Written Answers.

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised].
Questions Nos. 1 to 9, inclusive, answered orally.

Criminal Sentences.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

10 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on providing the resources necessary for the compilation of a database of information on criminal sentences in the Four Courts and online; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22212/06]

Under the Courts Service Act 1998, the Courts Service — which is responsible for the day to day management of the courts — is independent in the performance of its functions. I am responsible for ensuring that the Service is adequately funded and resourced and, in this regard, €111.8m is provided for that organisation in 2006.

Having regard to the compilation of a database of information on criminal sentences, I understand that the Board of the Courts Service has established a high level Steering Committee chaired by the Honourable Mrs. Justice Susan Denham to plan for and provide a system of information on sentencing. The initiative of the Board is designed to provide a systemic form of information in this respect as a reference point for Judges.

The Steering Committee has reviewed sentencing systems worldwide and identified those of Scotland and New South Wales as the most relevant to our situation. I understand that it is proposed to commence a pilot project shortly in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. I further understand that two researchers have been selected to collect and collate information on sentencing outcomes in cases on indictment in designated courts in accordance with criteria specified by the Committee.

The objectives of the project are to: identify criteria and other information employed by the judiciary in sentencing for particular offence types in criminal proceedings, record and retrieve such information in individual cases, design and develop a database to store the information retrieved and enable its retrieval in accordance with various search criteria, share or disseminate the information, utilising information and communications technology, via a judges' intranet or other means, and assemble appropriate material on sentencing for a benchbook and website.

It is anticipated that the pilot project will run for a six week period and that it will be evaluated prior to a further pilot in October 2006.

When the Steering Committee completes its work, further consideration can be given to the question of compiling a database of information on criminal sentences and the resources that may be needed for this purpose.

Garda Training.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

11 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of meetings that have taken place of the inter-Departmental working group to recommend an appropriate approach to Irish language training for recruits to An Garda Síochána; if this group has concluded its work; the recommendations it has made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18138/06]

The inter-departmental group which is examining Irish language training for Garda recruits has met formally on two occasions. However, its members have also been in continuing informal contact on the issues under discussion. The Garda Commissioner had also established a working group to examine the teaching of Irish in the Garda College. I am advised that the two groups have liaised closely and understand that the main issues have been addressed by the Commissioner's working group, including the teaching of Irish to recruits who have no knowledge of the language, and more generally the promotion of excellence in Irish in the Force, particularly taking into account the needs of Gaeltacht areas and the requirements of the Official Languages Act 2003.

I expect to receive the report of the inter-departmental group before the end of this month, and the aim is to put in place the new programme in time for the intake of recruits in August.

Garda Deployment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

12 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if adequate numbers of Gardaí are available to combat the drugs problem with particular reference to the areas throughout the country that are currently most seriously subjected to the activities of drug dealers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22199/06]

The Deputy will appreciate that policing operations and the deployment of Garda resources are matters for the Garda authorities. It is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within divisions on a priority basis in accordance with overall policing requirements. However, I am, of course, in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner in order to keep the measures and resources for tackling serious crime under continuing review. The overall allocation of Garda resources, including manpower, to the Garda Commissioner reflects the Government's policing priorities (including combating drug trafficking) and An Garda Siochana has never in its history been better resourced.

The Deputy will be aware of the Government's decision in October, 2004 to approve my proposals for the recruitment of 2,000 additional Gardai to increase the strength of An Garda Siochana to 14,000. Delivery of this commitment is on target and will be achieved. The combined strength of attested Gardai and recruits in training will reach 14,000 by the end of 2006 and the additional resources are being allocated to areas most in need, including areas with a significant drug problem.

The Garda National Drugs Unit (GNDU), in conjunction with other specialist Garda units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Criminal Assets Bureau, continues to undertake "targeted specific" operations against the larger illegal drug importation and distribution operations.

The GNDU also works closely with divisional and district drug units in detecting and preventing the sale and supply of illegal drugs. It provides assistance and expertise to these local units in operational, intelligence and training matters. Divisional and district drug units operate in divisions throughout the country and their primary focus is to target local dealers and users. Where necessary, these resources can be supplemented by other Garda personnel operating at local level. All Gardaí have responsibility, inter alia, to deal with drug related issues as they arise.

There is also targeted patrolling by uniform and plain-clothes personnel of problem areas in order to detect and disrupt persons involved in drugs activity.

The trafficking and distribution of all illicit drugs at local, national and international level will continue to be vigilantly monitored by An Garda Siochana. Allocations of Garda personnel throughout the country, together with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy, are continually monitored and reviewed. This ensures the optimum use of Garda resources and provision of the best possible service to the general public.

Missing Persons.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

13 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his Department is in a position to review an application for funding from an organisation (details supplied) wishing to establish a missing persons helpline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22208/06]

In March 2005, I established a new Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime to devise an appropriate support framework for victims of crime into the future and to disburse funding for victim support measures. The Commission is entirely independent in its decision making and examines each application on its merits. The Commission received an application from the Missing in Ireland Support Service for €71,600 to establish, staff and operate a helpline for missing persons. After careful consideration of the application the Commission decided to offer funding of €25,000; however, this offer was rejected by the Missing in Ireland Support Service. It should be borne in mind in this context that the Commission is charged with funding support services for victims of crime, and that, while some persons who are missing are crime victims, most are not.

The Commission advise me that no request has been made to them by the Missing in Ireland Support Service to review the funding as allocated in 2005 nor for funding in 2006.

Citizenship Applications.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

14 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the average timescale for a certificate of naturalisation in the citizenship section takes in excess of two years without exception; his views on whether this is unreasonable in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 15; his further views on whether travel arrangements offered by his Department do not work on short notice for this person; if he will examine this case as a priority in view of it’s nature; his further views on whether changes and exceptions have to be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22008/06]

On 9 May 2006, my Government colleague, Mr. Batt O'Keeffe, T.D. Minister for State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government responded on my behalf to an Adjournment matter by the Deputy in relation to this case. The response is on the record of this House.

In that response, I explained that the processing time was primarily as a result of the increase in the volume of applications being received in the Citizenship Section of my Department and that it was unlikely that there would be an early reduction in the then processing time of 24 months. I also explained that applications are dealt with as far as possible in chronological order and that this policy is only departed from in very exceptional circumstances. I further stated that there were approximately 6,300 applications awaiting processing before the application of the person concerned and that I did not consider it appropriate, for the reasons advanced in the case in question, to expedite the processing of the said application.

No new information has been put forward by the Deputy in his current Question and, consequently, I can see no reason to reconsider my decision not to expedite the processing of the application in question.

I also mentioned in my response that the person in question could apply for a multiple re-entry visa and that she had applied for and been granted such visa in the past. Multiple re-entry visas are designed to cater for the circumstance of a person who is required to travel outside the State on a frequent basis and at short notice. It obviates the need to apply each time for a re-entry visa and await the processing of that application. I cannot see, therefore, how this arrangement does not work for the person concerned if she is required to travel abroad at short notice in the context of her employment. I understand that she applied for and was granted such multiple re-entry visas in the past and that she has recently been issued with a multiple re-entry visa valid until April 2008.

State Pathologist’s Office.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

15 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for reform of the Chief State Pathologist’s Office; if it is intended to introduce a new system whereby homicide cases would be handled by two pathologists; the discussions he has had with the Chief State Pathologist on this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22124/06]

As the Deputy may be aware, I have already signalled the fact that I am exploring a number of possibilities aimed at further enhancing the services provided by the State Pathologist's Office. This exercise, which is taking place in consultation with the Chief State Pathologist, is in train at the moment and until such time as I have made a decision in this matter it would be premature to say anything further.

I can, however, say that I have already authorised a number of initiatives to support the operation of the office which include the provision of a driver service — which is already in place, as well as the provision of new office and laboratory facilities, which are in planning. I can also confirm to the Deputy that the resources assigned by me to the Office have increased by more than 30% since 2003 and that further such resources will be deployed to meet emerging service needs.

Insofar as the possibility of assigning two pathologists to each homicide case is concerned, this option has been the subject of consideration and discussion between my officials and the State Pathologist. There are advantages to the approach but it is not the norm in the common law world and is closely associated with the particular needs of the Scottish legal system.

There are two focal issues for consideration; (a) reducing the risk that vital evidence might be lost due to the unavailability of a single pathologist (b) providing for peer review in important cases. The State Pathologist favours peer review in all homicide cases and in certain circumstances in other cases.

As regard preserving pathologist's evidence by deposition, my Department intends to consult the Attorney General's Office on such a proposal. The issue of having two pathologists present at such autopsies with a view to reducing the risk of either being unavailable as a witness is also being considered.

Proposed Legislation.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

16 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the recent warning from the Chief Justice over the introduction of hastily prepared legislation; his views on the warning from the Chief Justice; if he intends to take the advice of the Chief Justice in regard to legislation emanating from his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22150/06]

I can inform the Deputy that I share the view expressed by the Chief Justice in April last that hastily-prepared legislation can sometimes lead to difficulties, among them the fact adverted to by the Chief Justice on the same occasion that it may be necessary for the Courts to interpret such legislation.

It is one of the aims of the process of developing legislation within my Department in consultation with the Attorney General's Office and the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to the Government to ensure to the greatest extent possible that Bills promoted by the Minister before the Oireachtas are drafted painstakingly so as to avoid such difficulties. It is also the case, however, that circumstances can arise, including court decisions, that require the Government and the Oireachtas to respond legislatively as a matter of urgency — as for instance in passing the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2006 and the Immigration Act 2004. These circumstances are the exception rather than the rule, and I think the Deputy would agree that the process under which legislation is normally passed by both Houses has served its purpose well.

Legal Protection Measures.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

17 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied that there is sufficient legal protection in place to defend homeowners and occupiers from intruders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22254/06]

As the Deputy is aware, sections 18 and 20 of the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997 make statutory provision in relation to the justifiable use of force in order to protect a person or property or to prevent a crime.

Section 18 sets out the various purposes for which justifiable force may be lawfully used and not constitute an offence. The force used must be reasonable by reference to the circumstances believed by the person to exist. The purposes include: — the protection of the person or his or her family or another person from injury, assault or detention caused by a criminal act, — the protection of the person or another (with the authority of that person) from trespass to the person, — the protection of his or her property or property from appropriation, destruction or damage caused by a criminal act or from trespass or infringement, — protection of property belonging to another from appropriation, destruction or damage caused by a criminal act or (with the authority of that person) from trespass or infringement, — prevention of crime or a breach of the peace.

Section 20 defines the meaning of "use of force" for the purposes of section 18 and subsection (4) provides that the fact that a person had an opportunity to retreat before using force shall be taken into account in conjunction with other relevant evidence, in determining whether the use of force was reasonable. Section 1(2) provides that for the purposes of section 18, it is immaterial whether a belief is justified or not, if it is honestly held. The presence or absence of reasonable grounds for the belief is a matter to which the court or jury is to have regard, in conjunction with any other relevant matters, in considering whether the person honestly held the belief.

Protection of home and family is of course an issue of immense importance to everyone of us. However, as I stated in the House on 23 November, 2005, in response to a similar question, it is also important that any legislation in place achieves a balance in both providing necessary protection and also ensuring that we are accountable for any actions we take which are not justified in the circumstances. The existing legislation states circumstances in which use of force is justifiable and, as I have said, it also provides that a belief of the need to protect does not have to be justified if honestly held and leaves this as a matter for the courts to decide. As I recall, during the debate last November, while I stated that I was satisfied that the current legislation achieves its purposes, I also agreed to consider in a fair and reasonable manner any proposals for reform made by Deputies. That remains the case. I would welcome further debate in the Oireachtas as to whether the existing law can be improved in any way.

Garda Strength.

Willie Penrose

Question:

18 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received a recommendation from the Garda Commissioner that the full time strength of the Gardaí should be increased to 15,000; if he intends to act on the Commissioner’s recommendation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22141/06]

In August 2005, I received a submission from the Garda Commissioner on the resourcing requirements of An Garda Síochána. The submission was based on the Commissioner's analysis of the policing challenges facing An Garda Síochána in the medium and longer term, including the implications of demographic change, the need to continue to combat crime and terrorist threats, and the requirements for enhanced enforcement of road traffic law and immigration control. In the submission, the Commissioner proposed the future expansion of An Garda Síochána to 15,000 full time members. He also proposed the expansion of the Garda overtime budget, the creation of a Garda Reserve of approximately 4,000 members, and additional civilian support for An Garda Síochána.

On these last three issues, strong action has been taken. The 2006 Garda overtime budget allocation has risen by €22.4million to €83.5 million, an increase of 36.6% over the original allocation of €61.1m in 2005. I have published draft regulations providing for the establishment of a Garda Reserve. As I outlined in an answer to another question today, significant progress has also been made on providing additional civilian support for An Garda Siochána.

On the issue of an increase in the strength of An Garda Síochána to 15,000, the priority now is the current recruitment drive to increase the strength of An Garda Síochána to 14,000 members, in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government. This has involved a major redevelopment of the facilities at the Garda College, almost doubling its student capacity. The recruitment programme is fully on target, and 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 now giving careful consideration to the case for a continuation of the current intensive recruitment drive beyond the target of 14,000, and I will bring any proposals to Government. I do not want to anticipate the decision of Government, but I can say that I recognise the strength of the case made by the Commissioner and that I attach considerable weight to his arguments.

Garda Deployment.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

19 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress with regard to the greater use of civilians in An Garda Síochána in order to release more members for front line policing duties; the number of posts occupied by Gardaí in 2001 that are occupied by civilians; his plans to fill further such posts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22132/06]

In my reply to Priority Question No. 4 on 27 April 2006, I provided a comprehensive update on the significant progress being made in relation to civilianisation. I am pleased to inform the Deputy, that in the short time since that reply was given, further significant progress has been made.

There are now almost 100 staff either working or in training at the Garda Information Service Centre (GISC) in Castlebar and I expect that the Centre will reach its full staffing complement by the end of August and be fully operational in September. An open competition to recruit Clerical Officers to fill the remaining vacancies in GISC has succeeded in attracting over 2,000 applications. The GISC is already releasing to front line policing duties, Gardai who would otherwise be occupied inputting data onto PULSE.

Discussions are continuing with staff interests in relation to the transfer of civilian staff to the direct control of the Garda Commissioner, a reform provided for in the Garda Síochána Act 2005. The transfer of civilian staff is due to take place on 1 October next. In preparation for the transfer of these staff to the Commissioner, a new Human Resources Division for civilian staff in An Garda Síochána is being established. It will have a staffing complement of 37 civilians and will be based in Navan. Recruitment of staff for the Division has commenced.

Under the Garda Síochána Act, the Commissioner will become the Accounting Officer for An Garda Síochána with effect from 1 July. This transfer of responsibility is being supported by the establishment of a new Finance Unit within An Garda Síochána for which 9 civilian staff are being recruited. The Deputy should also be aware that my Department is currently finalising proposals to civilianise 31 posts in the Garda Telecommunications area. These positions, most of which were previously occupied by Gardaí, will be advertised shortly.

Meanwhile, the Joint Implementation Group (JIG) comprising management representatives from An Garda Síochána and my Department is continuing its work on civilianisation. Given that the 2001 Civilianisation Report was written at a point in time, the JIG is taking account of changes which have occurred in the environment in which civilianisation is being pursued and looking at ways in which the Civilianisation Programme can be advanced in the shorter term, both in the context of the report and otherwise.

I am determined to drive the Civilianisation Programme forward to ensure that the Gardaí being recruited in the current historic expansion of the Force are deployed to front-line policing duties and that appropriately trained and qualified civilians make the greatest contribution possible consistent with the effective and efficient functioning of An Garda Síochana. I am confident that the progress now being made on civilianisation will deliver on both fronts.

Sexual Offences.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

20 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in view of the recent controversy surrounding the adjudged unconstitutional nature of provisions of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 1935 he will instigate a full review of all current legislation pertaining to sexual offences; if he will introduce to the Houses of the Oireachtas a comprehensive reforming act in order to address any further shortcomings or constitutionally precarious provisions within the current statutory framework pertaining to sexual offences; the length of time he anticipates such a process would take to complete; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22007/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

22 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will implement a system that would ensure that both his Department and the Attorney General’s Office are fully briefed on potentially unconstitutional legislation on regular basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22201/06]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

37 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has intentions or plans to conduct an analysis of the communications structure between his Department and that of the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions to identify the reason the recently successful Constitutional challenge to provisions of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 1935 was not brought to his personal attention prior to judgement being handed down; the safeguards he will put in place to ensure that all potentially leading cases are closely monitored by his Department to ensure that required legislative amendments or introductions resulting from such cases can be anticipated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22006/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

48 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the mechanism he proposes to introduce to prevent a recurrence of the recent legal and constitutional crisis which allowed the release of prisoners serving time for serious offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22200/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 20, 22, 37 and 48 together.

There is no doubt that recent events have highlighted communications issues between my Department and the Offices of the Attorney General and the Chief State Solicitor. An examination of communications within the Office of the Attorney General took place some years ago that resulted in some administrative changes in that Office and a further examination by an official from the Department of Finance is now due to take place. My Department will, of course, cooperate in every possible way with that examination and in implementing any new communications or consultation arrangements which may emerge from that examination.

Communications and recording of correspondence within my own Department are constantly kept under review to see if they can be improved. I am satisfied that on this occasion our office procedures were carried out correctly.

On 29 November 2002, my Department was informed in writing by the Chief State Solicitor's Office of an application to the High Court seeking to challenge certain provisions of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935, (The "C.C." proceedings). An official promptly phoned the Chief State Solicitor's Office to ascertain whether they needed any response from the Department in relation to the application. The answer was in the negative. In January 2003, the Chief State Solicitor's Office repeated in writing its undertaking to advise the Department of any development in the proceedings. No further communication was received in my Department from the Chief State Solicitor's Office or any other source concerning the "C.C." proceedings. Neither I nor my Department were notified of the hearing or outcome of the High Court case, which the State won, or the subsequent appeal to the Supreme Court.

Following discussions in the matter with my officials I set up, in late 2004, a Criminal Justice Group comprising representatives from the main agencies working in the criminal justice sector. The Group has representatives from, among others, An Garda Síochána, the Courts Service, the Irish Prison Service, the Attorney General's Office and the Director of Public Prosecutions. The main function of the Group, which is chaired by the Secretary General of my Department, is to promote a co-ordinated and cohesive approach to criminal justice matters. This Group has met on 4 occasions since late 2004 and is scheduled to meet again in July. The Secretary General has advised me that the group will meet more frequently from now on.

I have been advised by the Secretary General of my Department that, from now on, cases of litigation with constitutional and policy implications for the criminal justice system will be a standing item on every agenda of the Criminal Justice Group.

Furthermore, it is my intention to discuss with the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions the importance of putting in place agreed procedures for a consultation process between our three offices in relation to cases of litigation on constitutional and policy issues. This consultation process will be over and above the current consultation process provided for in statute between the AG and the DPP.

In response to the Supreme Court decision of 23 May 2006, I published the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2006 on 1 June 2006. It passed all stages in the Dáil and Seanad and was signed into law by the President on the following day.

I would emphasise that even had we been aware of the impending Supreme Court judgment, nothing could have been done which would have prevented the application to the High Court which resulted in the temporary release of one convicted sex offender. No legislation, even if rushed through the Oireachtas the same day, could have influenced subsequent events. It would not in any case have been practicable to rush in pre-prepared legislation as it is simply not possible to anticipate the terms of a Supreme Court decision, let alone the decision itself.

Proposed Legislation.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

21 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the persons in his Department who had access to the Fine Gael draft Bill entitled Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2006, which was sent to his Department from the Bills Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas in May 2006; the requests which were made for the Bill; the persons who the Bill was given or shown to outside his Department or the Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22255/06]

I understand that on 24 May 2006, the Chief Whip's office received two separate draft private Members Bills by e-mail from the Bills Office with the request that they forward same to my Department. One of these was the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2006 and the other was the Courts (Register of Sentences) Bill 2006. The message accompanying the Bills was that Deputy Jim O'Keeffe would be seeking leave to introduce both Bills in the Dáil on 25 May and that one or other would be debated in the Dáil on Private Members Business the following week. In those circumstances, insofar as my Department was concerned, both Bills were immediately circulated to those officials who would be dealing with them and also to officials who might have an input into the response to them or have views to offer on them.

There was no indication in the messages received that either or both Bills were on restricted circulation or were confidential. Accordingly, any references by my Department to the contents of the Fine Gael Bill were in good faith and without any awareness of any wish by the Deputy's party to keep their legislative proposals out of the public domain.

Question No. 22 answered with QuestionNo. 20.

Asylum Policy.

John Gormley

Question:

23 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the comments contained in Amnesty International’s Report 2006, warning that further flashpoints similar to the recent hunger strike by Afghani men will continue to occur under our current asylum system; the plans he has to review the asylum process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22206/06]

I have noted the very brief comments on asylum seekers contained in the section on Ireland in Amnesty International's 2006 Report.

I am strongly of the view that the State has a comprehensive asylum system in place which is both fair and transparent and compares well with other EU States. Indeed this fact was recently acknowledged by a former UNHCR Representative to Ireland who is quoted as stating that Ireland is now a model for the new Member States of the European Union and that "we now have a system which, in many respects, is one of the best in Europe".

The Refugee Act 1996 established two independent statutory offices to consider applications and appeals in respect of refugee status and to make recommendations to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on whether such status should be granted. These offices are the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC) and the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT).

Both agencies are highly resourced and staff members receive specialised, UNHCR-based training before processing cases. Due regard is also had to particularly vulnerable applicants, such as minors or victims of trauma, and appropriate training is given towards the sensitive processing of such claims.

When an applicant claims asylum, that applicant is provided with all the necessary information governing the asylum process, including a detailed information leaflet which is available in 31 languages.

Every asylum applicant is guaranteed an investigation and determination of his or her claim at first instance by the Refugee Applications Commissioner. Each application is assessed on the basis of the circumstances of the individual case and having regard to both the subjective elements (the applicant's own account or personal history) and objective elements (up-to-date information on the applicant's country or place of origin). This country of origin information comes from a wide variety of objective and respected sources, including organisations such as the UNHCR, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UK Home Office, US State Department and other EU member states as well as media and internet sources.

In the event of a negative recommendation at first instance, our system also guarantees every asylum applicant a right of appeal to the independent Refugee Appeals Tribunal. Every appellant is furnished with a copy (in the language of their own country where possible) of the Tribunal's information leaflet, which sets out the appeals process in full.

It is important to note that under section 13 of the Refugee Act 1996, a copy of the Refugee Applications Commissioner's report, containing the findings and recommendation of the Commissioner, is sent to the applicant concerned and his or her solicitor (if known). The applicant, prior to submitting an appeal, is also furnished with all other relevant ORAC papers, such as the notes of the first instance interview. Similarly, under section 16 of the 1996 Act, the decision of the RAT is communicated to the applicant concerned and his or her solicitor. This indicates all the relevant papers which have been taken into account (and evidence adduced at the oral hearing where relevant) in reaching the decision, which also sets out the reasons for either affirming or setting aside the Commissioner's recommendation.

The transparency of the appeals process was enhanced on the 31 March this year when a selection of decisions of the RAT were published, pursuant to section 19 of the 1996 Act. It is the intention of the Chairperson of RAT to publish further decisions on an ongoing basis into the future.

Also important to note in terms of fairness is that access to legal assistance at all stages of the process is provided by the Refugee Legal Service and, under the provisions of the Refugee Act 1996, UNHCR is given full access to our refugee determination process.

In addition to a comprehensive first instance determination and an appeal, applicants have the opportunity to access the courts by seeking judicial review on procedural aspects of the decision-making.

Over recent years, very considerable work has been undertaken in ORAC and the RAT, to deal with applications for asylum and to 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 April 2006 there were 2,593 cases on hands in both agencies compared to some 5,542 cases on hands at the end of April 2004.

—The number of applications over six months in ORAC and RAT at the end of April 2006 stood at 524 as compared to some 6,500 at the end of September 2001. The backlog of applications has been effectively eliminated in ORAC with only 55 cases on hands over six months at the end of April 2006 and some 469 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 arrangements for the speedier processing of prioritised asylum applications (from nationals of Nigeria, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and South Africa) introduced in January 2005, with an 18 working day processing time at first instance in ORAC and 15 working days at appeals stage in RAT. Currently, approximately 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 ORAC 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.

I should also point out that very strong protections are afforded to individuals under section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 against refoulement and the opportunity is also provided to make representations to the Minister on a large number of grounds under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 at pre-deportation stage.

I am also of the view that our present system of dispersal and direct provision which is referred to in the 2006 Amnesty Report, continues to provide an appropriate framework to meet the needs of asylum applicants while their applications are being processed. The Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers through the Government policy of direct provision. Through this policy, asylum seekers are provided with full board accommodation as well as ancillary services including medical supports, family supports and community welfare supports. The RIA provides asylum seekers with decent, reasonable accommodation to a level where it is on a par with, and in many cases exceeds, that available in other European countries.

Finally, I would point out that in April 2005, I published a public Consultation Document setting out outline policy proposals for an Immigration and Residence Bill. This document noted that the State is required to introduce a subsidiary protection regime under EU law later this year. This provides an opportunity of which I intend to avail to re-examine, in the light of the experience of the last decade, how protection claims are dealt with under present law including at appeals stage. I will be bringing proposals to Government in this regard in the coming weeks.

Residency Rights.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

24 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his intentions to resolve the anomaly whereby the spouses and partners of non-Irish EU citizens have more residency rights here than the spouses and partners of Irish citizens. [22196/06]

EU Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States was transposed into Irish law on 28 April 2006. I am aware that this has resulted in the granting of more favourable conditions in certain circumstances to such persons than are presently granted to spouses/partners/family members of Irish citizens.

I wish to advise the Deputy that I will be considering this issue fully in the context of the forthcoming Immigration and Residence Bill.

Juvenile Offenders.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

25 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has plans to increase the number of juvenile liaison officers in view of the proven success in dealing with juvenile offenders and the increasing burden that is likely to be placed on them following the enactment of the juvenile justice sections of the Criminal Justice Bill 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22147/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities, who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that as at 31 March, 2006 there were 95 Juvenile Liaison Officers (JLOs) working in the various Divisions throughout the country.

JLOs are responsible for implementing the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme, which provides an opportunity to divert juvenile offenders from criminal activity. It operates on a nationwide basis under the supervision and direction of the Garda National Juvenile Office, Harcourt Square, Dublin 2. The Programme provides that, in certain circumstances, a juvenile under 18 years of age, who freely accepts responsibility for a criminal incident, may be cautioned as an alternative to prosecution.

The Children Act, 2001 provides a statutory basis for the Juvenile Diversion Programme. The Programme now includes provision on restorative cautioning and family conferencing which form part of the comprehensive restorative elements of the Act. The Juvenile Diversion Programme came into operation on 1 May, 2002. The Programme has proven to be highly successful in diverting young people away from crime by offering guidance and support to juveniles and their families. In the more serious cases, juveniles are placed under the supervision of Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers, who are responsible for administering the Programme at the local level.

In addition to the Juvenile Diversion Programme, there are also 64 Garda Youth Diversion Projects nationwide, with plans to increase this to 100 by the end of 2007. Garda Youth Diversion Projects are a crime prevention initiative, which adopt a multi-agency partnership approach to tackling crime and anti-social behaviour at community level. The projects aim to bring about the conditions whereby the behavioural patterns of young people towards law and order can develop and mature through positive interventions and interaction with the project. The projects are particularly targeted at 10-18 year old "at risk" youths in communities where a specific need has been identified.

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. 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 Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme will be given the fullest consideration.

Prison Education Service.

Dan Boyle

Question:

26 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the education programmes being offered to prisoners in the prison system; the programmes recently terminated; the reason for the termination of these programmes; the programmes being prepared for roll-out; when such programmes will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22210/06]

Education units offering a substantial and varied curriculum are in full operation in all prisons and places of detention, with the exception of Cloverhill Remand Prison where the education unit is now expected to open in the near future. Education for prisoners at these units is provided by a cohort of teachers comprising 210 full-time equivalents, mainly employed by Vocational Education Committees. This includes provision for the summer months and also enables special teaching arrangements where prisoners are segregated (e.g., Portlaoise, Mountjoy, Wheatfield, Limerick, Midlands, Castlerea and Cork).

The education curriculum ranges from basic literacy to Open University courses, and includes structured physical education, health education, social education, the arts in various forms, as well as more conventional school subjects leading to Junior and Leaving Certificate and Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) certification. Objectives, methods and course content are largely those of adult education; a high degree of curriculum and teaching material development forms an essential part of prison education.

There have been no terminations of prisoner education programmes. As in any adult education setting, the range of courses or programmes available at the different education units will, of course, vary in accordance with prisoners' needs and local circumstances. In several institutions there is a high level of turnover of the prisoner population, which requires a flexible approach with regard to the curriculum content. Thus, on an ongoing basis, some courses may be discontinued and new ones offered in their place, but it would not be appropriate to regard such alterations as a termination of education programmes.

I am also arranging to forward the Directory of Prison Education 2006 to the Deputy. The Directory, which gives more details of what is available in the Education Units of different prisons, is prepared annually by the Irish Prison Service's Co-ordinator of Education.

Anti-Social Behaviour.

Seán Ryan

Question:

27 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he intends to take to deal with vandalism and anti-social behaviour which is causing problems in many communities with families harassed and property vandalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22146/06]

I share the concerns expressed about anti-social behaviour and its effects on people. In many such incidents, vulnerable people, often the elderly, are subjected to serious nuisance and forms of harassment which cause significant and persistent distress and interfere fundamentally with their capacity to enjoy quiet and peaceful lives. Often such people are simply too frightened to stand up to their persecutors. Equally, few of them have the financial resources to engage lawyers to seek private law injunction-type remedies to protect their rights to enjoyment of their property. To remedy this situation I intend to empower a senior officer of the Garda Síochána to apply to the District Court by way of civil procedure for an order which would prohibit a person from behaving in an anti-social manner. Similar to civil injunctions breaches of which are punishable as a criminal contempt, a breach of such an order will be a criminal offence. This type of order is not an entirely new concept. Such an order is simply a mechanism whereby the law seeks to stop a person from behaving in a way which is causing significant distress to a community or to some person in that community. In this respect the principle behind such anti-social behaviour orders is similar to the judicial power to bind over, which is a very old power indeed.

My proposals which I brought forward by way of Committee Stage amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill 2004 have recently been agreed by the Oireachtas Select Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights.

Furthermore, a comprehensive package on juvenile justice issues brought forward as Committee Stage amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill by my colleague Mr. Brian Lenihan, T.D. Minister of State with special responsibility for children has been agreed by that Committee.

I attach top priority to the enactment of this Bill and I hope to see it complete its passage through the Dáil and Seanad without any undue delay.

Strong provisions are in place to combat vandalism and anti-social behaviour. The primary basis for the law regarding public order offences is the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994, which modernised the law in this regard. Furthermore, because of my concerns about the abuse of alcohol and its contribution to public order offending and broader social problems, I have brought forward tough new provisions to deal with alcohol abuse and its effect on public order in the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003. One of the provisions of the Act is to broaden the application of the temporary closure order penalty, which was originally introduced to combat under-age drinking, to cover also convictions for a series of offences, such as a licensee supplying intoxicating liquor to drunken persons and permitting disorderly conduct on the licensed premises.

The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003 has also been enacted, the main purpose of which is to provide the Garda Síochána with additional powers to deal with late night street violence and anti-social conduct attributable to excessive drinking. It does this by providing for the closure of premises such as pubs, off licenses, late night clubs and food premises where there is disorder or noise on or close to the premises, as well as the making of exclusion orders on individuals convicted of a range of public order offences, in addition to any penalty they might receive under the 1994 Public Order Act.

Under the Juvenile Diversion Programme, divisional Juvenile Liaison Officers regularly visit schools, youth clubs and social services and give presentations under the Education Programme and highlight alternative options for regular offenders. Community Gardaí and the Garda Schools Liaison Officers also visit schools and address young people on a variety of topics, including anti-social behaviour.

In addition to the Juvenile Diversion Programme, there are also 64 Garda Youth Diversion Projects nationwide, with plans to increase this to 100 by the end of 2007. Garda Youth Diversion Projects are a crime prevention initiative, which adopt a multi-agency partnership approach to tackling crime and anti-social behaviour at community level.

The projects aim to bring about the conditions whereby the behavioural patterns of young people towards law and order can develop and mature through positive interventions and interaction with the project. The projects are particularly targeted at 10-18 year old "at risk" youths in communities where a specific need has been identified.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that An Garda Síochána has a pro-active approach to policing anti-social/public disorder issues by immediate intervention, arrest and prosecutions or advice, as appropriate. Garda management make every effort to provide a high visible police presence on the streets of our towns and villages through the deployment of uniform, detective units, divisional traffic corps, community policing units and mountain bike units as appropriate.

Garda Investigations.

Seán Ryan

Question:

28 Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made with regard to the Garda investigation into the major money laundering operation uncovered in early 2005; if a file has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions; if he has plans to amend the Criminal Justice Act of 1994 concerning money laundering; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22145/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that an investigation file has been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in this matter and that a response is awaited.

I am further informed that additional Garda enquiries are currently being undertaken, including by way of mutual legal assistance, with another jurisdiction. The outcome of these enquiries will be referred to the DPP in due course for consideration in conjunction with the Garda investigation file.

Ireland already has extensive legislation in place to tackle money laundering activities. This legislation and other measures were evaluated recently by the Financial Action Task Force, the leading international anti-money laundering organisation. The Report of that evaluation contained a number of recommendations.

The amendments to the criminal law which would be needed to implement the recommendations of the Report are being assessed by officials of my Department in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General. These amendments are being assessed in conjunction with those arising from the provisions of the 3rd EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive which was agreed in late 2005. In this regard, a comprehensive consultation process with representative groups of all bodies designated under the Criminal Justice Act 1994 for anti-money laundering purposes took place during May 2006. All legislative proposals arising from this consultation process will be submitted to Government for approval in the normal way.

State Airports.

Joe Costello

Question:

29 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of US planes whose cargo is not clearly identified that have been searched by the Irish security forces; the reason searches have not occurred in all instances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17192/06]

I understand that, pursuant to Article 29 of the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, all aircraft, if engaged in international air navigation and carrying cargo, must carry a manifest and detailed declarations of the cargo, in conformity with the conditions prescribed in the Convention. Accordingly, it would appear that the scenario envisaged by the Deputy is not one that could or should arise.

In my reply to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 17 and 18 of 2 February, 2006, I outlined the circumstances in which the Garda Síochána could and would engage in the inspection of an aircraft as part of a criminal investigation.

Proposed Legislation.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

30 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals to reform the law relating to the protection of personal privacy; if the heads of a Bill have been approved by the Government; if so, if he will publish same; when he expects to bring a Bill before the Houses of the Oireachtas; the consultations he is planning prior to the publication of the Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22143/06]

I refer the Deputy to the details of my reply to Question No. 15 of 27 April 2006. I have nothing further to add to that reply other than to indicate that I expect the Privacy Bill to be published within the next few weeks.

Garda Stations.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

31 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the list of ten worst Garda stations drawn up by the Garda Representative Associations; his views on whether it is acceptable that members of the force should have to work in such conditions; the steps he is taking to ensure that these stations are replaced or refurbished; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22126/06]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

34 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of the progress being made to refurbish Garda stations around the country in need of improvement and modernisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22203/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31 and 34 together.

The Deputies can be assured that there is an enormous work programme in place to progress the refurbishment or replacement of specific Garda stations in order to bring them up to the highest standard. Between the start of 2005 to the end of 2007, the Office of Public Works will have spent approximately €112 million on a wide range of Garda building projects. Last year alone, that Office spent €26 million on Garda Building projects such as Bantry, Ballyshannon, Roscrea, New Ross and Ballina Garda Stations. In addition, a major building programme was completed in the Garda College at a cost of €20m. A wide range of projects are scheduled between now and 2007, which include Kill-O-Grange, Claremorris and Oranmore as well as progressing the 10 stations mentioned by the Deputy. I would refer the Deputy to a reply provided by my colleague Minister of State at the OPW, Tom Parlon, to Deputy O'Keeffe on 16 May last detailing the position regarding the stations referred to (PQ No 8255/06 refers). By way of update, the provision of temporary accommodation is being progressed in Buncrana and over the course of yesterday and today a brief of requirements has been prepared in respect of Ballincollig and Ballinhassig stations.

The Garda Building Programme is progressed on the basis of agreed priorities. A number of the stations referred to by the Deputy form part of an overall list of 40 to 50 Major Capital Works projects that have been prioritised and are being advanced. Others are included in planned refurbishment works and the provision of standard smaller type stations known as "basic units". It is important to note that progress on the Garda major building programme is achieved by consensus and with the cooperation and commitment of all concerned — the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Garda authorities and Representative Associations and the Office of Public Works from whose Vote the capital works to Garda properties are funded. Indeed, the GRA and other Associations are actively involved and consulted in relation to both the prioritisation of various projects and on the identification of the actual accommodation requirements at each station. Not all the stations referred to by the Deputy are allocated the highest priority on the programme.

I am determined that the Garda Building Programme will be progressed as quickly as possible and that processes will be streamlined as much as possible. In that regard, a new civilian Garda Accommodation Officer is expected to be appointed shortly. Also, the upcoming transfer of Accounting Officer functions to the Garda Commissioner will lead to greater efficiencies as some of the functions currently split between the Gardaí and my Department will transfer to An Garda Síochána.

Garda Deployment.

Denis Naughten

Question:

32 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he is taking to improve rural policing; the policy measures he intends to introduce; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22005/06]

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 is set to rise to a record 12,641 today following the attestation of 273 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June 1997 and represents an increase of 1,939 (or 18.1%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period.

I have asked the Commissioner to take effective steps to protect vulnerable people living in isolated areas as a Government policing priority in the Garda Policing Plan 2006.

I am informed by the Commissioner that the rural model of Community Policing has been well established for a number of years and has been a useful instrument in the delivery of a more effective Garda service in rural areas. Community Rural Policing has recently been reviewed jointly with Muintir na Tire and proposals arising from this are currently under consideration by the Commissioner.

It is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Garda Divisions, on a priority basis in accordance with the requirements of different areas, taking account of the various operational policing needs, including Community Rural Policing. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends and administrative functions. Such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed by senior Garda management along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

I should add 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. The first group of newly attested Gardaí under the accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March and the second such group comes on stream today. Further tranches of approximately 275 newly attested Gardaí will follow every 90 days hereafter until the programme is complete.

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 rural areas will be given the fullest consideration.

Drug Seizures.

Mary Upton

Question:

33 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of seizures of cocaine; the volume of cocaine seized; the estimated value of the cocaine seized in respect of each of the past five years; if additional measures are planned to combat the spread of cocaine sale and usage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22148/06]

One of the Government's key policing priorities for 2006 is to continue to target organised crime, including drug trafficking.

Efforts under the National Drugs Strategy to tackle cocaine use in particular are broadly based to include measures aimed at both supply and demand reduction, including awareness initiatives. This increasing use of cocaine is, of course, a matter of great concern and the Garda authorities have taken a wide number of measures to address the problem.

The Garda National Drugs Unit and local drugs units conduct intelligence-driven operations to target individuals suspected of involvement in the distribution of cocaine. Drug units and community policing personnel are engaged in intelligence gathering on individuals and groups suspected of involvement in the sale and distribution of the drug. There is also targeted patrolling by uniform and plain-clothes personnel of problem areas in order to detect and disrupt persons involved in such activity.

National units, such as the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation all have specific roles in reducing drug supply and confiscating the proceeds of criminality associated with drugs. All of these units operate under the direction of the Assistant Commissioner, National Support Services.

Data provided by the Garda authorities concerning the number, volume and value of cocaine seizures for the years 2001 to 2005, inclusive is summarised in the following table:

Year

No. of cases

Quantity

Estimated street value

kg

2001

300

5.3

371,000

2002

429

31.7

2,219,000

2003

566

107.4

7,518,000

2004

753

167.3

11,711,000

2005

968

229.38

16,056,600

Question No. 34 answered with QuestionNo. 31.

Civil Partnerships.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

35 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether same sex couples are less likely than opposite sex couples to want to commit to the array of rights and duties consequent on marriage; if so, the evidence by which he has arrived at this conclusion; and, if not, the reason for his view that same sex couples should nonetheless be denied the right to make this commitment which is available to opposite sex couples. [22195/06]

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 392 to 394 of 23 May 2006. My view is that many same-sex couples may not want to commit to an institution which imposes on them all the rights and duties of marriage. I am aware that many opposite-sex couples are equally reluctant to make this commitment.

I also acknowledge that many same-sex couples are seeking full equal status with opposite-sex couples in having the option of marriage extended to them. While I respect that aspiration, my view is that the law must be updated to accord legal recognition to same-sex couples while remaining within constitutional boundaries.

To this end I established the Working Group on Domestic Partnerships to consider the categories of partnerships and relationships outside of marriage, including same-sex couples, to which legal effect and recognition might be afforded consistent with constitutional provisions. I have asked the Working Group to report to me in October following which I intend to bring legislative proposals to Government for consideration.

Immigration Procedures.

Jack Wall

Question:

36 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the suggestion made in a recent document produced by Chambers Ireland that the term non-national should be replaced by foreign national or some similar term in all documentation; his views on the suggestion made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22152/06]

I am aware of the Chambers Ireland Study on Immigration Procedures which was published on 25 May 2006 and the recommendations made therein. The question of the most appropriate terminology for classifying persons as not being of Irish nationality is one which I intend to consider in the context of the forthcoming Immigration and Residence Bill. The Deputy will be cognisant of the predicament and sensitivities of categorising a cohort of people by virtue of what they are not (i.e. citizens of Ireland). The Deputy will also be aware of the problem that alternative phrases which may be acceptable at present could also be viewed, in time, as pejorative terms which are inconsistent with the spirit of inclusiveness and tolerance which we wish our immigration system to reflect.

Question No. 37 answered with QuestionNo. 20.

Garda Ombudsman Commission.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

38 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made with regard to the establishment of the Garda Ombudsman Commission; the number of staff recruited to date; when he expects that the Commission will be in a position to begin dealing with complaints from the public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22139/06]

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commissioners were appointed by the President on the 10th February 2006, following nomination by the Government and recommendations by both Houses of the Oireachtas. The Commission is in a preparatory stage at present. I understand that the initial work of the Commission has involved study visits to their counterparts in Northern Ireland and the UK and initial meetings with the various stakeholders involved in the Garda complaints system, such as Garda management, the Garda representative bodies and officials of my Department. This process is aimed at enabling the Commission to establish principles regarding its approach to investigating complaints and to work on the development of operational protocols with the Garda Síochána. Consultations are also on-going between the Commissioners, my Department and the Department of Finance in regard to staffing matters. The Commission is working towards being in a position to receive complaints as soon as possible in 2007.

Irish Prison Service.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

39 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the recent comments by the Inspector of Prisons, in which they described the prison service as a failure; his plans to deal with the problems in the prison service identified in the various reports submitted by the Inspector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22127/06]

I do not accept that the Prison Service as a whole is a failure. Over 3,000 people are provided with safe, secure and humane custody on a daily basis. I agree that there are aspects of the service which require improvement, and this has already been recognised by me and the Government. In this regard, work has already commenced on replacing approximately 40% of the entire prison estate. This involves the replacement of the four prisons on the Mountjoy campus (Mountjoy, Training Unit, St Patrick's Institution and the Dóchas Centre), Portlaoise Prison and Cork Prison.

Many of the recommendations made by the Inspector in the context of his various reports on prisons have been implemented while the implications of others requiring more long term strategies are being considered.

Garda Ombudsman Commission.

Martin Ferris

Question:

40 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on whether there is a need for the 26 County Ombudsman Commission to be operational and fully resourced immediately rather than January 2007 as currently proposed in order that there can be transparency and prompt action taken to investigate allegations against Gardaí and suspicious deaths while in custody; and if he will take action to expedite same. [22194/06]

The Garda Siochána Ombudsman Commissioners were appointed by the President on the 10th February 2006, following nomination by the Government and recommendations by both Houses of the Oireachtas. Given the complex and serious nature of the role of the Commission it is important that they be given time to plan and develop their systems before commencing operations. I understand that the initial work of the Commission has involved study visits to their counterparts in Northern Ireland and the UK and initial meetings with the various stakeholders involved in the Garda complaints system, such as Garda management, the Garda representative bodies and officials of my Department. This process is aimed at enabling the Commission to establish principles regarding its approach to investigating complaints and to work on the development of operational protocols with the Garda Síochána. Consultations are also on-going between the Commissioners, my Department and the Department of Finance in regard to staffing matters. The Commission is working towards being in a position to receive complaints as soon as possible in 2007. In the meantime the Garda Síochána Complaints Board will continue to receive complaints.

Victim Support Services.

Joan Burton

Question:

41 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to the decision of the Supreme Court on 30 May 2006 to order the release of a man who had been serving a sentence for statutory rape, the contacts his Department or the Garda have had with the young girl who was the victim in this case; if support or counselling has been offered to the girl or her family and if support or counselling will be offered to other young girls who may find themselves in this situation. [22118/06]

The Deputy may be aware that I had a meeting with the family of the victim in the case to which the Deputy refers. The discussions conducted at that meeting were held in private at the request of the family.

It may also be of general assistance to know that the Health Service Executive is inviting the families directly affected by the recent Supreme Court decision to contact the National Counselling Services which are located throughout the country. I am informed that the counsellors are highly qualified and experienced professionals who will be able to provide support and advice and that these staff will also able to guide callers to other services if needed. I understand that a free phone has been set up during office hours to deal with any calls and the staff will direct callers to the appropriate service in their local area.

My Department supports many initiatives to assist victims, including victims of sexual crime. The "Victims' Charter" was published by my Department in 1999, following extensive consultations with all relevant agencies including the Courts, Garda Síochána, the Prison Service, the Probation and Welfare Service, the State Prosecution Service and the Victim Support organisation. The Charter sets out, from the victim's perspective, a general description of the overall criminal justice system, concise summary of the role and functions of each of the main bodies/agencies involved, and the entitlements of the victim in terms of standards of treatment, rights and complaints procedures in each area. A guiding principle of the Victims' Charter is a commitment to giving victims of crime a central place in the criminal justice system.

Under the Victims' Charter specific provision is made for particularly vulnerable victims such as victims of sexual offences, domestic violence, elderly victims, victims with disabilities, and children. Some of the relevant provisions as they relate to minor victims of rape are as follows: — the Gardaí will show special sensitivity in relation to sexual offences, and receive appropriate training in the courts, provision is made for children under 17 to give evidence by video link where appropriate — the courts may impose legal restrictions on reporting cases such as rape and sexual assault, and provision is made for the exclusion of the public from court proceedings and the anonymity of complainants in situations where such measures are deemed necessary . e.g., rape, aggravated sexual assault or incest — the impact on the victim will be taken into account in sentencing, and the victim may give evidence about the effect of the crime if s/he so wishes — the supports outlined in the Charter document are geared to ensuring that the entire judicial process is made less intimidating for children.

Furthermore, I established the Commission for the Support of Victims of Crime in March, 2005 with a three year remit to develop a framework of victim services going forward and to disburse funding for victim support measures. In 2005, the Commission allocated €685,750 to 28 voluntary groups providing front-line services to victims of crime and this allocation has been increased to €1,085m for distribution by the Commission in 2006. These organisations provide support before, during and after the trial process. Out of the 28 groups funded an allocation of €100,000 was made to The Rape Crisis Centre and €30,000 to CARI, €15,000 to the Sexual Violence Centre Cork towards the provision of court accompaniment services for the victims of crime. These organisations in particular provide support and counselling services to victims of sexual violence.

In April 2006 the Commission issued a further invitation for applications for funding for 2006, from registered charities, voluntary community groups and other bodies who provide or who have proposals for the provision of victims services/assistance. The Commission received 39 applications for funding and is currently assessing those applications.

In addition to the above, I am advised that the Commission is currently engaged in reviewing the Victims Charter (1999) to ensure that it continues to be relevant and applicable to all victims of crime. I understand that the Commission has held discussions with the Garda Síochána in relation to the provision of information to the victims of crime on the supports available to them. The Commission has confirmed that these discussions will be informed by the circumstances of the case to which the Deputy refers.

Garda Operations.

Liz McManus

Question:

42 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if Operation Anvil, announced by him on 17 May 2005 remains in operation; the number of weapons seized to date; the number of arrests made; the number of charges preferred, arising to date from the Operation; the length of time the operation is intended to continue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22134/06]

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 on-going 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 proved to be very successful in disrupting the criminal activities of a number of key criminal gangs. It has resulted in a number of high-profile arrests and the acquisition of intelligence on the movements of criminals. 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 most recent figures available to me show that since the introduction of Operation Anvil in May 2005, 424 firearms have been seized in the Dublin Metropolitan Region. To date, Operation Anvil has resulted in more than 2,200 arrests for serious crimes, including 43 arrests in connection with murders in the Dublin Metropolitan Region.

In addition to the introduction of Operation Anvil, 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.

I am advised that information on the number of charges preferred under Operation Anvil are not readily available. This information is currently being assembled by the Garda authorities, and I will contact the Deputy again when the information is to hand.

Ministerial Appointments.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

43 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the term of office of the Inspector of Prisons expires; if it is intended to reappoint the person; if he has plans to abolish the post of Inspector of Prisons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22128/06]

The current Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention, Mr. Justice Dermot Kinlen, was appointed to the post on a non-statutory basis with effect from 24 April, 2002. His appointment was for a period of five years and, as such, is due to expire on 23 April, 2007. In regard to my future plans for the post itself, I wish to advise the Deputy that I intend to establish the Office of the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention on a statutory footing.

Deportation Orders.

John Gormley

Question:

44 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the numbers of Afghani nationals who have been deported in the period end 2001 to 1 June 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22205/06]

Between the period end 2001 to 1 June 2006 no persons have been deported to Afghanistan. However, during the period 1st January 2002 to 1st June 2006, 10 persons have been transferred to other EU States under the Dublin II Regulation.

Sexual Offences.

Joan Burton

Question:

45 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the operation of the Register of Sex Offenders; if the information is contained in a central database; the categories of persons who have access to the information; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22117/06]

Ciarán Cuffe

Question:

75 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will carry out a review of the register of sex offenders in order to bring it in line with the register maintained in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22202/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 45 and 75 together.

The Sex Offenders Act, 2001 which commenced on 27 September 2001 sets out the obligations on persons convicted of a range of sexual offences. A convicted sex offender must notify his/her name(s), date of birth and current home address to the Garda Síochána within seven days of the conviction for the sexual offence concerned or, where the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, from the date of full release from prison.

Thereafter, the offender must notify the Gardaí of any change of name or address within seven days of that change. Notification of any address where the offender spends either as much as seven days or two or more periods amounting to seven days in any twelve month period must also be given to the Gardaí.

If the offender intends to leave the State for a period of seven days or more s/he must inform the Gardaí of this fact and the address at which s/he intends to stay and also notify the Gardaí of his/her return. If s/he did not intend to stay away for more than seven days but did, s/he must inform the Gardaí within a further seven days. The provisions of the Act extend to any sex offenders entering this jurisdiction from abroad who have an obligation to register in their own countries.

It is an offence to fail to comply with the notification requirements. The penalty is imprisonment for up to 12 months or a fine of €1,900 or both. The courts can also sentence an offender who has been found guilty of an offence under the schedule of offences in the Act to a period of statutory supervision under the Probation and Welfare Service on their release from prison.

The Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit of An Garda Síochána monitor and manage the notification provisions. There are nominated Garda Inspectors in each Garda Division who are notified by the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit when a sex offender, who is subject to the requirements of the Sex Offenders Act, 2001, becomes resident in their Division.

Close liaison is maintained between An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland in respect of persons subject to the Act, and information on the movements of such persons is exchanged for policing purposes. A Memorandum of Understanding on information sharing arrangements between Ireland and the UK, including Northern Ireland, relating to sex offenders has been negotiated by my Department and the Home Office. I have recently received Government approval for its signature and I expect this to take place shortly.

The InterGovernmental Agreement on North/South Co-operation on Criminal Justice Matters was signed on behalf of the Irish and British Governments in July 2005. Under the agreement, a Registered Sex Offender Advisory Group has been established consisting of representatives of An Garda Síochána, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, my Department and the Northern Ireland Office. This group is evaluating the potential for sharing information, examining the registration criteria in both jurisdictions and identifying areas for further co-operation. There are currently 916 persons subject to the Act's requirements. The Act and its operation are kept under constant review.

Garda Reserve.

Kathleen Lynch

Question:

46 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position with regard to the establishment of the Garda Reserve Force; when he expects the first recruits to the Reserve to begin training; if a final decision has been made on the numbers to be recruited; the progress he has made in his discussions with the representative associations on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22131/06]

In July 2005, as part of a submission on the future resourcing requirements of the Garda Síochána, the Garda Commissioner proposed the recruitment of up to 4,000 reserve members as provided for in the Garda Síochána Act 2005. In response, and in the context of identifying policing priorities for inclusion in the Garda policing plan for 2006, I set the objective of the recruitment of 900 reserve members by September 2006. Subsequently, the Commissioner submitted detailed proposals to me on the recruitment, training, powers, duties and deployment of reserve members. The proposals envisage a thoroughly trained Reserve with carefully selected powers and duties, working under the supervision of members of the Garda Síochána.

Draft regulations have been prepared under the 2005 Act to give effect to these proposals. I have already met all four Garda Representative Associations on this issue and have referred the draft regulations to the Garda Síochána Conciliation Council for detailed consultations with the Garda Associations. The Chief Superintendents' Association and the Superintendents' Association have already engaged positively in consultation on the draft regulations and I want to commend them for their positive attitude. I very much hope that the two other Associations will do likewise. I have made clear that I am genuinely open to any practical constructive proposals on issues such as the numbers, recruitment, training, powers, duties or deployment of reserve members. I have asked the Associations, for their part, to undertake to respect the clear will of the Oireachtas in this matter and to engage positively as the representatives of their senior officers have done in those consultations.

The draft regulations have also been referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights for its consideration. The recruitment campaign for reserve members will commence as soon as the regulations are made.

I am concerned that the Garda Reserve will reinforce the links between the Garda Síochána and local communities, and that it will enhance the capacity of the Force to respond to emerging policing challenges. I have seen for myself how well special constabularies, which are broadly equivalent to the Reserve, work in Britain, and how good and effective are the relations between them and the regular police forces. This is a great opportunity to enhance the policing service in our country, and I urge the Garda Associations to seize the opportunity now to make their contribution to its development.

Proposed Legislation.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

47 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the timetable as to when the promised anti-trafficking in human beings legislation will be introduced to the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22204/06]

The Criminal Justice (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill is at an advanced stage of preparation and should be published later this year and enacted in the lifetime of this Dáil.

Question No. 48 answered with QuestionNo. 20.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

49 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in regard to the three most recent reports received from Mr. Justice Morris; when it is expected that they will be published in full; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22121/06]

The resolution which led to the establishment of the Morris Tribunal was passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas on 28 March 2002. It requires the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, within 14 days of receipt of any report from the Tribunal, either to apply to the High Court for directions regarding its publication or arrange to have it laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The terms of that resolution are reflected in the legal instrument establishing the Tribunal.

I recently received the third, fourth and fifth reports of the Morris Tribunal. Having concluded that publication of the reports might prejudice criminal proceedings, I applied to the High Court for directions as to publication under section 3 of the Tribunal of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) Act, 2002. The High Court directed that the application be heard otherwise than in public as provided for in that section. I am precluded from disclosing what transpired during the course of those proceedings other than to say that they were held on notice to the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the person who is the defendant in the criminal proceedings.

Having considered the relevant submissions, including copies of the reports themselves, the President of the High Court ordered that all three reports should not be published until the Court otherwise directs. It is not possible for me to give an indication of when they might be published at this stage.

Crime Levels.

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

50 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cases of murder in which firearms were used in respect of each year from 1998 to date in 2006; the number of such cases in which prosecutions for murder were initiated; the number of such cases where convictions were secured; if he is satisfied regarding the level of detection and conviction in such cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22135/06]

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Question:

59 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of murders in which firearms were used since the beginning of 2006; his views on the continuing level of gun murders, many of which are gang-related; the steps he is taking to deal with this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22136/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 59 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the table shows the figures available for murder offences recorded, detected, proceedings commenced and convictions, where a firearm was used for the years 1998 to 2005 and in 2006 up to 7 June.

While no level of murder is acceptable, I would advise the Deputy that Ireland has one of the lowest murder rates in the western world. For example, figures recently published by the Scottish Executive show that in the period 2000/2002 the average homicide rate per year in Scotland was 2.27 per 100,000 population. In Glasgow it was 6.29 per 100,000 population. By comparison, in the same period Ireland had an average annual homicide rate of 1.89 per 100,000 population and the rate in Dublin was 2.12.

The Government's top policing priority for 2006 is to continue to target organised crime, including drug trafficking, and the gun culture associated with it. This is being implemented through deployment by the Garda authorities of specialist units and the use of targeted operations to tackle specific criminal activities. I am in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner in order to keep the measures and resources for tackling serious crime under continuing review. All killings, regardless of the circumstances involved, are the subject of rigorous investigation by An Garda Síochána.

While the term "gangland murders" tends to be widely used in the media in referring to the nature of certain unlawful killings and speculation in this respect is understandable, this does not correspond to the manner in which An Garda Síochána classifies crime or particular offences. Caution is necessary in ascribing particular motives to any particular incident as, potentially, this might jeopardise the procedures which need to be followed for the proper investigation and prosecution of offences.

Operation Anvil commenced in the Dublin Metropolitan Region on 17 May, 2005 and is ongoing. It is focused on targeting active criminals and their associates by preventing and disrupting criminal activity through extensive additional overt patrolling and static check points by uniform, mobile and foot patrols supported by armed plain clothes patrols. I am informed by the Garda authorities that this operation, which is running in conjunction with regular policing, is proving 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. All areas of the city are covered by Operation Anvil, with specific locations and individuals being targeted for additional Garda attention. Since the commencement of the operation, 43 arrests have been made in connection with murder investigations and 424 firearms have been seized.

Also, in November last year, the Garda Commissioner augmented the Organised Crime Unit at the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation by an additional 55 Garda members to address the problem of gangland activity. Enforcement by the unit has resulted in a number of arrests, seizure of firearms and the disruption of criminal activities.

I am bringing forward a range of measures to strengthen the law governing the control of firearms in the Criminal Justice Bill, 2004, which is currently before the House. These new measures include increases in fines and penalties generally for offences under the Firearms Acts and the creation of mandatory minimum sentences, of between five and ten years, for certain firearms offences, including possession of a firearm in suspicious circumstances, possession of firearm with criminal intent, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property, possession of a firearm while hijacking a vehicle, and use or production of a firearm to resist arrest.

Murder Offences Recorded, Detected, Proceedings Commenced and Convictions, where a Firearm was used for Years 1998 to 2005 and up to 7 June, 2006*

Year

Recorded

Detected to date

Proceedings Commenced

Convictions

2006* (up to 7 June)

12

4

2

0

2005

21

4

3

0

2004

9

8

5

3

2003

20

10

4

2

2002

10

5

4

3

2001

9

6

2

2

2000

12

7

6

2

1999

12

7

7

5

1998

4

3

2

1

*Figures provided are provisional, operational and liable to change

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

51 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of homicides and serious assaults in each year from 2000 in which knives were used; his views on the introduction of a knives amnesty similar to that underway in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22129/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of homicides and serious assaults recorded and detected in each year from 2000 in which knives were used are as outlined in the table.

Offence

Rec/Det

Murder

Manslaughter

Assault

Total

2000

Recorded

9

7

105

121

Detected

9

7

77

93

2001

Recorded

17

5

91

113

Detected

17

5

64

86

2002

Recorded

21

3

86

110

Detected

20

3

57

80

2003

Recorded

5

2

77

84

Detected

5

2

41

48

2004

Recorded

14

1

77

92

Detected

14

1

57

72

2005

Recorded

15

2

52

69

Detected

9

2

29

40

The Criminal Justice Bill 2004, which is currently at Committee Stage in the House, amends the Firearms Acts, 1925 to 2000 to provide a statutory basis for the introduction of an amnesty during which firearms, flick-knives and weapons of offence may be surrendered to the Garda Síochána before new penalties and mandatory minimum sentences are introduced. A weapon of offence is defined as any article made or adapted for use for causing injury to or incapacitating a person, or intended by the person having it with him for such use.

During the amnesty period persons who surrender such weapons will not be prosecuted for the simple illegal possession of the weapon where the act constituting the offence was part of the process of the surrender. However, surrendered weapons will be forensically tested and where found to have been used in a crime the weapon and the forensic evidence will be admissible in any proceedings subsequently brought.

Garda Operations.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

52 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will investigate the ongoing harassment by Gardaí of republicans and other supporters at the hunger strike vigils being held in Dublin and surrounding areas; the reason for Garda presence at these events; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22190/06]

In recent months, there have been several events of the kind referred to by the Deputy in O'Connell Street, Dublin, culminating with vigils at the GPO.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that, in order to ensure disruption of traffic and of the general public is kept to a minimum, the Garda Síochána enters into discussion with the organisers of these marches to establish assembly points, march routes and so on. For all such public demonstrations, it is usual and appropriate for the Garda Síochána to maintain a presence, having regard to general considerations of public safety and public order. I am informed that at no time has there been any complaint of harassment with specific regard to what were referred to as vigils.

In relation to a remembrance gathering on 21 May, 2006, at Dolphin's Barn, I understand that a complaint has been made to the Garda Síochána Complaints Board, which is the independent body responsible for the investigation of complaints by member of the public against members of the Garda Síochána. As the matter is currently the subject of investigation, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on this specific issue.

Constitutional Challenges.

Ivor Callely

Question:

53 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when his Department became aware of matters relating to the recent Mr. A Supreme Court case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22080/06]

As the Tánaiste has told this House, on 29 November 2002 my Department was informed in writing by the Chief State Solicitor's Office of an application seeking judicial review by the High Court to challenge certain provisions of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935, (The "C.C." proceedings). An official promptly phoned the Chief State Solicitor's Office to ascertain whether they needed any response from the Department in relation to the application. The answer was in the negative. In January 2003, the Chief State Solicitor's Office repeated its undertaking to advise the Department of any development in the proceedings. No further communication was received in my Department from the Chief State Solicitor's Office or any other source concerning the "C.C." proceedings. Neither I nor my Department were notified of the hearing or outcome of the High Court case, which the State won, or the subsequent appeal to the Supreme Court.

In response to the Supreme Court decision of 23 May 2006, I published the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2006 on 1 June 2006. It passed all stages in the Dáil and Seanad and was signed into law by the President on the following day. Following discussions in the matter with my officials I set up, in late 2004, a Criminal Justice Group comprising representatives from the main agencies working in the criminal justice sector. The Group has representatives from, among others, An Garda Síochána, the Courts Service, the Irish Prison Service, the Attorney General's Office and the Director of Public Prosecutions. The main function of the Group, which is chaired by the Secretary General of my Department, is to promote a co-ordinated and cohesive approach to criminal justice matters. This Group has met on 4 occasions since late 2004 and is scheduled to meet again in July. The Secretary General has advised me that the group will meet more frequently from now on.

I have been advised by the Secretary General of my Department that, from now on, cases of litigation with constitutional and policy implications for the criminal justice system will be a standing item on every agenda of the Criminal Justice Group. Furthermore, it is my intention to discuss with the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions the importance of putting in place agreed procedures for a consultation process between our three offices in relation to cases of litigation on constitutional and policy issues. This consultation process will be over and above the current consultation process provided for in statute between the AG and the DPP.

Garda Inspectorate.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

54 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the new head of the Garda Inspectorate will take up their position; when the other members of the Inspectorate will be appointed; when it is expected that the Inspectorate will be functioning; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22140/06]

Following the enactment of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 in July 2005, the Secretary General of my Department requested the Public Appointments Service (PAS) to advise on the most appropriate recruitment process to source the best possible candidates for the members of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate.

The PAS proposed a model which involved using a private sector partner with experience in international recruitment and selection. Following a restricted procurement process and receipt of sanction from the Department of Finance the PAS engaged PriceWaterhousecoopers (PWC) as an Executive Search partner to assist them in a global search of common law jurisdictions to source suitable candidates for appointment of the Chief Inspector. As the position of Chief Inspector is the key position in the new organisation it was decided to recruit that person first.

On the 16th May, 2006, following a comprehensive selection and interview process, the Government appointed Ms Kathleen O'Toole to be the Chief Inspector of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate. Ms. O'Toole was the candidate who scored highest in the selection process. Ms O'Toole will be involved in the recruitment and selection of the other two members of the Inspectorate.

The positions of the other two members of the Inspectorate, who will report to the Chief Inspector, have been advertised separately by PAS. This process again involves an international search and selection process organised by PAS/PWC. The Chief Inspector will be involved in the recruitment and selection of the other two members and has already met with PAS/PWC in this regard. It is expected that the shortlisting of suitable candidates for interview will take place later this month with interviews and selection to follow early in July 2006. I intend to bring proposals to Government for the appointment of these two other members in July 2006 at which stage I propose to make the necessary statutory order to set the establishment day for the Garda Síochána Inspectorate.

Garda Deployment.

Liz McManus

Question:

55 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of community Gardaí currently deployed; the location of these community Gardaí; if there is a set minimum period for community Gardaí to establish themselves in an area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22133/06]

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 6th June 2006 was 12,375. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June 1997 and represents an increase of 1,673 (or 16%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the serving strength of the Force is to receive a significant additional boost with the attestation of approximately 275 new members today.

I am further informed that the numbers and locations of gardaí allocated to Community Policing Duties as at the 31st March 2006 was as set out in the table:

Community Gardaí as at 31 March, 2006

Station

Inspector

Sergeant

Garda

Kevin Street

0

1

6

Kilmainham

0

1

4

Pearse Street

0

1

12

Harcourt Tce

0

0

4

Donnybrook

0

0

3

Irishtown

0

0

2

Store Street

1

2

22

Bridewell (D)

0

2

13

Fitzgibbon St

0

2

11

Mountjoy

0

0

10

Santry

0

1

3

Whitehall

0

1

4

Ballymun

0

2

7

Raheny

0

0

5

Clontarf

0

1

5

Howth

0

1

4

Coolock

0

1

8

Swords

0

1

10

Malahide

0

0

4

Dún Laoghaire

0

1

4

Dalkey

0

0

2

Cabinteely

0

1

4

Kill-O-Grange

0

0

3

Bray

0

1

13

Shankill

0

1

8

Greystones

0

0

6

Blackrock

0

2

5

Dundrum

0

0

6

Stepaside

0

0

2

Crumlin

0

1

4

Sundrive Road

0

0

5

Tallaght

1

1

19

Rathfarnham

0

1

4

Rathmines

0

0

3

Terenure

0

1

6

Cabra

0

1

4

Finglas

0

1

9

Blanchardstown

0

2

15

Lucan

0

1

5

Leixlip

0

0

3

Ronanstown

0

1

11

Ballyfermot

0

1

7

Clondalkin

0

1

9

Rathcoole

0

0

1

Waterford

0

2

6

Kilkenny

0

0

1

Nenagh

0

1

1

Borrisokane

0

1

1

Dolla

0

0

1

Toomevara

0

0

1

Portroe

0

0

1

Terryglass

0

0

1

Ballingarry

0

0

1

Cloughjordan

0

0

1

Anglesea Street

0

1

3

Barrack Street

0

0

2

Blackrock

0

0

1

Bridewell (C)

0

0

1

Watercourse Rd

0

0

2

Mayfield

0

0

2

Mallow Road

0

0

1

Togher

0

0

2

Bishopstown

0

0

1

Douglas

0

0

1

Carrigaline

0

0

1

Gurranbraher

0

0

3

Ballincollig

0

0

1

Fermoy

0

0

1

Mallow

0

0

1

Tralee

0

0

3

Henry Street

0

2

11

Mary Street

0

0

1

Mayorstone

0

0

3

Roxboro Road

0

1

6

Letterkenny

0

1

2

Monaghan

0

0

2

Cavan

0

0

1

Sligo

0

0

6

Galway

0

1

10

Salthill

0

0

2

Athlone

0

0

2

Mullingar

0

1

4

Ashbourne

0

0

2

Drogheda

0

0

1

Dundalk

0

1

2

Navan

0

0

2

Balbriggan

0

0

1

Naas

0

0

3

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. This includes the allocation of personnel to Community Garda Units. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends, administrative functions and other operational policing needs. Such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and that the best possible service is provided to the public. Garda management state that there is no set minimum period for Community Gardaí to establish themselves in an area.
I should add 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 do so every 90 days thereafter.
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 Community Garda Units throughout the country will be given the fullest consideration.

Human Trafficking.

Jack Wall

Question:

56 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedures which are in place to prevent the trafficking of women to Ireland for purposes of the sex trade; when the promised legislation to outlaw such trafficking will be in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22151/06]

Bernard Allen

Question:

58 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has discussed with his European Union counterparts the unacceptable incidence of human trafficking across Member States of the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19808/06]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

214 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the levels of human trafficking, primarily of women into Ireland for prostitution from countries including but not limited to Moldova, Lithuania, Romania, Mongolia, Nigeria and Brazil, who are tricked into coming here on false pretences of work and who upon arrival are forced into prostitution; the number of such persons as is known or estimated; and the vigilance which is being exercised in trying to stop these practices. [22274/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 56, 58 and 214 together.

By its very nature, human trafficking is a clandestine activity and, owing to the intimidation associated with it, victims are often reluctant to come forward to the authorities. This is the experience internationally and, for these reasons, it is impossible to be precise about the extent of human trafficking into Ireland. In common with other EU countries all the indications are that, in Ireland, trafficking in human beings takes place on a much smaller scale than illegal immigration. In the recently published United Nations Report "Trafficking in Persons Global Patterns" Ireland ranks at the low end of destination or transit countries in western Europe. This analysis is confirmed by the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report 2006, which was published on 5 June and highlights the approach to human trafficking in 158 countries. The report states that "while Ireland has a growing population of migrants, there is not yet evidence of a large number of trafficking victims".

The US states that the Government "has shown openness and leadership" in tackling human trafficking. It further states that the Government "has demonstrated strong leadership and initiative in addressing trafficking through law enforcement means" and "vigorously investigated cases of suspected trafficking reported by NGOs, potential victims themselves, and those reported in the media". The report also states that the "Government of Ireland demonstrated strong engagement with international organisations, NGOs, and potential source countries on trafficking" and that "NGOs reported excellent cooperation with government and police officials, particularly at the operational level".

Garda operations have uncovered a small number of trafficking cases. These indicate the involvement of eastern European nationals in trafficking and attempted trafficking activity. The Garda have encountered a small number of cases of eastern European women being trafficked into Ireland for the purpose of sexual exploitation within their own ethnic communities.

An Garda Síochána and the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), in particular, take a proactive and vigorous approach in preventing and combating trafficking of human beings. The GNIB works closely with other specialist units, e.g., the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, the Garda National Drugs Unit, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Criminal Assets Bureau. A number of ongoing Garda operations, including "Operation Hotel" and "Operation Quest", are in place to tackle the phenomenon. The approach taken in tackling trafficking is, where possible, to prevent it occurring, or where it does occur, to seek to prosecute the perpetrators and to protect the victims.

In view of the exponential growth in the level of immigration in Ireland in recent years, all members of An Garda Síochána are advised of the need to be mindful of the possibility of trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation. If evidence of trafficking for such purposes is disclosed in any case, investigations are conducted. A training programme has been prepared for delivery to key Garda personnel throughout the State. This training programme has been designed specifically to enable members of An Garda Síochána identify victims of trafficking whom they encounter in the course of their duties, ensure that members fully understand the complexity of the phenomenon and ensure that victims receive appropriate assistance from all the relevant agencies.

Under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 it is an offence, punishable by up to life imprisonment, to traffic a child into, through or out of Ireland for the purpose of sexual exploitation. For the purposes of this Act, a child is a person under 17 years of age. It is also an offence under the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000 for a person to organise or knowingly facilitate the entry into Ireland of another person whom that person knows or has reasonable cause to believe is an illegal immigrant or a person who intends to seek asylum. The maximum prison sentence on conviction for this offence is 10 years. In trafficking cases, it is also possible for the prosecuting authorities here to bring charges for a range of offences covered by our criminal law, including sexual offences, false imprisonment, possession of false documents, etc.

Legislation which will create a specific offence, in accordance with EU, United Nations and Council of Europe instruments on trafficking, of trafficking persons into, through or out of Ireland for the purpose of their sexual or labour exploitation is at an advanced stage of preparation in my Department. The legislation will be comprehensive, providing further protection to vulnerable persons against sexual abuse and amending provisions in existing Acts making them more relevant in the light of experience gained from their operation.

This legislation will provide for compliance with two EU Framework Decisions — the Framework Decision combating trafficking in persons and the Framework Decision combating the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. The legislation will also take account of several other international instruments, such as the Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, supplementing the UN Convention against transnational organised crime, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the Council of Europe Convention on action against trafficking in human beings.

It is proposed that the legislation, provisionally titled the Criminal Justice (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill, should be published in 2006 and enacted in the lifetime of this Dáil. It has taken longer than expected to prepare because of the extent of the issues it will cover and the need to await the adoption of the Council of Europe instrument on trafficking so that it too could be taken into account in the legislation.

Successful prosecutions, no matter what legislation is in operation, will depend on the existence of evidence that will stand up in court and for that to happen, there must be a willingness to co-operate with Garda investigations. That is partly why, on 5 May, I launched a poster campaign. This campaign, which is facilitated by Crimestoppers, will help raise awareness of trafficking among the general public. It will also provide an important point of contact for those who may be victims of, or vulnerable to, this insidious crime. The posters are being displayed at airports, ports, bus and railway stations, among other places. Anyone who rings the free phone number 1800 25 00 25 can be assured that the call is anonymous, safe and free of charge. Victims of trafficking, or anyone with knowledge of trafficking activities, should not be afraid of contacting the authorities for assistance. An Garda Síochána, my Department and the International Organisation for Migration are all participating in the campaign and are available to provide whatever assistance is necessary to victims who come to our attention.

In May also, I published on the Department's website the report of a working group on human trafficking comprising representatives of my Department and An Garda Síochána. I fully support the conclusions and recommendations in the report, which is clear evidence that my Department and An Garda Síochána are committed to tackling human trafficking at a national level and to working with our European Union and other colleagues to tackle it internationally.

The issue of human trafficking is a priority at EU level and is discussed regularly by Justice and Interior Ministers and by officials within the framework of the Council. An EU Action Plan on Trafficking in Human Beings was agreed by the Council in December, 2005 and Council conclusions on preventing and combating trafficking of human beings on the basis of the Action Plan, including trafficking in connection with major international events, were agreed by the Council in April, 2006.

I should add that inter-Governmental, bilateral agreements were concluded with Poland and Bulgaria in December, 2005. These cover a range of criminal justice matters, including co-operation in combating trafficking in persons. Negotiations are ongoing in relation to proposals for agreements with other eastern European countries.

Garda Communications.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

57 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations with broadband Internet access; the plans he has for a nationwide roll-out of broadband to all Garda stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22211/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that Broadband internet facilities are available at Garda Headquarters, Harcourt Square, Store Street and the Garda College, Templemore. I am further informed by the Garda Authorities that broadband to provide telecommunications and Garda Intranet services has been deployed to 159 Garda Stations and has been ordered for a further 38 stations. In all, it is planned to provide access for an additional 50 Garda Stations by the end of 2006, subject to the availability of services at these stations.

Question No. 58 answered with QuestionNo. 56.
Question No. 59 answered with QuestionNo. 50.

Crime Levels.

Joe Sherlock

Question:

60 Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the figures contained in the recent Garda Report for 2005 which shows a further increase in the number of headline offences; his further views on whether taken together with the provisional figures for the first quarter of 2006, the report shows a worrying deterioration in the crime situation; the action he intends to take arising from the increase in the number of serious crimes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22125/06]

I refer the Deputy to my answer to Parliamentary Question No. 5 for today.

Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

61 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans he has to allow for publication of statistics on the decisions of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal; if he will create an independent selection and interview process for members of the Tribunal, both of which would bring the Tribunal in line with best international practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22207/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal (RAT) was established under the Refugee Act, 1996 in order to deal with appeals arising from negative recommendations in respect of applications for refugee status issued by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner (ORAC). The Tribunal has been in operation since November 2000 and is comprised, at the present time, of a full time Chairperson and 32 part time Members.

The RAT is a statutory body, independent in the performance of its functions under the provisions of sections 15 and 16 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) and the publication of statistics regarding decisions of the Tribunal is a matter for the Chairperson. The Tribunal has undertaken a significant job of work since its establishment, taking some 23,107 decisions up to the end of 2005. It has also been tackling on an ongoing basis the number of appeals on hands and moving from a situation, for example, where on 31 January 2004 it had some 2,596 appeals to clear (some 990 of which were over six months old) to a situation at the end of April 2006 where it had 1,672 appeals on hands, only 469 of which were over six months old and a significant number of which are at an advanced stage of processing.

I would like to place on the record my appreciation to the Chairperson of the Tribunal, its Members and staff for their efforts to date in carrying out the important work of the Tribunal in meeting the State's obligations under the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

In April 2005, I published a public Consultation Document setting out outline policy proposals for an Immigration and Residence Bill. This document noted that the State is required to introduce a subsidiary protection regime under EU law later this year. This provides an opportunity of which I intend to avail to re-examine, in the light of the experience of the last decade, how protection claims are dealt with under present law including at appeals stage. I will be bringing proposals to Government in this regard in the coming weeks.

Tribunals of Inquiry.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

62 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, in respect of his meeting on 10 June 2005, with a private investigator (details supplied) in County Meath, he discussed with his Departmental staff the intended meeting with the private investigator; the reason his Departmental staff were not present at the meeting; when he first created a minute of the meeting; if he created a schedule of the copy documents supplied by the private investigator; and if so, when; if any of the documents received touched on issues of relevance to the Morris Tribunal; if so, if these documents were forwarded by him to the Tribunal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22123/06]

For many years the individual named in the Deputy's question has frequently contacted me on a personal basis on a very wide range of issues which are of interest to him. These contacts are sometimes made by phone and sometimes by writing.

In relation to the specific encounter raised by the Deputy, the person in question had contacted me in the preceding week and had indicated that he was apprehensive that in a forthcoming debate in this House things might be said on which he could throw additional light. I was due to travel westwards on private business for the weekend on the day that I met him and I contacted him as to whether he would be at his home which was along my intended route. We had a lengthy conversation on a number of topics chiefly centring on his personal involvement with the McBrearty family and the Morris Tribunal and events related thereto but also with other personal matters. He gave me copies of a number of documents which he had sent to my Department. None of them was original and all of them were already in the hands of the Department and had been made available for the Tribunal. The meeting was personal and no official was present; it was not an occasion in respect of which either I or the individual in question would have been expected to make a minute.

Gender Discrimination.

David Stanton

Question:

63 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the efforts he is making to address the gender pay gap; his views on the causes and results of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18188/06]

While there is a number of factors involved in the gender pay gap, it is generally agreed that the biggest factor is the difference between women and men in accumulated work experience, and women taking time-out of the labour force for child rearing and caring duties. Other factors include occupational segregation, educational and training differences, promotion policies within firms, the availability of child-care, and the availability of maternity, parental leave and family friendly work practices. Women also dominate part-time employment, which is often less well paid than full time employment. Over 30 per cent of all women in employment are in part-time jobs. However, it should be noted that the vast majority of those working part-time are doing so voluntarily and few part-timers are recorded as preferring to have longer hours.

In order to address the Gender Pay Gap the Government has adopted a multifaceted approach across a number of areas. The Consultative Group on Male/Female Wage Differentials, set up under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, was chaired by my Department and reported to Government in November 2003 on actions required to address the gender pay gap. Their research found that increased labour market participation by women was an important step in reducing the pay gap. The report contained a number of recommendations addressing a wide range of Government policies including: taxation, statutory minimum wages, education and training, and the development of family friendly policies.

We have acted on these recommendations and the indications are that Ireland has made considerable progress in relation to the gender pay gap with a significant narrowing of the gap in recent years. Twenty years ago the gap was about 25%. The most recent statistics produced by Eurostat (European Union Statistics Body) show an Irish Gender Pay Gap of 13% which is just below the EU average.

The recent reductions in the gap are attributable to a number of factors including: the introduction and regular increase of the National Minimum Wage, the implementation of legislative provisions, the introduction of the Equal Opportunities Child-care Programme, part-individualisation of the taxation system, increases in child benefit payments, and the continued strength of the Irish economy and the underlying strong demand for labour.

The Government has introduced a major investment initiative, partly funded by the EU, to develop child-care over the period 2000-006. This has created over 41,000 new centre-based child-care places, an increase of over 70 per cent. We are also providing an additional €575 million for the Child-care Investment Programme 2006-2010, which will create a further 50,000 child-care places. In addition, we have provided very significant increases in child benefit which is now at a minimum of €150 per month for each child under 18 and from this year, we are providing a special annual payment of €1,000 for each child aged under six years.

We have also increased paid and unpaid maternity leave with similar increases promised for next year. Parents will then be entitled to a total of 56 weeks between paid and unpaid maternity leave. This is complemented by the parental, adoptive and carer's leave provisions introduced or strengthened by this Government and is a major support for women in the labour force who have child-care and/or other responsibilities.

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) has played a significant role in narrowing wage differentials because women tended to occupy a greater proportion of lower paid jobs and their incomes are now protected by Minimum Wage legislation. In May 2005, the National Minimum Wage was increased from €7 per hour to €7.65, an increase of over 9 per cent, and well ahead of inflation. As women occupy a greater proportion of lower paid jobs, this is a significant step in narrowing wage gap differentials.

My own Department has responsibility for the Equality for Women Measure (EWM) in the National Development Plan which has provided funding to projects for the period 2000-2006, including proposals aimed at addressing the glass ceiling and horizontal segregation in the labour force. The Equality for Women measure supports proposals designed to promote:

•access to employment, education and training, retraining and up-skilling

•encouraging entrepreneurship and career development among women

•innovative actions for disadvantaged women and older women

•gender proofing of personnel policies and practices, by means of the Equality Reviews and Action Plans Scheme, which is being implemented by the Equality Authority family friendly policies in employment and sharing family responsibilities

•research and information campaign for women returning to paid employment

•achievement of equality for women in the workplace and business and

•participation of greater numbers of women in decision making.

The Equality for Women Measure was funded initially from the Regional Operational Programmes of the National Development Plan which set aside almost €30 million for the period 2000 to 2006. Since then, the Measure has been reinforced with funding of over €6 million from the Employment and Human Resource Development Operational Programme, including €3 million from the European Social Fund. Since 2001, the vast bulk of that funding has been provided to 70 organisations to deliver positive action projects, for women in their communities, in education and training, in work and in decision making.

As a positive action programme, the Equality for Women Measure, along with gender mainstreaming, reflects the dual approach of the Irish Government to promoting equality for women. Since its inception, the Measure has demonstrated the ongoing relevance of positive action, both to contributing to the well-being of women in different situations, and to reinforcing the impact of gender mainstreaming.

The spread of actions supported by the Measure is comprehensive and diverse, ranging from providing foundation training to women in their communities, to building gender equality capacity within the social partners. A common feature across all projects is the relevance of the actions they are undertaking to address the attitudinal, cultural and structural barriers to equality for women. To date, approximately 7,000 people have participated in the 70 projects funded under Phase I of the Measure and many thousands more have benefited from the services delivered by the projects. The second Phase of the Measure, covering the period 2004-2006, has a particular focus on poverty and social exclusion and this is being delivered through the RAPID programme. A sum of €7m was approved in March 2005 to fund 58 projects within RAPID designated areas.

In addition to the funding directed to RAPID areas, a sum of €2m has been allocated to fund the mainstreaming of learning developed in Phase I of the Measure. Included in this figure is €500,000 which has been ring-fenced for the mainstreaming of Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) projects. A further €1m has been allocated to FÁS to mainstream their "Expanding the Workforce" initiative which is designed to encourage women who wish to return to the labour market.

Again under Phase II, funding of €300,000 has been set aside for the programme of Equality Reviews and Action Plans which is being managed by the Equality Authority on behalf of the Department. A further €50,000 has been allocated to the "Leadership Initiative" to support the "Future Leaders" Programme which provides training to women in senior management positions in the public and private sectors.

This multifaceted response which the Government is taking in addressing the gender pay gap will be developed further in the National Women's Strategy which is well advanced. Its development is being overseen by an Inter-Departmental Committee of Senior Officials, under the chairmanship of my Department and is the subject of an external consultation process. I am hopeful that the draft National Women's Strategy will be finalised and submitted to Government later this year.

Garda Disciplinary Code.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

64 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his proposals for a new Garda disciplinary code in view of the serious concerns expressed by Mr. Justice Morris in regard to the deterioration of discipline and good order that he found in regard to the Gardaí in Donegal; when it is expected that the code will be published; when it will be in operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22116/06]

Work is currently under way in my Department in relation to the preparation of draft new Garda disciplinary regulations on the lines recommended by the Morris Tribunal. These new Regulations will completely replace the existing disciplinary procedures. It will be recalled that the Morris Tribunal, in its latest reports, was critical of those procedures, pointing out that because of the overlay of legal formalism, they can be used to delay and frustrate simple and straightforward disciplinary investigations. The Tribunal commented that the current disciplinary regulations need to be replaced by a new, less complex approach which will be swift and fair with a simple appeal process.

As the Government has already announced, my intention is to publish these new draft Regulations in the coming weeks and to have them approved by the Government and signed into law before the Summer recess.

Law Reform Commission.

Ivor Callely

Question:

65 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of recommendations that the Law Reform Commission has made on matters relating to his Department; the number of these recommendations which are outstanding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22081/06]

I can inform the Deputy that a full list of the Reports of the Law Reform Commission since 1985 is on the Commission's website together with the text of each Report, and that an indicative list of the Reports which have been implemented, in one form or another, is also on the Commission's website.

Constitutional Challenges.

Seán Crowe

Question:

66 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when he was first made aware of a High Court constitutional challenge to the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22198/06]

I can inform the Deputy that I was never made aware of a High Court constitutional challenge to the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935.

As the Tánaiste has told this House, on 29 November 2002 my Department was informed in writing by the Chief State Solicitor's Office of an application seeking judicial review to challenge certain provisions of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935, (The "C.C." proceedings). An official promptly phoned the Chief State Solicitor's Office to ascertain whether they needed any response from the Department in relation to the application. The answer was in the negative. In January 2003, the Chief State Solicitor's Office repeated its undertaking to advise the Department of any development in the proceedings. No further communication was received in my Department from the Chief State Solicitor's Office or any other source concerning the "C.C." proceedings. Neither I nor my Department were notified of the hearing or outcome of the High Court case, which the State won, or the subsequent appeal to the Supreme Court.

In response to the Supreme Court decision of 23 May 2006, I published the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2006 on 1 June 2006. It passed all stages in the Dáil and Seanad and was signed into law by the President on the following day.

Garda Investigations.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

67 Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made with regard to the Garda investigation into the murder of Donna Cleary in Coolock on 5 March 2006; if a file has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions; if persons have been charged in connection with the murder; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22137/06]

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the murder of the person referred to is under active investigation by the Gardaí at Coolock Garda Station. A number of persons have been arrested and the investigation is progressing. To date a file has not been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions and no person has been charged in connection with this incident. As this is an ongoing Garda investigation it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this time.

Garda Strength.

Mary Upton

Question:

68 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Gardaí at the latest date for which figures are available; the number expected to be recruited during 2006; the number of recruits who have graduated from the Garda Training College as full Garda members since 6 June 2002; the number of Gardaí who have retired, resigned or otherwise left the Force since 6 June 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22138/06]

I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the personnel strength (all ranks) of An Garda Síochána is set to rise to a record 12,641 today following the attestation of 273 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June 1997 and represents an increase of 1,939 (or 18.1%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period.

The Deputy will be aware that the operational strength of An Garda Síochána includes attested officers. Therefore, with today's attestation a total of 2,616 new members have been attested to An Garda Síochána since 6 June, 2002. I have also been informed by the Garda authorities that 2,125 recruits have graduated from the Garda College since 6 June, 2002. Garda management state that a total of 1,736 members (all ranks) have resigned, retired or otherwise left An Garda Síochána since 6 June, 2002.

The timescale for achieving the target strength of 14,000 members of the Garda Síochána in line with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government remains as when I announced the Government approval in October 2004 for my proposals to achieve this objective. The phased increase in the strength of An Garda Síochána to 14,000 will lead to a combined strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year. This project is fully on target and will be achieved.

As part of the accelerated recruitment campaign to facilitate this record expansion, 1,125 Garda recruits were inducted to the Garda College during 2005. The College will induct a further 1,100 recruits this year and again in 2007, by way of intakes to the Garda College of approximately 275 recruits every quarter. The first group of newly attested Gardaí under the accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March and the second such group comes on stream today. Further tranches of approximately 275 newly attested Gardaí will follow every 90 days hereafter until the programme is complete.

Prison Drug Treatment Services.

Dan Boyle

Question:

69 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the details of all drug rehabilitation programmes being offered in the prison system; the programmes recently terminated; the reason for the termination of these programmes; the programmes being prepared for roll-out; when such programmes will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22209/06]

On 2nd May 2006, I launched the new Irish Prison Service Drugs Policy & Strategy, entitled Keeping Drugs out of Prison. This new policy fulfils the commitment in the Programme for Government to publish the plan to end all heroin use in Irish prisons as well as my own commitment to achieve a drug-free prison system. The implementation of this Policy & Strategy has seen an intensification of efforts in the prison system to eliminate the availability of illicit drugs within prisons. This Policy & Strategy involves the traditional means of effecting supply reduction — staff vigilance, physical searches and supervision of persons entering prisons and their reinforcement by means of improved facilities and procedures. The Policy & Strategy has also provided for a range of new measures to eliminate the supply of drugs into prisons: notably, enhanced visit security, the introduction of passive drug detection dogs and mandatory drug testing. An underlying aim of the new Policy & Strategy is the operation of all treatment programmes within a coherent policy framework, understood and supported by all agencies involved in drug treatment within the prison system.

The new Policy & Strategy also provides for enhanced engagement with the Community and Voluntary Sector, who play an important role in supporting drug addicted prisoners, both in prison and in the community. The Policy & Strategy also provide for the strengthening of the links to national bodies in this area, notably in the area of information sharing and research.

Working to fulfil these commitments will involve the implementation of stringent measures to prevent drugs from getting into prisons while, at the same time, continuing to invest in services within prisons to reduce the demand for illicit drugs in the prisoner population as well as meeting prisoners' treatment and rehabilitative needs.

Drug rehabilitation programmes for prisoners involve a significant multidimensional input by a diverse range of general and specialist services provided both by the Irish Prison Service and visiting statutory and non-statutory organisations. The Irish Prison Service seeks to reduce the demand for drugs within the prison system through education, treatment and rehabilitation services for drug-addicted offenders. Particular initiatives put in place include a Drugs Detoxification programme, a programme of Substitution Therapies, a programme of maintaining Voluntary Testing Drug Free wings, health interventions, vaccination programmes and treatment for viral illnesses.

I can assure the Deputy that no prison drug treatment programmes have been terminated. In fact, the present programmes will be expanded and enhanced with the further recruitment of psychologists and addiction counsellors. Advertisements for these positions have been placed in the national media and it is anticipated that these positions will be filled in the near future. The roll-out of the Drugs Policy & Strategy, including the enhancement of these programmes, has begun and I am confident that the targets set out will be reached, the major portion being implemented by end-2006 and the longer-term targets by end-2007.

Garda Vetting Services.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

70 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the categories of people working with children or other vulnerable people in respect of whom the Gardaí currently provide vetting procedures; if he has any plans to extend this to other categories; if his attention has been drawn to the recent case where a man sentenced to 16 years for multiple rape had been working with a homeless charity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22120/06]

The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU), established in January 2002, currently processes vetting requests in respect of, inter alia, the following: prospective employees of the Health Service Executive (HSE); prospective employees of certain agencies funded by the HSE; childcare places funded by the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme; special education facilities; special needs assistants in the general education sector; school transports; and prospective adoptive parents and fosterers.

I am pleased to report that, under the guidance of a multi-agency implementation group, the vetting service of the GCVU is currently undergoing major expansion. This is being made possible, in part, by the provision of significant additional human and other resources. In particular, the GCVU's staffing complement has more than doubled, from 13 to 30 personnel.

The extension of the vetting service of the GCVU is proceeding in a planned and structured manner, following the Unit's recent successful decentralisation to custom-designed office accommodation in Thurles, Co. Tipperary, under the Government's Decentralisation Programme. Moreover, significant changes have been made to the work processes of the Unit in order to streamline the processing of vetting applications.

I am not aware of the specific details of the case referred to by the Deputy but in any event the expansion of the Garda vetting service to new sectors will occur by means of a phased roll-out to an increasing number of organisations in the child and vulnerable adult care sectors. This expansion will continue until vetting is available in respect of all personnel working in a full-time, part-time or voluntary capacity with children and vulnerable adults. This includes those working with homeless persons.

Garda Reserve.

Denis Naughten

Question:

71 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans for the Garda Reserve Force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22004/06]

In July 2005, as part of a submission on the future resourcing requirements of the Garda Síochána, the Garda Commissioner proposed the recruitment of up to 4,000 reserve members as provided for in the Garda Síochána Act 2005. In response, and in the context of identifying policing priorities for inclusion in the Garda policing plan for 2006, I set the objective of the recruitment of 900 reserve members by September 2006. Subsequently, the Commissioner submitted detailed proposals to me on the recruitment, training, powers, duties and deployment of reserve members. The proposals envisage a thoroughly trained Reserve with carefully selected powers and duties, working under the supervision of members of the Garda Síochána.

Draft regulations have been prepared under the 2005 Act to give effect to these proposals. I have already met all four Garda Representative Associations on this issue and have referred the draft regulations to the Garda Síochána Conciliation Council for consultation with the Garda Associations. The Chief Superintendents' Association and the Superintendents' Association have engaged in consultation on the draft regulations and I want to commend them for their positive attitude. I very much hope that the two other Associations will do likewise. I have made clear that I am genuinely open to any constructive proposals on issues such as the numbers, recruitment, training, powers, duties or deployment of reserve members. I have asked the Associations, for their part, to undertake to respect the clear will of the Oireachtas in this matter and to engage positively in those consultations.

The draft regulations have also been referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights for its consideration. The recruitment campaign for reserve members will commence as soon as the regulations are made.

I genuinely believe that the Garda Reserve will reinforce the links between the Garda Síochána and local communities, and that it will enhance the capacity of the Force to respond to emerging policing challenges. I have seen for myself how well special constabularies, which are broadly equivalent to the Reserve, work in Britain, and how good and effective are the relations between them and the regular police forces. This is a great opportunity to enhance the policing service, and I urge the Garda Associations to take the opportunity now to make their contribution to its development.

Garda Equipment.

Willie Penrose

Question:

72 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations now equipped for the video recording of interviews with suspects; the total percentage of all stations this represents; the number of Garda stations with detention facilities that are so equipped; if there are any plans to equip further Garda stations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22142/06]

I am advised by the Garda authorities that 131 Garda stations out of a total of 703 stations have video interview recording facilities — almost 19% of the total. In its Third Report dated September, 2004, the Steering Committee on Audio Video Recording of Garda Questioning of Detained Persons reported that there was a total of 167 Garda stations with detention facilities that are used to detain and interview people. In this regard, it should be noted that it was never the intention that all Garda stations would be equipped to carry out audio/video recording of interviews. Rather the intention was that a sufficient number of interview rooms in Garda stations across the country be equipped to provide a broad nationwide coverage.

Where a Garda station is not equipped with an audio/video system, a person to be interviewed in accordance with the Regulations will be taken to the nearest Garda station with such equipment. In this context, the Garda authorities have advised me that, in June 2005, a Garda survey indicated that 98.1% of interviews as specified in the Regulations were being recorded. Interviews are not recorded mainly because either the arrested person declines to have the interview recorded or the equipment is already in use or is otherwise unavailable.

With regard to future and additional requirements I am advised that the Garda Commissioner is proceeding to prepare a tender for issue to the market for the provision of additional audio video systems.

Asylum Policy.

Arthur Morgan

Question:

73 Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the need for complementary protection for persons who have fled their country, and are unable or unwilling to return there due to the fact that their lives, safety or freedom are threatened by generalised violence, foreign aggression, internal conflict, massive violations of human rights or other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order, including the lack of a functioning State Government. [22197/06]

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

210 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the measures which the Government are taking to implement undertakings given under the Amsterdam Treaty Title IV, Article 63; if the Government will meet the deadline of 10 October 2006 for the transposition of the qualification directive 2004/83/EC; and the Government’s intentions in relation to implementation of this directive. [22270/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 73 and 210 together.

Title IV of the Treaty establishing the European Community (inserted by the Treaty of Amsterdam) provides, inter alia, that the Council shall within a period of five years from the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty (1 May 1999), adopt certain minimum standards for asylum in EU Member States.

The objective of the relevant provisions of the EC Treaty is the creation of a common EU Asylum System, the establishment of which was endorsed by EU Heads of State and Government at the European Council in Tampere in 1999. A number of legal instruments in the area of asylum have been tabled by the European Commission to date and adopted by the Council.

Under the Protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in relation to Title IV measures, the exercise of a specific option is required by the State, subject to the approval of the Government and the Houses of the Oireachtas, in order to take part in the measures in question.

The State has exercised the necessary options in respect of all asylum measures tabled to date under Title IV with the exception of the Reception Standards Directive which it is not proposed to opt into at the present time.

Article 63.1(c) of the EC Treaty specifically provides for the Council to adopt measures on minimum standards with respect to the qualification of nationals of third countries as refugees. This provision provided the legal basis for the adoption of Council Directive 2004/83/EC of 29 April 2004 on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third country nationals or stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection and the content of the protection granted, which necessitates the introduction of a subsidiary protection regime in the State later in the year.

Ireland's immigration and refugee legislation and practices are in compliance generally with the substance of Council Directive 2004/83/EC.

Work is ongoing in my Department to put the necessary statutory and administrative provisions in place as required before 10 October 2006 to ensure formal compliance with the Directive.

In addition to the subsidiary protection regime which I have referred to, the State already has comprehensive legislative provisions in place for determining whether non-nationals should be allowed to remain in the State for protection purposes or otherwise, such as the Refugee Act 1996, which sets out the framework for determining entitlement to refugee status; section 5 of the 1996 Act prohibiting refoulement of persons on various grounds and the very wide-ranging considerations under section 3(6) of the Immigration Act 1999.

Garda Training.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

74 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will confirm that the Garda indoor firing range at Garda headquarters has been closed due to safety concerns; when it is expected that it will be reopened; the temporary arrangements which are in place to allow Gardaí to continue firearms training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22130/06]

I have been informed by the Garda Authorities that plans to refurbish the Garda indoor firing range at Garda Headquarters are being advanced. A specification of requirements has been prepared with the assistance of an external company which has expertise in this area.

In the interim, miliary ranges are being utilised to provide the requisite training for Garda personnel.

Question No. 75 answered with QuestionNo. 45.

Garda Investigations.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

76 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the results of the investigation by a Garda superintendent into the bringing of public order charges against a person (details supplied) will be made available to the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22191/06]

A Garda Superintendent from outside the relevant Garda Division has been appointed to examine the circumstances surrounding the arrest, charging and subsequent acquittal of the person in question. That report has not yet been received. I do not propose to publish the report when it is received but it may be possible to provide the House with further information at that time.

Martin Ferris

Question:

77 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of the investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of a person (details supplied) while in Garda custody; if there will be a full and public inquiry into their death; if there is or will be an investigation into allegations of intimidation and harassment of the person’s family by Gardaí; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22193/06]

A Detective Superintendent from outside the relevant Garda Division was appointed immediately after the incident to carry out a detailed investigation into all the circumstances surrounding the person in question's arrest, detention and removal to hospital. The Garda authorities submitted a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions on the matter and furnished a copy to me also. The Director issued instructions that no prosecution should ensue.

An inquest into this tragic death is ongoing at present. An inquest is an independent inquiry to ascertain the cause of death and the Coroner has statutory duties and powers, including the power to call witnesses. The Coroner cannot consider questions of civil or criminal liability. When the inquest has been completed and a verdict returned I will consider the matter further.

With regard to the recent allegations to which the Deputy refers, I have been informed by the Garda authorities that an investigation is currently underway by a Detective Superintendent from a Division outside the relevant area.

Drug Treatment Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

78 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the programmes or facilities which are available in the Health Service Executive south east region for female heroin addicts who opt to detox; the number of places for males and females; her plans to expand the service giving the increase in numbers seeking help; if funding is available to react to those needing the services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22023/06]

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

Child Protection.

Joan Burton

Question:

79 Ms Burton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the action she is taking to ensure the safety of children in view of the fact that the protection offered by the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935 has been withdrawn; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22024/06]

As the Deputy is aware the Department of Health and Children in conjunction with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and other relevant Departments is committed to protecting children in Ireland today. This Government has taken a number of initiatives in regard to Child Protection, this includes the Children Act 2001, the improvement and expansion of Garda Vetting and most significantly the establishment of my office, the Office of the Minister for Children. This Office focuses on the important task of harmonising policy issues that affect children including early childhood care and education, youth justice, child welfare and protection, children and young people's participation, research on children and young people and cross-cutting initiatives for children. My Office is currently undertaking a review of the National Guidelines on Child Protection "Children First" and has advised the HSE in relation to a national awareness campaign on child abuse. Since 1997 the level of total additional revenue funding allocated to the HSE in the general area of child welfare and protection has been €200m. In 2006 an additional €8m was allocated within the HSE's Vote to child welfare and protection services.

With particular regard to recent developments the Deputy will again be aware that the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2006 became law on 2nd June 2006. This legislation was introduced by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform as a direct consequence of recent Court decisions concerning the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935. My Office is currently considering the implications of the 2006 Act in regard to Child Protection policy development.

The Deputy may wish to note that at the request of my Department, the HSE which has statutory responsibility for the protection of minors publicly invited any family directly affected by the recent Court decisions to make contact with the National Counselling Service. The HSE has confirmed that An Garda Síochána has made direct contact with the families involved to extend the offer of support and advise from the National Counselling Service

Health Service Contracts.

Pat Carey

Question:

80 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the names of all companies which have provided services to the then Northern Area Health Board under the headings building construction, building maintenance, mechanical and electrical, painting and decorating, grounds maintenance and grass cutting, catering and provision of stationery for each year from 2000 to 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22025/06]

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

Pat Carey

Question:

81 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the guidelines which have been issued by the Health Service Executive to area offices governing the award of contracts for the provision of services; the tendering process to be adhered to; the value for money guidelines which have been issued; the internal auditing arrangements which has been put in place to ensure compliance with good governance principles; the penalties which are in place for breach of the procedures mentioned; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22026/06]

Section 6 of the Health Act, 2004 states that the Health Service Executive is a corporate body. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Pat Carey

Question:

82 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her views on whether it is satisfactory that an employee of the Health Service Executive hiring outsider contractors can award a contract of less than €5,000 after receiving one quotation for the work and that three quotations are required if the contract is worth between €5,000 and €50,000 and that a formal tendering process is only required if the contract is worth more than the €50,000; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22027/06]

The HSE Procurement Policy, which was published earlier this year, states that it is a key requirement that "competitive tendering or other forms of open competition shall be the normal practice except in exceptional circumstances as set out in the corporate policy statement".

The HSE procurement procedures are broadly in line with the indicative values set out in the revised guidelines, drafted by the National Public Procurement Policy Unit (NPPPU) of the Department of Finance in consultation with the Government Contracts Committee and other participants in the public procurement market.

I have referred the Deputy's question to the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange for details on the HSE's procurement procedures to be provided to him directly.

Pat Carey

Question:

83 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the guidelines which were issued to the health boards in the Eastern Regional Health Authority area regarding public procurement and tendering arrangements for the provision of services to the boards within the ERHA remit by outside contractors; the arrangements which were in place within her Department to ensure that these guidelines were adhered to; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22028/06]

The Health Service Executive (an area of which was formerly called Eastern Regional Health Authority) is governed by public law, and as such is obliged to comply with the requirements of public procurement law. Public procurement law requires adherence to the appropriate European Union Procurement Directives. In addition, the National Public Procurement Policy Unit of the Department of Finance issues national procurement policy and guidance material, which is available on the website — www.etenders.gov.ie. While relevant information is freely available on this website, the Department also routinely brings any new developments to the attention of the Health Service Executive.

The HSE introduced a National Procurement Policy earlier this year which facilitates compliance with official public procurement policy and is in the process of establishing a new office with specific responsibility for Procurement. The HSE is currently recruiting for the post of Head of Procurement.

Pat Carey

Question:

84 Mr. Carey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the arrangements which were in place in her Department to ensure that value for money was achieved by the then health boards in awarding contracts for the provision of services to the boards in the years 2000 to the establishment of the Health Service Executive; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22029/06]

Like the Health Service Executive, the former health boards were governed by public law, and as such were obliged to comply with the requirements of public procurement law. Public procurement law requires adherence to the appropriate European Union Procurement Directives.

The Health Service Procurement Policy, which was published in 2000, had as its objectives to: ensure that materials management was developed in line with best practice; ensure that procurement practices complied fully with statutory regulations; ensure that savings and performance targets were met. The policy was also governed by a number of core values relating to the purchasing of supplies, works and services and included: achieving efficiency, effectiveness and best value for money in terms of overall life cycle costs; customer focus; dealing with quality suppliers, contractors and service providers; operating in a fair, open, transparent and non-discriminatory manner in the marketplace. This policy was accepted by the health boards, voluntary hospitals and direct funded homes. My Department also reminded the health boards regularly of their obligations to ensure that the spending of public funds should always conform to value for money principles.

Cancer Screening Programme.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

85 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the progress made in recruiting clinical directors and other essential staff for the roll-out of BreastCheck to the south and west; the progress made in the appointment of contractors to construct clinical units in Cork and Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22030/06]

I have met with representatives of BreastCheck and they are fully aware of my wish to have a quality assured programme rolled out to the remaining regions in the country as quickly as possible. For this to happen, essential elements of the roll-out must be in place including adequate staffing, effective training and quality assurance programmes. I have made available additional revenue funding of €2.3 million available to BreastCheck to meet the additional costs of roll out. I have also approved an additional 69 posts.

BreastCheck recently interviewed for Clinical Directors for the Southern and Western regions and appointments have been made and both will take up their positions later this year. Both are currently undergoing additional training in relation to their role as Clinical Director. This month BreastCheck will begin recruiting Consultant Radiologists, Consultant Surgeons and Consultant Histopathologists for both centres. BreastCheck are also recruiting radiographers. While the recruitment of radiographers is difficult at present as there is a shortage internationally of trained personnel, BreastCheck is confident that it will be in a position to employ sufficient radiographers at both sites.

BreastCheck also requires considerable capital investment in the construction of two new clinical units and in the provision of five additional mobile units and state of the art digital equipment. I have made available an additional €21 million capital funding to BreastCheck for this purpose. BreastCheck is in the process of short-listing applicants to construct the new clinical units at the South Infirmary/Victoria Hospital, Cork and University College Hospital Galway. BreastCheck is confident that the target date of next year for the commencement of roll-out to the Southern and Western regions will be met.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

86 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if funding will be approved for a full seven day residential service for a charity (details supplied) in south County Roscommon; the status of the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22048/06]

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.

Vaccination Programme.

Denis Naughten

Question:

87 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 140 of 6 April 2006, the status of the review; when a compensation scheme will be put in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22049/06]

In its report on Childhood Immunisation, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children recommended that legislation be drawn up to provide for a National Vaccine Injury Compensation Scheme. The feasibility of introducing such a scheme is currently under examination in my Department. This process is at an advanced stage and is being given priority in the Department's 2006 business plan.

Hospital Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

88 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 363 of 28 Sept 2005, if she will approve the appointment of three rheumatologists to cater for patient needs in the western Health Service Executive region and a paediatric rheumatologist; the additional rheumatology services which were provided in the region in 2005 and 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22051/06]

In September 2002, Comhairle na nOspidéal initiated a review of Rheumatology Services. Its report, which was published in December 2005, examines the provision of services and makes recommendations on the organisation and development of rheumatology services in the future.

Responsibility for the implementation of these recommendations rests with the Health Service Executive under the Health Act 2004. Accordingly, my Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Executive to arrange to have this matter investigated and to have a reply issued directly to the Deputy.

Health Service Staff.

Denis Naughten

Question:

89 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 98 or 23 March 2006 if the high level working group has progressed the issues pertaining to the standardisation of the home help service including the issuing of contracts of employment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22053/06]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) recognises and acknowledges the important services provided by personnel working throughout the home help service nationally and is committed to reviewing the existing models of services provided with a view to establishing a standardised high quality service that will benefit both clientele and staff.

In order to give effect to this commitment a high level working group comprising of representatives of the Health Service Executive, IMPACT and SIPTU have agreed to commence a process based on the partnership model and the following terms of reference have been agreed:- To review existing models/structures of home help services to address issues pertaining to the standardisation of services to include inter alia:

1.The demands being placed on the services through the implementation of the home help agreement.

2.Outstanding issues pertaining to the implementation of the home help agreement.

3.Clarification on the nature of the service to be provided by home helps.

4.Explicit and agreed criteria for the assessment of need.

5.Standard criteria for entitlement.

6.Contractual service agreements with the voluntary organisations.

7.National guideline provisions for level of service provisions and the assessment of needs.

8.Recognition of the home help service as a service in its own right.

9.The role and status of home help organisers within this service.

10.The terms and conditions of home help organisers and other support staff employed by voluntary organisations.

A plan of work has been agreed by the parties in order to give effect to the agreed terms of reference. The high level group met yesterday, Wednesday 7 June 2006, to review progress and establish a number of subgroups to further progress tasks associated with the terms of reference.

Health Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

90 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 236 of 21 February 2006, the funding provided to a charity (details supplied) in County Galway; the funding which will be provided to address existing service deficits and to develop new services in the Ballinasloe area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22058/06]

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has the responsibility, with effect from 1 January 2005, to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Voluntary organisations providing health and personal social services are funded by the Executive and it is a matter for the Executive to agree the levels of service and the appropriate funding in respect of each such organisation. My Department has requested the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the HSE to reply directly to the Deputy regarding the charity in question.

Denis Naughten

Question:

91 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children further to Parliamentary Question No. 237 of 21 February 2006 the position regarding the service provision for 2006; the plans for development of the services; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22059/06]

My Department has been informed by the Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Health Service Executive that a reply has been issued to the Deputy. In this regard I understand that an additional Consultant Physician with an interest in Endocrinology has recently been appointed to Roscommon County Hospital.

Finian McGrath

Question:

92 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the home care package for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 3; and if the maximum support will be given. [22067/06]

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.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

93 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if in relation to her recent visit to a nursing home (details supplied) in County Dublin, there are plans to extend or upgrade the premises having regard to the shortage of space for the 150 patients who are resident there; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22068/06]

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.

Irish Blood Transfusion Service.

Bernard Allen

Question:

94 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she is still committed to the provision of a new blood testing centre for Cork; and the funding which is available from her Department for such a centre in 2006. [22069/06]

Bernard Allen

Question:

95 Mr. Allen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the provision of a new blood testing centre in Cork; and the reason for the long delays in bringing this matter to commencement and a successful conclusion. [22070/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 95 together.

I fully support the development of a new Centre for the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) in Cork. There is provision in the Capital Investment Framework 2005-09 for the appointment of a design team and commencement of the planning process for the new Centre.

The project is the subject of ongoing consultations between the IBTS and my Department. At my request, the IBTS Board is re-assessing the scope of the project in view of changes in work practice and service needs since the initial development brief for the project was produced in March 2003. The Deputy may also wish to note that in 2004 the IBTS invested more than €3 million in the refurbishment of its Cork Centre to ensure compliance with good manufacturing practice (GMP) standards.

Civil Registration Service.

John McGuinness

Question:

96 Mr. McGuinness asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if an appeal against a decision by the registrar general, civil registration service in the name of a person (details supplied) in County Carlow regarding the registration of their son will be reviewed and a decision issued based on the documents submitted by the person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22072/06]

An tArd Chláraitheoir (Registrar General) is the person with statutory responsibility for the administration of the civil registration service. I have made enquiries with an tArd Chláraitheoir and the position is as set out as follows.

The Civil Registration Act, 2004, includes provision for the registration of births. Part 1 of the First Schedule to this act specifies the "required particulars" to be registered in respect of a live birth and there is therefore a legal requirement that each of these particulars, where known, be captured during the registration process. The required particulars to be registered are set out in the following Table.

Arising from this legal requirement, there is a duty on the parent(s), or any other person regarded as a qualified informant, to give these particulars to the registrar so that the registration of the birth can be effected.

In relation to the case referred to by the Deputy (details supplied), I understand that the mother objects to one of the required particulars, namely, a former surname which she had used, being entered in the register of births. An tArd Chláraitheoir has conducted a detailed examination of all relevant documentation, including the birth registrations of all children born to the woman in question. As two birth registrations contain the former surname in question, an tArd Chláraitheoir informs me that he is unable to reach any conclusion other than that the former surname was used by the person and is therefore required under law to be registered in the registrations of any subsequent births.

Section 60 of the Civil Registration Act 2004 provides for an appeals procedure. Section 60(1) provides that where a registrar fails or refuses to register a birth or to enter in the register one or more of the particulars required to be registered, as provided for in Part 1 of the First Schedule, this may be appealed. However, as there is no failure or refusal by a registrar to register the birth or any of the required particulars, it would appear that the case in question does not come within the scope of the appeals provisions. The person in question may wish to seek legal advice in relation to this.

Particulars to be entered in the Register of Births

Date and place of birth

Time of birth

Sex of child

Forename(s) and surname of child

Personal public service number of child

Forename(s), surname, birth surname, address and occupation of mother

Former surname(s) (if any) of mother

Date of birth of mother

Marital status of mother

Personal public service number of mother

Birth surname of mother's mother

Forename(s), surname, birth surname, address and occupation of father

Former surname(s) (if any) of father

Date of birth of father

Marital status of father

Personal public service number of father

Birth surname of father's mother

Forename(s), surname, qualification, address and signature of informant

Date of registration

Signature of registrar

Hospital Services.

Enda Kenny

Question:

97 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the amount of funding made available to Peamount Hospital in each of the years 2000 to 2006; her plans for the hospital; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22090/06]

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.

Enda Kenny

Question:

98 Mr. Kenny asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the timeframe for the development of a primary care health facility in Adamstown; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22091/06]

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.

Jack Wall

Question:

99 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children when a person (details supplied) in County Kildare will receive their appointment for a scan examination; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22104/06]

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.

Dinny McGinley

Question:

100 Mr. McGinley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will estimate the cost of running the Now Doc service in County Donegal for each years from 2002 to date in 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22157/06]

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.

Water Fluoridation.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

101 Ms C. Murphy asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason no information has been provided by her Department since 2001 on fluoride exposure in the population; the testing of the population being carried out in view of the acknowledgement that dental fluorosis is increasing; the specific measures intended to ensure that the public are protected against over exposure with regard to the growing scientific evidence of harm from fluoride exposure; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22159/06]

Fluoridation of public water supplies as a public health measure is accepted as being one of the most effective methods of ensuring against tooth decay. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends fluoridation of public water supplies and has stated that "fluoridation of water supplies, where possible, is the most effective public health measure for the prevention of dental decay." The WHO has also stated that "people of all ages, including the elderly, benefit from community water fluoridation".

The recently completed survey of oral health, covering the whole island of Ireland, shows that fluoridation of public water supplies continues to be a highly effective public health measure. It has contributed significantly to a major reduction in the incidence of dental decay in the Republic of Ireland. This compares favourably with the incidence of dental decay in Northern Ireland, which has significantly higher rates of dental decay and which does not have fluoridated water supplies. The oral health survey examined numerous aspects of fluoridation including dental fluorosis.

The oral health survey also shows that fluoridation of public water supplies has a significant impact on dental decay in disadvantaged areas. The gap, in terms of levels of decay, between non-disadvantaged and disadvantaged areas in the Republic of Ireland is significantly less than the gap between such areas in Northern Ireland.

The research carried out shows that, at the levels of usage of fluoride in the Republic of Ireland's public water supply, there is no risk to health. Fluoridation of the water supply in Ireland is limited to a maximum of one part per million. In this regard, the WHO and the European Union have identified that fluoridation levels below 1.5 parts per million are acceptable.

The Forum on Fluoridation recognised that there has been some increase in the incidence of mild dental fluorosis in Ireland. Most dental fluorosis is only detectable by dentists. The Forum, while recommending that fluoridation of water supplies continue, recommended a reduction in the levels of fluoride used from between 0.8 parts per million and 1 part per million to between 0.6 parts per million and 0.8 parts per million.

The Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health was set up in 2004. The terms of reference for the Expert Body are: — to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the Forum on Fluoridation; — to advise the Minister and evaluate ongoing research — including new emerging issues — on all aspects of fluoride and its delivery methods as an established health technology and as required; — to report to the Minister on matters of concern at his/her request or on its own initiative.

As part of its work in implementing the recommendations of the Forum, the Expert Body examined the question as to what amendments may be required to the regulations, under the Health (Fluoridation of Water Supplies) Act, 1960, in order to give effect to the Forum's recommendation to reduce the level of fluorides in the public water supplies. The Expert Body has reported its findings to my Department. My Department is currently taking the necessary steps to introduce a new Regulation.

The results of fluoridation research and proposals for any future research is a matter for consideration by the Irish Expert Body on Fluorides and Health.

Health Services.

Jack Wall

Question:

102 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of step-down beds in private nursing homes in County Kildare that the Health Service Executive has leased for use by the HSE in each of the past three years; the cost of such leasing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22161/06]

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.

Jack Wall

Question:

103 Mr. Wall asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of complaints registered by patients to the Health Service Executive in regard to the K-Doc system in County Kildare; the nature of such complaints; the method of redressing the problems raised; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22162/06]

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

Paul Kehoe

Question:

104 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason dental treatment for a person (details supplied) in County Wexford is not being covered by the Health Service Executive; if the work can be carried out by the local health centre; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22176/06]

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

Paul Kehoe

Question:

105 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason a person (details supplied) in County Wexford is waiting for an appointment; the efforts which are being made to reduce the unreasonable waiting times; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22177/06]

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 D. Higgins

Question:

106 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the number of public nursing home spaces which have been made available and the sites at which they have been made available in Galway City in each of the past ten years; if she will provide the same information with regard to places made available in County Galway over the same period; the number of spaces that it is projected are to be provided in each of the next five years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22178/06]

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

Hospital Services.

Denis Naughten

Question:

107 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the acute hospital overrun in each hospital in the west and north west; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22179/06]

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.

Denis Naughten

Question:

108 Mr. Naughten asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason persons on a medical card in County Roscommon cannot get approval from the Health Service Executive to purchase glasses from opticians; if she has satisfied herself regarding this situation; the steps which are being taken to address the problem; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22180/06]

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

Paul Kehoe

Question:

109 Mr. Kehoe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the reason her commitment in Dáil Éireann in February 2006 concerning the awarding of a service level agreement for a service in a clinic (details supplied) in County Kilkenny has not been reached within the two month period stated by her; the amount being spent transporting patients from Carlow or Kilkenny by ambulance or taxis to other renal units; the number of patients who are receiving renal dialysis in Carlow and Kilkenny; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22261/06]

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.

Seán Crowe

Question:

110 Mr. Crowe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if she will make a statement on the fact that a patient (details supplied) in Dublin 15 waiting for a kidney and pancreas transplant for nearly four years cannot receive a transplant should an organ become available due to there being only one pancreatic transplant surgeon in this State who is unavailable. [22262/06]

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.

John Cregan

Question:

111 Mr. Cregan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children the situation in relation to Hume Street Hospital, Dublin; her future plans in relation to same; the reason hospital facilities and services are being run down; her plans for alternative services; the persons who requested same; the highest number of beds which existed in the hospital; the number of beds in recent years; the annual investment by the State in the hospital; and the person who owns the building and who would benefit from proceeds of the sale of the property. [22266/06]

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.

Decentralisation Programme.

Finian McGrath

Question:

112 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the position regarding the decentralisation scheme; if the National Standards Authority of Ireland is included in the scheme; and if he will provide further details on this group. [21996/06]

The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) is an agency under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. I will answer on behalf of my colleague the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Under the Government's Decentralisation Programme, the NSAI, with a total 132 staff, is to be relocated to Arklow. The total number of first preference priority applications made via the Central Applications Facility from staff within the agency is 11. When those from across the civil service and the rest of the public service are added the total is 130. The NSAI are working closely with the OPW to identify and secure suitable office accommodation in the Arklow area. The NSAI anticipates that its decentralisation plan will be complete by April 2009.

Tax Collection.

Joan Burton

Question:

113 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance the number of high net worth persons who have been identified by the Revenue Commissioners for monitoring and review in terms of tax compliance; the number of such persons who have been identified; the ranges of net worth identified as qualifying for this category in bands of €5 million; the proportion of income tax such persons have paid in proportion to their income for the tax years 2003 and 2004 and other years for which such data is available from the year 2000 to date in 2006; the principal occupations of such high net worth persons, for example, property developer, land owner, farmer, industrialist; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21997/06]

I am advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the High Wealth Individuals Business Unit of the Large Cases Division monitors the tax compliance of approximately 300 individuals who are considered to be Ireland's wealthiest individuals, each having in general a net worth in excess of about €50m. This unit also monitors the related trusts and private investment vehicles of these individuals. Wealthy individuals not in the Large Cases Division come within the remit of the other operational Divisions. As information on net worth is not required on returns of income, it is not possible to provide definitive information in regard to the ranges of net worth of these individuals. It is estimated that the average rates of tax paid by the high wealth individuals for whom the Large Cases Division is responsible are set out in the following table:

Year

Average Rate

%

2000-01

25.5

2001

28.9

2002

24.3

2003

30.2

The income figure used in estimating these average rates of tax is the figure before deducting specific reliefs, such as capital allowances and trading losses, but it does not include certain income such as artists' exempt income and patent income. It has not been possible to include deposit interest retention tax (DIRT) as tax paid in the computation of average rate for the years 2002 and 2003 whereas the related income has been included. This has the effect of reducing the average rate in these years. In respect of 2004 it has not been possible to provide information on the average rate in the time available. As the tax returns for 2005 and 2006 are not yet due the information requested is not available for these tax years. While it is difficult to categorise precisely by occupation the individuals whose tax affairs are dealt with in Large Cases Division, in broad terms they are principally involved in the following sectors of the economy: property development and construction, retail sales, entertainment, IT, hotels and the motor trade. Finally, I would point out to the Deputy that the Revenue Commissioners' study "Effective tax rates of the top 400 earners: Report for the tax year 2002" will be published by my Department shortly.

Residential Mortgage Borrowing.

Joan Burton

Question:

114 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the report in respect of the borrowing statistics for the month to 30 April 2006 showing some of the highest recorded increases in borrowing and in particular a €1.8 billion increase in residential mortgage borrowing; his further views regarding the surge in borrowing and property prices; his proposals to address the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21998/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, a high proportion of household indebtedness in Ireland relates to borrowing for house-purchase which, in turn, involves the acquisition of an asset for the households. In the same way, borrowing by the business sector generally underpins investment, and the creation of business assets yielding future income. It therefore reflects the strong performance of the economy and confidence in Ireland's economic prospects. Demand for housing has risen strongly in recent years and has been underpinned by demographic factors, the innate strength of the economy and the impact of an accommodating monetary stance, including historically low interest rates. House prices have risen rapidly in recent years driven by these fundamental factors. It is reasonable to assume that, over time such factors as the large increase in new housing supply will restore equilibrium to the market. This should allow output to move gradually closer to sustainable demand and result in more moderate price increases. There is currently a broad consensus amongst commentators such as the OECD and the IMF that the most likely outcome for the housing market is for a "soft landing". Whilst the pattern of mortgage growth and associated debt levels in the economy are supported by a range of fundamental factors such as growing employment, rising real incomes, favourable demographics and low inflation and interest rates, the Central Bank has highlighted the need for borrowers and lenders to take account of the current very low level of interest rates and the fact that this situation cannot continue indefinitely. I share the view that both borrowers and lenders need to factor into their financial decision-making the prospective impact of potential changes in the future economic and financial environment.

State Claims Agency.

Seymour Crawford

Question:

115 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Finance the expected cost to date of the legal advisor employed by the State Claims Agency to contest a case (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21999/06]

I am informed by the State Claims Agency that costs to date in respect of the Solicitors and Counsel retained in this case were €8,363.71. The Agency operates on behalf of instructing clients and I have no function in the matter.

Tax Code.

David Stanton

Question:

116 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance the breakdown by gender of the number of people claiming the one parent family tax credit for each year since the year 2003 respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22000/06]

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a breakdown by gender of the estimated number of income earners availing of the one parent family tax credit, for the years 2003 to 2005 inclusive, is set out in the following table:

Year

Single Male

Single Female

Widower Male

Widow Female

Total

2003

30,250

64,490

2,820

7,150

104,710

2004

31,280

66,470

2,850

7,290

107,890

2005

31,980

67,860

2,910

7,410

110,160

(Figures are rounded to the nearest ten, provisional and subject to revision)

The numbers availing of the one parent family tax credit represent income earners who were in a position to absorb at least some of the one parent family tax credit and thereby give rise to an Exchequer cost. They do not include the numbers of potential claimants whose entitlements to other tax credits were sufficient to reduce their liability to tax to nil. The figures shown in the table are estimates which are derived from the Revenue tax forecasting model using actual data for the year 2002 adjusted to reflect actual or estimated growth in employment and wages for the year in question.

David Stanton

Question:

117 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance if persons who are not paying maintenance or who are not complying will maintenance requirements are still eligible for the one parent family tax credit; if so, his plans to make changes to this situation; if he will provide figures for the number of people who have been refused the one parent family tax credit as a result of non-compliance with maintenance payments for each year since the year 2003 respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22001/06]

David Stanton

Question:

118 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Finance his views on the assertion on page 112 of the recently published Government discussion paper, Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents (details supplied); the action he intends to take on foot of this recommendation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22002/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 and 118 together.

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that a one-parent family tax credit is a credit that can be claimed by a single parent (whether widowed, single, deserted, separated or divorced) who has a dependent child resident with him/her for the whole or part of the relevant tax year. The payment or non-payment of maintenance, as the case may be, by such a single parent is not a determining factor in entitlement to the one-parent family tax credit in respect of children of a claimant. The statistics sought by the Deputy do not exist. In relation to the Government Discussion Paper — Proposals for Supporting Lone Parents, the maintenance requirements mentioned on page 112 of the Paper, and quoted in the details supplied with the Deputy's question, are those which arise specifically under Social Welfare legislation. That legislation provides that liable relatives shall be liable to contribute such amount as may be determined towards support payments, such as the one-parent family payment, deserted wife's allowance or benefit or supplementary welfare allowance paid by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The recommendation to which the Deputy refers is made in the context of enhancement of procedures whereby liable relatives are pursued in this regard. The Paper in question is, as its name indicates, a discussion paper on the issues facing lone parents, the purpose of which is to allow a full and frank debate and all views to be aired, all sections of society to be heard and in time areas of agreement and consensus to evolve and emerge. The question of making any changes in the conditions attaching to the one-parent family tax credit would be one for consideration in the context of future Finance Bills.

Credit Cards.

John Cregan

Question:

119 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Finance the law for persons who change credit card companies; if he will confirm that only one annual charge for stamp duty should be paid in the year when the account changed; the evidence which is necessary to satisfy the original company of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22088/06]

The legislation in respect of the €40 stamp duty charge on credit card accounts is contained in section 124 of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999. In the Finance Act 2005, this section was amended to ensure, that where an individual switches credit card companies during a year, commencing with the year ended 1 April 2006, only one €40 stamp duty charge will arise in the year. Where an individual does switch to a different credit card company, the €40 stamp duty will be charged on closure of the "old" credit card account. Where this €40 stamp duty is paid in the year, the "old" credit card company will issue a letter of closure to the individual confirming payment of the €40. This letter of closure should then be passed on to the "new" credit card company where the receipt of same will ensure that a €40 stamp duty charge will not be levied on the "new" credit card account in the same year of charge.

Disabled Drivers.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

120 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the position in regard to the inter-Departmental review of the 1994 disabled drivers’ disabled passengers tax concessions; when it is expected to extend the limits of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22250/06]

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 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.

Fishing Vessel Licences.

Martin Ferris

Question:

121 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources if he will make a statement on the situation regarding the licence, kilowatt and tonnage allocation for Atlantis WD 44. [22077/06]

The Licensing Authority established under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003 has informed me that an application for a sea-fishing boat licence in respect of a vessel and a proposal to use the capacity of the "Atlantis" as replacement capacity for the purpose of licensing this vessel was received by him on 5 April 2006 and a licence offer for the vessel was issued on 26 April 2006.

The "Atlantis" had been de-registered on 26 May 2004 and, in accordance with Policy Directive 2/2003, the capacity of this vessel expired on 25 May 2006. A letter had been issued to the applicant on 28 October 2005 confirming the amount of capacity credited to him in respect of the "Atlantis" and pointing out that it must be re-introduced onto the Irish Fishing Boat Register by 25 May 2006.

The Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2003 does not give power to the Licensing Authority to vary the requirements of a Policy Directive, such as to extend the two-year period of validity of off-register capacity. The Licensing Authority is therefore precluded from granting an extension of the period of validity of the capacity of a vessel.

Harbours and Piers.

John Perry

Question:

122 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources when a decision will be made on an application (details supplied) which was lodged with his Department officials; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22166/06]

The application referred to is currently being reviewed by Department officials who have had discussions with the applicant. Any decision will take into account existing leasing arrangements with the applicant, public procurement guidelines and what is in the best interest for the development of the Fishery Harbour Centre.

International Agreements.

Eamon Ryan

Question:

123 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the declaration made by the Trade Ministers of the African Union on 14 April 2006 in which they called for the pending review of the EU-ACP EPA negotiations due to take place in autumn 2006 to fully explore the alternatives to EPAs; his views on their call; the alternatives he favours; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22022/06]

I am aware of the declaration referred to by the Deputy. Many of the issues contained in it were raised by African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Ministers at the ACP-EU Council of Ministers meeting which took place at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on 1 and 2 June.

In response to the ACP concerns, the Union made a written declaration on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), which is part of the conclusions of the ACP-EU Ministerial Council, as follows: "The EPAs, as development instruments, are aiming at fostering the smooth and gradual integration of the ACP states into the world economy, especially by making full use of the potential of regional integration and South-South trade. The Commission reconfirms that the gradually arising needs from the implementation of EPAs will be taken into account in the programming dialogue with the ACP on the resources of the 10th EDF, covering the time period after the entry into force on 1 January 2008. Moreover the EU recalls its commitments to substantially increase Aid for Trade by 2010 in addition to the EDF resources."

The review of the EPA negotiations is mandated by the Cotonou Agreement of 2000. Since trade is a Community competence, the European Commission negotiates the establishment of the EPAs on behalf of the Member States and is responsible for the preparation of the review. EU Development Ministers set out their views on what should be the content of this review at the April meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC). The Conclusions of this meeting call on the Commission to make this review "formal and comprehensive with participation from the ACP side".

Furthermore, the GAERC asked that the review should cover "both trade and development aspects of the EPAs, including cross-cutting issues affecting the development prospects of all ACP countries (e.g. market access and rules of origin, regulatory and safeguard provisions etc)" as well as "necessary measures to support the timely completion of the negotiations".

I fully endorse this position. I would like to point out that the Council also called for the establishment of a monitoring mechanism to allow for effective monitoring of the development and trade challenges involved in EPAs, and to help ensure that they achieve development outcomes. I have myself underlined the importance of such a monitoring mechanism at the GAERC.

I welcome the valuable opportunity the EPA review will provide to take stock of progress to date and to address the concerns of our ACP partners. Ireland will continue to urge that the EPA negotiations result in agreements that are supportive of ACP countries' development needs and their poverty reduction efforts.

Human Rights Issues.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

124 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if members of the US Marines (details supplied) had passed through Shannon Airport on their journey to or from Iraq; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22043/06]

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

125 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has had contact with his United States counterpart or other US authorities regarding the massacre of civilians in Haditha, Iraq on 19 November 2005; if so, if he will report on the context and outcome of that contact; if he has asked for or received information regarding whether the Marines involved had passed through Shannon Airport on their journey to or from Iraq; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22045/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 124 and 125 together.

I share the serious concern which has been widely expressed about the allegations regarding events in Haditha in November 2005 which resulted in the deaths of Iraqi civilians. In its discussions with the US administration on the situation in Iraq, the Government has always made the point very clearly that the use of force in civilian areas should be kept to a minimum, and that every possible effort must be made to avoid civilian casualties.

It is essential that allegations of this kind be investigated fully and transparently, and that appropriate action is taken in response to the findings which emerge. I understand that the US military investigation into the events in Haditha is nearing completion and that the results will be made public. The Government welcomes the public assurance given last week by President Bush that any violation of the law by members of the US forces in Haditha will be punished.

In relation to the transport of US troops to and from Iraq, the Government does not hold records of individual military units which pass through Shannon Airport. The international forces serving in Iraq are operating under UN mandate, and at the request of the Iraqi Government. The presence of the Multinational Force was authorised by the UN Security Council under Resolution 1511 of October 2003, which also urged Member States to contribute assistance under the UN mandate. The mandate was reaffirmed in Resolution 1546 of June 2004 and was extended until the end of 2006 by Resolution 1637, which was adopted unanimously by the Security Council in November 2005.

More broadly, the Government and our partners in the EU remain very concerned at the rising level of violence in Iraq, which continues to claim the lives of large number of Iraqi civilians. The approval of a national unity Government by the Iraqi Parliament on 20 May was a welcome and significant step. Iraq now has a fully sovereign and democratic Government and Parliament, mandated for four years. However, Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and his colleagues face serious challenges as they work to achieve the conditions in which the Iraqi authorities can assume full responsibility for the security and well-being of the country and its people. The EU is determined to maintain its strong support for the Government's efforts.

Passport Applications.

Bernard Allen

Question:

126 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason the Passport Office refuses to complete the processing of a passport application due to the fact that the application was made in Irish and differed from the applicant’s birth certificate name; the further reason the applicant was asked for tax documents and banks statements amongst others despite the fact that they are a 19 year old student who never held a provisional driving licence or a full driving licence; and his views on whether the decision is discriminatory against the Irish language. [22062/06]

A passport is an identity document issued by the State. It is usually provided in the name in which the person's birth was registered or in their married name when so requested. The long form of the birth certificate and, as the case may be, the marriage certificate are required as supporting documents.

If a person seeks a passport in a form of his/her name other than that supported by his/her birth/marriage certificate, the Passport Office will require proof of usage of the form of name over a period of two years. This is sought in all cases, including when a person seeks a passport in the English form of the name but the birth certificate shows the Irish version, and vice versa.

The requirements of the Passport Office in this respect are set out in the notes which accompany the application form as follows: Name to appear on the Passport. Complete Part A in the name by which you are normally known. Enter forenames 1, 2, 3 and 4 [if applicable] in the order as indicated on the form.

If the name by which you are commonly known differs from the version entered on your birth certificate, other than by marriage, you will be required to produce either a deed poll or evidence of usage of the name for at least two years, e.g. tax documents, bank statements, drivers licence, school reports etc. It will be necessary to produce at least two examples of such usage.

Where an applicant does not have the full 2 years proof of usage, the Passport Office can issue a passport, initially valid for 2 years, in the new form of their name, with a record of their birth certificate name entered on the observations page of the passport. After 2 years, the holder may then reapply for a passport solely in the new form of their name upon submitting proof of its usage.

Overseas Development Aid.

Richard Bruton

Question:

127 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether some of the Governments with which Ireland has channelled aid money are ranked as having very high corruption problems in international assessments; if he is satisfied that Irish money does not end up diverted to corrupt purposes; and the arrangements which he has in place to prevent such abuses. [22089/06]

Ireland provides development support to some of the poorest countries in the world, a number of which are ranked as having a high level of corruption. Corruption affects the poorest in society, and working in countries with corruption and weak governance generates a higher risk for donors, including Ireland. We are committed to addressing corruption through improving transparency and accountability, supporting public oversight institutions, parliamentary reform and the independent media, as well as building the capacity of civil society to influence and monitor public policy decisions.

For example, in Ethiopia, Ireland supports the strengthening of internal and external audit functions within the Government of Ethiopia. In Uganda, Ireland provides direct support to oversight bodies actively engaged in preventing and addressing corruption, such as the Inspectorate General of Government and the Directorate of Ethics and Integrity. In Zambia, Ireland supports the work of a special Task Force on Corruption. It also provides assistance to the public financial management system, as well as supporting parliamentary oversight of budget implementation and the work of civil society institutions engaged in anti-corruption activities.

In parallel with these support measures, rigorous controls and audit systems are in place to protect Irish funding from abuse. Ireland's funding is subject to external audit by reputable international auditing firms. At the Government level, donor funding is subject to the national auditing systems and to external examination.

In addition to these oversight procedures, a number of internal controls and mechanisms are also applied. An Audit Committee within Irish Aid, which consists of four external members, contributes to the strengthening of these controls. An integrated accounting system is also in place which is in line with best practice and meets OECD reporting and expenditure requirements.

While we are working in some of the most difficult operating environments in the world, I am satisfied that the monitoring, evaluation and audit systems which we have in place provide the best protection possible against misuse of Irish taxpayers' funds.

Swimming Pool Projects.

Enda Kenny

Question:

128 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the swimming pools which have been funded by his Department in the years 2000 to 2006; the locations where they have been built; the size of population areas they serve; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22083/06]

My Department administers the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme, which provides grant aid to local authorities in respect of the capital costs of a new swimming pool, a replacement pool or the refurbishment of an existing pool. The closing date for receipt of applications under the current round of this Programme was 31 July 2000 and since then a total 57 projects have or are being dealt with. Of the 57 projects within the Programme, 19 have been completed and 14 are now under construction or are about to start construction. In addition, 24 other projects are at various stages in the Programme — 6 at tender stage, 10 at contract document stage and 8 at preliminary report stage. Details of these projects are provided in the table which follows. It is important to note that progress under the programme is largely determined not by my Department, but by the speed at which individual local authorities progress their projects.

As part of the Preliminary Reports/Feasibility Studies required for each project, local authorities are required to address issues of population/catchment areas in assessing the viability of their projects, bearing in mind that all operational costs are solely the responsibility of the local authority. An Expenditure Review of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme, which is underway at present, will also addressing the issue of the population/catchment areas for public swimming pools from the regional/national perspective.

PROJECTS COMPLETED (19)

1. Arklow (Refurbish)

2. Courtown/Gorey (New)

3. Dundalk (New)

4. Ennis (New)

5. Enniscorthy (New)

6. Monaghan (Refurbish)

7. Navan (New)

8. Wicklow (New)

9. Roscommon (Refurbish)

10. AquaDome, Tralee (Refurbish)

11. Ballinasloe (Replace)

12. Finglas, Dublin (Replace)

13. Grove Island, Limerick (New)

14. Sports and Leisure Centre, Tralee (Refurbish)

15. Clonmel (Refurbish)

16. Churchfield, Cork City (Refurbish)

17. Ballymun, Dublin City (Replace)

18. Tuam, Co. Galway (Replace)

19. Drogheda, Co. Louth (Replace)

UNDER CONSTRUCTION OR ABOUT TO START CONSTRUCTION (14)

1. Cobh, Co. Cork (Replace)

2. Youghal, Co. Cork (New)

3. Ballyfermot, Dublin City (Replace)

4. Jobstown, South County Dublin (New)

5. Letterkenny, Co. Donegal (Replace)

6. Monaghan town (Replace)

7. Ballybunion, Co. Kerry (New)

8. Clondalkin, South County Dublin (Replace)

9. Killarney, Co. Kerry (New)

10. Askeaton, Co. Limerick (Replace outdoor pool)

11. Portlaoise, Co. Laois (Replace)

12. Portarlington, Co. Laois (Refurbish)

13. Longford, Co. Longford (Replace)

14. Thurles, Co. Tipperary (Replace)

OUT TO TENDER (6)

1. Athy, Co. Kildare (Replace)

2. Birr, Co. Offaly (Refurbish)

3. Naas, Co. Kildare (Replace)

4. Claremorris, Co. Mayo (Refurbish)

5. St. Michael's House, Dublin (New)

6. Kilkenny City (Replace)

CONTRACT DOCUMENTS STAGE (10)

1. Tullamore, Co. Offaly (Replace for outdoor pool)

2. Bray, Co. Wicklow (Replace)

3. Greystones, Co. Wicklow (New)

4. Skerries, Fingal (New)

5. Roscrea, Tipperary, NR (New)

6. New Ross, Co. Wexford (Replace)

7. Buncrana, Co. Donegal (Refurbish)

8. Glenalbyn, Co. Dublin (Refurbish)

9. Castlebar, Co. Mayo (Replace)

10. Dunmanway, Co. Cork (Refurbish)

PRELIMINARY REPORT STAGE (8)

1. Dundrum, Co. Dublin (Replace)

2. Edenderry, Co. Offaly (Replace)

3. Clara, Co. Offaly (Refurbish)

4. Ballybofey, Co. Donegal (New)

5. Ferrybank, Co. Wexford (Refurbish)

6. Ballaghadereen, Co. Roscommon (New)

7. Loughrea, Co. Galway (New)

8. St. Joseph's School for Deaf Boys

Enda Kenny

Question:

129 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if his Department plans to support the establishment of a swimming pool in Lucan; the result of discussions which have taken place with South Dublin County Council on same; when funding will become available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22084/06]

I understand that South Dublin County Council is preparing a revised Water Leisure Strategy at this time and that part of this strategy will address the question of the provision of a new public swimming pool for Lucan.

The current round of the Local Authority Swimming Pool Programme, which is administered by my Department, was closed to applications on 31 July 2000 and no application was made in respect of a public swimming pool for Lucan before that date. The priority in relation to the current round is to support the 57 projects that applied for funding and new applications for grant aid towards the construction of swimming pools are not being considered at this time. However, my Department is carrying out an Expenditure Review of the Programme which is examining, among other things, how it has worked to date and what amendments, if any, are required to ensure its effective and efficient delivery. This Review is expected to be completed by end July. On completion of this Review, the question of re-opening the Programme will be addressed.

Sports Capital Programme.

Jack Wall

Question:

130 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on providing 100 percent grants for capital sports projects in view of the high number of applicants who due to financial constraints cannot draw down their allocations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22163/06]

Under my Department's sports capital programme, grants are allocated to sporting and to voluntary and community organisations for the provision of sporting and recreational facilities and equipment. The programme is advertised on an annual basis.

A review of the programme was published in December 1998 and, following its recommendations, a detailed set of guidelines, terms and conditions for the programme were established for the 1999 programme and continue to be used. One of the recommendations was in relation to the minimum amount of the project cost which an applicant for a local project should be expected to have in place at the time of making an application. That level was set at 30% with a reduction for designated disadvantaged projects of 20%. Disadvantaged projects are those designated by Government for special support through the schemes administered by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (DCRGA), i.e. namely RAPID 1, RAPID 2, Local Drugs Task Force areas and Clár. Successful applicants to the sports capital programme which are in Clár or which have been endorsed by RAPID, qualify for additional top-up funding from DCRGA, up to a maximum total allocation of 80% of the project cost.

In circumstances where an applicant has access to funding from other Government sources, it is still expected to have at least 5% of the cost in its own funding. The need for a local contribution is a normal requirement in relation to Government funding and is in accordance with accepted levels of best practice.

My Department is currently undertaking a new strategy for the funding of sports facilities and one of the aspects which it will examine is the minimum level of funding which should be required by applicants under the sports capital programme.

Departmental Investigations.

Jack Wall

Question:

131 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of submissions received by his Department in relation to the due process attached to persons named in the Dalton Report in relation to the greyhound industry; when the report will be placed in the library of the Houses of the Oireachtas or made public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22164/06]

Jack Wall

Question:

132 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the number of persons that received the Dalton Report on the instructions of the Attorney General, by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22165/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 131 and 132 together.

In accordance with the advice of the Attorney General, copies and, in some cases, extracts of the Dalton Report were sent to persons referred to in the report on a confidential basis to afford them an opportunity to submit observations on the report to me by the close of business on 31st May 2006. A total of nine submissions were received by that date and these have been made available to Mr Dalton for the purposes of finalising his report. Following the receipt of the report from Mr. Dalton, I will present proposals to my Cabinet colleagues for dealing with the recommendations made in the "Dalton Report" including seeking the approval for the publication of the Report.

EU Funding.

Marian Harkin

Question:

133 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the level of grant aid that will be made available to SMEs and large enterprises in the Border Midland Western region between 2007 to 2013. [22017/06]

Marian Harkin

Question:

134 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the transitional arrangements with regard to State aid for the Border Midland Western region 2007 to 2013. [22018/06]

Marian Harkin

Question:

135 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the mid-west region will be designated 87(3)(c), for the purpose of State aid, in the next programming period; if contiguous counties will be included; and the transitional arrangements which are expected. [22019/06]

Marian Harkin

Question:

136 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the south eastern region, or part of it will be designated 87(3)(c). [22020/06]

Marian Harkin

Question:

137 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if the map of designated regions here is near completion; and when same will be published. [22021/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 133 to 137, inclusive, together.

On 21 December 2005, the European Commission adopted new Regional Aid Guidelines for 2007-2013. The Regional Aid Guidelines govern the areas in which Member States may grant regional aid, more commonly known as investment aid. Investment aid is intended to promote the economic development of certain disadvantaged areas within the European Union in order to redress regional disparities. The Guidelines specify rules for the selection of regions which are eligible for regional aid and define the maximum permitted levels of this aid. In line with EU cohesion policy and European Council requests for less and better targeted state aid, the new Guidelines re-focus regional aid on the most deprived regions of the enlarged Union.

Under Ireland's current Regional Aid Map, which defines the areas where regional aid may be granted until the end of 2006, all parts of the country currently qualify for some level of aid. Given Ireland's economic performance since the current Regional Aid Map was approved by the European Commission in 1999, it was to be expected that our scope to designate areas for regional aid for 2007-2013 would be significantly reduced. Nevertheless, Ireland has secured entitlement under the new Guidelines to maintain regional aid qualification for areas accounting for 50% of the country's population for the period 2007-2013.

In accordance with the Guidelines, the Border Midlands and West Region (26.5% of national population) will be classified as an "economic development region" and will continue to qualify for regional aid throughout 2007-2013 on a phasing-out basis. Maximum aid rates available for large firms from 2007-2010 will be 30%; for medium and small firms the rates will be 40% and 50% respectively. For the period 2011-2013 maximum aid rates available for large firms will be 15%; for medium and small firms the rates will be 25% and 35% respectively.

The South East sub-region (Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny, Carlow and Tipperary South) alone automatically qualifies for designation on the basis of unemployment criteria specified in the Guidelines, i.e. sub-regions with unemployment higher than 115% of the national average.

The remaining areas which may qualify for designation for 2007-2013 within the permitted population threshold must meet the strict requirement in the Guidelines that they are relatively more in need of economic development than other areas on the basis of recognised economic indicators. These areas will be entitled to regional aid for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) only. The Southern & Eastern Regional Assembly was consulted by my Department in relation to this designation. The Assembly accepted the findings of an independent report which it commissioned, from the National Institute for Spatial and Regional Analysis, at NUI Maynooth, and proposed that the remaining areas to be designated for 2007-2013 should be Clare, Limerick, North Tipperary and Kerry. The Assembly also proposed that these areas, in addition to Cork, should, in line with the Guidelines, be designated for a transitional period of two years (2007-2008) during which they can also receive State aid for large firms.

To ensure that the most deserving regions are designated in line with the Guidelines, Member States have to submit their proposals for designation to the European Commission for approval. The Government recently approved the Assembly's proposals, which Ireland will shortly notify to the European Commission. Details of the Regional Aid Map for 2007-2013 will be published following approval by the Commission.

In practice, therefore, all parts of Ireland, with the exception of Dublin and the Mid-East Region, will be proposed for designation in the new Regional Aid Map, with varying aid rates related to their level of economic development. The regional aid rates currently available in Dublin and the Mid East are already lower than those in all other regions of Ireland. As Dublin and the Mid East continue to enjoy a more favourable economic situation, they cannot qualify for designation, within the permitted population threshold, ahead of other regions.

Any area no longer entitled to regional aid will continue to qualify for other forms of State aid, including SME Aid, Aid for Research and Development, Training Aid, Employment Aid and Aid for Environmental Protection, which are available in all areas.

Chemicals Regulation.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

138 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the Government’s position on the mandatory substitution of hazardous chemicals by suitable safer alternatives where they already exist on the market; if he will report on discussions that have taken place at European level on this matter involving his Department; the position taken by his Department in votes or discussions; the Government’s position on the proposed new EU chemicals legislation, REACH; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22075/06]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

139 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in view of the fact that the principle of mandatory substitution was upheld by the European Parliament in November of 2005 and is used in other European legislation such as the Biocide Directive, he will explain his Department’s attempts to oppose mandatory substitution in the REACH directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22076/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 138 and 139 together.

The EU Council of Ministers reached unanimous political agreement on a common position on the REACH Regulation on 13 December 2005. The political agreement is a delicately balanced compromise of Member States' positions, which was informed by the Commission's original proposal and by the various amendments suggested by the European Parliament in its First Reading Report of 17 November 2005. The Common Position is expected to be formally sent to the European Parliament in the next few weeks for the Second Reading stage of the co-decision procedure. I understand that the incoming Presidency is aiming to achieve final agreement on the REACH Regulation in Second Reading with the European Parliament.

REACH will introduce stringent registration measures, which will affect all manufacturers of chemicals, commercial users of chemicals and importers of chemicals. It will also provide valuable information with regard to any health and environmental effects of chemicals. In addition, REACH will provide for restrictions to be placed on the marketing and use of any chemical substance considered to pose a risk to human health or the environment. In regard to authorisation, REACH will provide for a system of control for certain substances of very high concern, such as CMRs (Carcinogens, Mutagens and substances toxic to Reproduction), PBTs (substances that are Persistent, Bioaccumulative and Toxic), vPvBs (substances that are very Persistent very Bioaccumulative), and other substances causing equivalent effects such as certain endocrine disrupters. Authorisations would be granted per individual use, so there would be no blanket authorised use of such a substance. The aim [Article 54] of the authorisation provisions is to ensure the good functioning of the internal market while assuring that the risks from substances of very high concern are properly controlled and that these substances are eventually replaced by suitable alternative substances or technologies where these are economically and technically viable. To support this aim, all applicants for authorisations will be obliged to provide an analysis of alternatives considering their risks and the technical and economical feasibility of substitution. Furthermore, authorisations will be subject to time-limited review. Authorisation is automatic, once the use of a substance can be adequately controlled.

Ireland supported the EU Commission's proposed approach of granting an authorisation where the applicant had demonstrated adequate control in accordance with the requirements set out in an Annex to the Regulation, and this approach was agreed by the EU Council of Ministers last December. Irish technical experts advised that those requirements are already extremely demanding and that, in practice, it would only be possible to demonstrate adequate control of substances of very high concern in very few cases. This would effectively mean that there is minimal risk associated with a substance.

Mandatory substitution brings with it the practical difficulties of finding and evaluating available alternatives; the time taken to find out if another substance is suitable for a particular process; the possible necessity of extensive technological investment; the validation or qualification of the new substance or process; the potential consequences if the alternative substance turns out to be unsuitable for the particular use or process, which might result in workplace accident or an inferior final product, or which might later be discovered to be more hazardous than the original one based on emerging evidence. The European Parliament First Reading amendment proposals which are aimed at imposing authorisation provisions stricter than those provided in the EU Council of Ministers' common position are unrealistic and Ireland will vigorously resist any attempts to introduce these in the Second Reading, as I am sure will many other EU Member States.

Job Initiative.

Richard Bruton

Question:

140 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the duration of employment which applies to participation in community employment schemes and other job initiatives; and his views on relaxing these periods particularly if a worker is aged 50 years and over to ensure when such people are made redundant, they have the opportunity to quickly reintegrate back into the workplace, bearing in mind the growing priority in public policy for continued active participation by workers who might otherwise consider early retirement. [22086/06]

On 10 November 2004, I announced, effective from that date, there will be no compulsory lay-offs on the Job Initiative Scheme (JI). Participants who remain on JI will have their contracts renewed indefinitely. Community Employment (CE) is an active labour market programme designed to provide eligible long-term unemployed people and other disadvantaged persons with an opportunity to engage in useful work within their communities on a fixed-term basis. CE helps unemployed people to re-enter the active workforce by breaking their cycle of unemployment through a return to a work routine. It also assists them in the enhancement and development of both their technical and personal skills.

As part of the restructuring of CE approved in 1999, future participation in CE by an individual was capped at 3 years, effective from April, 2000. This measure was introduced to facilitate the movement of participants through CE, allowing new participants who may not otherwise have such an opportunity, avail of the programme. However, depending on the circumstances, FÁS may approve additional time on a scheme in order to address the needs of individual participants or to maintain service provision. In November 2004 the 3 year CE cap was revised to allow those of 55 years of age and over to avail of a 6-year period on CE (based on participation since 3rd April 2000). This was in recognition of the fact that older participants may find it more difficult to progress into employment. The aim of CE still remains as an active labour market programme with the emphasis on progression into employment. The programme is managed within this context, with consideration to the availability of resources and the needs of participants and the community.

Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael Ring

Question:

141 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if child benefit will be paid to children in full time education up to the age of 22 years as is the case with the child dependant allowance; the estimate of the amount this proposal would cost per annum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22036/06]

Unlike other social welfare payments requiring qualifying contributions or assessment of means, child benefit is a universal payment, paid in respect of children up to the age of 16 years regardless of the level or source of parental income. It continues to be paid in respect of children up to age 19 who are in full-time education, or who have a physical or mental disability. The policy of the Government over the past number of years has been to substantially increase the amount spent on child benefit for all families. Commitment to this policy is reflected in the significant resources invested in the scheme since 2001, increasing monthly payments to €150 for each of the first two children and €185 for the third and subsequent children from April 2006, increases of €96.04 (177%) and €113.89 (160%) respectively. According to figures collected by the Central Statistics Office under the Quarterly National Household Survey for the period December 2005 to February 2006, there were an estimated 88,600 students aged 19 to 22 years. Extending child benefit to this category would therefore entail substantial cost, estimated to be in the region of €167 million annually.

In recognition of the need to target limited available resources at persons on low incomes with children in full-time education, a number of provisions have been introduced, including the extension of entitlement to child dependant allowance to age 22 where the parent of a full-time student (including third level) is in receipt of either a long-term social welfare payment, or a short-term social welfare payment for six months or more (short-term schemes include such payments as Unemployment Benefit and Assistance, Disability Benefit and Supplementary Welfare Allowance). In addition, in-work cash payments are provided to low-paid employees with families through the family income supplement (FIS) scheme. Under this scheme, a qualified child is any child under the age of 18 or aged 18 to 22 if in full-time education. This supplement is paid where a family's weekly income is below a specified income limit for the family size, and is calculated at 60% of the difference between the net family income (gross pay less tax, PRSI, health contribution, superannuation) and the relevant income limit. Further information regarding the FIS scheme can be obtained from any local office of the Department. The question of further improvements to the child benefit scheme is a matter for consideration in a budgetary context, having regard to available resources and Government commitments.

Denis Naughten

Question:

142 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 222 of 15 December 2005, his plans to allow persons to continue to work and pay PRSI pension contributions beyond pension age to gain eligibility for an old age contributory pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22055/06]

The National Pensions Review was published in January and it includes recommendations from the Pensions Board designed to encourage people to continue working after normal retirement age. The measures suggested involve allowing people to defer receiving their social welfare pension and to grant them an actuarially enhanced payment when they do claim. The Pensions Board also considered that if this were combined with allowing those with less than full entitlements to count contributions made after age 65 or 66 in order to improve their contributions record, this would increase the incentive for longer working within the social welfare pensions system. The Department is not in a position to operate such measures at present. However, I will continue to have the matter further examined in the context of the Pensions Review which is currently under way.

Air Services.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

143 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Transport the number of encroachments into airspace controlled by Dublin air traffic control in 2005; the locations where these originated from; if any were designated a near miss; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22010/06]

This is a matter primarily for the Irish Aviation Authority, which is responsible for establishing controlled airspace for the safe operation of aircraft, and not one for which my Department has operational responsibility. The Irish Aviation Authority has informed my Department that there were approximately 35 encroachments of controlled airspace by light aircraft in 2005. The vast majority of these were minor encroachments that did not jeopardise the safety of commercial aviation. All unauthorised penetrations of controlled airspace are noted by the IAA and serious encroachments are followed up by the Authority with the party concerned. I understand that none of the encroachments in 2005 gave rise to a near miss event.

Aer Lingus.

Finian McGrath

Question:

144 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Transport the liability the Government will assume in the event of the sale of Aer Lingus to the workers transferred from Aer Lingus to TEAM Aer Lingus; the status of the guarantees and assurances given to the workers by the Government at the time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22011/06]

The arrangements agreed between Aer Lingus and those workers who were transferred to TEAM Aer Lingus was a matter for the company. I understand from the company that those workers who opted to move to the new owner (FLS) waived all their rights in this regard at the time of the sale and those who did not returned to the employment of Aer Lingus and, therefore, have all of the conditions enjoyed to the employees of Aer Lingus.

Air Services.

John Gormley

Question:

145 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Transport if he will report on exercise Eagle at Shannon Airport on 25 April 2006, which tested the effectiveness of the emergency services if a passenger aircraft with a cargo of chemicals crashed at Shannon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22012/06]

Joe Costello

Question:

149 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport if he will comment on the recent exercise Eagle at Shannon airport that took place in April 2006; if he is satisfied with the effectiveness of the emergency services to respond to a major incident such as that staged during the exercise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22187/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145 and 149 together.

Each Aerodrome under the terms of its licence issued by the Irish Aviation Authority must carry out emergency exercises at the aerodrome at intervals not exceeding two years. This is a day-to-day matter for the relevant airport authority and is one in which I have no function. On 25 April 2006, Shannon Airport management initiated a simulated Airport Crash Exercise named Exercise Eagle and the following bodies participated: — Shannon Airport Management and Fire Service; Shannon Air Traffic Control; An Garda Síochána; HSE West Management and Ambulance service; and Clare County Council Management & Fire Service. The participating airline was American Airlines. I am informed that all participants were satisfied that Exercise Eagle was a success, particularly American Airlines who brought all their European Station Managers to Shannon to view the exercise at first hand.

Proposed Legislation.

Seán Crowe

Question:

146 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Transport his views on the demand from an association (details supplied) to introduce resident only parking regarding match days in Croke Park; and if so, the envisaged timescale for such legislation allowing for this to be introduced. [22013/06]

I am aware of complaints by residents in relation to parking problems on the roads in the environs of Croke Park on match days when a large influx of motorists from outside the area park on residential roads for the duration of the events. Dublin City Council has also contacted my Department in relation to this matter. My Department is examining the current legislative provisions that are available to road authorities when applying restrictions and prohibitions on the parking of vehicles to ascertain if the existing provisions can accommodate this type of situation.

Light Rail Project.

Ivor Callely

Question:

147 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Transport the length of Luas rail line in use for public transport services; the criteria applied for the laying of the Luas track; the issues associated with safe movement of Luas on the existing track that has been brought to his attention since the Luas line has been in operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22014/06]

The total combined length of the two existing Luas lines is 24 km. I am informed by the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) that the method of design and construction of Luas track was compliant at the relevant period with engineering best practice.

There are no current or past safety issues related to the Luas track. However, installation work has commenced on a replacement support system on parts of the Luas tracks that use Edilon block rail supports. The main Luas contractor is contractually obliged to carry out this remedial work to the RPA's satisfaction and at no cost to the taxpayer. The RPA will continue to ensure that there is no risk to passenger safety. Less than 5% of the overall Luas track requires modification.

Luas has a good safety record and both the RPA and Veolia Transport are committed to the highest standards in this area.

Road Network.

Ivor Callely

Question:

148 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Transport the proposed date for the opening of the Dublin Port Tunnel; the estimated number of heavy goods vehicles that will use the Dublin Port Tunnel on a daily basis; the impact on the access and exit road network routes to the Dublin Port Tunnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22015/06]

The planning, design and implementation of national road improvement projects, including the Dublin Port Tunnel, is a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) and the local authorities concerned, in this case, Dublin City Council.

I understand that the civil engineering work within the tunnels has now been largely completed and that the main focus of work has shifted to the installation of the mechanical and electrical systems which make up the safety and control features of the project.

Dublin City Council and the NRA have advised that the main construction and installation work in the Tunnel is expected to be completed in June, with the Tunnel opening to traffic in September following a number of months of testing, commissioning and training. However, the exact opening date will be contingent on satisfactory completion of the testing and commissioning of the tunnel's operational and safety features, including the training of operational and emergency staff.

It is estimated by the NRA that approximately 21,600 vehicles will use the Port Tunnel on a daily basis. Of these, 6,300 are heavy goods vehicles over 17 tonnes.

Traffic management in general is a matter for the appropriate local authority in the area. In this instance, the traffic management and control arrangements that will apply following the opening of the Tunnel are matters for Dublin City Council and the NRA.

My officials and I are consulting with all stakeholders, including Dublin City Council and the NRA, to ensure that a co-ordinated strategy is developed for the opening of the Tunnel. Dublin City Council's Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) Management Strategy is an important part of this process in that its purpose is to ensure that maximum traffic benefits are secured from the Dublin Port Tunnel.

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.

Question No. 149 answered with QuestionNo. 145.

State Airports.

Joe Costello

Question:

150 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport the number of US soldiers who have stopped off at Shannon en route to Afghanistan or Iraq for each year since the US conflict began with these countries; the number who have stopped off at Shannon returning to the USA for each year since the conflict began; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22188/06]

Civilian air carriers carrying weapons or munitions, wishing to land in or over-fly Irish airspace are obliged to seek exemption from the provisions of Sections 6 and 7 of the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Order 1973. This Order applies only to the carriage of munitions of war, weapons and dangerous goods and not to military personnel. Therefore my Department does not collate information with regard to the number of military troops onboard civilian aircraft. Accordingly my Department does not have figures on the final destination of US soldiers on aircraft that have stopped at Shannon Airport, whether on eastbound or westbound flights.

Joe Costello

Question:

151 Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Transport the number of countries which have used Shannon for transporting military equipment in each of the past 10 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22189/06]

The activities of foreign military aircraft landing in or overflying Ireland are a matter for the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The carriage of weapons or munitions on civilian aircraft, either landing or overflying, is prohibited under Irish law unless an exemption is given by the Minister for Transport. Civilian air carriers carrying weapons or munitions, wishing to land or over-fly Irish airspace are obliged to seek exemption from the provisions of Sections 6 and 7 of the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Order 1973.

The applications received by my Department from civilian air carriers identify the airports preceding and following the aircraft's arrival in Shannon.

The vast majority of the applications involve flights to or from the United States. Exemptions have also been given to aircraft from Canada, Israel and the U.K.

Driving Licences.

John Cregan

Question:

152 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Transport the position regarding persons who have a full driving licence from the USA; the reason they need to re-sit their driving tests here; if there are bilateral or international agreements on such issues; if Ireland or the EU are a signatory to such agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22267/06]

Irish driving licence regulations are required to operate within the framework of a harmonised EU system. The criteria essential for recognition of licences from other countries are testing and licensing regimes which meet the requirements of the EU Directive and reciprocal recognition of Irish licences.

A person who holds a driving licence issued by a Member State of the European Union or of the European Economic Area (includes Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) is permitted to drive in Ireland for so long as that licence remains valid. Where such a person has taken up normal residence in Ireland, he or she may exchange their licence for an Irish driving licence without taking a driving test.

In addition, Australia, Isle of Man, Japan, Jersey, South Africa, South Korea and Switzerland are recognised States for the purpose of driving licence exchange under the terms of Article 30(7) of the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations, 1999. Under these regulations, persons holding a valid driving licence from a recognised State may exchange their licence for an Irish driving licence where they take up residence here, without the need for a driving test.

In all other cases a person taking up normal residence in Ireland must undergo the driver theory test, obtain a provisional licence and pass the driving test in order to obtain a driving licence.

A bilateral agreement with the United States of America for the mutual exchange of driving licences is not envisaged at present.

Sugar Beet Industry.

Denis Naughten

Question:

153 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the steps which she is taking through her golden share in Greencore to ensure that the company abides by the Labour Court Recommendations regarding staff compensation at the Mallow sugar factory; if the level of compensation for staff form part of the final package on the distribution of the sugar compensation or if it will form part of a separate deal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22047/06]

As Minister I hold a Special Share in Greencore plc. That share has the same monetary value as any other share in the company but has conditions attached which prevent the company from engaging in a number of activities without the prior written consent of the Minister. In summary, the Special Share prevents the disposal of the controlling interest in Irish Sugar Ltd, or the sale, transfer or disposal of more than 20% of specified assets, including lands and properties, of Irish Sugar Ltd in Carlow and in Mallow used in the production of sugar. It also prevents a single shareholder or group of shareholders from gaining control of Greencore plc. The Special Share does not empower me to get involved in operational matters or normal business decisions made by the company.

The compensation package available under the agreement on reform of the EU sugar regime includes restructuring aid covering the economic, social and environmental costs of restructuring of the sugar industry involving factory closure and renunciation of quota. In Ireland's case, this aid would be worth up to €145m. This aid is subject to the submission by the processor of a detailed restructuring plan for the industry which must include a social plan detailing the actions planned in particular with respect to re-training, redeployment and early retirement of the work force concerned. The Commission Regulation laying down detailed rules for the implementation of the restructuring aid is expected to be adopted very shortly. Where restructuring takes place in the first year of the new regime, as is the case in Ireland, the application for restructuring aid must be submitted by 31 July 2006 and a final determination as to its eligibility made by the Member State at the latest by 30 September 2006.

Farm Land Prices.

Denis Naughten

Question:

154 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if her attention has been drawn to the continuing increase in the price of farm land identified by the Central Statistics Office, which is running considerably above the level of general inflation; her views on the implications of this rise for farmers who wish to expand or persons who wish to enter farming for the first time; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22181/06]

The rise in agricultural land prices over the last 10 years has been primarily driven by the decline in the amount of land available for sale as well as our strong economic growth. The volume of agricultural land being offered for sale has declined by 71% between 1995 and 2004, while the average price of agricultural land has increased from €5,641 to €16,261 per hectare.

Clearly the lack of available land and high sales prices can act as a constraint on some farmers. In order to overcome this, many farmers who wish to expand production are opting to lease or rent farmland. Approximately one-fifth of farm land was leased in 2003 (the latest year for which data is available).

In order to encourage land mobility, and to reduce the costs of land transfer, the Government has put in place a number of incentives, these include:

•An Early Retirement Scheme pension of up to €13,515 for a period of 10 years on farms transferred by gift, sale or lease.

•An installation aid grant of €9,520 for young trained farmers.

•Capital Gains Tax Retirement Relief for farmers over 55 years.

•A rental income tax exemption of €10,000 for farmers over 40 years who lease out land on a long-term basis.

•A 90% Agricultural Relief from Capital Acquisitions Tax.

•The provision of full Stamp Duty relief for young trained farmers.

•Stamp Duty relief for land swaps between two farmers.

These incentives encourage the early transfer of land without the necessity of purchase and improve the overall levels of land mobility. This, in turn, helps improve the availability of land to farmers who wish to enter farming or increase their scale of production.

Grant Payments.

John Perry

Question:

155 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will have a decision made on a person’s single payment under force majeure (details supplied) as in 1999/2000 the herd was restricted and reduced from 15 to 7 animals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22264/06]

The person named submitted an application, on 03 November 2004, for consideration of his circumstances under the Force Majeure/Exceptional Circumstances measure of the Single Payment Scheme. Following processing of his application the Single Payment Entitlements Unit informed the person named that his application was successful with the year 2000 excluded from the calculation of his Single Payment.

Payment in respect of the 2005 Single Payment Scheme will issue to the person named in the coming days.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

156 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the reason the application of a person (details supplied) in County Wexford was refused under the force majeure scheme; the mechanisms which are available for the person to make a new application; if there are guidelines available to applicants to let them know the reason they were refused; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22276/06]

Every case for Force Majeure is dealt with on its merits. In order to be accepted under Force Majeure provisions, it must be found that production was adversely affected by the particular circumstances of the case.

In this case it was found by both my Department and the independent Single Payment Appeals Committee that production was not adversely affected throughout the three reference years (2000-02).

The Office of the Ombudsman has also examined this case and has agreed with the findings of my Department. The person named has now exhausted all review mechanisms within my Department.

The reasons for the decision in this case were communicated to the person named by letters dated 5 November 2004 and 10 March 2005. This is in accordance with the stated practice in my Department to give written reasons for decisions.

Traveller Community.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

157 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the fact that Travellers have been part of Irish society for thousands of years with a culture that differs from the rest of the population and that it would be great benefit to all to have Travellers ethnicity recognised by the State; his further views on the importance of the State recognising the Traveller community as equals at State level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22158/06]

The question of recognition of Travellers as an ethnic group has been raised by some Traveller Organisations in the context of a number of international conventions notably the UN Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The CERD defines "racial discrimination" as any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin.

The Government is committed to challenging discrimination against Travellers and has defined membership of the Traveller community as a separate ground on which it is unlawful to discriminate under equality legislation. This was not meant to provide a lesser level of protection to Travellers compared to that afforded to members of ethnic minorities. On the contrary, the separate identification of Travellers in equality legislation guarantees that they are explicitly protected.

The Government accepts the right of Travellers to their cultural identity and is committed to applying all the protections afforded to national minorities under relevant international conventions. However, the Government has not concluded that Travellers are ethnically different from the majority of Irish people. The point also needs to be made that the Government is not alone in making this assessment. The 1995 Task Force Report on the Traveller community, which consisted of Government Departments, civil society and Traveller representatives did not recommend that Travellers should be identified as an ethnic minority.

Departmental Transport.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

158 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the use of energy efficient cars is being considered for his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21674/06]

Car purchases for Government Departments and Agencies are generally organised by the Government Supplies Agency (GSA).

Factors such as fuel efficiency and safety are taken into account in making such purchases.

Community Policing Fora.

Seán Crowe

Question:

159 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way in which the Cabra Policing Forum will be affected by new proposed legislation regarding policing arrangements with local communities. [22042/06]

Currently funding is made available via the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to a number of Community Policing Fora which have been established in the context of the Government's National Drugs Strategy.

There are two such fora operating on a pilot basis under the aegis of the North Inner City and Finglas/Cabra Local Drugs Task Forces respectively.

A Community Policing Forum under the aegis of the Finglas/Cabra Local Drugs Task Force was established as a pilot initiative in 2003. This project also receives annual funding of €51,584 through the Local Drugs Task Force initiative. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform acts as the channel of funding for this initiative.

My position on this matter is that the establishment of community policing fora, in general, needs to be delivered in the context of an appropriate policy framework for what will be relatively new partnership structures involving the Gardaí, local authorities and local communities to deal with a range of issues of mutual concern. Such a framework will ensure that community policing fora are developed in an appropriate, consistent and properly planned manner.

Section 36 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 provides that joint policing committees shall be established by local authorities and the Garda Commissioner in accordance with guidelines to be issued by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform after consulting with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. Draft guidelines have been prepared in consultation with the two Ministers.

Policing our society will be greatly strengthened by this partnership process involving the Garda Síochána and the elected national and local representatives of the communities which the Force serves and with the participation of the community and voluntary sector. Both the Garda Síochána and the local authorities have their responsibilities in ensuring that our policing needs are fully met. I am proposing to issue the guidelines for an initial brief pilot phase, during which committees will be established in a number of local authority areas.

I have forwarded the draft guidelines to the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Woman's Rights inviting any observations which the committee might have and which I and my two Ministerial colleagues will consider prior to issue of the guidelines.

I intend to issue the guidelines on 16 June, thereby enabling the joint policing committees to be established in the relevant local authority areas at an early date. Preparatory work is underway prior to the formal establishment of the committees.

Provision has been made in the Votes of my Department and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for funding for the pilot joint policing committees in 2006.

The Garda Síochána Act provides that a joint policing committee may establish, in consultation with the local Garda superintendent, as the committee considers necessary within specific neighbourhoods, local policing fora. It is intended that supplemental guidelines for such policing fora will be made at a subsequent date.

Vehicle Regulations.

Denis Naughten

Question:

160 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 109 of 27 April 2006 if he will seek a response from the Garda Síochána regarding the issues raised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22061/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the complainant in respect of allegations of non-compliance with public service vehicles regulations in Athlone was interviewed but declined to make a written statement. I am further informed that the allegations have nevertheless been investigated by the Garda Síochána, and no evidence was uncovered to support these allegations.

Sexual Offences.

Finian McGrath

Question:

161 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he or his Department have correspondence over the years regarding the issues exposed in the May 2006 Supreme Court decision on the A case; and the reasons for his legal experts not knowing about this potential disaster. [22073/06]

The only correspondence which it has been possible to find in my Department which argued for the introduction of a defence of reasonable mistake as to age were in the context of the views invited from the public to the issues addressed in the Discussion Paper on the Law on Sexual Offences published by my Department in 1998. The Discussion Paper quoted the Law Reform Commission's recommendation that a defence of mistake as to age should be introduced on the ground that "Irish law in this area was unduly harsh and wholly out of step with the law in other jurisdictions". No mention was made in the LRC Report or elsewhere that their might be a constitutionality question mark over the strict liability offences of carnal knowledge of girls under 15 and 17 years of age.

As the Tánaiste has told this House, on 29 November 2002 my Department was informed in writing by the Chief State Solicitor's Office of an application seeking judicial review in the High Court to challenge certain provisions of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935, (The "C.C." proceedings). An official promptly phoned the Chief State Solicitor's Office to ascertain whether they needed any response from the Department in relation to the application. The answer was in the negative. In January 2003, the Chief State Solicitor's Office repeated its undertaking to advise the Department of any development in the proceedings. No further communication was received in my Department from the Chief State Solicitor's Office or any other source concerning the "C.C." proceedings. Neither I nor my Department were notified of the hearing or outcome of the High Court case, which the State won, or the subsequent appeal to the Supreme Court.

In response to the Supreme Court decision of 23 May 2006, I published the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2006 on 1 June 2006. It passed all stages in the Dáil and Seanad and was signed into law by the President on the following day.

Residency Permits.

Marian Harkin

Question:

162 Ms Harkin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform when the application by persons (details supplied) in County Sligo to his Department will be dealt with. [22074/06]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that permission to remain in the State has been granted to both of the persons in question and a letter notifying them of the decision has already issued.

Road Traffic Offences.

Enda Kenny

Question:

163 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there is evidence that the three tonne limit is being implemented in Kennelsfort Road, Palmerstown; the number of summonses issued from March to date in 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22092/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that both local and Dublin Metropolitan Region Traffic Division personnel are actively enforcing the three-tonne limit on Kennelsfort Road on a daily basis. From March to date fifty four summonses have been applied for in relation to this breach and eleven fixed charge penalty notices have also been issued. I am further informed that eight convictions have been obtained for breaches of the three tonne limit on Kennelsfort Road to date in 2006.

Crime Prevention.

Richard Bruton

Question:

164 Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has received reports from the Garda Commissioner regarding the level of active support for Neighbourhood Watch initiatives across the city; the number of active committees which are working currently with the Gardaí; the approximate proportion of the city covered by these; his views on whether there is potential to reinvigorate these committees particularly in view of the proposed Garda Reserve Force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22093/06]

Neighbourhood Watch was established in 1985 as a crime prevention measure for urban areas and there are approximately 2,600 Neighbourhood Watch schemes in operation nation-wide. Since its establishment, the Garda authorities have sought to encourage the active participation of the public in Neighbourhood Watch by encouraging and supporting communities to establish and maintain such initiatives. The Garda Síochána has been a strategic partner in driving and supporting Neighbourhood Watch through its Community Relations Section and local Garda management, and has deployed Crime Prevention Officers and Liaison Gardaí to assist schemes. I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are currently 18 District Neighbourhood Watch Committees in the Dublin Metropolitan Region, 17 of which are active.

A review of Neighbourhood Watch is being conducted by An Garda Síochána in consultation with the Dublin Neighbourhood Watch Representative Committee. A report including proposals for the re-invigoration of the initiative is being prepared and will be submitted to the Commissioner for his consideration in the near future. The Commissioner has proposed specific duties for Reserve members and these are being considered.

Sexual Offences.

Ivor Callely

Question:

165 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the chronological order of the way in which the Mr. A case, unfolded; the relevant offices or Departments that were aware of the case; the personnel involved on behalf of the State in the preparation of the recent Supreme Court case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22094/06]

As the Tánaiste has told this House, on 29 November 2002 my Department was informed in writing by the Chief State Solicitor's Office of an application seeking judicial review to challenge certain provisions of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935, (The "C.C." proceedings). An official promptly phoned the Chief State Solicitor's Office to ascertain whether they needed any response from the Department in relation to the application. The answer was in the negative. In January 2003, the Chief State Solicitor's Office repeated its undertaking to advise the Department of any development in the proceedings. No further communication was received in my Department from the Chief State Solicitor's Office or any other source concerning the "C.C." proceedings. Neither I nor my Department were notified of the hearing or outcome of the High Court case, which the State won, or the subsequent appeal to the Supreme Court.

In response to the Supreme Court decision of 23 May 2006, I published the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2006 on 1 June 2006. It passed all stages in the Dáil and Seanad and was signed into law by the President on the following day.

Ivor Callely

Question:

166 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedures which are in place when his Department becomes aware of a legal uncertainty or a likely potential problem with legislation relating to his Department; the measures that were taken when the first signs of legal uncertainty or potential problems in relation to section 1.1 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935 were noticed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22095/06]

Ivor Callely

Question:

168 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedures that apply when the Law Reform Commission recommends that a law needs to be changed; the procedures which were adopted when the Law Reform Commission recommended in 1990 that those relating to persons accused of sex offences against young girls needed to be changed; the steps that followed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22097/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 166 and 168 together.

Whenever my Department becomes aware that legislation might be required, I would be informed and, depending on the issue, its importance and urgency, I would agree policy with officials from the Criminal or Civil Law Reform Divisions. Again, depending on the issue and its legal complexity, the Attorney General's Office and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions may be consulted. In the case of Reports from the Law Reform Commission, their recommendations are examined in the Department and, where appropriate, are included in legislation. The criminal law measures in the 1990 Law Reform Commission Report on Child Sexual Abuse were examined in the context of the preparation of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993, which gave effect to the Commission's recommendations on the decriminalisation of homosexual acts and also complied with its recommendations not to change the law on incest or the liability of girls who engage in under-age sex. The recommendations on mistake as to age and the age of consent were not legislated for because of lack of public support for what would have decreased the protection from the law available to children against sexual abuse.

The questions on age were returned to in the Department's 1998 Discussion Paper on the Law on Sexual Offences. Views received on the questions addressed in the Paper disclosed no great public support for any changes on those issues. It is important to point out that the Commission's recommendation on a defence of mistake as to age was made on policy and not constitutional grounds.

The first occasion I became aware that there were potential problems with section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935 was when the Supreme Court delivered its judgment on 23 May 2006. My response to the judgment is the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2006 which passed all stages in the Dáil and Seanad on 2 June 2006 and was signed into law by the President on the same day.

Ivor Callely

Question:

167 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform where the responsibility rests with regard to the processing of the recent Mr. A Supreme Court Case and the notification to the relevant personnel of all matters relating; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22096/06]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

172 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is usual for him not to receive notification of Supreme Court actions pertaining to the constitutionality of legislation in operation within the State; if it is usual for him to be made aware of legal action pending or before the courts; if so, if such notification is limited to a particular type or class of action and in that case the type or classification which applies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22184/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 167 and 172 together.

There is no doubt that recent events have highlighted communications issues between my Department and the Offices of the Attorney General and the Chief State Solicitor. An examination of communications within the Office of the Attorney General took place some years ago that resulted in some administrative changes in that Office and as indicated by the Taoiseach to the Dáil yesterday a further examination by an official from the Department Of Finance is now due to take place. My Department will, of course, cooperate in every possible way with that examination. While communications and recording of correspondence within my own Department are being reviewed to see if they could be improved, I am satisfied that on this occasion procedures were carried out correctly.

As the Tánaiste has told this House, on 29 November 2002 my Department was informed in writing by the Chief State Solicitor's Office of an application seeking judicial review to challenge certain provisions of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935. (The "C.C." proceedings). An official promptly phoned the Chief State Solicitor's Office to ascertain whether they needed any response from the Department in relation to the application. The answer was in the negative. In January 2003, the Chief State Solicitor's Office repeated its undertaking to advise the Department of any development in the proceedings. No further communication was received in my Department from the Chief State Solicitor's Office or any other source concerning the "C.C." proceedings. Neither I nor my Department were notified of the hearing or outcome of the High Court case, which the State won, or the subsequent appeal to the Supreme Court.

In response to the Supreme Court decision of 23 May 2006, I published the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2006 on 1 June 2006. It passed all stages in the Dáil and Seanad and was signed into law by the President on the following day. I would emphasise that even had we been aware of the impending Supreme Court judgment, nothing could have been done which would have prevented the application to the High Court which resulted in the temporary release of one convicted sex offender. No legislation, even if rushed through the Oireachtas the same day, could have influenced subsequent events. It would not in any case have been practicable to rush in pre-prepared legislation as it is simply not possible to anticipate the terms of a Supreme Court decision, let alone the decision itself.

Question No. 168 answered with QuestionNo. 166.

Ivor Callely

Question:

169 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people who have been convicted under Section 1.1 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1935; the number of people currently serving prison sentence having been convicted under this Section of the Act; if in view of the recent Supreme Court ruling the perpetrator can be rearrested and retried under other sections or other Acts for their crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22098/06]

I have made enquiries with the Garda authorities and the statistics relating to the number of convictions recorded for an offence under Section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935 for the years 2000 to 2006 to date are set out in the following table. Figures prior to the introduction of the computerised crime recording system are not readily available, and it would require a disproportionate expenditure of Garda time and resources to identify these convictions from manual records. I am further informed by the Garda authorities that following the decision of the Supreme Court on 2 June 2006, gardaí have arrested the man identified as Mr. A and he has been returned to prison. On 6 June, 2006 there were 14 persons serving a prison sentence for offences contrary to Section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935. Of these 14 cases, six were also serving sentences for other offences.

Convictions for offences under section 1(1) Criminal Law Amendment Act 1935

Year

Conviction

2006*

0

2005

1

2004

2

2003

7

2002

22

2001

16

2000

7

Figures provided for 2006 to date are provisional, operational and liable to change.

Residency Permits.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

170 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will examine the removal of documents by gardaí in December, 2005 from a family (details supplied) in County Dublin that have since been granted residency; the reason these documents have not been returned; and when the family might expect them to be returned. [22160/06]

I have been advised by my officials that documents were removed from the family in question in December 2005 for further examination. I understand that one of the documents referred to by the Deputy is in the process of being returned to the family. An issue has arisen in respect of the other document referred to by the Deputy and further enquiries are being made by my officials. It is hoped that the matter will be resolved shortly.

Court Procedures.

Seamus Healy

Question:

171 Mr. Healy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if a person (details supplied) in County Tipperary who appeared at Tipperary District Court on 3 January 2006 was remanded on bail until 7 February 2006; and if he was remanded on bail the details of that bail. [22183/06]

I requested a further report from the Garda authorities in respect of the matter raised by the Deputy. I am now informed by the Garda authorities that when the person in question appeared in court on 3 January 2006 an adjournment until 7 February 2006, rather than a remand on bail, was granted in the case concerned. At a subsequent hearing on 17 February, the person in question was released on bail. Any confusion caused by my original reply is regretted.

Question No. 172 answered with QuestionNo. 167.

Citizenship Applications.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

173 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the status of citizenship applications for persons (details supplied); if these can be expedited. [22185/06]

An application for certificates of naturalisation on behalf of the two persons in question, who are both minors, was submitted by their mother, a naturalised Irish citizen, to the Citizenship Section of my Department on 14 November 2005. Due to the fact that applications on behalf of minors generally require less processing than standard adult applications, it is usually possible to finalise them more quickly than standard applications. Based on current processing trends, it is likely that the application on behalf of the persons concerned will be finalised in the next few months. I will advise the Deputy and the applicant when I have reached a decision in the matter.

Garda Equipment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

174 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number and cost of all information technology or other high tech facilities provided to his Department in the past five years; the extent to which each facility is operating efficiently and in accordance with VFM criteria; if PULSE is evaluated in this context; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22215/06]

I can inform the Deputy that Expenditure under the main I.T. Capital and Current subheads of the votes under my Department's aegis (Justice, Courts, Prisons, Garda, Land Registry) for the years 2000 to 2004 amounted to €172.933m (1.7% of total accumulated expenditure). Figures relating to 2005 are not yet available for publication.

As the Deputy will appreciate, this expenditure relates to a wide range of organisations with varying and often complex business needs and includes hardware and system development, as well as consumable and maintenance costs. I am satisfied that the application of information technology across these public services is contributing towards improved delivery and value for money. This spend included the provision of a wide range of I.T. systems and applications, all of which are aiding the delivery of public services within the Justice and Equality Sector.

Insofar as PULSE is concerned, I informed the Deputy in a reply to a similar question last October that a post implementation review of the system will take place when work that was ongoing at that time was completed. The majority of this work was completed in April and this review will take place later this year as expected and will encompass value for money criteria.

Garda Recruitment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

175 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applicants who have passed the Garda entrance exam; the number to date called for training; the number awaiting such a call; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22216/06]

The Public Appointments Service (PAS) is responsible for the administration of the application process as well as Stage 1 (aptitude testing) and Stage 2 (interview) of the Garda recruitment process.

I have been informed by the PAS that there was a total of 8,462 applications for the current Garda recruitment competition, 4,926 of whom sat the entrance exam. 2,872 (or 58.3%) of these applicants passed the exam. The PAS have further informed me that as at 6 June 2006, some 1,074 applicants had been called to interview, of which 657 (or 61.2%) had passed the interview.

I have been informed by the Garda authorities that 88 of these candidates, having gone on to pass Stage 3 (medical exam and physical competency test) of the current competition, have since been called for training under the most recent intake of student Gardaí in May 2006. It is not possible at this point to state how many candidates are awaiting a call to training, as the necessary processes under Stage 3 of the competition have not been completed for all candidates who have succeeded at Stage 2.

Garda Investigations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

176 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of robberies in the past two years in which hostages were taken to assist in the robbery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22217/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the figures relating to robberies involving hostages are not readily available and are currently being researched. They will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as they are available.

I am further informed, however, that there were 51 incidents of false imprisonment offences recorded in 2005 and 46 in 2004. These figures relate to incidences where a person has been detained against his or her will, including situations where a robbery is taking place.

It should be noted that false imprisonment differs from hostage taking in that hostage taking requires a person to be detained for the purpose of compelling another person to abstain from, or to complete, a task so as to assist offenders in committing a crime.

Garda Deployment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

177 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the high crime areas in Dublin City, where nightly foot and mobile patrols are available; his plans to increase same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22218/06]

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 is set to rise to a record 12,641 today following the attestation of 273 new members. This compares with a total strength of 10,702 (all ranks) as at 30 June 1997 and represents an increase of 1,939 (or 18.1%) in the personnel strength of the Force during that period.

Garda management state that foot and mobile patrols are an essential part of the policing strategy in place in the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR). These patrols are supplemented by District Detective and Drugs Units, Garda Mountain Bike Units, Community Policing Units, Divisional Crime Task Force and Traffic Corps personnel to target areas of high incidence of crime.

Operation ‘Anvil' has been in place in the DMR since 17 May, 2005 and is running in conjunction with regular policing. All areas throughout the city are subject to this operation, with specific locations and individuals being targeted for additional attention.

It is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within Garda Divisions on a priority basis in accordance with the requirements of different areas. These personnel allocations are determined by a number of factors including demographics, crime trends, administrative functions and other operational policing needs. Such allocations are continually monitored and reviewed by senior Garda management along with overall policing arrangements and operational strategy. This ensures that optimum use is made of Garda resources, and that the best possible service is provided to the public.

I should add 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. The first group of newly attested Gardaí under the accelerated recruitment programme came on stream in March and the second such group comes on stream today. Further tranches of approximately 275 newly attested Gardaí will follow every 90 days hereafter until the programme is complete.

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 Dublin Metropolitan Region will be given the fullest consideration.

Garda Equipment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

178 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there is sufficient personnel and equipment in the Garda forensic laboratory for same to function to the highest capacity; if there are delays occurring; if so, the provision he or his Department will make to rectify same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22219/06]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the Forensic Science Laboratory which, although located in the Garda Headquarters complex at Phoenix Park, is in fact a civilian organisation coming under the aegis of my Department and not part of the Garda Síochána. The Laboratory staff both at leadership and subordinate levels are superbly well qualified and do a magnificent job in supporting crime investigation in this country.

Insofar as the resources available to the Laboratory are concerned, the position is that additional staff were sanctioned and assigned in recent years following a major review of the organisation's functions and the level of funding is kept under ongoing review so as to ensure the Laboratory has the facilities to deliver on its objectives. As the Deputy may also be aware, work is underway on the specification and design of a new building for the Laboratory and my intention is to provide a modern, state of the art facility which fully accommodates the needs of the Laboratory well into the future.

Insofar as the processing of cases is concerned, the position is that cases are categorised upon receipt in the Laboratory and prioritised according to whether an examination could lead to any information of an investigational or evidential value. A service level agreement is in place between the Laboratory and the Gardaí, setting out the turnaround times according to case type and providing for high priority cases to be examined immediately upon receipt. This agreement is supported by ongoing interaction between the Laboratory and the Garda authorities with a view to ensuring that the needs of crime detection and prosecution are met at all times.

Deportation Orders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

179 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will confirm that all those deported to their homelands by his order have been properly treated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22221/06]

In relation to the treatment of returnees to their homelands, it should be borne in mind that before a decision to deport is made in any individual case, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform must have regard to the eleven factors contained in Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and the provisions of Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the Prohibition of Refoulement.

This means 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. This means in practice 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. The legislation requires that this consideration is given before the deportation decision is made. In arriving at such decisions, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform uses extensive country of origin information drawn from different independent sources, including the UNHCR, in evaluating the safety of making returns to third countries.

Courts Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

180 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his office receives information from the Courts Service setting out the number of community service orders made in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22222/06]

Statistics on community service orders are provided in the Annual Reports of the Courts Service, which are available in the Oireachtas Library. At present, figures are given for the Dublin and Limerick Courts only. The most recent report covers the year 2004.

Citizenship Applications.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

181 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of applications for citizenship received in each of the past three years; the number approved; the number rejected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22223/06]

The following table sets out the information sought by the Deputy:

Naturalisation

Year

Applications received

Certificates issued

Applications refused

2003

3,580

1,664

179

2004

4,074

1,335

759

2005

4,519

1,452

1,319

2006 (to 4 June)

2,659

719

324

Post-nuptial citizenship

Year

Declarations received

Certificates issued

2003

2,491

2,272

2004

2,825

2,449

2005

4,080

2,622

2006 (end of March)

1,067

1,341

Since 1 April 2005 applications for naturalisation are examined upon receipt for compliance with the statutory residency criteria set out in the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended. Those who do not have the required residency at the time they apply are deemed to be ineligible. Almost 2,800 applications, in addition to those who were refused, were deemed ineligible between 1 April 2005 and 4 June 2006. It should be noted that those persons who are refused naturalisation or deemed ineligible may apply again and may ultimately be naturalised.

Prison Accommodation.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

182 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cases in respect of which two or more prisoners share a cell in the various prisons throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22224/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table.

Institution

Cells with accommodation for more than one person

Mountjoy Prison

75 double cells, 15 four man cells and 1 six man cell.

St. Patrick’s Institution

One triple cell

Castlerea Prison

Four 4 man cells and 20 double cells

Cork Prison

109 double cells.

Limerick Prison (Male)

104 double cells

Limerick Prison (Female)

10 double cells

Wheatfield Prison

64 double cells

Portlaoise Prison

8 double cells

Loughan House

40 double rooms and 5 four man rooms

Shelton Abbey

Dormitory accommodation provided for prisoners.

Cloverhill Prison

120 triple cells and 5 double cells.

Midlands Prison

22 treble cells

Arbour Hill Prison

5 three man cells and 15 double cells

Where possible, it is the aim of the Prison Service to provide single cell occupancy for all sentenced prisoners. Exceptions are made for some prisoners who actually seek to double-up. They do so especially if they are in prison for the first time. Prisoners may ask to share a cell with a friend or relative in custody and such requests are facilitated where possible. Doubling up may also occur from time to time if there is a concern about the physical/mental health of a prisoner.

It is anticipated that the new prison buildings at Thornton Hall and Spike Island will allow for increased single cell usage. The construction of new facilities will address the issue of cell occupancy levels and will, in addition, offer significant improvements in the areas of work training, education, medical services and in-cell sanitation.

Garda Investigations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

183 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of reported cases of car theft in each of the past four years; if prosecution and conviction have followed in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22225/06]

Statistics for the offences of unauthorised taking/theft of a mechanically propelled vehicle, recorded and detected for the years in question, are available in the relevant Annual Reports of An Garda Síochána, which are available in the Oireachtas library.

Courts Service.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

184 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps he has taken to ensure that those charged with serious crimes are not allowed bail when charged in the Courts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22226/06]

As the Deputy will be aware, the Bail Act 1997 amended the bail regime generally and gave effect to the terms of the Sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution. Section 2(1) of the Act provides for the refusal of bail to a person charged with a serious offence where it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent the commission of a serious offence by that person. For this purpose a serious offence is defined as one which carries a penalty of at least 5 years imprisonment on conviction and which is listed in the Schedule to the Act (e.g. murder, manslaughter, sexual offences, drug offences). The Act was brought fully into operation on 15 May 2000. Furthermore, the Criminal Justice Act, 1984 provides that any sentence of imprisonment passed on a person for an offence committed while on bail shall be consecutive on any sentence passed on him or her for a previous offence.

The decision to grant bail in any particular case is a matter for the Courts who are, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the performance of their judicial functions. The Garda Commissioner, for the first time, provided statistics on headline offences committed by persons who were recorded as being on bail at the time the offence was committed in his 2004 annual report. These figures show that 5% of headline offences were committed by persons on bail. The Garda annual report for 2005 indicates that 5.36% of headline offences were committed by persons on bail.

I welcome the provision of this information as a contribution to public discussion. I would point out that, while it is disturbing that offences are committed by persons on bail, the offence for which the person received bail may be a minor one.

Garda Operations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

185 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the principals of all known criminal organisations operating throughout the country have been questioned or arrested in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22228/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

187 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action he proposes to take to put organised crime gangs out of business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22230/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

193 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the extra resources he intends to make available to An Garda Síochána to facilitate a crackdown on organised crime, drug trafficking, intimidation of witnesses, extortion, racketeering and protection; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22236/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

200 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make available extra Gardaí of various rank and sufficient in number to tackle organised crime with particular reference to overt and covert surveillance on those involved in drug dealing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22243/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

201 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí currently directly involved in tackling organised crime, drugs or people trafficking; his plans to increase these numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22244/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 185, 187, 193, 200 and 201 together.

Let me say at the outset that the Gardaí are, in fact, conducting a major crackdown on organised crime, including drug trafficking and other types of organised criminality.

The Deputy will appreciate that policing operations and the deployment of Garda resources are matters for the Garda authorities. It is the responsibility of Garda management to allocate personnel to and within divisions on a priority basis in accordance with overall policing requirements. However, I am, of course, in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner in order to keep the measures and resources for tackling serious crime under continuing review. The overall allocation of Garda resources, including manpower, to the Garda Commissioner reflects the Government's policing priorities and An Garda Síochána has never in its history been better resourced.

The Deputy will be aware of the Government's decision in October, 2004 to approve my proposals for the recruitment of 2,000 additional Gardaí to increase the strength of An Garda Síochána to 14,000. Delivery of this commitment is on target and will be achieved. The combined strength of attested Gardaí and recruits in training will reach 14,000 by the end of 2006 and the additional resources are being allocated to areas most in need, including areas with significant levels of serious crime.

The Garda budget is now at an all-time historic high having reached €1.310 billion, which is more than double the budget for 1997. The 2006 Garda overtime allocation has risen by €22.4m to €83.5m, which represents an increase of 36.6% over the allocation of €61.1m for 2005. This will facilitate, among other things, the continuation of operations targeted at the prevention and detection of crimes such as gangland murders, organised crime, racketeering and other criminal activity which gives rise to serious community concern.

An Garda Síochána now employ a wide range of techniques in the fight against serious crime. While each member of An Garda Síochána is generally responsible for the prevention and detection of crime, the establishment of specialist Garda units, operating under the Assistant Commissioner in charge of National Support Services, has proven to be particularly effective in tackling organised crime. The National Bureau of Criminal Investigation is the Garda specialist unit tasked with tackling organised crime. (The current strength of the Bureau is approximately, 145.) It carries out this role by conducting intelligence-driven operations in close co-operation with other specialist units, including the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Criminal Assets Bureau. In November, 2005, an additional 55 officers were allocated to the Organised Crime Unit of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation to augment the effort to target groups involved in organised crime. The unit is headed by a Detective Chief Superintendent and works closely with Gardaí deployed on "Operation Anvil" and with other specialist units.

A Government top policing priority for 2006 is to continue to target organised crime, including drug trafficking, and the gun culture associated with it through the deployment of specialist units and the use of targeted, intelligence-led operations. As a specific response to the problem of gun crime in Dublin, the Government decided to provide funding for "Operation Anvil". This operation was undertaken, not as the sole response to this problem, but as a targeted response to augment the work which the Gardaí were doing each day to address gun crime. "Operation Anvil" specifically targets active criminals and their associates through the use of measures such as overt patrolling, static checkpoints, uniformed mobile and foot patrols supported by armed plain-clothes patrols and covert operations.

"Operation Anvil", which has been extended nationwide in recent months, has resulted in a number of very successful outcomes, including the seizure of 424 firearms. In addition, up to the week ending 21 May, 2006, 29,708 checkpoints have been mounted and 10,065 drugs searches have been conducted. It has seriously disrupted the activities of a number of key criminal gangs and families, resulted in a number of high profile arrests and facilitated the collation of intelligence on the movements of criminal targets.

Garda strategies to deal with drug offences are designed to undermine the activities of organised criminal networks involved in the trafficking and distribution of illicit drugs. These strategies include gathering intelligence on individuals and organisations involved in the distribution of drugs and conducting targeted operations on criminal networks based on intelligence gathered. In addition, Gardaí continue to work in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies, both within this jurisdiction and in an international context, to address the national and international aspects of drug trafficking and distribution. These strategies continue to result in operational successes. The trafficking and distribution of all illicit drugs at local, national and international levels is constantly monitored by the Gardaí.

The current strength of the Garda National Drugs Unit is 55, five of whom are temporarily seconded to the Organised Crime Unit of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The two specialist units work closely. In addition, a total of 260 Garda personnel are allocated to divisional and district drug units in the six Garda regions.

Regarding the level of Garda resources tasked with preventing human trafficking, a joint task force, which pools the resources of Garda specialist units and detective units, has been established. The Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) acts as the lead unit for the task force. Other specialist units involved include the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, the Garda National Drugs Unit, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Criminal Assets Bureau. The GNIB has a number of sections which have an investigative role. The total strength of the GNIB at 17 May, 2006 was 161 members of An Garda Síochána and 32 civilian personnel.

Where there is justification and a legal basis, those suspected of involvement in criminal activity are arrested, detained and questioned in relation to specific crimes. Members of An Garda Síochána must, however, have reasonable grounds for believing that an individual has been involved in criminal activity before any person can be arrested, detained and questioned in relation to alleged criminality.

It is widely acknowledged that our legislative package for tackling serious and organised crime is already one of the toughest in Europe. The Criminal Justice Bill provides a comprehensive package of further anti-crime measures which will enhance the powers of the Gardaí in the investigation and prosecution of offences. The Deputy will be aware that I have brought forward a number of amendments to the Bill providing for the creation of criminal offences in relation to participation in organised crime, the strengthening of existing provisions for the 10 year mandatory minimum sentence for drug trafficking and a range of amendments to the Firearms Acts. The enactment of this Bill is a top priority for this Government.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

186 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the way in which it is intended to tackle the increasing level of gun crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22229/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

191 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of reported gun crimes including killings in each of the past five years; the extent to which successful prosecutions have followed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22234/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 and 191 together.

There is a particular overriding necessity, in view of the recent increase in violent crime involving firearms, to ensure that public safety and security concerns are given priority in any review of policy and legislation in relation to firearms. With this in mind I have brought forward a wide range of amendments to the Firearms Acts 1925-2000 in the context of the Criminal Justice Bill, 2004, which is currently before the Dáil.

Included in these new proposals are measures which will: create mandatory minimum sentences, of between five and ten years, for certain firearms offences, including possession of a firearm in suspicious circumstances, possession of a firearm with criminal intent, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property, possession of a firearm while hijacking a vehicle, and use or production of a firearm to resist arrest; require all persons, wishing to legally hold a firearm, to satisfy the Gardaí that they have provided secure accommodation for the firearm; and allow the Minister to deem certain firearms as "restricted" by reference to specific criteria, including the calibre, action type and muzzle energy of the firearm.

In future, any person wishing to obtain a certificate for such a firearm will have to apply directly to the Garda Commissioner. The legislation will introduce new offences concerning the modification of firearms such as "sawing-off" a shotgun; and increase fines and penalties generally for offences under the Firearms Acts.

I also intend to introduce a statutory basis for an amnesty during which firearms may be surrendered to the Garda Síochána before new penalties, and minimum mandatory sentences, are introduced. This will enable those in possession of firearms, who are not in compliance with the legal requirements, to regularise their position, and thus enable the Garda Síochána to concentrate on more serious offenders.

Operation Anvil, launched in May last year, and aimed at those involved in gun crime of any kind, is one of the most intensive special policing operations ever undertaken in the State. It is intelligence-driven and has deployed significant levels of Garda resources. The Garda Síochána are receiving resources this year to continue Operation Anvil and the Commissioner has recently extended the Operation to Garda Divisions outside Dublin.

In November, 2005 an additional 50 personnel from the uniform service in DMR were transferred to the National Bureau of Criminal Investigations. The Garda Síochána this year has the highest level of resources in its history — €1,290 million — an increase of €146 million or 13% on 2005. The provision for Garda overtime in 2006 is €83.5 million — an increase of €23 million on the allocation for 2005. This increase will greatly assist the planned deployment of a visible policing service in a flexible, effective and targeted response to criminal activity and to crime prevention, including gun crimes. The €83.5 million in overtime will yield 2.725 million extra hours of policing by uniformed and special units throughout the State.

I take great satisfaction in the Government's decision of October 2004 to approve the recruitment of 2,000 additional Gardaí to increase the strength of the Force to 14,000. As a result there will be a combined organisational strength, of both attested Gardaí and recruits in training, of 14,000 by the end of this year and 14,000 attested Gardaí in two years' time. One thing I have already promised is that the additional Gardaí will not be put on administrative duties but will be put directly into frontline, operational, high-visibility policing.

I can assure the deputy that I am in regular contact with the Garda Commissioner in order to keep the measures and resources for tackling serious crime under continuing review. I have requested details from the Garda authorities on headline crimes recorded, detected and convictions where a firearm was used from 2001 to 2005. These details are set out in the table below:

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

Recorded

Convictions

Recorded

Convictions

Recorded

Convictions

Recorded

Convictions

Recorded

Convictions

Homicide

27

0

11

9

26

14

13

7

12

5

Assault

4

0

8

0

12

4

20

6

15

2

Sexual Offences

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

Arson

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Drugs

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Theft

0

0

1

0

2

0

1

0

3

3

Burglary

46

3

77

5

74

16

88

19

60

19

Robbery

320

40

399

85

244

38

296

49

184

60

Fraud

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Other

138

10

142

18

90

19

111

14

121

25

Total

537

53

638

117

448

91

529

95

396

114

Question No. 187 answered with QuestionNo. 185.

Anti-Social Behaviour.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

188 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of reports of anti-social behaviour logged throughout the country since the introduction of the legislation; the number of prosecutions and convictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22231/06]

Statistics for offences under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994 are available in the relevant Annual Reports of An Garda Síochána, which are available in the Oireachtas library.

Public Order Offences.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

189 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of public order incidents detected or reported in County Kildare in each of the past 3 years; the number of convictions arising therefrom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22232/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that no Garda District or Districts correspond to County Kildare. A number of Garda Districts include parts of County Kildare in their area. Accordingly, there are no figures available in respect of the county specifically.

Garda Investigations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

190 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action taken by way of ongoing follow up in respect of unsolved murder cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22233/06]

As the House will appreciate, the deployment of Garda resources and the investigative methods used in murder cases are operational matters for the Garda Commissioner. In this regard, I am informed by the Commissioner that a number of National Support Units have been established, working under an Assistant Commissioner. These Units include the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation which investigates all forms of serious crime including murder and organised crime.

While the responsibility for the investigation of all crime rests with the local Garda officers, the National Bureau provides assistance to serious investigations through a range of expertise and skills available within it. Bureau staff assist in all aspects of the investigation including preliminary enquiries, case management, incident room management, general investigation, file preparation and other ancillary aspects of a criminal investigation. Specialist investigation teams within the Bureau carry out these tasks when requested by local Garda officers or on the direction of senior Garda management.

The system of National Support Units is designed to meet modern policing requirements in an efficient and professional manner. All killings, regardless of the circumstances involved, are the subject of a rigorous Garda investigation. I am advised that when a case of unlawful killing remains unsolved, the investigation is not closed and periodical reviews of the case are carried out by the Garda authorities. When new information becomes available this is examined and fully investigated by the Garda authorities.

Question No. 191 answered with QuestionNo. 186.

Court Staff.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

192 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if an adequate number of judges have been appointed to deal with the current workload; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22235/06]

Since 2002, the total number of ordinary judges of the High, Circuit and District Courts has increased from 101 to 118, an increase of 17 judges. The number of High Court judges has increased from 25 to 31, the number of Circuit Court judges has increased from 25 to 33 and the number of District Court judges has increased from 51 to 54.

I have secured Government approval to further increase the number of District Court judges from 54 to 57 and I propose to make provision for this increase by way of amendment of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2006. I am currently considering the issue of additional judicial resources in the other courts. The additional judicial resources provided have greatly strengthened the capacity of the courts system to meet the demands placed on it.

Question No. 193 answered with Question 185.

Missing Persons.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

194 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people currently recorded as missing persons; the degree to which resources are available within his Department to monitor the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22237/06]

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of untraced persons recorded at the end of 2005 was 395. I am further informed by the Garda authorities that the Missing Persons Bureau of the Garda Síochána is responsible for maintaining data relating to missing persons. All cases of a person reported missing in suspicious circumstances remain open and under ongoing review and investigation until the person is located, or, in the case of a missing person who is presumed drowned, a verdict to that effect by the coroner.

District Officers in the area where persons have gone missing take direct responsibility for all investigations/searches carried out. Local investigations teams are appointed by the District Officer and all means necessary, including the services of specialist units, are deployed to assist in these investigations. The services of Europol and Interpol are also availed of during such investigations. The systems put in place by An Garda Síochána to manage and deal with reports of missing persons are in line with best international practice, and Garda management is satisfied that the systems and resources in place are adequate to deal with any reported case of a missing person.

Crime Prevention.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

195 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps which have been taken to prevent the flow of information to organised criminals in regard to cash in transit assignments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22238/06]

In the interests of creating a safe, secure and efficient cash-handling environment, a voluntary Code of Practice between An Garda Síochána and the service providers in the cash-in-transit industry, including the financial institutions, the Central Bank, the Financial Services Authority of Ireland and the security companies, was signed in 2005.

Appropriate crime prevention advice is also made available by An Garda Síochána to those involved in this industry to ensure that sensitive information does not fall into the hands of criminal elements. The Private Security Authority has indicated its intention to bring forward, at the earliest opportunity, licensing for the cash-in-transit sector of the Security Industry. I am informed that adherence to the Code of Practice will be an integral part of the licensing regime and companies who do not comply with the Code of Practice will not be licensed to operate in the cash movement sector.

In addition, I understand that the Private Security Authority has put stringent criteria in place to protect the private security industry from infiltration by criminals. All licence applicants will undergo criminal records checking by An Garda Síochána. This will apply to employees, principals and directors of private security companies. It is an offence in itself not to disclose details of a conviction(s) when applying to the Authority for a licence.

Witness Security Programme.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

196 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of people covered in the witness protection programme or scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22239/06]

The Witness Security Programme was established in 1997 in response to the activities of organised criminal gangs to facilitate those persons who are prepared to give evidence against alleged offenders. The Programme operates under the direct control and administration of the Garda Commissioner. It is not the practice and it would be contrary to the public interest to comment on the specifics of the operation of the Programme, including the number of persons admitted to it.

Juvenile Offenders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

197 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the relevant sections of his Department have adequate dialogue with the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Education and Science with particular reference to the need to identify and cater for children at risk due to involvement in juvenile crime, non-attendance at school, absent from the home or school without leave or authority and presenting a danger to themselves or others; the regularity of discussion with the other Departments in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22240/06]

The coordination of responses between Government Departments in respect of children at risk of involvement in crime and other troubling behaviour has been identified as a priority issue within my Department. New structures, which foster greater dialogue between the relevant Departments, have recently been established to address the matter.

In October 2004, an internal project team was established within my Department to examine the scope for rationalising and restructuring the delivery of the State's services in the area of youth justice, in accordance with the legislative basis provided for in the Children Act 2001. Publication of the Report on the Youth Justice Review was approved by Government in December 2005. The Government agreed to the implementation of the report's recommendations in addition to a number of other youth justice reforms.

Among the reforms agreed was the establishment of the Irish Youth Justice Service, on a non-statutory basis, as an executive office of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The Service will focus on developing a National Youth Justice Strategy, achieving the full implementation of the Children Act 2001, assuming responsibility for children's detention and improving the delivery of services for young offenders.

While matters relating to school attendance and child care and protection issues are the responsibility of the Ministers for Education and Science and Health and Children respectively, the Report on the Youth Justice Review recognised that cross-departmental cooperation is essential to meet the needs of "at risk" children. The newly established Irish Youth Justice Service will be responsible for establishing a Youth Justice Oversight Group comprising representatives of relevant Departments and agencies from the Justice, Health and Education sectors, to drive the implementation of a national youth justice strategy in an integrated and coordinated manner. The Service will also develop local youth justice teams, where appropriate, to enhance local service delivery around offending behaviour.

The Irish Youth Justice Service comes within the remit of my Department but will operate within the strategic environment of the new Office of the Minister for Children to ensure that a joined-up approach to service delivery is achieved. This Office was established by Government in December 2005, to bring greater coherence to policy making for children. Children now have a stronger voice on issues that affect them, through the Minister for Children, Brian Lenihan TD, who attends Cabinet meetings. The OMC focuses on harmonising policy issues that affect children in areas such as early childhood care and education, youth justice, child welfare and protection, children and young people's participation, research on children and young people and cross-cutting initiatives for children.

The Irish Youth Justice Service will work closely with colleagues in the Departments of Health and Children and Education and Science to coordinate services for children at risk. The new administrative arrangements established by the Government, will strengthen and enhance these links to deliver a coordinated response to the needs of young people at risk.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

198 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if adequate resources are available to the relevant sections of his Department to combat juvenile or petty crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22241/06]

In recent years there has been a renewed focus on the State's response to youth crime and youth justice issues. In October 2004, a project team was established within my Department to examine the youth justice system and make recommendations for any improvements necessary. The project team's recommendations were approved by Government last December. The recommendations included the establishment of the Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS), which is now in the process of being established as an executive office of my Department. The IYJS will focus on developing a National Youth Justice Strategy, achieving the full implementation of the Children Act 2001, assuming responsibility for children's detention and improving the delivery of services for young offenders.

A National Director has recently been appointed to head up the new Service and provision has been made for any set up costs. Discussions will be held with the Department of Finance in regard to the arrangements for future resources and staffing requirements necessary to address the remit of the Service. In light of the outcome of these discussions, resources with respect to youth justice currently within my Department will come under the auspices of the Irish Youth Justice Service. Significant resources are currently being made available through the Garda Diversion Programme and the Probation and Welfare Service.

Garda Youth Diversion Projects are a community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiative which seek to divert young persons from anti-social and/or criminal behaviour. The projects are funded by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and are administered by the Community Relations Section of the Garda Síochána.

A budget of €6.6 million has been provided for the Garda Youth Diversion Projects and Local Drugs Task Force projects in 2006. This represents an increase of 21% on last year's budgetary allocation. It is my intention that 100 schemes will be established nationwide before the end of 2007.

The Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme provides that, in certain circumstances, a young person under 18 years of age, who freely accepts responsibility for a criminal incident, may be cautioned as an alternative to prosecution. The Programme operates under the supervision and direction of the Garda National Juvenile Office and is implemented throughout all Garda divisions by 94 specially trained Gardaí, known as Juvenile Liaison Officers (JLOs). In 2005, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform allocated €96,750 towards the cost of training and the expenses associated with the holding of restorative conferences.

Aspects of the Children Act come within the remit of the Probation and Welfare Service, including family conferencing, supervision orders and community sanctions. I have secured an additional 30 staff specifically for the purpose of implementing the provisions of the Act relevant to the Service. In the current year the Service has been allocated €1.9 million current and €1.3 million capital for the implementation of the Children Act.

Also the Probation and Welfare Service funds 66 projects which support the work of the Service in managing offenders in the community. Of these, 40 offer a service to young offenders. All Gardaí have responsibility to deal with policing issues as they arise and there are a number of Community Gardaí in place throughout the country. Community policing is essential in preventing crime, addressing peoples' fear of crime and building up relationships with young people. While An Garda Síochána is the main agency tasked with crime prevention and investigation, other players are also involved.

Garda management makes every effort to provide a highly visible presence on the streets of our towns and villages. Uniform and detective units, with Divisional traffic Corps, supplemented by Community policing units and Garda Mountain Bike Units have a pro-active approach to policing anti-social/public disorder issues by immediate intervention, arrest and prosecution or advice, as appropriate.

I am further informed that Operation Encounter which was introduced by Garda management in 2002 targets public disorder offences including assaults and offences committed by underage persons under the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1998. Operational figures, which are provisional at this time, indicate that in excess of 337,000 offences have been detected so far under Operation Encounter.

Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

199 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he is satisfied that the Criminal Assets Bureau has available to it the sufficient resources, facilities and technology to ensure its ability to deal with crime levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22242/06]

The Garda authorities inform me they are satisfied that sufficient resources are available to the Criminal Assets Bureau to enable it operate effectively.

The Criminal Assets Bureau has been at the forefront of the fight against organised crime in this jurisdiction since its inception in 1996. The manner in which the Bureau operates has, in that 10 year period, come to be viewed, both domestically and internationally, as a very successful model for targeting persons seeking to derive profits from criminal activities. The assignment of staff to the Bureau from An Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social and Family Affairs ensures a multi-disciplinary, co-ordinated and integrated approach to the identification, freezing and seizure of criminal proceeds, the assessment and collection of unpaid taxes, and the recovery of social welfare overpayments.

The resources available to the Bureau, including manpower, facilities and technology, are kept under continuous review to ensure that it is fully able to fulfil its statutory remit. In this context, in late 2005 following consultation with the Garda Commissioner my Department secured Department of Finance sanction for two additional specialist staff for the CAB. These staff — a Financial Crime Analyst and a Forensic Accountant — have recently been recruited. I can assure the Deputy that the resources available to the Criminal Assets Bureau will continue to be kept under constant review to ensure it remains fully effective in confiscating the ill-gotten gains of criminals and their associates.

Questions Nos. 200 and 201 answered with Question No. 185.

Garda Strength.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

202 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the strength of An Garda Síochána as of 1 June 2006; the strength of the force on 1 June 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22245/06]

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 1 June 2002 and 2006 was 11,754 and 12,391, respectively. I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the serving strength of the Force is to receive a significant additional boost with the attestation of approximately 275 new members today (8 June).

I should add 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. 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 do so every 90 days thereafter. The Garda Commissioner will now be drawing up plans on how best to distribute and manage these significant additional resources.

Juvenile Offenders.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

203 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the strength of the JLO service; the extent to which sufficient resources are available to the service to carry out its function; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22246/06]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

204 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is intended to provide extra personnel, resources or facilities to enable the Junior Liaison Service carry out its function in accordance with its statutory requirements and current and future demands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22247/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 203 and 204 together.

I wish to refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 25 (ref: 22147/06) today.

Garda Stations.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

205 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of Garda stations closed or otherwise made redundant in the past seven years; the number of new stations opened in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22248/06]

The information in the detail sought by the Deputy has been requested from the Garda authorities and I will contact the Deputy directly when this information is to hand.

Garda Equipment.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

206 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if An Garda Síochána is sufficiently equipped in respect of Garda cars, technology or body armour with particular reference to increasing the obvious needs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22249/06]

The Garda authorities are satisfied that the technology required to assist in the fight against crime is available to them. An Garda Síochána constantly evaluate all available technology with a view to determining the technology best suited to their needs. Significant resources are being invested in technology for the Gardaí to assist them in the exercise of all their functions. The capital allocation for IT in 2006 is €33.323 million representing an increase of €5.065 million (18%) on the 2005 outturn.

One aspect of technology I am particularly committed to is the delivery of a state-of-the-art digital radio service for An Garda Síochána. To this end, the procurement of an outsourced Managed Service by the Department of Finance on behalf of An Garda Síochána, other blue light services and some non-commercial public bodies, is well underway. While the exact timeframe for roll-out will be subject to contract negotiations with the successful bidder, the implementation of the new service is planned to commence later this year. The total allocation for communications for 2006 is €12.9 million.

Significant investment has taken place in the Garda fleet over the last few years which has resulted in an increase in the size of the fleet from 1,898 vehicles at the end of 1997 to 2,155 vehicles at present — an increase of 13.5%. Of the 2,155 vehicles in the Garda Fleet 1,538 are Garda cars. The Government Supplies Agency has, in recent days, awarded contracts to a number of companies for the supply of vehicles to public bodies. The Garda authorities have finalised their vehicle requirements for this year and will very shortly order a considerable number of new vehicles from these suppliers on foot of these new contracts. In relation to "Body Armour" I can inform the Deputy that my Department, on behalf of the Garda Síochána, has issued Requests for Tender (RFTs) for the supply and delivery of 12,500 Anti Stab/Ballistic Vests and 3,000 Retractable Batons. There is also a provision in these RFTs to purchase a further 4,700 vests and a further 12,000 Batons, if required, over the duration of the contract. These tenders are currently being evaluated by the Garda authorities and contracts are expected to be in place for the supply of these items in the near future.

I want to see Gardaí provided with all necessary equipment up to best international practice. This is not just an aspiration. I am providing and will continue to provide the necessary resources for this to happen.

Visa Applications.

Billy Timmins

Question:

207 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position in relation to a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow who has applied for a visa for another person; and if he will expedite the matter. [22263/06]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that the visa application in question was approved on 6th June, 2006.

Garda Vetting Services.

Dan Boyle

Question:

208 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if there has been recent interaction between his Department and the Gardaí regarding the advancing of the State’s vetting capabilities to allow for checks on certain categories of volunteers. [22268/06]

The Garda Central Vetting Unit (GCVU) was established in January 2002 to deal with the then known demand for criminal record vetting. I am pleased to report that, under the guidance of a multi-agency implementation group, the vetting service of the GCVU is currently undergoing major expansion. This is being made possible, in part, by the provision of significant additional human and other resources. In particular, the GCVU's staffing complement has more than doubled, from 13 to 30 personnel. Minister Brian Lenihan has played an important role in driving this project forward and I want to recognise his personal contribution in this respect.

Since the Unit's successful decentralisation to custom-designed office accommodation in Thurles, County Tipperary, significant changes have been made to its work processes in order to streamline the processing of vetting applications. The extension of the vetting service of the GCVU is proceeding in a planned and structured manner in consultation with, inter alia, Government Departments and Agencies responsible for child and vulnerable adult care. This consultation will extend to the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

The expansion of the Garda vetting service to new sectors is occurring by means of a phased roll-out to an increasing number of organisations in the child and vulnerable adult care sectors. This expansion will continue until vetting is available in respect of all personnel working in a full-time, part-time or voluntary capacity with children and vulnerable adults.

Asylum Applications.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

209 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the implications for such decisions as he has made, or is likely to make, in relation to Afghan refugee asylum applicants in view of the fact that Afghanistan is not a party to the United Nations Conventions relating to the status of the refugees 1951 or the 1967 protocol. [22269/06]

In relation to the treatment of returnees by the authorities in their countries of origin, it should be borne in mind that before a deportation decision is made in any individual case, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform must have regard to the eleven factors contained in Section 3 (6) of the Immigration Act, 1999 (as amended) and the provisions of Section 5 of the Refugee Act, 1996 (as amended) on the Prohibition of Refoulement.

This means 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. This means in practice 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. The legislation requires that this consideration is given before the deportation decision is made. In arriving at such decisions, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform uses extensive country of origin information drawn from different independent sources, including the UNHCR, in evaluating the safety of making returns to third countries. I am satisfied that all national and international protection obligations will be observed in the context of any deportations to Afghanistan which are made in the future.

Question No. 210 answered with QuestionNo. 73.

Residency Permits.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

211 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason Ireland has not yet signed the 2004 EU Council Directive on residence permits, or the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings, both of which would allow for residence permits for victims while they receive counselling and consider whether they are able to give evidence on foot of their ordeal. [22271/06]

I have already outlined on a number of occasions Ireland's position on the European Council Directive on residence permits for victims of trafficking. In practice this Directive does not require us to do anything which we cannot already do under our existing immigration legislation and practice. It would require more formalised procedures that we currently have, but in any event we have the ability to deal with trafficking victims on a case by case basis, dealing appropriately with their needs. I am keeping an open mind on future participation in this Directive.

As regards the signing and ratifying of the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, I am taking the necessary steps to bring Irish criminal law into line with the requirements of the Convention. I am also examining the other provisions of the Convention and I am keeping the matter under review. Legislation creating an offence of trafficking in persons for the specific purpose of sexual or labour exploitation is contained in the draft Criminal Justice (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill which is at an advanced stage of preparation in my Department. This Bill will comply with the EU Framework Decision on combating trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation and will also fulfil the criminal law requirements of two other international trafficking instruments, including the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on action against trafficking in human beings.

Human Trafficking.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

212 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason Ireland, while it has signed the Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (2000) has not been transposed into Irish law, with the result that such trafficking is not illegal here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22272/06]

The Criminal Justice (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill should be published later this year and enacted in the lifetime of this Dáil. The primary purpose of the legislation is to allow for compliance with the Framework Decision on combating trafficking in human beings (for the purpose of their sexual and labour exploitation) and the Framework Decision on combating the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography.

At present under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 it is a serious offence to traffic a child into, through or out of Ireland for the purpose of the child's sexual exploitation. Also, under the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000 it is an offence for a person to organise or knowingly facilitate the entry into the State of a person whom he or she knows or has reasonable cause to believe to be an illegal immigrant or a person who intends to seek asylum.

The Protocol to prevent and punish trafficking in persons, supplementing the UN Convention against transnational organised crime (the Palermo Protocol) and two other international instruments, the Council of Europe Convention on action against trafficking in human beings (CAHTEH) and the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the rights of the child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, were also taken into account in the preparation of the proposed legislation.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

213 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will confirm that the only non-Governmental organisations (details supplied) operating here with the mandate of helping persons being trafficked for purposes of prostitution only receives €25,000 from the Government to carry out its work; his views on whether this sums indicates that the Government is not giving this matter sufficient attention; his further views, as has been suggested by representatives of the organisation, on the fact that there is a lack of awareness among Gardaí on the way in which to deal with victims of trafficking; and if there are plans to increase funding for these services. [22273/06]

My Department has provided substantial funding to Ruhama (more than €1.6m in total from 2002 to 2005) and I understand that funding is also provided by the Health Service Executive. The funding provided relates to the organisation's overall objectives, of which assisting persons trafficked for sexual exploitation is an important part.

Insofar as my Department is concerned, Ruhama receives time bound assistance of €381,000 under the Equality for Women Measure to enable them to develop a model of intervention that would help women in prostitution overcome the barriers they faced in joining mainstream social economic or community education schemes.

In addition, Ruhama received a grant of €26,768 to enable them to engage a coordinator in 2005 to combat trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation; they also received a contribution of €12,000 to set up ‘Ireland-en-Route', an interagency forum established to address the problem of trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation.

I can further advise the Deputy that my Department through the Probation and Welfare Service has also provided funding to Ruhama for a number of years. An annual grant of €275,000 was paid in 2005 and a similar amount has been approved for the current year. This project has successfully helped women to exit prostitution and to take up educational opportunities, training, employment or to develop enterprises.

In addition to providing the above support, victims of trafficking who wish to return to their countries of origin may be assisted through the voluntary return programmes operated by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which has been operating a number of voluntary return programmes in Ireland since 2001. While emphasising the dignity and security of the return, the IOM ensures that all returnees have appropriate transit and post-arrival assistance from IOM missions in countries of transit and destination, and, in some cases, assistance in reintegrating in the destination country. The overall budget for the operation of the Voluntary Assisted Return Programme for 2006 is €838,174.17. While this programme mainly consists of irregular migrants and failed asylum seekers who wish to return to their country of origin, it also includes victims of trafficking.

Regarding the level of Garda resources tasked with preventing human trafficking, a joint task force, which pools the resources of specialist Garda units and detective units, has been established. The Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) acts as the lead unit for the task force. Other specialist units involved include the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, the Garda National Drugs Unit, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Criminal Assets Bureau. The GNIB includes a number of sections that have an investigative role and thus play a significant part in the prevention and detection of human trafficking.

In view of the exponential growth in the level of immigration in Ireland in recent years, all members of An Garda Síochána are advised of the need to be mindful of the possibility of trafficking in women for sexual exploitation. If evidence of trafficking for such purposes is disclosed in any case, investigations are conducted.

A training programme has been prepared for delivery to key Garda personnel throughout the State. This training programme has been designed specifically to enable members of An Garda Síochána identify victims of trafficking whom they encounter in the course of their duties, to ensure that members fully understand the complexity of the phenomenon and that victims receive appropriate assistance from all the relevant agencies.

Finally, I would like to draw the Deputy's attention to the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report 2006, which was published on 5 June and highlights the approaches taken by 158 countries, and which states that the Irish Government "has shown openness and leadership" in tackling human trafficking.

It further states that the Government "has demonstrated strong leadership and initiative in addressing trafficking through law enforcement means" and "vigorously investigated cases of suspected trafficking reported by NGOs, potential victims themselves, and those reported in the media". The report also states that the "Government of Ireland demonstrated strong engagement with international organisations, NGOs, and potential source countries on trafficking" and that "NGOs reported excellent co-operation with government and police officials, particularly at the operational level".

Question No. 214 answered with QuestionNo. 56.

Disability Act 2005.

David Stanton

Question:

215 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform further to Parliamentary Question No. 33 of 9 March 2006, if the Attorney General has completed the formal drafting of an order to give effect to the National Disability Authority's code of practice in relation to Sections 26, 27 and 28 of the Disability Act 2005; when he expects these sections to come into effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22275/06]

I can confirm that under the Disability Act 2005, I have declared by order, on 6 April 2006, that the code of practice prepared by the National Disability Authority in relation to sections 26 (on accessibility to services provided by public bodies), 27 (on accessibility of services supplied to public bodies) and 28 (on access to information through communication formats) of the Act, is an approved code. Sections 26, 27 and 28 of the Act came into operation on 31 December 2005 as provided for in the Act. The NDA is organising a number of seminars regarding these sections of the Act and the code for Government Departments and public bodies.

Special Educational Needs.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

216 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the policy development and strategies which are being considered in view of the evolving nature of information and interventions for children with specific or special learning needs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22031/06]

I wish to advise the Deputy that officials of my Department continually meet with representatives of children with special educational needs (SEN) including various disability bodies, parents of children with disabilities and SEN, educationalists in colleges of education and university special education course deliverers. My officials participate in international committees that focus on the area of SEN; many undergo post-graduate courses in SEN and are aware of recent publications in the area of SEN. Consequently, they are familiar with recent developments in SEN, both in information and interventions. This enables my officials to contribute to policy development and to changes in strategies and practices.

Recent evidence of such policy development and strategies include the general allocation of learning support/resource teachers to all primary schools and the associated publication of an advice circular to these schools. Revised Guidelines on Learning Support have also issued to schools and my Department is currently preparing Guidelines on the inclusion of students with SEN at Post-Primary level.

The Deputy is aware of the enormous progress made over the past number of years in relation to increasing the number of teachers in our schools who are specifically dedicated to providing education for children with special educational needs. At primary level there are now approximately 5,000 teachers in our primary schools working directly with children with special needs. This compares to fewer than 1,500 in 1998. Indeed, one out of every five primary school teachers is now working specifically with children with special needs.

At second level approximately 1,654 whole time equivalent additional teachers are in place to support pupils with special educational needs. This compares to approximately 200 teachers that were in place in 1998 for such pupils. In addition, there are 532 whole time equivalent learning support teachers.

Enormous progress has also been made in relation to increasing the number of Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) who specifically cater for the care needs of children with special educational needs. There are over 7,300 whole time equivalent SNAs in primary and second level schools supporting children with special needs. My Department also provides funding for the purchase of assistive technology and/or specialised equipment where appropriate.

The Deputy will be aware that the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) became operational with effect from 1st January 2005. The functions of the NCSE as set out in the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act, 2004 include:

•advising my Department in relation to any matter relating to the education of children and others with disabilities;

•consulting with such voluntary bodies as the Council considers appropriate, (being bodies whose objects relate to the promotion of the interests of, or the provision of support services to, persons with disabilities) for the purposes of ensuring that their knowledge and expertise can inform the development of policy by the Council and the planning and provision of support services, and

•conducting and commissioning research on matters relevant to the functions of the Council and, as it considers appropriate, to publish in such form and manner as the Council thinks fit the findings arising out of such research.

I am aware that the NCSE is currently preparing Guidelines on the Individual Education Plan Process in the context of its obligations under the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004.

In addition, my Department's Teacher Education Section has developed a strategy designed to meet the continuing professional development needs of personnel working with children with special educational needs. This involves a major expansion of the range of post-graduate professional training programmes available to teachers in the special needs area and the ongoing development of the Special Education Support Service (SESS) to support schools staff locally.

I can confirm that I will continue to prioritise the issue of special needs education and, in co-operation with the National Council for Special Education and the education partners, ensure that all children with special educational needs are adequately resourced to enable them to meet their full potential.

Schools Recognition.

Seán Crowe

Question:

217 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if parents have the right to choose for their children to be taught through the medium of Irish in schools here; and, if so, if she will formally recognise a school (details supplied) in County Wicklow in order to ensure that the 80 plus children there are not denied the chance to be educated through the State’s first language. [22032/06]

A decision will be made on the application to establish a new Gaelscoil in West Wicklow within days. The reason the decision was deferred at the time that the list of new schools was announced was to allow for consideration of the impact that recognising this school would have on the existing schools in the area, plans for the expansion of which are well advanced. The New Schools Advisory Committee recommended in their report to me that this issue be considered.

The Chairperson of the Commission on School Accommodation has just carried out a review and further analysis of key data in relation to the population projections for the area. I have now received his report on the matter which I am considering. I am very conscious of the need for a decision to be made as soon as possible so that parents know what the situation will be for September and I expect to make my decision known within days.

Departmental Agencies.

Joan Burton

Question:

218 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science if she has reviewed the membership of the Grangegorman Development Agency and the lack of representation on this agency of the student body of the Dublin Institute of Technology; her views on appointing a student representative to the body; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22033/06]

The relocation of DIT, which is currently spread over 30 different sites in Dublin, to a 65-acre campus in Grangegorman is a major priority for this Government. The move will enable the Institute to provide better academic and support services for its nearly 20,000 students. It will also allow for much greater academic and social interaction between students of many different disciplines, providing a dynamic environment for a broad third level education in the heart of Dublin city centre. It also has great potential to regenerate an underdeveloped area of the North Inner city.

I recently announced the appointment of Mr. John Fitzgerald, City Manager, Dublin City Council as Chairman of the Grangegorman Development Agency and I am now actively considering the other appointments to the Agency. The general aim of the Agency is to oversee the Development of the lands at Grangegorman on behalf of the Departments of Education and Science and Health and Children, the Dublin Institute of Technology and the Health Service Executive.

The Grangegorman Development Agency Act 2005 provides for a total membership of 15 in the agency including the Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer. There is no specific provision for a student or staff representative from the DIT. The legislation does provide that 2 ordinary members of the agency will be nominated by the President of DIT and it is clearly a matter for the President to determine who to nominate having regard to the functions of the agency set out in the Act and its governance role in relation to the development.

The legislation recognises the student body of DIT specifically among the stakeholders that should be represented on the Consultative Group provided for in Section 22 of the Act. Up to 2 members of the Consultative Group can come from the student body.

My officials recently met the President of DIT Students' Union and explained how the Consultative Group will give the stakeholders an opportunity to outline their views and participate fully in the Grangegorman development. The Act also provides for the Consultative Group to hold as many meetings as may be necessary to maintain an adequate communications strategy concerning the development of the Grangegorman site. The Consultative Group reports to the Chairperson of the Agency.

School Accommodation.

Denis Naughten

Question:

219 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will review the grant aid provided to a school (details supplied) in Co. Roscommon for its capital project in view of the significant differential between the vocational education committee costs and the funding allocated to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22050/06]

A grant of €425,000 was sanctioned under the 2006 Permanent Accommodation Scheme to enable the Vocational Education Committee to provide 5 additional classrooms at the College referred to by the Deputy. The Committee submitted an appeal in the matter and the level of grant aid was increased to €595,000 to provide 7 additional classrooms. The initiative allows management authorities to address their accommodation and building priorities with a guaranteed amount of funding and gives them control of the building project.

Departmental Correspondence.

Denis Naughten

Question:

220 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will furnish a final response to correspondence; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22052/06]

My Department is investigating the general position as outlined by the Deputy in the correspondence provided and a reply will issue as soon as possible. The provision of the names and addresses of the pupils affected would assist in the investigation of the specific case referred to by the Deputy.

Schools Building Projects.

Denis Naughten

Question:

221 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delay in approving funding for a building project for a school in Co. Roscommon; the status of the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22057/06]

The proposed refurbishment and extension project for the School referred to by the Deputy is at an early stage of architectural planning. Additional Stage 2 (Sketch Scheme) documentation was requested from the school authorities and is currently being examined by the Technical Staff in my Department. Department officials will be in contact with the school authorities when this examination has been completed. A decision on which school building projects will advance to tender and construction will be considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme 2006-2010.

School Staffing.

Denis Naughten

Question:

222 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Science the position in relation to Parliamentary Question No. 315 of 15 December 2005; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22060/06]

The review of the one teacher schools is ongoing. As part of the review, Inspectors of my Department have been asked to submit reports on the individual schools involved. These reports on the individual schools involved are expected to be available shortly. Discussions will be held with representatives of the interested parties when all of the reports have been received and considered.

State Examinations.

Beverley Flynn

Question:

223 Ms Cooper-Flynn asked the Minister for Education and Science if it is possible for a person (details supplied) in County Mayo to be allowed to sit their LCVP exam as they were unable to sit their exam on the date scheduled due to illness. [22063/06]

The State Examinations Commission has statutory responsibility for operational matters relating to the certificate examinations, including organising the holding of examinations. In view of this, I have forwarded your query to the State Examinations Commission for direct reply to you.

Schools Building Projects.

Seán Crowe

Question:

224 Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science the status of the application for additional accommodation for a school (details supplied) in County Donegal in view of the fact that the completed application and ready to go tender has been with the Primary Building Section of her Department since Spring 2002. [22064/06]

An application for capital funding towards the provision of a general purpose room, staff room, multipurpose room and storage capacity has been received from the school to which the Deputy refers. The project has been assessed in accordance with the published prioritisation criteria for large scale building projects and is being considered in the context of the School Building and Modernisation Programme 2006 — 2010.

Youth Services.

John McGuinness

Question:

225 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will provide further funding to a programme (details supplied) in County Kilkenny to enable a second youth worker to continue to be employed beyond October 2006; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22065/06]

The project referred to by the Deputy is currently in receipt of funding under the Special Projects for Youth Scheme and was allocated €52,647 by my Department in 2005.

An application for an additional youth worker post has been received by the Youth Affairs Section. My Department is at present giving consideration to this request and to all other applications made for youth work funding in 2006, having regard to the overall provision for the youth sector. A decision in this regard will be given as soon as possible.

Teacher Registration.

John McGuinness

Question:

226 Mr. McGuinness asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny was refused registration as a secondary school teacher on 8 February 2006 in view of the fact that their registration was accepted by her Department on 5 December 1996; if she will investigate the case and expedite a response based on the 1996 decision and the fact that they have been teaching full-time since then; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22066/06]

The person concerned first applied for registration as a secondary teacher in January 2006. Her application for admission to the Register of Secondary School Teachers was refused on the basis that her primary degree was not one deemed suitable by the Registration Council for the purpose of teaching at second level.

A suitable degree is a degree or equivalent award from a nationally-recognised degree awarding authority, the course for which was of at least 3 years' duration and the final examination for which included at least one subject from the post-primary schools curriculum. The person's degree is a B.A. in Psychology, the final examination for which did not include any subject suited to the post-primary curriculum.

The statement dated 5 December 1996 was, when viewed in the context of the January 2006 application for registration, deemed to have been issued in error. This is based on the fact that no formal application to the Registration Council for assessment of this qualification, for which a fee was payable, was received from this person prior to the issue of this statement or subsequently.

The Registration Council was, at the time of the application for registration in January 2006, the designated authority for the recognition of qualifications for the purpose of teaching in secondary schools. The Teaching Council has, since its establishment on 28 March 2006, taken over the role of designated authority for the recognition and registration of all teachers. The Teaching Council is based in Block A, Maynooth Business Campus, Maynooth, Co. Kildare (Tel: 01-6517900).

The person has been advised that, if she has status as a recognised teacher in another member State of the European Economic Area (EEA), she may be entitled to recognition in this State under the terms of Directive EC89/48 which deals with the mutual recognition of professional qualifications within EEA countries. To pursue this route, she must make formal application to the Teaching Council for the assessment of her qualifications and address any shortfalls identified as required of her by the Council.

School Staffing.

John Cregan

Question:

227 Mr. Cregan asked the Minister for Education and Science the numbers of national school teachers nationally for each of the past 10 years; they way in which the numbers of teachers compare with earlier decades; the way in which the extra teachers have been used; the number who are used as special needs or resource teachers; the improvements in class sizes over recent years; and if she will make a statement on extra teaching resources to schools in disadvantaged areas. [22085/06]

The details requested by the Deputy are as follows. The details refer to the position as at 30th June of the year in question except in the case of 2006 where they relate to the position as at 31st March.

Year

Total Teachers

1996

21,052

1997

21,035

1998

21,100

1999

21,500

2000

21,850

2001

22,850

2002

23,935

2003

24,700

2004

26,039

2005

26,282

2006

27,595 (provisional).

The numbers of teaching posts in 1966, 1976 and 1986 were 14,614, 17,055 and 21,125 respectively.

As can be seen from these statistics, there have been major improvements in school staffing in recent years. The additional posts created were utilised to reduce class sizes and the pupil teacher ratio and to provide for the needs of pupils from disadvantaged areas and those with special educational needs.

Today there is one teacher for every 17 children, the lowest pupil teacher ratio in the history of the State. Average class size has been reduced from 27 to 24.

Aside from decreasing average class size, the unprecedented increase in school staffing in recent years has also greatly improved the services provided for children with special needs and those from disadvantaged areas.

With regard to the number of teachers in our schools who are specifically dedicated to providing education for children with Special Educational Needs, the position is that at primary level there are now approximately 5,000 teachers in our primary schools working directly with children with special needs, including those requiring learning support. This compares to fewer than 1,500 in 1998.

In relation to support for children from disadvantaged areas, the Deputy will be aware that last year I launched a new action plan for educational inclusion, DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools), one aspect of which will be more staffing for the most disadvantaged schools. Under the plan, there will be a reduction in class sizes to 24:1 at senior level and 20:1 at junior level in the 180 primary schools serving communities with the highest concentrations of disadvantage. The plan provides for an extra 300 posts across the education system over the course of a five year period — some of these are teaching posts and others are support staff. I expect that approximately 150 extra teaching posts will have been created in primary and post-primary schools by the end of the 2006/07 school year under the DEIS plan.

This Government has clearly demonstrated its commitment to improving staffing in our primary schools by hiring thousands of extra teachers in recent years and we will continue to make progress on this issue.

Schools Building Projects.

Jack Wall

Question:

228 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of a school building programme for a primary school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22099/06]

The process of appointing a design team to the school building project referred to by the Deputy is under way and will be completed shortly.

Jack Wall

Question:

229 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of a school building programme for a primary school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22100/06]

Jack Wall

Question:

232 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of a school building programme for a primary school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22103/06]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 229 and 232 together.

The process of appointing a design team to the building projects referred to by the Deputy is underway. An advertisement seeking design team consultants will be posted on the public procurement portal,www.etenders.gov.ie, shortly.

Jack Wall

Question:

230 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of a school building programme for a primary school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22101/06]

The school building project referred to by the Deputy has been included in my recently announced list of 40 major school building projects that will progress to tender and construction on a rolling basis over the next 12 to 15 months.

My Department's Building Unit arranged a general information meeting for these schools to guide them through the process involved in moving projects to tender and construction. This meeting was held on Tuesday 30th May in Tullamore and the school in question attended the meeting.

Jack Wall

Question:

231 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the position of a school building programme for a post primary school (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22102/06]

I am pleased to inform the Deputy that a letter issued to the school in question on the 10th April 2006 authorising them to proceed to tender and construction for the proposed school building project.

Question No. 232 answered with QuestionNo. 229.

Schools Recognition.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

233 Ms O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Science if she is satisfied regarding the voluntary contribution of a school (details supplied) in County Dublin which has temporary recognition from her Department; if she is further satisfied in relation to the level set for the voluntary contribution in that school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22167/06]

The issue of voluntary contributions at the school referred to by the Deputy is being examined in the context of the schools application for permanent recognition. Officials of my Department are currently in contact with the management authority of the school on this matter.

School Accommodation.

Jack Wall

Question:

234 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the steps her Department is taking to ensure that all applicants for places in secondary and primary schools in County Kildare are facilitated; the number of schools in the county indicating spare places capacity; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22168/06]

Details on applications for places in the individual schools in County Kildare are not readily available in my Department. I am satisfied that between them the schools in County Kildare can cater for the demand presenting. However, if the Deputy is aware of any particular school with accommodation difficulties for the coming school year he should advise them to contact officials in the School Planning Section of my Department immediately.

Physical Education Facilities.

Jack Wall

Question:

235 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of schools with physical education facilities in County Kildare; the number of physical education teachers employed by her Department in the schools in the county; the number of applications for funding with her Department for the provision of physical education facilities for such schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22169/06]

The information requested by the Deputy is not readily available in my Department.

School Staffing.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

236 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of staff within her Department whose duties are concerned with the area of special education for secondary school students and prospective secondary school students; if there is no such member of staff, the reason for same; if she has plans or intentions to create such a post; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22170/06]

My Department provides a range of supports to second level schools to enable them to cater for students with special educational needs and this involves a large number of staff.

The supports in question include remedial and resource teaching support, special needs assistant support and funding for the purchase of specialised equipment which concerns staff in the National Council for Special Education, Teacher Allocations and the Assistive Technology area. Other sections concerned with the area of special education include Transport, Accommodation, Teacher Education Section, National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), the National Education Welfare Board and the State Exams Commission.

My Department will continue to ensure that the necessary resources are made available for the education of children with special needs.

Grant Payments.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

237 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Education and Science if she will award a partial maintenance grant for a student (details supplied) in County Carlow who is studying the FETAC level five course on childcare for children with special needs. [22258/06]

The Maintenance Grant Scheme for Students attending Post Leaving Certificate courses is administered by the Vocational Educational Committees on behalf of my Department.

Under the Scheme eligible students may continue to receive grant assistance for the normal duration of an approved course subject to the usual terms and conditions of funding. In this regard clause 6.3 provides,inter alia, that: “A grant is tenable for the normal duration of the approved PLC Course and is renewable annually subject to satisfactory participation, attendance and the approval of the Vocational Education Committee”.

Grants may not be paid in respect of a second period of attendance at the same level for a course approved for the purposes of this scheme, irrespective of whether or not a grant was paid previously. The Vocational Educational Committee will have discretion to waive this provision in exceptional circumstances such as serious certified illness.

I understand from Carlow VEC the awarding body in this case that the candidate referred to by the Deputy has entered one previous PLC Course at FETAC level 6 (formally known as FETAC level 3) and didn't complete the course. She is now pursuing a FETAC level 5 (formally know as FETAC level 2) Course. I regret that under the above provisions of the PLC Scheme the candidate in question is ineligible to receive any PLC funding in respect of her current course.

Where funding in respect of a repeat period of study at the same level is awarded on the basis of exceptional circumstances, such as serious certified illness, it would generally be where the student has suffered from a serious illness that has directly impacted on their ability to successfully complete the period concerned.

Physical Education Facilities.

Joan Burton

Question:

238 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Education and Science in relation to the 10 year promise by the Government to build a gym in Castleknock College, the funds she has allocated; when she expects the gym to be open to the pupils of the school; the nature of the contract to build the gym; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22259/06]

I am pleased to advise the Deputy that the project to build a physical education hall in Castleknock Community College has been approved to proceed through the architectural planning process and on to tender and construction. It is not possible at this point to state when the project will be completed.

School Transport.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

239 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Education and Science further to a meeting with persons (details supplied) in County Galway regarding the removal of the school bus service to a school the progress made in this regard; if the bus service will be resumed; if so, when this will be and if not, the reasons for this decision; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22260/06]

: There has been no reduction in the number of buses providing school transport to the school referred to by the Deputy in the details supplied. The pupils in question 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 put arrangements in place to accommodate the children on a one seat per child basis on both buses to the school in question. 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 should point out that concessionary transport is not guaranteed. Pupils may only avail of concessionary transport if spare seats are available on school buses and this is determined on a term-to-term basis by reference to those who are fully eligible for transport under the terms of the school transport scheme.

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 general situation is being kept under review.

Local Authority Staff.

Catherine Murphy

Question:

240 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of additional staff local authorities have sought sanction for in order to introduce the rental accommodation scheme; the number which have been approved per local authority; the basis on which they will be employed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22037/06]

The number of additional staff sought by local authorities for the introduction of the rental accommodation scheme and the number approved is set out in the table below. In the main, these posts are contract posts which are subject to review by after 12 months.

Local authority

Number Sought

Number Approved

Cavan County Council

2

2

Clare County Council

4

4

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council

3

3

Galway City Council

3

3

Galway County Council

4

4

Kildare County Council

3

3

Laois County Council

4

3

Limerick County Council

2

2

Longford County Council

2

2

Louth County Council

2

2

Mayo County Council

3

3

North Tipperary County Council

2

2

Roscommon County Council

3

3

Sligo County Council

2

2

Waterford City Council

2

2

Westmeath County Council

4

4

Wicklow County Council

2

2

Catherine Murphy

Question:

241 Ms C. Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the number of staff each local authority is allowed to employ on a permanent basis and the number, since a cap has been put on the employment of additional staff, who have been sanctioned; their locations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22038/06]

Based on information supplied by local authorities, the number of permanent posts in local authorities at 31 March 2006 (expressed in whole time equivalents) and the changes in comparable figures from June 2003 are set out in the table below. In addition to the permanent staff, local authorities employed 3,098 additional staff at 31 March 2006 (whole time equivalents), including contract staff, national development plan project staff, site supervisory staff and seasonal/temporary staff.

Local Authority

Permanent Staff at end of March 2006 (wte)

Changes since June 2003

County Councils, Including Town Councils

Carlow

305

0

Cavan

457.6

27.5

Clare

840.5

3

Cork

2,403.41

-3.29

Donegal

992.5

5

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown

1,285

-37

Fingal

1,457.9

-49.1

Galway

884.2

-3.23

Kerry

1,088.08

-30.02

Kildare

820.5

16.5

Kilkenny

561

74

Laois

359.2

-29.3

Leitrim

293.75

1.25

Limerick

740

-7

Longford

335.8

32.7

Louth

661.39

34.06

Mayo

1,067.5

58

Meath

621.33

38.83

Monaghan

414.02

15.39

Offaly

432

6.5

Roscommon

509

-14

Sligo

504.69

1

South Dublin

1,330.8

-12.2

North Tipperary

457

66

South Tipperary

672.5

-22.5

Waterford

523.5

-0.5

Westmeath

484.5

28.5

Wexford

771.95

18.43

Wicklow

758.65

27.4

City Councils

Cork

1,422

5

Dublin

6,339.25

-20.25

Galway

414.5

-22.5

Limerick

501.2

-78.8

Waterford

383

6

Community Development.

Denis Naughten

Question:

242 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will approve funding for a project (details supplied) in County Roscommon under the social and community facilities capital scheme 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22046/06]

All eligible projects submitted under the Social and Community Facilities Capital Scheme will be appraised against the assessment criteria which are set out in guidelines issued to local authorities. When this appraisal process is complete a number of projects will be selected for grant aid. It is envisaged that allocations will be made to successful projects by the middle of this year.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Denis Naughten

Question:

243 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the status of the application for funding to upgrade the north east Roscommon regional water supply; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22054/06]

The North East Roscommon Water (Augmentation) Scheme is approved for construction under my Department's Water Services Investment Programme 2005-07 at an estimated cost of €7.12 million.

Further consideration will be given to Roscommon's County Council's Preliminary Report for the scheme on receipt of the additional information my Department requested from the Council last April. Approval of the Preliminary Report will allow the Council to prepare contract documents for the scheme.

Architectural Heritage.

Denis Naughten

Question:

244 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will review the funding for architectural protection grants; if he has satisfied himself regarding the level of funding which is available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22056/06]

In March 2006, I approved allocations totalling €18.56 million on built heritage projects for the present year. This will be spent on the conservation and restoration of some of the premier built heritage properties in the country in public ownership as well as certain privately owned properties. These proposals include a provision of €6 million for the scheme of architectural protection grants administered by local authorities and ensure that the level of funding for this scheme will be on a par with 2005.

My Department also funds and administers a scheme of conservation grants under the Urban and Village Renewal Programme. For 2006, I have approved grants in respect of 70 projects to the value of almost €1.25 million. My Department separately provides grants for thatched buildings. In 2005, grant-aid to the value of €563,000 supported 124 thatching projects.

The Heritage Council, which is funded through my Department, also supports building conservation projects under its Buildings at Risk scheme. In 2006, the Council is grant-aiding 74 projects to the value of €1.2 million.

While I am satisfied with present levels of funding for schemes to conserve the built heritage, all such funding will be kept under review.

Recycling Policy.

Enda Kenny

Question:

245 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the amount of funding available to South Dublin County Council for recycling facilities in the Lucan, Palmerstown and Clondalkin areas for each of the years 200 to 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22087/06]

The information requested is not available in my Department in the form requested.

South Dublin County Council together with the three other Dublin local authorities forms a waste management planning region, for which Dublin City Council is the lead authority. Dublin City Council has acquired a premises in the South Dublin administrative area intended for use as a materials recovery facility. Some €6.4 million in grant assistance was provided by my Department towards the acquisition of this facility in 2004, and late last year I approved in principle a further €10 million in grant assistance towards the fit out and engineering works required to bring the facility into operation. Subject to the appropriate planning and licensing processes, it is expected that this facility when completed will be one of the largest of its kind in Europe and will have the capacity to deal with the commingled dry recyclables collected throughout the Dublin region.

In addition, in November 2002 South Dublin County Council was allocated €48,000 in grant assistance towards the provision of 13 bring centres.

A subvention in relation to the operational costs of local authority bring centres and civic amenity sites has been provided since 2003. In the case of South Dublin County Council the subvention provided has been €294,850 in 2003, €255,400 in 2004 and €277,680 in 2005. Further such funding will again be available later this year.

Planning Issues.

Jerry Cowley

Question:

246 Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the progress his Department has made in its discussions with the local authorities regarding the incentive to zone land exclusively for community use and his views on whether people would support the idea on this basis, but if it was for private development would not support it; his views on whether this is the way to deal with such matters and to keep the price low; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22156/06]

I am not aware of discussions between my Department and local authorities, as referred to in the Question.

The zoning of land for particular purposes is a function of local authorities within the development plan process, as set out in the Planning and Development Act 2000. My Department actively engages with local authorities on a range of initiatives towards community improvements. Local authorities will generally have regard to potential financial implications of zoning exclusively for community use, and may prefer to adopt an integrated approach to the planning requirements of an area in consultation with the relevant stakeholders.

To assist local authorities in this process, I recently published Draft Guidelines on Development Plans for Planning Authorities for public consultation which set out,inter alia, the need for development plans to include objectives for the integration of the planning and sustainable development of the area with the social, cultural and community requirements of the area and its population. The closing date for comments and submissions on the Draft Guidelines is 21 July 2006.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Jack Wall

Question:

247 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has had an application for funding under any of the grant systems within his remit for the provision of a sewerage scheme (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22172/06]

My Department has not received proposals from Kildare County Council in relation to a sewerage scheme at the location mentioned. Neither was such a proposal included in the list of schemes submitted by the Council in November 2003 in response to my Department's request to all local authorities to undertake assessments of the needs for capital works in their area and to prioritise their proposals on the basis of the assessments. The priority lists were taken into account in the framing of subsequent phases of the Water Services Investment Programme published in 2004 and 2005.

Local authorities have recently been asked by my Department to carry out new needs assessments for their areas and to submit the results to the Departments by 31 July 2006. This will afford Kildare County Council an opportunity to review its water and wastewater infrastructural priorities, including those for the location in question. The priorities emerging from the new assessments will inform future phases of the Water Services Investment Programme.

It is also open to Kildare County Council itself to undertake small public water and sewerage schemes under the devolved Rural Water Programme for which I have allocated the Council €2.327 million in 2006.

Environmental Policy.

Paul Kehoe

Question:

248 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the ruling to cutting of ditches and hedges overgrowth on public roadways; the legislation which is in place for same; when this was enacted and the reasoning; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22173/06]

Section 40 of the Wildlife Act 1976 made it an offence for a person to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy any vegetation growing in any hedge or ditch during the period from 15 April to 31 August.

The Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 extended this period by 6 weeks to cover the period from 1 March to 31 August and also included a provision that during this period the cutting, grubbing or destroying of vegetation in the course of any works being duly carried out for reasons of public health or safety by a Minister of the Government or a body established or regulated by or under a statute will not be an offence.

Hedgerows are an important reservoir of biodiversity and habitat for birds, insects, wild flowers and other wildlife during the summer breeding season. The purposes of these legislative provisions are to protect bird life during the nesting season, to prevent forest fires, and to protect vegetation and wildlife habitats during the months of growth and reproduction. However, provision is also made for certain works which are necessary for public health and safety.

Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Jack Wall

Question:

249 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has received an application under any scheme operated by his Department for funding in the provision of a new sewerage scheme (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22174/06]

In January 2001, my Department approved Kildare County Council's application for funding for a proposed sewerage scheme at Rathangan under the Serviced Land Initiative. The Council subsequently sought approval for the proposal as a major capital project under the Water Services Investment Programme where it would attract a higher level of Departmental funding.

The proposal was ranked eighth in the list of wastewater schemes submitted by Kildare County Council in November 2003 in response to my Department's request to local authorities to undertake fresh assessments of the needs for capital water services works in their areas and to prioritise their proposals on the basis of the assessments. The priority lists were taken into account in the framing of subsequent phases of the Water Services Investment Programme published in 2004 and 2005. Because of the priority afforded to the scheme by the Council, it had not been possible to include it in the Programme. However, the approval of the scheme under the Serviced Land Initiative remains in place. Moreover, all authorities have recently been asked by my Department to carry out new needs assessments for their areas and to submit the results to the Departments by 31 July 2006. This will afford Kildare County Council an opportunity to review its water and wastewater infrastructural priorities, including those for the location in question. The priorities emerging from the new assessments will inform future phases of the Water Services Investment Programme.

Building Regulations.

John Curran

Question:

250 Mr. Curran asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if, with regard to the Building Control Bill 2005, he intends to include a section in relation to the registration of engineers; and the status of the Bill. [22175/06]

The title of Chartered Engineer is already protected under the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland (Charter Amendment) Act 1969 and the Building Control Bill 2005 does not alter this. It is hoped that the Committee Stage of the Bill will begin before the end of the current Dáil session.