning the current position of the application in question.

Visa Applications.

John Perry

Question:

333 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he will take on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Sligo in order to have their application for business permission processed as soon as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17248/06]

The person in question made an application to engage in business in the State in August 2005. Applications of this nature are dealt with chronological order, in fairness to all such applicants, and currently take approximately nine months to process. The application of the person concerned is currently being processed and it is expected that a decision will issue shortly.

International Agreements.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

334 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the Government has failed thus far to even consider ratifying Protocol 12 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which it signed up to more than five years ago and which would potentially be of great benefit to a range of groups suffering discrimination here; if and when the Government intend to ratify the protocol; and if not, the reason for same. [17249/06]

My Department is considering, in consultation with other Departments, the legal and policy implications of ratification. The Government will consider whether or not to ratify based on a thorough review of the implications.

Crime Levels.

Billy Kelleher

Question:

335 Mr. Kelleher asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people convicted and arrested for committing a crime while out on bail in Cork City and County; and the breakdown of the types of crime. [17266/06]

Figures for the number of people who were recorded as being on bail at the time an offence was committed are not readily available at a Garda Divisional level.

I will be in further contact with the Deputy when the information is to hand.

Garda Investigations.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

336 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, as per his letter of 30 January 2006 to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 6 he has received the requested Garda report; the assistance which will be given to this family; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17295/06]

I wish to refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 463 of 3 May, 2006.

Garda Equipment.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

337 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the view of Gardaí investigating road accidents of the importance of photographic evidence in determining the causes of such accidents; and if he will ensure that each Garda squad car is equipped with a functioning camera and that adequate training is provided on it’s use vis-a-vis road traffic collisions . [17322/06]

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities on the matters raised by the Deputy. I will revert to the Deputy when this information is to hand.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

338 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extent of software available to Gardaí to simulate as accurately as possible a road traffic collision; and his plans to upgrade such equipment for use in investigations. [17323/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána is currently in the process of purchasing a hardware and software package which will be available to assist Gardaí in the investigation of fatal and serious injury collisions.

A request for tender document for this equipment is at an advanced stage. It will be forwarded by the Garda authorities to my Department for publication in the EU Journal and on the Government tendering website etenders.gov.ie in the coming weeks.

Garda Deployment.

Richard Bruton

Question:

339 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of probationer Gardaí who were allocated from the Garda college to each Garda station in Dublin City and County during 2005. [17324/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána as at 31 March 2006 was 12,439. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June 1997 and represents an increase of 1,737 (or 16.2%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the number of Probationer Gardaí allocated to each Garda Station in the Dublin Metropolitan Region in 2005 was as set out in the following tables.

Station

Allocation

Ballyfermot

11

Ballymun

1

Blackrock

9

Blanchardstown

12

Bray

15

Bridewell

10

Cabinteely

2

Clondalkin

6

Clontarf

7

Coolock

13

Crumlin

7

Donnybrook

12

Dún Laoghaire

6

Dundrum

14

Finglas

3

Fitzgibbon St

15

Harcourt Tce

4

Howth

2

Irishtown

2

Kevin St

11

Kill-O-Grange

2

Kilmainham

5

Leixlip

1

Lucan

2

Malahide

1

Mountjoy

7

Pearse St

24

Raheny

2

Rathfarnham

7

Rathmines

4

Ronanstown

12

Santry

21

Shankill

7

Store Street

23

Sundrive Road

4

Swords

4

Tallaght

19

Terenure

12

Whitehall

2

The Dublin Metropolitan Region extends into parts of Counties Wicklow and Kildare. In this regard the Garda stations at Bray, Greystones and Enniskerry, while within the Wicklow County boundary, form part of the Dublin Metropolitan Region East Division. Leixlip Garda Station, which lies within the Kildare County boundary, forms part of the Dublin Metropolitan Region West Division.

It is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Divisions on a priority basis in accordance with the requirements of different areas. The allocation of such resources is determined by a number of factors including demographics, administrative functions, crime trends and other operational policing needs.

I should also say that the current recruitment drive to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the first group of newly attested Gardaí under the accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March and a further 275 newly attested Gardaí will come on stream every 90 days from here on in.

The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources.

Richard Bruton

Question:

340 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of the 21 Gardaí at all ranks, who were transferred out of a station (details supplied) in Dublin 24 in 2005, who were appointed to a national unit; the number who were transferred to another Garda station following a request from the officer concerned; if he will confirm, that the 21 Gardaí transferred during 2005 had their places within the station filled by probationer Gardaí, allocated directly from the Garda college; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17325/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána as at 31 March 2006 was 12,439. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June 1997 and represents an increase of 1,737 (or 16.2%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. I am further advised that the personnel strength (all ranks) of Tallaght Garda Station as at 31 March 2006 was 170. This compares with an equivalent figure of 133 as at 31 December 1997, and represents an increase of 37 (or 27.8%) in that period.

I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that of the 21 Gardaí transferred from Tallaght Garda Station in 2005, a total of eight Gardaí had been successful in competitions to join national units. Accordingly, eight Gardaí from Tallaght Garda Station were allocated to national units in November, 2005. I have also been informed by the Garda authorities that one Garda was transferred to the Garda College and the remaining twelve Gardaí were transferred following requests from the individuals concerned.

Garda Management state that 19 Probationer Gardaí were allocated directly from the college to Tallaght Garda Station on the first allocation. One Garda transferred into Tallaght Garda Station in 2005. It is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Divisions on a priority basis in accordance with the requirements of different areas. The allocation of such resources is determined by a number of factors including demographics, administrative functions, crime trends and other operational policing needs.

I should also say that the current recruitment drive to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the first group of newly attested Gardaí under the accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March and a further 275 newly attested Gardaí will come on stream every 90 days from here on in. The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources, and in this context the needs of Tallaght Garda Station will be given the fullest consideration.

Richard Bruton

Question:

341 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí at all ranks in each station during 2005, in relation to all Garda stations in Dublin City and County, who requested a transfer out of that station, for the purposes of facilitating a transfer to another Garda station during the year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17326/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána as at 31 March 2006 was 12,439. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June 1997 and represents an increase of 1,737 (or 16.2%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. I have been further informed by the Garda authorities that the number of members of An Garda Síochána who sought transfers during 2005 in each Garda Station in the Dublin Metropolitan Region which have yet to be acceded to are as set out in the table hereunder:

Station

Members requesting a transfer

Pearse St

10

Harcourt Tce

1

Kevin St

3

Kilmainham

0

Donnybrook

0

Irishtown

1

Crumlin

0

Sundrive Rd

3

Rathfarnham

3

Tallaght

6

Rathmines

3

Terenure

3

Santry

3

Whitehall

0

Ballymun

2

Dublin Airport

0

Coolock

1

Malahide

0

Swords

0

Raheny

0

Clontarf

1

Howth

2

Blanchardstown

6

Cabra

5

Finglas

1

Lucan

0

Leixlip

1

Ballyfermot

2

Clondalkin

2

Ronanstown

2

Rathcoole

2

Store St

14

Fines Office

0

Fitzgibbon St

7

Mountjoy

1

Bridewell

2

Dún Laoghaire

2

Dalkey

1

Kill-O-Grange

2

Cabinteely

0

Bray

1

Enniskerry

0

Shankill

2

Greystones

4

Blackrock

2

Dundrum

2

Stepaside

0

Members who applied for a transfer in 2005 and have since been transferred are not included in these figures. Garda management advise that this information is not readily available and can only be obtained by the disproportionate expenditure of Garda time and resources relative to the information sought.

I should also say that the current recruitment drive to increase the strength of the Garda Síochána to 14,000 members in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government is fully on target. This will lead to a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the first group of newly attested Gardaí under the accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March and a further 275 newly attested Gardaí will come on stream every 90 days from here on in. The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these additional resources, and in this context the needs of the stations referred to by the Deputy will be given the fullest consideration.

Youth Projects.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

342 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will publish the independent evaluation report on a project (details supplied) which was part of the Youth Diversion Programme and which was closed in May 2005; the action he proposes to take on foot of the report; the results of the evaluation for an alternative programme; and the commencement date of such a programme. [17354/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 385 of 28 March, 2006. The evaluation referred to by the Deputy is complete and the report is awaited. On receipt of the report, a decision will be made soon after on action to be taken.

Anti-Racism Measures.

Joe Costello

Question:

343 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position the Irish delegation in the council has taken on the proposal for a council framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia, specifically in the Working Part on Substantive Criminal Law. [17398/06]

The proposal for a Council Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia was presented by the Commission in November 2001. From the outset, Ireland took a positive approach to the negotiations on the proposal. The primary Irish objective in the negotiations was to ensure that our constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression was not compromised. Following extensive discussions, in April 2003 the then Presidency conceded that it was unable to obtain final agreement on the proposal. In preparation for the Irish Presidency in 2004, I visited the Capitals of Member States for an exchange of views with Justice and Interior Ministers on many issues relevant to our Presidency, including whether there was any realistic chance that agreement could be reached on this Framework Decision. As it was clear to me that positions had not changed, and it was unlikely that they would change in the timeframe of the Irish Presidency, I reluctantly concluded that attempting to initiate further discussions at that stage would divert resources which would be better concentrated on issues where there was a possibility of agreement. A subsequent attempt to obtain agreement on the proposal failed. I hope it will not be too long before all Member States are in a position to agree a final text. At that time I will seek the approval of the Government and the Houses of the Oireachtas to it.

Garda Investigations.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

344 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the resources which have been made available to An Garda Síochána for the investigation and pursuit of those responsible for violations of the Geneva Conventions Act 1967 or the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention on Torture) Act 2000; if there are plans to establish a dedicated unit within An Garda Síochána to police such matters, in particular after the International Criminal Court Bill 2003 passes into law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17401/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that they are satisfied that adequate resources and strategies are available to investigate complaints made under the Geneva Conventions Act 1962 and the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention against Torture) Act 2000. Where necessary the services of the national units, under Assistant Commissioner, National Support Services are available to assist members with such investigations. The establishment of a dedicated unit is not considered warranted.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

345 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if An Garda Síochána has carried out investigations under the Geneva Conventions Act 1967, the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention on Torture) Act 2000 or similar statute; the details of such investigations; if the failure to investigate such matters was the result of resources or expertise issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17402/06]

I have requested a report from the Garda authorities in relation to the matters raised by the Deputy. I will contact the Deputy directly when the information is to hand.

Liquor Licensing Laws.

Mary Upton

Question:

346 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the fact that off-licences are offering a take-away service for alcohol, to be paid for on delivery; the controls which apply to this activity; his plans to prevent this service; his views on the fact that underage drinkers may order alcohol through this service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17403/06]

The position is that section 31 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988, as amended by the Intoxicating Liquor Acts of 2000 and 2003, provides for offences relating to the sale and delivery of intoxicating liquor to persons under the age of 18 years. Under section 31(2) of the 1988 Act, it is an offence for a licensee to sell or deliver, or permit any other person to sell or deliver, intoxicating liquor to any person for consumption off his or her licensed premises by a person under the age of 18 years in any place except with the explicit consent of the person's parent or guardian in a private residence in which he or she is present either as of right or with permission.

The penalty for this offence is a fine of up to €1,270 for a first offence and up to €1,904 for a second or subsequent offence. Moreover, the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2000 provides for the mandatory temporary closure of licensed premises where a licensee is convicted of an offence under section 31 of the 1988 Act (up to 7 days for a first offence, or at least 7 and not more than 30 days for a second or subsequent offence).

Under section 17(3) of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003, it is an offence for a licensee, with intent to evade the conditions of the licence, to take intoxicating liquor from the licensed premises for the purpose of its being sold on the account, or for the benefit or profit, of the licensee, or to permit any other person to do so. The penalty in this case is a fine of up to €1,500 for a first offence and up to €2,000 for a second or subsequent offence. Concerns in relation to specific premises should be brought to the attention of the Gardaí.

Question No. 347 answered with QuestionNo. 311.

Registration of Title.

Willie Penrose

Question:

348 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to an application for registration in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Longford; if same will be expedited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17438/06]

I wish to inform the Deputy that I have requested the Land Registry to contact him directly concerning the current position of the application in question. I understand that, in circumstances where the completion of an application in a particular case is urgent, the Land Registry will make every reasonable effort to facilitate such requests on receipt of a written explanation as to the reason underlying the urgency.

Prison Medical Service.

Paudge Connolly

Question:

349 Mr. Connolly asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of both counselling and clinical psychologists employed in the Irish Prison Service; if this level is deemed to be adequate; his plans to increase the levels of psychological services available in the prison service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17439/06]

The Prison Psychology Service now comprises eight Clinical Psychologists, five Counselling Psychologists and one Forensic Psychologist. The recruitment of six new psychologists in 2005 brought the total number of psychologists to fourteen — the largest number since the Psychology Service was established in 1981. A further recruitment competition is under way at present with a view to appointing another four psychologists.

Garda Recruitment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

350 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of non-Irish nationals and the number of Irish nationals from outside the jurisdiction who applied for entry into An Garda Síochána in each of 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 and 2000; the proportion of applicants in each of the above categories who were successful in their applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17444/06]

I am advised by the Public Appointments Service (PAS), which is responsible for Stages One (aptitude tests) and Two (interviews) of the Garda recruitment competitions, that the information sought by the Deputy is not available and that to attempt to retrieve said information would necessitate the expenditure of a disproportionate amount of time and resources. While the vast majority of applicants provided addresses in Ireland, this does not determine whether they are Irish are non-Irish; this is equally the case with regard to applications made from outside Ireland. The PAS has, however, been able to supply information as to the ethnicity of applicants for Garda recruitment competitions by way of data gathered from Equality Monitoring Surveys. I have previously provided a detailed ethnic breakdown of the applicants under the 2005 competition to Deputy Michael D. Higgins in reply to Question No. 72 of 2 February, 2006. I would refer the Deputy to this reply.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

351 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the efforts which are being made to encourage non-Irish nationals to join An Garda Síochána; his plans to encourage such persons in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17445/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

352 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the efforts which are being made to encourage non-Irish nationals from outside the jurisdiction to join An Garda Síochána; his plans to encourage such persons in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17446/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

353 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the efforts which are being made to encourage Irish nationals from outside the jurisdiction to join An Garda Síochána; his plans to encourage such persons in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17447/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

354 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the requirements regarding the Irish language which are in place for applicants to An Garda Síochána; if the requirements are varied or adapted for applicants from other jurisdictions; his plans to change such requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17448/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 351 to 354, inclusive, together.

Following the Government decision in October 2004 to approve my proposal to increase the strength of An Garda Síochána to 14,000, I asked the Garda Commissioner to review the eligibility criteria for entry to the Garda Síochána. I am of the belief that future intakes of recruits to the Garda Síochána should as far as possible reflect the composition of Irish society, and my view was that this was an opportune time to ensure that the criteria for entry would better meet the evolving needs of An Garda Síochána and the society they serve.

I initially increased the maximum age of applicants from 26 to 35 in time for the recruitment competition in November 2004. That change has had a significant effect, with a significant percentage of recent recruits coming within the extended age range. In particular, it enables applications from a greater proportion of those members of the immigrant community who may have had years of relevant experience in their countries of origin before coming to Ireland. Equally, it presents a new career option to Irish nationals within this age bracket who may have lived abroad for some time and now wish to return.

In advance of advertising the most recent Garda recruitment competition, which was launched in September 2005, following a period of thorough consultation with the Commissioner and other stakeholders, I secured Government approval for a number of important changes aimed at facilitating recruitment from different ethnic backgrounds in our society.

Key among these was that the requirement to hold a qualification in both Irish and English in the Leaving Certificate or equivalent was replaced with a requirement to hold such a qualification in two languages, at least one of which must be Irish or English. A new nationality or residency requirement was also introduced. While there was previously no such explicit requirement, the need to have a qualification in Irish had effectively limited entry to An Garda Síochána to Irish citizens. Admission as a trainee is now open to nationals of an EU Member State, an EEA State or the Swiss Confederation, and nationals of any other state who are lawfully present in Ireland and have five years' lawful residence here.

These changes have opened up entry to An Garda Síochána to persons from all parts of the community and from all ethnic backgrounds. This is a hugely significant step which will help ensure that future intakes of recruits to An Garda Síochána reflect the composition of Irish society, to the benefit of the Force and the people it serves. A special working group comprising representatives of my Department, An Garda Síochána, the Public Appointments Service and the National Committee for Racism and Interculturalism, was established in order to devise an awareness campaign in conjunction with the 2005 competition, involving targeted media publicity and further consultations with representatives of the ethnic minority communities. This working group is now holding further meetings to review the outcome of the 2005 competition and to consider further initiatives to promote and publicise the next recruitment competition among these communities.

I believe that the participation from ethnic minorities in our police force will make a positive and lasting contribution to the ongoing change and modernisation in An Garda Síochána. Planning for the policing service we want to have for this country in 20 years time should begin now. We must be pro-active, progressive and build a vision as to how An Garda Síochána can provide an effective policing service in a more diverse Ireland.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

355 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applicants who, having passed the psychometric testing phase of the entrance criteria, were refused entry to An Garda Síochána on one or more of physical fitness, physical disability, ability in the Irish language, ability in the English language, visual impairment, hearing impairment or other stated basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17449/06]

Assessments of eligibility as regards the educational criteria for admission as a Garda Síochána trainee are carried out by the Public Appointments Service on the applications of those who have been successful at Stage 1 of the recruitment process (aptitude tests). I am advised by the Public Appointments Service that in 2004 a total of 52 such applicants were deemed ineligible purely on the basis of not having the required qualification in either English or Irish.

As the Deputy will be aware, in advance of the 2005 recruitment competition I replaced the requirement to hold particular qualifications in English and Irish with a new requirement to hold particular qualifications in two languages, at least one of which must be English or Irish. As such, neither language represents a stand-alone criterion on which a candidate can be found ineligible. In any event, the assessment process under the 2005 competition is not yet complete and thus details are not yet available as to numbers of applicants deemed ineligible on the basis of the educational criteria.

The extent to which applicants meet the other criteria referred to by the Deputy is assessed by the Garda authorities with respect to applicants who have been successful at Stage 2 (the interview stage) of the recruitment process. In this regard I am advised by the Garda authorities that the information requested by the Deputy in respect of the 2004 competition is not readily available and can only be obtained by the disproportionate expenditure of Garda time and resources relative to the information sought. As mentioned, the assessment process is not yet complete in respect of the 2005 competition.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

356 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to implement the recommendations of the final report of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights on the report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Murder of Mr. Séamus Ludlow; what those plans are; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17450/06]

I understand that the primary recommendation of the Final Report that a Commission of Investigation be established to investigate aspects of the State's handling of the murder of Mr Seamus Ludlow are under consideration by the Department of the Taoiseach.

In accordance with several of the other recommendations, the Garda Commissioner has established a review of the murder investigation under a Garda Superintendent, with appropriate staff, who reports to the Assistant Commissioner, National Support Services. I am informed that this review, which has regard to the relevant Northern Ireland authorities, is ongoing.

The proposed Coroners Bill is currently being drafted and is expected to be published later this year. As recommended in the Final Report, the proposed Bill will make provision, for the first time, for a formal notice period of a coroner's inquest to next of kin.

Finally, in respect of the remaining recommendations of the Final Report, these are under consideration, in consultation with the Garda authorities.

Prison Committals.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

357 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons currently in prison for non-payment of fines; and the number of such persons in prison on 31 December and 30 June for each of 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 and 2000. [17451/06]

There are 323 persons currently in prison for non-payment of a fine. This includes 53 persons in respect of whom the non-payment of the fine is the principal basis for their imprisonment.

Records are not maintained in such a way as to provide this information in respect of the earlier dates referred to in the Question. Compilation of that information would require expenditure of an inordinate amount of time and cost.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

358 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons currently imprisoned for debt-related offences; and the number of persons in prison for such offences on 31 December and 30 June for each of 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 and 2000. [17452/06]

There are 13 persons currently in prison for debt-related offences. This includes 6 persons in respect of whom the debt-related offence is the principal basis for their imprisonment.

Records are not maintained in such a way as to provide this information in respect of the earlier dates referred to in the Question. Compilation of that information would require expenditure of an inordinate amount of time and cost.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

359 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons currently in prison for sentences of less than three months duration; and the number of such persons in prison on 31 December and 30 June for each of 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 and 2000. [17453/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

360 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons currently in prison for sentences of less than one months duration; and the number of such persons in prison on 31 December and 30 June for each of 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 and 2000. [17454/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 359 and 360, inclusive, together.

There are 131 persons currently serving prison sentences of less than three months duration, of whom 39 are serving sentences of less than one month. The corresponding statistics in respect of the earlier dates referred to in the Questions are not readily available. I would, however, refer the Deputy to the annual reports of the Irish Prison Service in the Oireachtas Library which contain statistics of prisoner committals categorised by sentence length, in respect of certain dates in the years in question as well as the total number of committals for less than three months in each year since 2001, inclusive.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

361 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons currently in prison for speeding offences; and the number of such persons in prison on 31 December and the 30 June for each of 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 and 2000. [17455/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

362 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons currently in prison for drink driving offences; and the number of such persons in prison on 31 December and 30 June for each of 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 and 2000. [17456/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

363 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons currently in prison for road traffic offences other than speeding or drink driving offences; the nature of those offences; the number of persons in prison in respect of each; and the number of such persons in prison on 31 December and 30 June for each of 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 and 2000. [17457/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 361 to 363, inclusive, together.

The number of persons currently in prison for speeding offences, drink driving offences and other road traffic offences are 8, 69 and 994 respectively. 756 of these 1,071 persons were also committed to prison on conviction on foot of other offences.

The corresponding statistics in respect of the earlier dates referred to in the Questions are not readily available. I would, however, refer the Deputy to the annual reports of the Irish Prison Service in the Oireachtas Library which contain statistics of committals to prison on foot of conviction on road traffic offences.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

364 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons currently in prison for offences under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997; the nature of those offences; the number of persons in prison in respect of each; and the number of such persons in prison on 31 December and 30 June for each of 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 and 2000. [17458/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

365 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons currently in prison for offences under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Acts 1994 and 2003; the nature of those offences; the number of persons in prison in respect of each; and the number of such persons in prison on 31 December and 30 June for each of 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 and 2000. [17459/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

366 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons currently in prison for offences under the Criminal Law (Rape) Acts, 1981 and 1990; and the number of such persons in prison on 31 December and 30 June for each of 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 and 2000. [17460/06]

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

367 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons currently in prison for offences under the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001; the nature of those offences; the number of persons in prison in respect of each; and the number of such persons in prison on 31 December and 30 June for each of 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 and 2000. [17461/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 364 to 367, inclusive, together.

Prison committal records are not maintained in such a way as to provide offence-related information categorised by individual statutes. However, I can inform the Deputy that the numbers of persons currently in prison following conviction on sexual offences and public order-type offences are 270 and 166 respectively. The number of persons currently serving a sentence in respect of a non-fatal offence against the person is 1,140. It is not possible to readily identify the total number of committals to prison in respect of fraud and theft offences.

Corresponding statistics, insofar as they are available, in respect of certain dates in the earlier years referred to in the Questions are contained in annual reports of the Irish Prison Service for those years, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas library.

Question No. 368 answered with QuestionNo. 331.

Prison Statistics.

Billy Timmins

Question:

369 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number and location of prisons here; the number of prison spaces in each of these as of 4 May 2006; the number of prisoners in each of these by prison as of 4 May 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17469/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table and refers to numbers at unlock on the morning of 4 May, 2006.

Institution

Bed Capacity

Number in Custody

Mountjoy Prison

445*

500

Dóchas Centre

85

96

St. Patrick’s Institution

217

192

Cork Prison

253

256

Limerick Prison (Male)

275

267

Limerick Prison (Female)

20

18

Castlerea Prison

206

214

Cloverhill Prison

433

403

Wheatfield Prison

372

361

Portlaoise Prison

188

112

Arbour Hill Prison

139

137

Training Unit

96

92

Midlands Prison

447

435

Loughan House

110

63

Shelton Abbey

56

50

Total

3,342

3,196

*Mountjoy Prison also has provision for an additional 45 spaces on the "A Wing" of the prison which are used whenever additional capacity is required. This accommodation was used on the date in question.

The provision of approximately 1,300 new prison spaces in recent years, at considerable cost, has put the Irish Prison Service in a much better position to accommodate prisoners for the duration of their sentences than was the case during the "revolving door" era of the 1990s. However, with most of our prisons operating at or near full capacity, some accommodation difficulties occur from time to time. It should also be noted that this issue is not simply one of matching the global prisoner population to a global figure for beds or cells. A number of factors have to be taken into account including the prisoner's age, gender, the nature of the offence, location, security and whether they are on remand or sentenced.

The Deputy will also be aware of plans for two major prison developments, one in North County Dublin and the other on Spike Island, Co. Cork. It is intended that these new facilities will address the overcrowding difficulties that arise from time to time and they will offer significant improvements in the areas of work, training, educational and medical services for inmates as well as predominantly single cell accommodation with proper in-cell sanitation facilities.

Redundancy Payments.

Máire Hoctor

Question:

370 Ms Hoctor asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delay in having a redundancy payment made available to a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17244/06]

My Department has reached agreement on the terms of a redundancy package for special need assistants (SNAs) employed in primary and second level schools. I expect that confirmation of the provisions of the redundancy arrangements will issue to schools shortly.

In this particular case, I can confirm that an application form for redundancy payment has been received in my Department. My officials have recently been in contact with the special need assistant concerned and a representative from the Deputy's office regarding this issue. As soon as the final arrangements for payment of redundancy are confirmed, a decision will be communicated directly to the special need assistant.

School Transport.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

371 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will ensure that a directive issued by the transport section of her Department is implemented as agreed (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16854/06]

The circumstances of the case raised by the Deputy, in the details provided, are being reviewed at present by my Department and I anticipate that the matter will be submitted for my consideration in the near future. Arrangements will be made to notify all relevant parties as soon as a decision has been made.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

372 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science the measures she is putting in place to ensure continuation of school transport for 52 pupils who have been removed from the current school transport (details supplied) due to the introduction of a one child per seat policy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16855/06]

The pupils referred to by the Deputy in the details supplied were availing of transport on a concessionary fare-paying basis under a three for two seating arrangement. However, under Regulations recently made by the Minister for Transport, seat belts must be used in buses, where fitted, which means that the three for two seating arrangement no longer applies on school buses fitted with seat belts. Bus Éireann has reported that one of the two buses serving the schools in question is already fitted with seat belts, while the owner of the second bus is anxious to have belts fitted as soon as possible. Accordingly, Bus Éireann has put arrangements in place to accommodate children on both buses on a one seat per child basis. Priority is being afforded to eligible pupils but some of those who applied for concessionary transport can be accommodated. However, the demand for concessionary transport exceeds the number of spare seats available.

I recently met with a deputation from the school referred to in the details supplied and my Department is considering a submission presented by the group. However, I must emphasise that pupils availing of concessionary transport are not guaranteed a service on an indefinite basis. The allocation of such transport has always been subject to its availability on a term-to-term basis.

Paddy McHugh

Question:

373 Mr. McHugh asked the Minister for Education and Science the measures she is putting in place to ensure the continuation of school transport for concessionary paying students after the elimination of the three students per two seat rule; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16856/06]

The introduction of one for one seating arrangements on school transport services operated on my Department's behalf does not necessarily mean that concessionary transport will be discontinued. The availability of such transport depends on the number of spare seats available after all other eligible pupils have been accommodated. I must point out, however, that significant investment has been made by the Government to address capacity shortfalls arising from the phasing out of the three for two seating arrangement on school buses. A programme for Bus Éireann to acquire a number of new and modern second-hand buses is well advanced. In addition, Bus Éireann has hired-in over 220 additional vehicles from the private sector and the situation is being kept under review.

I must emphasise, however, that pupils availing of concessionary transport are not guaranteed school transport. The allocation of such transport has always been subject to its availability on a term-to-term basis.

Pupil-Teacher Ratio.

Richard Bruton

Question:

374 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science if the allocation of extra teachers under revised pupil/teacher allocation ratios can be used sensibly by schools in a roving capacity between classrooms, rather than rigidly allocating them to a specific class; her views on the desirability of such flexibility, particularly in schools which are constrained by the number of rooms available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16869/06]

The staffing of a primary school is determined by reference to the enrolment of the school on the 30th September of the previous school year. The actual number of mainstream posts sanctioned is determined by reference to a staffing schedule and is finalised for a particular year following discussions with the education partners. The guidelines can only be deviated from where a school experiences rapid growth in its enrolment. In such cases, an additional post, referred to as a developing school post, may be sanctioned provisionally where the projected enrolment at the 30th September of the school year in question equals or exceeds a specified figure. If the specified figure is not achieved on the 30th September, sanction for the post is withdrawn.

The staffing schedule is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to a general average mainstream class size of 28 pupils for the 2006-07 school year. School authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum. Teachers are allocated under the Schedules for mainstream class teaching purposes. Where a school has additional accommodation needs it should contact the School Building Unit of my Department. Where it is not possible to immediately provide separate accommodation for an individual teacher and his or her class a school may have to deploy the teacher in a flexible manner pending the resolution of the accommodation difficulties. However any such teacher should be deployed for mainstream class teaching duties. I have requested my Department's Inspectorate to monitor the deployment of staff and class sizes and, where necessary, to discuss with school authorities the basis on which school policy decisions in this regard have been made, and to report to my Department, where appropriate.

Summer Works Scheme.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

375 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if funding will be provided under the summer works scheme 2006 to a school (details supplied) to improve the entrance to the school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16890/06]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that funding has been approved for this school under the Summer Works Scheme 2006 to carry out the works in question.

Site Acquisitions.

Ned O'Keeffe

Question:

376 Mr. N. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if approval for the purchase of a site has been granted; and if a suitable site has been purchased (details supplied) in County Cork. [16891/06]

Projected long-term enrolments at the school referred to by the Deputy have dropped since the proposal for a new school was originally approved. Before committing significant capital resources to the planned new school it is essential to confirm that the provision of a new second level school in the area is absolutely warranted. A review of second-level provision in the area is nearing completion in School Planning Section of my Department. This review has been carried out in consultation with the school authorities and took into account factors such as current and projected enrolments at the school, the likely impact of ongoing and proposed housing developments and existing provision in the general area. A decision will be taken shortly on how best to provide for current and emerging needs and site acquisition will be initiated, if this is necessary.

Psychological Service.

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

377 Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of psychologists currently employed by the National Education Psychologist Service; the costs of increasing the number to 300; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16892/06]

Since the establishment of the NEPS in 1999, the number of NEPS psychologists has increased from 43 to 122 at present, with a financial provision of €15.425 million for 2006. The Public Appointments Service recently concluded a new recruitment competition for the appointment of Educational Psychologists to NEPS. Regional panels have been established to allow my Department give greater priority in filling vacancies to areas with the greatest need. My Department is currently in the process of recruiting a further 9 psychologists.

All primary and post primary schools have access to psychological assessments either directly through the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) or through the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological Assessments (SCPA) that is administered by NEPS and full details of which are available on my Department's website.

It is estimated that the (full year) annual cost to my Department of increasing the number of NEPS psychologists to 300 would be an additional €18million approximately — this estimate is based on the financial out-turn for NEPS for 2005 and assumes the continuance of the current mix of staffing grades.

Schools Building Projects.

John McGuinness

Question:

378 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science if her Department has lodged a planning application with Kilkenny County Council for a new school building for a school (details supplied) in County Kilkenny; the timeframe involved in lodging the application and bringing the project to construction stage; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16906/06]

The school referred to by the Deputy was listed among the 43 schools that I announced to start architectural planning in March of 2005. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department has appointed a full Design Team on the project with the architectural service for this project being dealt with in-house by the School Building Section and indeed, substantial work on the early stages of the design process has already been completed.

My Department's officials have already had a preliminary meeting with the Local Authority Planners of Kilkenny County Council in order to address any possible conditions which the Local Authority may have in relation to the impending planning application and the School Authorities have been informed of the outcome of the meeting. It is not possible at this point to indicate when the planning application will be lodged and when the architectural planning process will be completed. There are 5 stages in this process and the timeframe for completing these stages is contingent on various factors including any unexpected issues that may arise.

At present the Civil / Structural Engineer is looking at the site specific issues and when his report is forwarded to my Department, my Officials will be in further contact with the School Authorities as to the next steps involved in progressing this project. Progression of projects to Construction will be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme 2006-2010.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

379 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of applications her Department has received from primary and post primary schools in County Wexford seeking new school buildings or extensions under the Departments school building programme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16908/06]

The information is not readily available in the format requested by the Deputy. If the Deputy has a query about a particular school my Department will be happy to provide the information.

School Enrolments.

Joan Burton

Question:

380 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of classes in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15 which have 30 or more children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16909/06]

The staffing schedule is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to an average mainstream class size of 29 pupils for the 2005-06 school year. Posts allocated on the basis of this schedule are specifically for mainstream classes and should be deployed accordingly. Schools authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum. In the school referred to by the Deputy there are 16 classes in the current school year of which 11 classes have 30 or more pupils and 5 classes have less than 30 pupils.

Joan Burton

Question:

381 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of classes in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15 which have 30 or more children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16910/06]

The staffing schedule is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to an average mainstream class size of 29 pupils for the 2005-06 school year. Posts allocated on the basis of this schedule are specifically for mainstream classes and should be deployed accordingly. Schools authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum. In the school referred to by the Deputy there are 26 classes in the current school year of which 10 classes have 30 or more pupils and 16 classes have less than 30 pupils.

Joan Burton

Question:

382 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of classes in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15 which have 30 or more children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16911/06]

The staffing schedule is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to an average mainstream class size of 29 pupils for the 2005-06 school year. Posts allocated on the basis of this schedule are specifically for mainstream classes and should be deployed accordingly. Schools authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum. In the school referred to by the Deputy there are 10 classes in the current school year of which 3 classes have 30 or more pupils and 7 classes have less than 30 pupils.

Joan Burton

Question:

383 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of classes in a school (details supplied) which have 30 or more children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16912/06]

The staffing schedule is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to an average mainstream class size of 29 pupils for the 2005-06 school year. Posts allocated on the basis of this schedule are specifically for mainstream classes and should be deployed accordingly. Schools authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum. In the school referred to by the Deputy there are 10 classes in the current school year of which 5 classes have 30 or more pupils and 5 classes have less than 30 pupils.

Joan Burton

Question:

384 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of classes in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15 which have 30 or more children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16913/06]

The staffing schedule is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to an average mainstream class size of 29 pupils for the 2005-06 school year. Posts allocated on the basis of this schedule are specifically for mainstream classes and should be deployed accordingly. Schools authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum. In the school referred to by the Deputy there are 12 classes in the current school year all of which have less than 30 pupils.

Joan Burton

Question:

385 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of classes in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15 which have 30 or more children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16914/06]

The staffing schedule is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to an average mainstream class size of 29 pupils for the 2005-06 school year. Posts allocated on the basis of this schedule are specifically for mainstream classes and should be deployed accordingly. Schools authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum. In the school referred to by the Deputy there are 20 classes in the current school year of which 14 classes have 30 or more pupils and 6 classes have less than 30 pupils.

Joan Burton

Question:

386 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of classes in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15 which have 30 or more children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16915/06]

The staffing schedule is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to an average mainstream class size of 29 pupils for the 2005-06 school year. Posts allocated on the basis of this schedule are specifically for mainstream classes and should be deployed accordingly. Schools authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum. In the school referred to by the Deputy there are 6 classes in the current school year of which 3 classes have 30 or more pupils and 3 classes have less than 30 pupils.

Joan Burton

Question:

387 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of classes in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15 which have 30 or more children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16916/06]

The staffing schedule is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to an average mainstream class size of 29 pupils for the 2005-06 school year. Posts allocated on the basis of this schedule are specifically for mainstream classes and should be deployed accordingly. Schools authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum. In the school referred to by the Deputy there are 12 classes in the current school year of which 4 classes have 30 or more pupils and 8 classes have less than 30 pupils.

Joan Burton

Question:

388 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of classes in a school (details supplied) in Dublin 15 which have 30 or more children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16917/06]

The staffing schedule is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to an average mainstream class size of 29 pupils for the 2005-06 school year. Posts allocated on the basis of this schedule are specifically for mainstream classes and should be deployed accordingly. Schools authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum. In the school referred to by the Deputy there are 24 classes in the current school year of which 19 classes have 30 or more pupils and 5 classes have less than 30 pupils.

Joan Burton

Question:

389 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of classes in a school (details supplied) which have 30 or more children; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16918/06]

The staffing schedule is structured to ensure that all primary schools will operate to an average mainstream class size of 29 pupils for the 2005-06 school year. Posts allocated on the basis of this schedule are specifically for mainstream classes and should be deployed accordingly. Schools authorities are requested to ensure that the number of pupils in any class is kept as low as possible, taking all relevant contextual factors into account (e.g. classroom accommodation, fluctuating enrolment). In particular, school authorities should ensure that there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes and that the differential between the largest and smallest classes is kept to a minimum. In the school referred to by the Deputy there are 31 classes in the current school year of which 20 classes have 30 or more pupils and 11 classes have less than 30 pupils.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

390 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science if a child from a feeder school (details supplied) in County Wexford, who is excluded from the catchment area of a particular secondary school, will be considered for admission to the secondary school. [16929/06]

Paul Kehoe

Question:

391 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the fact that the number of children being affected by the enrolment policy in a school (details supplied) in County Wexford over the next four years is only 24; her views on whether this small figure is not going to impact negatively on the pupils already attending the school but will impact negatively on the pupils from this area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16930/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 390 and 391 together.

The post primary school to which the Deputy refers is heavily oversubscribed as a result of a significant number of pupils enrolling from outside its catchment area. The cumulative effect of the development of this type of situation over a number of years can impact negatively on pupils from within the catchment area who are entitled, as of right, to a place in a particular school. It also invariably impacts negatively on the school or schools to which these pupils should rightly attend and in which considerable capital investment has been made for this purpose. It is a matter for all school authorities, in the context of their enrolment policies, to limit enrolment to within their catchment areas to ensure that such situations do not arise.

As a once off exceptional measure, my Department decided that a number of named pupils from outside the catchment area to which the Deputy refers would be allowed to enrol in the post primary school in question for the 2005-06 school year. This decision was taken because the pupils concerned had an expectation that they would be enrolling in the school and did not have sufficient notice to secure alternative placements. It was made clear to the school authority in July of last year that this arrangement would apply for the 2005-06 school year only. It was made equally clear that the arrangement did not create a precedent and that it would not be repeated in subsequent years.

The catchment areas affected by this situation have a total of five post primary schools between them. An examination of enrolment trends in these schools has been carried out by School Planning Section for the purposes of ensuring that there is sufficient accommodation to cater for demand for pupil places. This examination revealed that enrolments in all five schools have dropped, in some cases quite dramatically, in the past ten years.

I am satisfied, therefore, that there are adequate places for the enrolment of the pupils in question in schools in their own post primary centres. I am also satisfied that adequate notice has been given to the particular post primary school concerned to ensure that it implements an appropriate enrolment policy for the 2006-07 school year in the best interests of its own pupils. Indeed, confirmation has been received from the school that it is effecting such an enrolment policy. In all of the circumstances, my Department's position in this matter remains unchanged.

Schools Building Projects.

John Gormley

Question:

392 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 6; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16948/06]

John Gormley

Question:

393 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 6; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date. [16949/06]

John Gormley

Question:

394 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 6; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16950/06]

John Gormley

Question:

395 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 2; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16951/06]

John Gormley

Question:

396 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 4; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date. [16952/06]

John Gormley

Question:

397 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 4; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16953/06]

John Gormley

Question:

398 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 4; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16954/06]

John Gormley

Question:

399 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 4; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16955/06]

John Gormley

Question:

400 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 6; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16956/06]

John Gormley

Question:

401 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 6; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16957/06]

John Gormley

Question:

402 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 6; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16958/06]

John Gormley

Question:

403 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 6; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16959/06]

John Gormley

Question:

404 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 6; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16960/06]

John Gormley

Question:

405 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 6W; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16961/06]

John Gormley

Question:

406 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 8; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16962/06]

John Gormley

Question:

407 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 8; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16963/06]

John Gormley

Question:

408 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied); the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16964/06]

John Gormley

Question:

409 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied); the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16965/06]

John Gormley

Question:

410 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 4; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16966/06]

John Gormley

Question:

411 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 4; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16967/06]

John Gormley

Question:

412 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 6; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16968/06]

John Gormley

Question:

413 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 2; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16969/06]

John Gormley

Question:

414 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 6W; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16970/06]

John Gormley

Question:

415 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied); the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16971/06]

John Gormley

Question:

416 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied); the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16972/06]

John Gormley

Question:

417 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 4; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16973/06]

John Gormley

Question:

418 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 6w; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16974/06]

John Gormley

Question:

419 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 8; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16975/06]

John Gormley

Question:

420 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 6; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16976/06]

John Gormley

Question:

421 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 4; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16977/06]

John Gormley

Question:

422 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 6; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16978/06]

John Gormley

Question:

423 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied); the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16979/06]

John Gormley

Question:

424 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 4; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16980/06]

John Gormley

Question:

425 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 4; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date. [16981/06]

John Gormley

Question:

426 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 6w; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16982/06]

John Gormley

Question:

427 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Education and Science the building grants applied for to her Department by a school (details supplied) in Dublin 4; the response of her Department to these applications; the assistance and money received to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16983/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 392 to 427, inclusive, together.

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available in my Department.

Departmental Assessments.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

428 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will give an assurance that an estate (details supplied) in County Kildare will continue to provide research and promotional services in the future. [17014/06]

The Estate to which the Deputy refers is in the ownership of a third level institution. The Institution's Governing Authority gave approval to commence exploring the possible relocation of its farm facilities at the Estate. This process is expected to be protracted and will require a full academic assessment of the activities currently based at the Estate. It does not assume any decision.

Disadvantaged Status.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

429 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a school (details supplied) in County Mayo has not been included in the current DEIS programme in view of the continuing deprivation in the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17038/06]

I am sure the Deputy would agree that it is important to make sure that schools serving the most disadvantaged communities get all the extra support possible and will welcome the extra resources that DEIS will provide. I can assure the Deputy that there is no reason for schools that were in receipt of resources under pre-existing schemes and that have not been identified for the new programme to worry as they will continue to get support in line with the level of disadvantage among their pupils. No school has been told that they will lose any resources as a result of DEIS. DEIS is designed to ensure that schools serving the most disadvantaged communities benefit from the maximum level of support available. Over the years, no less than 8 separate schemes for disadvantaged primary schools have been put in place. Some schools were benefiting from just one or two of these and others were benefiting from more. The DEIS initiative is designed to ensure that the most disadvantaged schools benefit from a comprehensive package of supports.

While the whole rationale behind the new programme is to ensure that the most disadvantaged schools benefit from all of the available supports, schools that are benefiting from existing schemes will keep the extra resources — financial and human — that they are getting under these initiatives for the 2006-07 school year. After that they will continue to get support in line with the level of socioeconomic disadvantage among their pupils.

A review process has been put in place for primary and second-level schools that did not qualify for participation in the new School Support Programme and that regard themselves as having a level of disadvantage which is of a scale sufficient to warrant their inclusion in the Programme. The review process will operate under the direction of an independent person, charged with ensuring that all relevant identification processes and procedures were properly followed in the case of schools applying for a review. The closing date for receipt of review applications was Friday 31st March, 2006. The school referred to by the Deputy has submitted a review application. It is intended that the review process will be completed by the end of the current school year.

Higher Education Grants.

Jack Wall

Question:

430 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of a grant for persons (details supplied) in County Kildare in regard to their university fees; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17046/06]

My Department has contacted the awarding Local Authority, in this case Laois County Council, in relation to the students referred to by the Deputy. Laois County Council confirmed that both students are in receipt of the Third Level Maintenance Grant. Laois County Council have confirmed that the reckonable income exceeds €15,626 which is the income threshold for the Top-up grant. It is not open to me, or to my Department, to depart from the terms of the schemes in individual cases.

Special Educational Needs.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

431 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of the application for a special needs assistant for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17055/06]

I can confirm for the Deputy that my officials have contacted the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) in relation to this matter. I will arrange for a letter to issue to the Deputy once the relevant information has been received from the NCSE.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

432 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science the current position of the application for a special needs assistant and additional resource hours for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17056/06]

I can confirm for the Deputy that my officials have contacted the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) in relation to this matter. I will arrange for a letter to issue to the Deputy once the relevant information has been received from the NCSE.

School Transport.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

433 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of school buses over the age of 10 years, 15 years and 20 years; if she has satisfied herself with the condition and road worthiness of these buses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17062/06]